Fraser Valley Real Estate Market: January 2013

February 7, 2013  |  By
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The standoff continues. MLS® sales, listings and prices are barely budging, but the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) sees promising signs. Board president Scott Olson says, “People want to buy. We’re already seeing early signs of a typical spring market with more foot traffic at open houses and an increase in calls.”

Sales and Listings

People were holding their breath to see if sales and listings would take off in their usual January fashion, signaling the start of the spring buying season and the end of the stare-down between buyers and sellers that we’ve been seeing since October.

Sales didn’t. New listings did.

January’s 617 sales in the Fraser Valley were down 23 per cent from January 2012. That’s the  second-slowest January in 13 years, bumping January 2012 out of the spot.

The lowest January for sales volume was 2009, the depth of the recession, with only 389 sales. In the year leading up to that, new listings started dropping off in September, and when January arrived, new listings were down 30 per cent from those of January 2008.

January 2013 listings didn’t follow that same pattern. They were down only 4.2 per cent from January 2012, after going through their normal annual drop starting in November of 2012. If you look at the numbers, new listings in the first month of the year have held pretty steady in the last few years: 2,643 in 2013, 2,753 in 2012 and 2,632 in 2011. (This is a big relief to our two House Hunters, Gerald and May, who’ve been looking in the Newton area and say that from December through mid-January there was nothing new out there in their price range.)

There were 8,031 active listings in January — the third-highest total in the last ten years. But because of low sales, the sales-to-active-listings ratio is down at 8 per cent. Except for September 2012, that ratio hasn’t been reached since the 2008-9 period.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Board price to active listings chart January 2013

What’s Up, What’s Down – At a Glance
Jan 2013/Dec 2012 Jan 2013/ Jan 2012
Overall Sales -7.1% -22.8%
- Detached -1.0% -19.0%
- Townhouse -8.5% -28.5%
- Apartment -2.6% -24.0%
New Listings +202.7% -4.0%
Active Listings  +11.7% -3.5%

The wait-and-see situation can only go on so long, particularly in the Fraser Valley. This is the most affordable region of the Lower Mainland, where young families go to buy their first home or move up from a condo to a house with a yard.

Scott Olson says, “The number-one reason people buy a home is a lifestyle decision — you need a bigger home, a smaller one, closer to work or school — so when the right home comes along you can only wait so long.

“With interest rates as low as they are, our local economy as strong as it is and prices so tenacious I think we’ll see the effects of this pent‐up demand and a return to more balance in the market.”

MLS® Benchmark Prices

“Tenacious” prices. That’s the odd phenomenon we’ve been witnessing through all this.

“Buyers have been holding off in hopes that prices will drop more, however it’s become clear that sellers are only willing to go so far. Prices for typical homes in the Fraser Valley have decreased by only two to three per cent in the last six months and in January we’re starting to see a reversal of that — in half of our communities prices have crept back up.”

To see prices broken down by municipality and type, check out the full FVREB stats package.

Fraser Valley MLS® Benchmark Prices, % Change
Jan 2013 Dec 2012 Jan 2012
Detached $540,500 +0.3% +1.5%
Townhouse $293,700 -0.9%  -2.0%
Apartment $200,400 +0.1% +1.2%

February’s numbers will tell us if the pent-up demand is out there. If buyers perceive that prices have gone as low as they’re going to go, they’ll start buying again. Realtors tell us that once that happens, sellers become buyers too, and that gives the market extra juice.

See also:

Home Sales Will Pick Up in 2013: BC Real Estate Association