This article appeared on CBC.ca on September 15, 2011.
B.C.'s real estate market may be slowing down, but there is no sign Vancouver's sky high prices are caught up in a bubble that is about to burst, according to a new report.
The Central 1 Credit Union report, which was issued on Thursday, forecasts the B.C. market will slow this year and total sales will drop slightly from 2010, but prices will continue to rise an estimated 6.8 per cent next year.
According to the report's author economist Brian Yu, low interest rates that show no sign of rising quickly and the limited supply of land will keep values rising – all familiar arguments.
The British Columbia housing market will slow this year and total sales will drop slightly from 2010, says a new report by Central 1 Credit Union. The British Columbia housing market will slow this year and total sales will drop slightly from 2010, says a new report by Central 1 Credit Union. Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press
But Yu says there is another important reason to believe prices in Vancouver are unlikely to collapse. Market speculation —commonly known as flipping — currently accounts for only about two or three per cent of the market.
Yu says that is a normal level, which shows most people are living in the homes they buy.
"Our research shows few signs that speculators are overly active in the Vancouver market, which means we are unlikely to see a speculation-induced bust," he said.
"Even if the economy slows and employment slows, we expect to see individuals hold on to their homes, rather than sell them in a weaker market," he said.
Prices may be way up for detached homes in Richmond, Vancouver and Burnaby, but Yu insists there hasn't been a price surge across the region and concerns about a possible dramatic price drop in Vancouver are overblown.
"Price jumps that have received media attention have been in localized areas and we have not seen a region-wide price surge," he said.
Market balanced says national report
That's backed up the Canadian Real Estate Association's monthly report, also issued on Thursday, that found a record 70 per cent of all local markets across the country are considered to be in balance.
Vancouver and Toronto's share of provincial and national sales activity reached "unusually elevated" levels earlier this year, but has since pulled back into normal seasonal variations, the group said.
However, some observers said the market is eventually headed for a drop.
Fannie Fong of TD Economics said a peak-to-trough drop of roughly 10 per cent for both home sales and prices is expected, though that change isn't expected until the Bank of Canada begins hiking interest rates in earnest in early 2013.
Just two months ago,BMO Capital Markets raised the spectre of a Vancouver price correction, but with a caveat: as long as immigrants with money continue coming to Vancouver, and interest rates stay low, prices in will stay high, said the BMO report.