British Columbia's December housing activity smashes records left and right

British Columbia's December housing activity smashes records left and right

British Columbia

December’s robust housing market performance proved to be the feather in British Columbia’s cap for 2020, closing out what was an unprecedented year for the sector.

Data from the British Columbia Real Estate Association showed that a total of 8,268 residential transactions were completed through the province’s MLS Systems last month. This was 57.8% higher compared to a year before and a new record high for December.

BC saw a total of 93,953 home sales in 2020, growing by 21.5% year over year. The average sales price surged by 11.7% to $782,027, while total volume increased by 35.6% annually to $73.5 billion.

“Housing markets across the province staged a remarkable recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession,” said Brendon Ogmundson, chief economist of BCREA.

But Ogmundson stressed that despite expectations around 2021 getting off to a roaring start, the level of supply in the market is approaching record lows.

“That will likely translate to considerable pressure on prices until listings pick-up,” he said.

Greater Vancouver

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported 3,093 home sales in the region last month, increasing by 53.4% annually and reaching a level roughly 57.7% higher than the market’s 10-year average for December.

Residential transactions in the region totalled 30,944 last year, up by 22.1% from 2019. The market’s benchmark home price closed the year at $1.0474 million, up by 5.4% annually.

Metro Vancouver’s total listings reached 54,305 in 2020, representing a 4.6% year over year increase.

“After adapting to the COVID-19 environment, local home buyer demand and seller supply returned at a steady pace throughout the summer, fall and winter seasons,” said Colette Gerber, REBGV Chair. “Shifting housing needs and low interest rates were key drivers of this activity in 2020. Looking ahead, the supply of homes for sale will be a critical factor in determining home price trends in 2021.”

Fraser Valley

The Fraser Valley region also posted its strongest December housing activity on record, with 81.2% annual growth pushing sales to 2,086 transactions. Total volume for 2020 amounted to 19,926 sales, representing an annual increase of 28.7%.

The Valley saw 31,693 new listings last year, a 3.7% annual increase. The market’s average sales price rose by 18.4% to $898,028.

Chris Shields, President of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, observed, “The pandemic upended everything in 2020 and how the real estate market responded to it was nothing short of remarkable. No one could have anticipated a six‐month stretch like we’ve just experienced,” Shields said.  “Typical seasonal cycles did not apply, how we conduct business had to change to keep the public safe; and most unexpected, has been the unwavering demand for family‐sized homes in our region and so far, there is no sign of it slowing down.”

Victoria

The latest numbers from the Victoria Real Estate Board registered a 57% annual increase in sales in December. Throughout 2020, a total of 8,497 properties were sold in the market, increasing by 17.1% year over year.

The region’s benchmark sales price had a more modest 6.8% annual growth, reaching $915,100 last month. Meanwhile, total active listings at the end of December fell by 34.5% annually, resulting in the lowest month-end inventory Victoria has seen in at least the last 25 years.

“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April quickly swept away any illusions that our normal seasonal market patterns would persist,” said 2020 Victoria Real Estate Board president Sandi-Jo Ayers.

Okanagan

Sustained demand pushed a 65% annual increase in Okanagan region’s December home sales. The average sales price exhibited a similarly strong trajectory, growing by 37.2% year over year to reach $711,577.

Active residential listings fell by 35% compared to December 2019.

“Last year was a very unusual year. After an initial slowdown due to stay-at-home orders from the provincial government, we saw a high demand in the real estate market once orders were lifted, [demand] that did not wane even in the typically slower months,” said Kim Heizmann, president of the Association of Interior Realtors. “Despite unusually high demand, inventory of active listings consistently remained low as buyers snapped up homes almost as soon as they were listed, particularly in the family-sized homes category.”