National, provincial and local economists from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) agree: the real estate market in British Columbia, and specifically in the Lower Mainland, will remain strong and steady into 2016. That was the overall message at their Housing Outlook Conference, held in Vancouver on November 4.
Presenters cited several reasons for that housing market stability. Chief Economist Bob Dugan noted that Canada’s economy should continue to improve, which in turn will continue to attract immigrants and new residents to BC. He also noted that CMHC doesn’t expect any interest or mortgage rate increases until late in 2015.
Shifting demographics will also play a role in this stability moving forward. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, we’ll see more senior-led households and more single owners in the market. They’ll either be looking to age in place (creating more jobs for home renovations) or move to smaller townhomes or condos (keeping the detached resale stock buoyant while keeping the demand for new condos and townhomes high).
Total sales in the region are forecasted to reach 32,800 this year, then slip slightly to 32,250 sales in 2015 and to 31,600 in 2016.
Senior Market Analyst Robyn Adamache pointed out that while no definitive data exists on the influence of foreign buyers on our local market, trend data can be drawn from REBGV’s monthly poll to REALTORS® who complete a sale each month. Our data indicates that foreign buyers make up approximately three per cent of home sales in any given month.
Keynote speaker and REBGV member Bob Rennie weighed in on the affordability issue. When you factor out the top 20 per cent of sales, he said, average prices become much more reasonable. Using this method, the average price of a detached home drops from the one million dollar range to around $670,000, while condos drop from $470,000 to $316,000.
He also stressed the need to assess and review zoning policies to create more opportunities for density. Today’s buyers are attracted to ‘energy centres’ where amenities like shopping, transit and schools are easily accessible. Rennie pointed specifically to strong condo sales in areas like Metrotown and the forthcoming Marine Gateway project. Keeping this supply steady while an estimated 40,000 new residents move to BC each year is key to keeping affordability in check.
“Because without supply, there’s no cure for affordability,” said Rennie.