Steve Baldwin


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West Vancouver real estate market out of step with rest of Lower Mainland

When real estate agent Mike Oxley held an open house on Haywood Avenue last month, he knew that the flat Ambleside view property was going to be a popular item. He didn't know how popular, however.

By the end of a weekend that saw an estimated 500 prospective buyers view the home, the owners had received 26 offers. The house, which as a structure had little value, ultimately sold for $1.57 million -- more than $300,000 over the asking price.

"It was absolutely unbelievable," he said. Oxley's story is one of numerous similar anecdotes to emerge from West Vancouver in recent months in which prospective owners have entered bidding wars over a property and driven the purchase price to well above the listed figure. It points to a frenzy of buying at the high end of the market that appears out of keeping with most of the Lower Mainland.

A home next door to the Haywood house received 10 offers a short while after that first sale and eventually went for $1.65 million -- $360,000 above asking, said Oxley. Another in the 2300-block of Ottawa Avenue recently received eight bids and sold for $2.3 million, again for about $300,000 above the listed price.

"As soon as the quote-unquote spring market came into effect, it's just been a firestorm of activity," said Oxley.

In March, the community saw 189 sales, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, an all-time record for the municipality. In April, home sales hit 176, a 57 per cent increase over last year. The average price of a home has also been on the upswing, with the benchmark price for a detached house hitting $1.67 million in April, well up from the $1.4 million-to-$1.5 million range where it has hovered for the past three years.

While North Vancouver has also seen a surge in activity in recent months, it doesn't appear to be on the same scale. April sales were down about 10 per cent from last year, and the benchmark price of a detached home, $980,000, is only about six per cent above its high before the 2008 market collapse.

Kasha Riddle, an agent with North Vancouver's Remax Crest Realty, said she has seen good times in her market, moving 25 properties in three months -- and one of those, on Croydon Place, went for $60,000 above the listed price -- but that North Vancouver has not seen anything like the frenzy that appears to have arisen in the neighbouring municipality.

"In West Vancouver, some of them are selling for $500,000 over asking," she said, pointing to one home on Crestline Road as an example. "West Van is absolutely crazy."

The phenomenon appears to be part of a wider trend in high-end home sales in the region driven in large part by buyers from mainland China, according to some analysts.

A report on the Canadian real estate market released last week by RE/MAX pointed to a surge in the sales of luxury homes across the country, with overseas investment being a driving factor in the West. A May 19 report by Landcor Data Corporation, a company that specializes in B.C. real estate statistics, similarly pointed to China as the major force behind the Lower Mainland's market.

But Tsur Somerville, a professor with UBC's Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, cautioned against drawing such conclusions.

"Who knows?" he said. "It becomes very problematic sorting things out."

Somerville did concede, however, that it was a plausible explanation.

"There is grounds for it in the sense that mainland China is the largest source of immigrants (to the Lower Mainland) right now," he said. "Immigrants coming from China are disproportionately in the entrepreneur and investor categories; they're coming in with wealth."

Why it might suddenly be happening now, however, was hard to say, he noted. Somerville scoffed at the notion, floated by Landcor in an interview with the North Shore News last month, that it could be attributed to the Olympics, or to Canada's recent designation as an approved destination by the Chinese government. "I would be very shocked," said Somerville. "The approval by China affects tourism here; that's not the same thing."

One thing is for certain about the flurry of purchases, however, he said: "It's not sustainable."

Courtesy of the North Shore News


Greater Vancouver housing market sees typical spring activity in April

VANCOUVER, B.C. – May 3, 2011 – Greater Vancouver saw a typical, solid month of residential home sales on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in April, in contrast to the near record pace witnessed in the two preceding months. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver reached 3,225 in April 2011, an 8.2 per cent decrease compared to the 3,512 sales in April 2010 and a 21 per cent decline compared to the 4,080 sales in March 2011.

Looking back further, last month’s residential sales represent an 8.8 per cent increase over the 2,963 residential sales in April 2009, relatively unchanged compared to April 2008, and a 4.8 per cent decline compared to the 3,387 sales in April 2007.

“While it continues to be a seller’s market in Greater Vancouver, last month’s activity brought greater balance between supply and demand in the overall marketplace,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said. “The year-over-year decline in April sales can be attributed to a less active condominium market on our MLS®, as there were more detached and townhome sales this April compared to last year.”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,847 in April 2011. This represents a 23.5 per cent decline compared to April 2010 when 7,648 properties were listed for sale on the MLS®, which was an all-time record for April. Compared to March 2011, last month’s new listings total registered a 14 per cent decline. At 14,187, the total number of residential property listings on the MLS® increased 8.2 per cent in April compared to last month and declined 10 per cent from this time last year.

“There’s considerable variation in activity within the communities in our region. This is causing home price trends to differ depending on the area,” Setticasi said. “Your local REALTOR® is a valuable resource for obtaining the most accurate, up-to date market evaluation.”

The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 5 per cent to $622,991 in April 2011 from $593,419 in April 2010. Sales of detached properties on the MLS® in April 2011 reached 1,402, an increase of 2.3 per cent from the 1,370 detached sales recorded in April 2010, and a 17.8 per cent increase from the 1,190 units sold in April 2009. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 7.4 per cent from April 2010 to $879,039.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,201 in April 2011, a 21.3 per cent decrease compared to the 1,526 sales in April 2010, and an increase of 1.9 per cent compared to the 1,179 sales in April 2009. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 2.9 per cent from April 2010 to $409,242.

Attached property sales in April 2011 totalled 622, a 1 per cent increase compared to the 616 sales in April 2010, and a 4.7 per cent increase from the 594 attached properties sold in April 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 2.4 per cent between April 2010 and 2011 to $514,670.


Courtesy of  the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver

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