Lifestyle

Not much stock in real estate forecasts

Bob Quinnell says buyer confidence is growing in 2013. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Bob Quinnell says buyer confidence is growing in 2013.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

The B.C. Real Estate Association is forecasting a 5.6-per-cent increase in housing sales for 2013, but two local brokers say the number doesn’t mean much in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows market.

In a press release issued last week, Cameron Muir, chief economist with the BCREA, said provincial home sales will increase in the coming year to 71,450, but will fall far short of the 10-year average of 86,800, and won’t even reach the five year average of 74,600.

The 5.6 per cent increase is a modest improvement that comes on the heels of an 11.8 percent decrease in home sales province wide in 2012.

The numbers are an interesting talking point, says Bob Quinnell, managing broker at Royal Le Page Brookside Realty. But he doesn’t put much stock in them when it comes to the local marketplace.

It’s a position shared by Harvey Exner, managing broker at Macdonald Realty Maple Ridge, who notes provincial numbers are pretty meaningless in an industry where regional trends are what really count.

“I don’t put much stock in those statistics when it comes to Maple Ridge because our market is different,” says Quinnell. “In the past, everyone went up and down together, but now it’s very different. What drives house sales and prices in Vancouver or Surrey doesn’t necessarily affect Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.”

Exner concurs, and adds: “Last year, when the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board and the BCREA were reporting massive drops in house sales [in the Lower Mainland], we actually didn’t drop nearly as much [in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows].”

In 2012, the BCREA reported a 23 percent drop in home sales in Vancouver, but east of the Pitt River Bridge saw sales fall by just 10.5.

“[We’re} not influenced by Vancouver, which is influenced to a large degree by mainland China right now,” says Exner. “If you’re out here, you can essentially disregard what’s happening in the province or Vancouver and look at the factors that directly affect Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.”

To that end, the main factors that have kept housing sales relatively steady out this way are land availability and lower prices, says Quinnell.

“We currently have about a $100,000 price gap between Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge houses. I’ve been here since 1964 and I’ve never seen [the gap] that wide,” he adds. “I think there’s room for local prices to go up, and they will, but it’s very hard to say when that’s going to happen.”

Low interest rates and lower prices will keep Maple Ridge, in particular, desirable, says Exner.

“We’ve seen an adjustment in the past 12 months, but I’m not sure we’re going to see more of that in 2013. I think everything is in place for a balanced market, which is good for everybody – buyer and sellers. What sellers expected two years ago (fast sales, big prices, and competing bids) isn’t going to happen right now, which is a good thing overall because it levels the playing field.”

“Buyer confidence is definitely growing in 2013,” says Quinnell, who says his office is already seeing good activity and sales. “We’re currently seeing listings declining and prices declining, which is unusual, so I think we’re going to see a bit of a run in the market with more houses selling because of it.”

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