Real Estate

Local housing market not red hot, but not dead either

The benchmark price for a single family home in Maple Ridge has also dipped over five years by 2.5 per cent to $463,000.  - The News/Files
The benchmark price for a single family home in Maple Ridge has also dipped over five years by 2.5 per cent to $463,000.
— image credit: The News/Files

The days of pre-sales and sellers’ markets are over, as housing prices take a breather.

The same goes for slapping a for sale sign on your lawn and testing the waters, or waiting for buyers to beat a path to your door.

That doesn’t mean you can’t sell your house, says local realtor Ihor Zalubniak.

“You really have to be competitive,” he said.

If the house is presentable and ready for sale, and the price is competitive, you’ll be the one with the sold sign outside in a few weeks.

“The price has to be sharp to attract the buyers.”

And if you’re one of those buyers, don’t expect massive decreases in price, but do count on getting good value.

While the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says there’s been a “collective hesitation”  in the marketplace, Zalubniak says, at some point, people will realize they need to upgrade their accommodations and sales will pick up.

Today’s market is similar to the period of stagnant house prices in the late 1990s. “There wasn’t a lot of demand. Then when the interest rates dropped, the market really started to heat up.”

This time, interest rates are already rock bottom, says the realtor, who last week saw a mortgage rate of 2.89 per cent for five years.

“There’s no motivation [for the buyer]. There’s nothing for the buyers to say, ‘We have to get going.’”

However, with the changes in mortgage rules, it’s also tougher to get financing.

Some of the numbers from the real estate board shows the current market.

The number of home sales in December in Maple Ridge was only 42, down by 30 from the same month in 2011.

The benchmark price for a single family home in Maple Ridge has also dipped over five years by 2.5 per cent to $463,000.

According to B.C. Assessment, in the past year single-family-home prices have dropped by $3,000, or about .07 per cent, to $438,000.

But in a recent letter, Peter Johnson, who lives near Dewdney Trunk Road and Cottonwood Drive, says his townhouse has dropped in value by nine per cent, or $23,000.

On the other hand, many pockets of the Lower Mainland prices increased over five years.

Single family homes in Burnaby jumped by 22 per cent and New Westminster prices were up 13 per cent, Zalubniak said.

If you’re a realtor, making a living isn’t as easy as it used to be. The deals are more work to put together. “The expectations of the sellers and the willingness of buyers seem to be a little bit further apart.”

Still, the Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge area is still one of the most affordable in the Lower Mainland, and cheaper than Squamish.

And increasing demand will eventually turn around the market, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says that 19,000 new housing units are needed yearly in B.C.

“There’s still activity. It will come back,” Zalubniak said.

According to the Real Estate Board, the total number of sales in the Lower Mainland dropped by 23 per cent in 2012, compared to the year previous.

“For much of 2012, we saw a collective hesitation on the part of buyers and sellers in the Greater Vancouver housing market. This behaviour was reflected in lower than average home sale activity and modest fluctuations in home prices,” Eugen Klein, REBGV president said.

“Activity continues to vary depending on area, so it’s important to work with your realtor and other professionals to understand the trends in your area of interest.”

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