Downtown and Westside prices are continuing their downward path but are still far beyond what would be considered affordable. This may be appropriate if this is intended to be luxury real estate however reserving half the city’s residential land for luxury does not seem sustainable in the long run. At this point, price declines appear to be part of a long-term trend in Downtown Vancouver and Westside real estate.
Some people blame higher interest rates and tighter mortgage rules for the weaker market, but these arguments don’t hold much weight. Mortgage rates are still at rock-bottom lows and the market weakness began in 2016 when the foreign buyer taxes that came into place rather than in 2018 with the introduction of the stress test. Vancouver house prices have primarily weakened because foreign direct investment has shifted to Toronto and Ottawa.
This article covers:
Where are Downtown and Westside prices headed?
What are Purchase and Listing Trends ?
Should investors sell?
Is this a good time to buy?
What do we mean by Westside Vancouver?
The good news (for buyers) is that prices are dropping Westside, but the not-so-good news is that prices are still far beyond the reach of a median Metro Vancouver household with an income of $73,000 (before taxes) and far beyond the reach of most wealth millennials. There is, however, a glimmer of hope for buyers as prices continue dropping through 2019.
Since the peak in 2017, Westside Vancouver house prices have dropped over $700,000.
From the beginning of 2015, Westside Vancouver house prices climbed $1.3 million to a peak of $3.6 million. House prices subsequently dropped $200,000 the next year and then recovered. Now prices are dropping once again. Metro Vancouver house prices are very volatile. The value has already dropped $700,000 since the peak, and it’s possible that prices might drop another $700,000 between now and the end of 2020. If you’re looking to buy or sell your home in the next three years, you should definitely pay close attention to the recent trends.
It is small consolation that West Vancouver has seen a drop of similar magnitude. The most expensive markets are the hardest hit but Richmond and East Vancouver have seen significant price declines too.
Condo prices skyrocketed to a peak in May 2018. The good news for first-time home buyers is that since then prices dropped significantly. We expect price reductions to accelerate in the slow winter months. With that being said, the benchmark Westside or Downtown Vancouver condo is nowhere near affordable without a lot of help from the bank of mom and dad. Perhaps an unrealistic amount of help.
Townhouse prices are headed in the same direction as condos. Since house prices have dropped further than townhouse prices, the gap between the two has narrowed. For townhouse owners seeking to upgrade to a full house, this could be a great opportunity.
Although Vancouver home prices have dropped significantly Downtown and Westside homes are still not affordable to first time home buyers. To put this into perspective, a first-time home buyer household earning $75,000 (the median Metro Vancouver household before tax income) can only get a $320,000 mortgage. This makes it painfully obvious that to buy an entry level $750,000 condo, a first-time home buyer needs to save a $430,000 cash down payment or receive a very generous gift from mom and dad. For most people, that’s impossible.
In 2018, the most optimistic forecast called a 6% price growth while the most conservative expected no price appreciation at all. No one predicted prices would drop but in Metro Vancouver they dropped by 3%.
Looking forward to 2019, we see most forecasters expect prices to drop.
The brunt of price drops will likely be felt by higher priced properties (i.e., more expensive neighbourhoods and detached single family homes). Metro Vancouver house prices have already dropped 4% since the beginning of 2019.
Given the forecasts, the current market weakness, and the increased downward price pressure, prices will likely remain flat or drop for the next few months. As well, homebuyers and homeowners shouldn’t expect much price appreciation between now and the end of 2020.
What does this mean exactly? Well, the market for all homes (detached, townhome, condo) are all trending toward a position where buyers have more power than sellers. This means buyers can leverage the weaker market to negotiate discounts and incentives. The positive outcomes for buyers are lower prices, more selection, fewer bidding wars, and ultimately a little less stress.
Not all markets have officially made it to full-blown buyer’s territory though. While the condo market is trending towards a buyer’s advantage, it’s currently in a balanced market. Take note that as supply has increased, Vancouver home prices have dropped. This means that the current Vancouver condo prices may be unsustainable in a healthy balanced market. So, if new construction completions later this year push the condo market into a full-blown buyer’s advantage then we could see major prices discounts in late 2019-2020. Yay for first-time home buyers!
2019 has been a slow year for condo purchases, which is certainly not something we’re used to seeing. Burnaby, Richmond, Downtown and the Vancouver Westside have all seen the most dramatic falls in condo purchase and sales. Our research suggests that foreign buyers are moving on to other cities and countries. These days Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal are the most popular.
The number of Westside houses sold is trending slightly below past years while the number Westside houses listed for sale has been trending at around the same level as past years. These trends of lower demand and ample supply explain the price reductions observed in the market.
In contrast, the number of condo and townhouse purchases (sales) downtown and on the westside have been far lower compared to previous years and we are seeing dramatically higher active listings. Basic economic theory tells us that we can expect this to lead to condo and townhouse price reductions.
You may not know this, but sales of brand-new homes (“Pre-sales”) are not included in the statistics published by the real estate boards. In Vancouver, pre-sales make up over 30% of the market, so that’s a pretty big information gap.
A recent report by MLA Advisory shows that developers used to sell a far higher proportion of pre-sales within one month, but this figure has been trending downwards. One could say that the market has moved from frenzied to disciplined. According to MLA Advisory, current pre-sale activity levels “reflect a more normalized pace of sales for the Lower Mainland.” Since developers often need to sell 70% of a project to secure the financing needed to break ground on a project, prospective buyers can look forward to seeing developers offer more competitive prices, incentives, and amenities.
At Mortgage Sandbox, we break down our market analysis to five key factors: affordability, capital flows, government policy, supply and popular sentiment. Read the full report to understand how these factors are affecting prices in Metro Vancouver.
From a seller’s perspective, now is a better time to sell than in two years as CMHC, a Government of Canada Agency predicts that house prices will be flat or drop for the next two years.
To benefit from the best-case scenario, a home buyer should talk to their mortgage broker about prioritizing flexible loan conditions and mitigating risk. Find out more about the benefits of a mortgage broker.
There’s potential for an overwhelming surge in supply and this would bring more downward pressure on prices.
41,000 homes were under construction in Metro Vancouver (12,000 in the City of Vancouver) in February 2019, which are due to complete in 2019 and 2020. If a significant number of those homes were pre-purchased with the intention to flip them, they could bring a ton of supply to the market.
With buyer negotiating power and dropping prices, 2019 will be a good time to buy. However, 2020 may be even better.
If you are thinking of buying just be sure to drive a hard bargain, and cover your bases with smart and educated decisions. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Buying a home is a big decision, so check out Mortgage Sandbox’s Canadian Home Buyer Guide so we can walk you through the end-to-end process and get you ready to buy your new home!
Here are some recent headlines you may be interested in:
Sales slump could signal tough times ahead for B.C. realtors (Vancouver Sun)
Canadian Housing Market This Bad Normally Means Recession (Huffington Post)
Like this report? Like us on Facebook.