March residential home sales in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are down 26 per cent compared to sales in March of last year.
In Metro Vancouver home sales have declined 30 per cent.
“Sales are down, but prices are up,” said Bonnie Telep, owner of Coldwell Banker Tri-Tel Realty, who is also a mortgage broker.
In March 2017 there were 122 detached homes, 67 attached homes and 98 apartments sold in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows compared to 113 detached, 47 attached and 53 apartments in March 2018.
However, first quarter sales from January until March this year have increased by 5 per cent for detached homes and 16 per cent for apartments compared to first quarter sales in 2017. Only attached homes saw a decrease in sales by 14 per cent over the same period of time.
And sales have increased for detached and attached homes since February of this year with 85 detached homes sold in February compared to 113 homes sold in March and 39 attached homes compared to 47 in March. Only apartments saw a decrease in sales with 53 sold in March compared to 65 in February.
The average selling price for an apartment in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows was 35 per cent more in March compared to March 2017. Apartments went from an average price of $298,450 to $403,000.
The selling prices of detached homes was 16 per cent more from $746,250 in March 2017 to $865,000 in March 2018 and 19 per cent more for attached homes that went from $453,250 to $540,000 during the same period of time.
Prices have dropped slightly since February of this year, however – two per cent for a detached house, 6.5 per cent for an attached house and .5 per cent for an apartment.
“I think it’s the new stress test (that is) stressing everybody out,” Telep said about the new mortgage rules introduced by Canada’s banking regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) that took effect on Jan. 1. The new regulations apply to new mortgage applicants and also current borrowers switching lenders when their mortgage term ends. It means that a borrower has to prove that they can afford a mortgage based on the lender’s minimum qualifying rate which for federally regulated institutions refers to the Bank of Canada’s current five-year-benchmark rate which is 5.14 per cent. Or it can be based on the person’s current contract rate plus two percentage points.
“They are feeling, ‘How can I sell my house. I need to be assured that, number one, I can buy another house and that I can qualify for the mortgage,’” she said.
Until recently, Telep noted, no seller wanted to take a subject to sale, but now some sellers are. That’s when a buyer makes an offer on a property but that offer is subject to the buyer selling their own home in order to purchase the property.
“That at least gives a little bit of assurance to a person who wants to go back out (into the market) and buy something. They can buy something and then they can put their house on the market,” explained Telep.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,517 in March 2018, a 29.7 per cent decrease from the 3,579 sales recorded in March 2017.
But there was a 14 per cent increase in sales since February of this year when 2,207 homes were sold.
During the first quarter of 2018, there were 12,469 homes listed for sale in Metro Vancouver, a 0.8 per cent decrease over the same period last year that saw 12,568 sales.
Although there are currently 8,380 homes listed for sale on the MLS system, a 10.5 per cent increase compared to March 2017 and a 7.1 per cent increase compared to February 2018.
“High prices, new tax announcements, rising interest rates and stricter mortgage requirements are among the factors affecting home buyer and seller activity today, said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
Telep says it is a market that is difficult to predict, although she thinks it will stay level for the next while.
“It’s just really a different market than we’ve experienced in a really long time and it’s scary for people,” said Telep.
“I see it staying quite level. Prices not going up too high. People not putting their homes on the market and just kind of waiting it out for a while. And that might continue all year.”