B.C. real estate sales to surge 20% this year

VANCOUVER - Consider what's happening in British Columbia real estate a bounce back, but not a boom, according to the B.C. Real Estate Association's latest forecast.

 Though association chief economist Cameron Muir expects sales across B.C. to have risen 20 per cent over 2008 levels by the end of the 2009 to 82,900 units, that is still far off sales of the boom years of 2002 to 2007.

 And it is a picture heavily influenced by near record low mortgage rates that have stimulated sales even during the recession, and by relatively higher levels of sales in the Lower Mainland.

 "The expectation this time coming out of recession [is that] first, economic recovery is going to be a slow and gradual affair," Muir said in an interview.

 "As a result, housing demand is going to be more in line with population growth and household growth number than it's going to [repeat] the kinds of increases we experienced during the 2002 to 2007 period."

 Muir's assessment for the B.C. Real Estate Association is the latest forecast predicting a continuation of the province's real-estate resurgence, albeit at below-peak levels.

 He noted that the 82,900 sales he expects to occur across B.C. this year will be close to B.C.'s 10 year average for annual sales, and next year's forecast 89,600 will only be an eight per cent increase from 2009.

 Prices, however, are "flirting with record highs" in some markets, which Muir said will again begin to squeeze buyers out of the market helping to moderate sales over the next year.

 Muir estimates that the provincial average home price will rise two pre cent from 2008 to a new record of $463,200 by the end of 2009, with 2010's average rising again to $482,800.

 depenner@vancouversun.com

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