Sales Bounce Back in March!

Real Estate Sales Bounce Back      Vancouver Sun

There's a glimmer of hope that the bottom is here, as some prices inch higher

By Fiona Anderson, Vancouver SunApril 3, 2009

Real estate sales showed a bit of life in March compared with February, up 53 per cent in Metro Vancouver, 48 per cent in the Fraser Valley and 34 per cent on Vancouver Island.

In some areas, prices are showing signs of recovery as well.

The numbers are still down significantly from last March, but they are encouraging, said Paul Penner, president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, where prices have inched up slightly.

"All the stats are encouraging," Penner said. "They are going in the right direction."

Fraser Valley realtors had more than 1,000 sales in March, the first time that level has been reached since last July.

However, sales are still down 24 per cent from a year ago.

Benchmark prices are also down, just over 10 per cent from last March, although many areas had small price increases between March and February. Over-all, the average benchmark price was 1.3 per cent higher than in February, at $409,662, although condominiums were down slightly and townhouses were flat.

Things are looking better, Penner said. "Traffic is way up, the amount of phone calls coming into the offices has increased dramatically. The activity is definitely up," he said.

However, Penner won't predict if the market has reached bottom.

"Hopefully this trend will continue and I haven't seen anything that would lead me to believe it won't," Penner said.

Vancouver-area sales jumped the most among the boards reporting numbers Thursday, yet volumes were also down about 24 per cent from last March.

Benchmark prices were down month over month for detached homes and townhomes, although not for condominiums.

In March the benchmark price for a detached home in Greater Vancouver -- which extends from Squamish to South Delta and Pitt Meadows -- was $649,342, down from $653,452 in February, and 15 per cent lower than it was in March 2008.

Townhouses were $420,563 in March, compared with $426,268 a month earlier, and 11 per cent cheaper than in 2008. Bucking the trend, condominium prices rose from $333,134 in February to $337,099 in March, but were still 13.5 per cent lower than a year earlier.

Jamie Boyle, a realtor with Remax Select Properties in Vancouver, says the market has really improved in the last six weeks.

"Compared [with] February, March was nuts," Boyle said.

Boyle has the proof. He recently received 17 offers on a property near Prince of Wales secondary. After only a couple of days on the market, it sold for $1.208 million, above the $998,00 asking price.

Boyle has seen multiple offers this year but usually they are below the asking price, he said.

His sale was unusual because of the uniqueness of the property, which was in a great location, and larger than an average city lot.

"I must have had 100 phone calls [on the listing]," Boyle said. "I think it bodes well for the market."

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board -- which covers Vancouver Island north of Victoria and Saltspring Island -- had 31 per cent fewer sales of single-family dwellings [the only statistics it provides] in March compared with a year earlier, despite the 34-per-cent jump in sales from February.

Prices for the month were up 3.45 per cent -- from $307,919 to $318,550 -- though still six per cent lower than a year ago.

"I think consumer confidence is starting to return," said Ray Francis, president of the VIREB.

Prices have dropped and, with low mortgage rates, people are willing to get into the market, he said.

"And we live in the most beautiful place in the world, or at least in Canada."

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