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Balanced markets mean steadier housing prices

Paul J. Henderson, The Chilliwack Times, June 5, 2009

Balance, stability, gains--all words that have not been on the lips of economists or real estate experts for many months, but that may be changing.

"The majority of the decline in home prices has already occurred," said Cameron Muir, B.C. Real Estate Association chief economist in a recent press release.

"Balanced markets are emerging in Victoria, Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. There's now little downward pressure on home prices in those areas."

The BCREA forecasts that home sales in Chilliwack and District will decline 14 per cent in 2009 (12 per cent across B.C.), but that is mostly because of a weak first quarter. Muir forecasts that stronger consumer demand is expected to continue for the balance of 2009 and through 2010. The BCREA forecast for Chilliwack and District for 2010 is a nine per cent increase in sales over 2009.

A recent Landcor residential sales summary for the first quarter reported that first quarter sales were down 48.7 per cent across the province, and 54.1 per cent in the Fraser Valley market.

Prices too have dropped and townhouse owners in the Fraser Valley were hit hardest in the first quarter of 2009, according to Landcor. Attached unit average prices fell 21.2 per cent from $316,337 in the first quarter of 2008 to $249,224 last quarter.

However, even with the large drops in sales and prices in the quarter in the Fraser Valley, there is room for optimism.

"With detached homes running near $400,000 this region may be a bellweather sales indicator for the inevitable recovery," the report said.

The Fraser Valley also saw the largest growth in sales between February and March at 40 per cent.

"Many analysts see this as a sign that the housing recession is improving," the report said.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) issued its second quarter housing outlook and forecast new home construction in B.C. to trend below-average for 2009 and 2010 with a recovery in 2011. Three to five years down the road, CMHC estimates new home construction in B.C. will trend higher than the rest of the country because of in-country migration and pent-up demand as the population continues to grow.

The average price of a home in Chilliwack in 2008 was $316,229, a number forecast to fall 11 per cent to $281,800 for 2009, according to the BCREA. A further price drop of two per cent is forecast for 2010 to $277,500 for the local market.