Weekly Market Blog

The graphic below contains statistics. Looking at stats can cause some peoples heads to explode.

                                          *** The Sales Ratio is the ratio of sales in a month over active listings in that month
** Introduction of Foreign Buyers Tax was August 1, 2016


I get that but I’d like you to humour me for a minute. Having a quick look will help you to understand why prices shot up so quickly between 2015 and 2018. The first column shows the sales ratio. This very important number is the number of sales in a certain month divided by the number of active listings in that month. In March of 2015, the sales ratio was 55%. Anything over 20% is considered a “sellers market”. A sales ratio of 55% represents a very busy market. It’s no surprise that 6 months later, the average price shot up 8.5% to $920,000. Here’s an interesting note, the Foreign Buyers Tax came into effect at the end of July 2016. As you can see, the average price fell between August, 2016 and March, 2017. It’s also interesting to see that the sales ratio after March 2017 fell and continued to fall more dramatically this past month. A quick look at average price in 2018 show a fairly significant adjustment to the downside. Port Moody, by the way is too small a sample size. The average price in March 2018 is skewed by a few high value sales and is not reliable. In my estimation, prices are down 10-12% from their peak last year.

The big news is that prices of detached homes are lower now than a year ago, probably by 10-12%. While detached home prices have slid the most, attached homes are off only slightly. This has an effect on buyers and sellers. If you are a move up buyer, say from an apartment or townhouse to a detached home, this price adjustment is good for you. The price gap between your apartment and a detached home has shrunk by roughly $100,000. However, the opposite holds true for down-sizers. For folks buying down from a detached home to an apartment or townhouse, the opposite holds true. The gap between your house and your future apartment is getting smaller, meaning you will come out with less at the end of the day.

The question is, will these conditions persist? The forces causing downward pressure on the market are real. Since 2016, government measures such as the stress test on borrowers have reduced the amounts that Canadians are able to mortgage. These actions have amounted to a government driven market cooler. There are plenty of people that want to buy homes but at present, there appears to be a mismatch between what these buyers can afford and the prices being asked by sellers. In the end, the market is driven by sellers that must sell. These sellers are forced to “go to the market” by reducing prices until they sell. These sellers are everywhere, make no mistake. At the end of the day, prices will decrease until a we reach a new equilibrium where buyers and sellers have accepted the “new normal”.

It makes some sense that the gap between attached properties and that old mainstay of the baby boom generation, the detached house, is shrinking. Increased demand by those same baby boomers for smaller attached homes will remain strong. In addition, buyers entering the market make the attached home their first stepping stone, adding to strong demand for condos and townhomes. This dynamic will likely keep attached prices high relative to detached homes for the foreseeable future.

January 2018 Market Report

Here’s a quick refresher on the most important number to know when thinking about the state of the current real estate market. That number is the Sales to Active Listings Ratio (SALR). Simply put, this is the sales for a given month over the number of listings on MLS during that month. For example, there are 100 homes on the MLS system in December and 25 of them sell, the resulting percentage, 25%, is the Sales to Active Listings Ratio. Any ratio above 20% is considered a sellers market while anything below 12% favours buyers. We can further segment the market down to specific areas, price ranges and housing types to get more insights. For example, in December 2017 in Port Coquitlam, 31% of all detached homes sold while 67% of all homes listed between $1M and $1.25M sold and Lincoln Park had the highest SALR of 67%.

I’ve listed December versus May 2017 SALR numbers for a variety of areas. May can be considered the busiest month of 2017 in terms of homes sold.

Its obvious that the detached market has changed and that the attached market has remained very strong. In fact, probably the most interesting factoid is that the price gap between a detached home and an attached home had narrowed over the past 24 months. If you have a house to sell and you’re planning to buy down into a condo in Coquitlam, the gap in price between the two properties is probably $200,000 less today than it was in May.

November 2017 Market Report

2017 has been a year to remember in the local real estate market. This year, price records were smashed and previous price highs of 2016 became like distant memory. Years like this have become common in Metro Vancouver. In the 25 years I’ve been selling homes, I’ve seen 9 years that I can recall that did not have a “spring market”. If prices are going to increase in any year, it’s going to happen in the spring. Since 1992 there has always been a spring market price except for 1996 to 2001 and then 2009-2010 and 2012. In reality, the years since 2001 have been one long real estate party aside from a few years after the financial crisis of 2008. The run up in Metro Vancouver real estate prices has been nothing short of extraordinary, some might even say unimaginable. However, we are a global city, desirable and respected. We enjoy a great climate, fabulous scenery and a great outdoor experience, in addition to excellent big city amenities like restaurants, entertainment and cruise ship terminals. That’s what makes the region attractive to people from all over the world and Canada itself. Prices of any asset depend on supply and demand. Demand is high and supply is short. And it’s not just international demand. People from all over Canada are coming here to find work, retire, enjoy the scenery and they all need a place to live. In fact, projected population growth in Metro Vancouver is expected to be 30,000 new residents per year until 2040. As I’ve pointed out before, our region is bordered by ocean, mountains and the ALR (agricultural land reserve). We literally can’t grow “out”. We have to densify existing land supply. Coquitlam, for example, is looking at densifying one of it’s oldest neighbourhoods, Central Coquitlam. Last year, the Maillairdville area was up-zoned to allow multiple housing choices on formerly single family residential lots. The Housing Choices Plan, implemented by Coquitlam allows for carriage homes, duplexes, fourplexes and lots as narrow as 33 feet. Central Coquitlam, home to some of the areas finest neighbourhoods will see a similar transformation over the next 2-3 years. Port Coquitlam now allows carriage homes on most lots. Port Moody will be transformed over the next 10 years as St Johns Street and surrounding areas have been up-zoned to allow for apartments and townhomes.

What does this all mean for land values, and detached homes in particular? In my opinion, if population growth projections are accurate, land values and detached home values will increase. In some areas, of Coquitlam, an 8,000 sq ft lot that is suddenly able to support a fourplex will be in high demand, and there are plenty of 8,000 sq ft lots in Central Coquitlam. Look for housing to get more expensive.

November 2017 Highlights

The real estate market in the Tri City area was once again the tale of two markets. Detached home prices softened while attached home prices remained high or increased, depending on where you were. One trend that was seen across both attached and detached markets was a reduction in inventory levels as homeowners held property off the market. Declining inventory is typical for this time of year but buyers do find it frustrating.

Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody detached markets all got tighter as sales increased month over month and inventory levels fell.

Port Coquitlam sales were down 21% in October over September.

Port Moody, a smaller housing market, saw a 47% increase in detached home sales while attached home sales were up 42%.

The most active price range was $1M to $1.5M in Coquitlam, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam.

If you know how to interpret numbers, you can predict the real estate market

The stats are in for July 2017 and they show a slow down in the detached market and continued strength in the attached market. Once again, the specific stat to look at closely is the Sales to Active Listings Ratio (SALR). This number tells us the number of homes sold in a month as a percentage of the total number of homes listed for sale in that month. As a percentage, anything over 20% indicates a “sellers” market with prices increasing. Anything below 14% indicates a “buyers” market. Of course, stats usually cause people to have blurred vision or to fall asleep but they are very useful in spotting trends in the market. I really like stats because they help me to make sense of what I’m already seeing out there. What’s also useful is looking at trend lines. Over time, the number of listings on the market goes up or down. This all important stat shows how many homes active buyers have to choose from. Another great trend line is the number of sales in each month. If sales are trending down, and inventory is trending up, the outcome is inevitable, the SALR goes down. When that happens, markets shift. What’s funny is that these shifts happen with predictable regularity over the course of any given year. Inventory is always at its lowest point in December. Sales and listing inventories start to climb in February/March. When sales numbers start to decline, there’s good chance that inventory will rise faster. This usually happens in May/June. These typical market cycles happen year in and year out. This year, in 2017 we are seeing the exact same thing happening. The current detached market is trending towards oversupply while the attached market remains quite strong. To get a better idea of where the market is headed for your home, give me a call.

Here are some interesting numbers:

This chart shows that the Sales to Active Listing Ratio is falling from its peak in April of this year. A higher SALR percentage indicates that a larger percentage of active listings are selling. This higher percentage drives prices higher. Conversely, a lower percentage will a some point cause prices to decline.

Coquitlam, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam May 2017 Market Report

One thing is for certain on the eve of the 2017 BC provincial election, the provincial government has very little control over the price of real estate. At this point in time, the media has very little idea of what’s happening in the market, which tells me that coverage of the “housing crisis” and discussion surrounding affordability of housing can largely be ignored. If the media can’t even be aware of a red hot market surge occurring under their noses, what good are they? All the editorializing and hot air being put out by media pundits really doesn’t amount to much if they don’t report on this hot market.

This is what has occurred since January 2017: The attached market has continued to be strongly in sellers territory in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. The all important ratio of sales to active listings went from “strong” in January and February, to hyper speed in March and April. In both those months, demand outsold supply causing significant price jumps. When listing an apartment or townhouse pretty much anywhere in the Tri City, expect multiple offers and crazy sale prices.

The detached market, which slowed down significantly after the August 2016 15% foreign buyers tax, suddenly woke up in March. Sales to active listings ratios doubled from February to April even while inventories climbed. How long will this last? One can only speculate. A change in government on May 9th will have an effect as buyers most likely take a wait and see approach as a hedge against possible policy changes listings.

Look For a Busy Spring Real Estate Market!

This past weekend I wrote an offer for my buyer client on an apartment in near Coquitlam Centre mall. There are a number of new or newer buildings in the area. This particular apartment had been on the market for about 6 weeks. My buyer fell in love with it and after a 2nd look at it, decided to write an offer. My client is a 1st time buyer. Because of that there was plenty of ground to cover, i.e., how do things work?, what normally happens when…? etc.. To make matters a bit more complicated, the listing realtor was very inexperienced. I had to explain a lot of procedures to him, which wasn’t a problem really. At any rate, after submitting my offer, I was informed that 2 more offers were written and another 2 were possibly being written. What excitement! Needless to say, my 1st time buyer was taken aback. After sitting idle for 6 weeks, how could this property suddenly spring to life. The answer is that holidays and snow have hampered the market over the past few weeks and a backlog of buying activity has been created. That backlog is now playing out in the attached market certainly and I think the detached market is should perk up quickly too. Look for a busy Spring real estate market in Coquitlam, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam.

2016 Market: Year in Review

Ok, the wild ride of 2016 is in the rear view mirror. A proper ‘year in review’ would run for pages and pages so I’ll give you a more brief and concise report on the state of the market in 2016 and as well as a prediction of the market is going forward.

Remember, the best way to gauge current market activity is to look at the ’Sales to Active Listings Ratio’. This ratio tells you how many homes sold out of the number actually listed for sale in any month. A ratio higher than 20% is said to be in sellers territory while a ratio under 15% can be said represent a buyers market. While the market was going crazy from December 2015 to May-June 2016, the ratio stood well over 50% in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. A ratio as high as that is caused by too many buyers trying to buy too few listings. It may not be crystal clear to anyone either in the business, or trying to buy a property, but the inventory of available homes on MLS has been declining over the past 24 months. In December 2015, a typically slow month in real estate, inventory did what it always does in December, it dropped significantly, to an all time low. As a rule, sellers don’t rush to hit the market in December. Coincidentally, a very large group of buyers came into the market at that same time. It played out like a large wave hitting a very small beach, and the market was overwhelmed. The result, as we all know, was a sharp increase in the price of homes in Metro Vancouver.

In late July, the provincial government decided to step in. It slapped a 15% foreign buyers tax on home purchases in Metro Vancouver. Whether this was good or bad policy I will not make a judgement. I can however, speak to the effect. Almost overnight buyer sentiment turned sour. Buyers that were ‘ready, willing and able’ decided hit the pause button. As you can imagine, this was due mainly to uncertainty and uncertainty is always the enemy of decision making.

Its pretty important to make a critical distinction here. When I say buyers hit the pause button, I mean buyers of detached homes. Buyers of attached homes (apartments and townhomes) did nothing of the sort. In general, the attached market in the Tri City area remained busy and undersupplied. Prices of attached homes have continued to be buoyant despite a general slowdown in the market. The result is a very seldom seen narrowing of the gap between detached homes and attached. For example, An older couple in Central Coquitlam wants to downsize and buy an apartment. In March 2016, that older couple sold their detached home for $1.35M and paid $700,000 for their dream apartment in Port Moody and in the process they pocketed $500,000 after fees and taxes. Nice right? Today, that couple sells their detached home for $1.1M and pays $800,000 for their dream apartment. That nice gap has almost been cut in half. I always say that in real estate, timing is everything.

In order to give a simpler look at the all important ratio, I’ve included a table.
  • Detached
  • Attached
Port Moody
  • Detached
  • Attached
Port Coquitlam
  • Detached
  • Attached

These number represent the Sales to Active Listings Ratio. This ratio is a simple calculation of 1) Sales for the month over 2) Active MLS listings in that month.

As you can see, the ratio in attached properties was very high while the ratio in detached homes was very low (compared to the crazy market of December 2015 to May June 2016). What we are seeing in the current market for detached homes is actually a fairly normal market, such as what we were seeing from 2010 to 2013. Prices were fairly stable at that time. My prediction is that detached homes will continue to sell with a ratio of between 15 and 25% meaning that market will stay in balance for the next 3-4 months. The attached market will continue to show strength as well.

November 2nd, 2016 Market Update

Of course, everything is dependent on supply and demand, but falling prices are triggered by sellers who “have to sell”. When demand slackens, like it’s doing right now, the market tends to get a bit flooded with product. Out of the many hundreds of sellers, a few can be categorized as “have to sell”, while others are just testing or don’t “have to sell”. As time wears on, buyers have more selection and don’t feel pressure to act. This causes buyers to be less willing to commit, even when they find a great property. Sellers who “have to sell”, see this happening and will react in the only timely way they can, they will reduce their price.
Examples of sellers that “have to sell” are foreclosures, estate sales (perhaps), sellers that have bought already, sellers that are especially motivated to make a change in their home and sellers that just need the cash. Out of the hundreds of sellers on the market, I’d say 25% could be motivated “have to sell” sellers.
So, when demand falls and supply increases, sellers that have to sell must go to the market. They must price their homes to entice reluctant buyers to commit. This will happen over and over again until the market gets into a more balanced situation. It’s happening right now in this current market cycle, it has to. Prices are down from their peak by about 15% in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. Its up to buyers as a collective whole to decide how far prices fall. When the collective whole feels that homes are a good deal, they will start to buy again.
This current downturn in demand is not being caused by typical factors like rising interest rates or falling wages. It’s being caused by general buyer sentiment. In other words, it’s a crisis of confidence. That tells me that buyers will return to the market in larger numbers when prices have fallen to a point where they seem like a good deal. That sounds simplistic I know, but it’s how it is.