Cooling market offers investors a 'in'

"Provincial sales activity was down in January from year ago levels,” said Cameron Muir, chief economist with the British Columbia Real Estate Association. “Increased market activity outside the Lower Mainland in January was offset by fewer sales in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.”

While residential sales rose 7 per cent to 1,620 units outside the Lower Mainland, they declined by 10 per cent in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. A total of 3,976 homes traded hands on the MLS system over the same period, down 3.9 per cent.

More importantly for investors and other buyers, the dollar volume of those properties sold dipped 7.6 per cent to $2.1 billion in January compared to the same month last year. The average MLS residential price was 3.8 per cent lower at $527,219 compared to January 2011.

That overall drop in prices bodes well for investors across the Lower Mainland, who have had acquisition plans put on hold over the last year, as sellers ratcheted up asking prices in order to capitalize on foreign demand for Vancouver-area properties.

That demand has since waned, say analysts, and sellers have finally started to bring down their asking prices or take their properties off the market, effectively encouraging others in the market to drop their own pricing.

BCREA’s January numbers will likely add to that momentum.

Yet more sellers will have to leave the market to increase demand from investors and other buyers in B.C., argues one industry veteran.

“Despite the low interest rates clients are in no rush to buy,” Morris Briglio, president and senior mortgage consultant with The Mortgage Advantage, said. “There’s simply too much inventory on the market.”

That problem appears to be resolving itself in Victoria, where the number of active listings continues to decrease from a high of 5,094 in July 2011.

"Buyers are still price sensitive and very aware of the market values of homes,” Carol Crabb, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, said. “Sellers need to be aware that average prices trending up or down may not apply to their market area.”

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