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Real estate slowdown continues

James Weldon, North Shore News, December 5, 2008

The benchmark price of a detached home in North Vancouver has dropped almost 20 per cent in the last six months, according to figures released this week by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

Real estate sales on the North Shore continued to slow last month, dragging some housing prices down close to 20 per cent from their springtime peak, according to new numbers from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

Just 106 homes of all types changed hands in North and West Vancouver in November, a drop of 65 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to the board's statistics, released Tuesday.

The trend has taken a bite out of property values, pushing down the benchmark price of a detached home in West Vancouver to $1.28 million from its $1.5-million peak in May 2008 -- a decline of 14 per cent. In North Vancouver, the price slid to just under $750,000, a drop of 19 per cent.

The number suggest the unfolding economic crisis has slowed buyers down, said Rudy Nielsen, president of Landcor Data Corporation, a company that specializes in real estate information.

"My opinion is most people are nervous," he said. "They've seen so much negative stuff in the media. . . . Everybody's just sitting back and saying: 'I'm not going to do anything.'"

The North Shore's declining home values are part of a larger trend across the Lower Mainland. November saw the benchmark price for a home in the Vancouver region fall to $496,000, a 12.8-per-cent drop from a year ago. In all, just 874 Lower Mainland homes sold last month compared to 2,883 in November 2007, meaning the region's housing market has slowed by almost 70 per cent.

On the North Shore, the slow-down has erased more than a year of gains in all housing types. Compared to November 2007, West Vancouver detached homes are down 8.8 per cent and apartments almost 20 per cent. North Vancouver detached homes have dropped about 14 per cent and apartments roughly 12 per cent over the same period.

But this is not necessarily bad news, according to the real estate board.

"Times of turmoil, from which we always emerge, offer excellent opportunities to buy quality real estate," said board president Dave Watt in a statement. "For those whose personal finances allow them to get involved, there are opportunities in today's housing market that have not been seen in many years."

Those looking to get into a home should take advantage of the low prices, said Nielsen. Although he cautioned buyers to wait until February or so, when figures on Christmas retail sales and other financial data are available.

From the perspective of homeowners, a decline in the number of listings offered a bright spot. Just 190 North Vancouver homes were put on the market in November, down 27 per cent from the same month last year, when 262 were listed. West Vancouver saw an eight-per-cent decline, from 109 listings to 100. The drop in new listing suggests supply is declining and homeowners' equity is holding, said Nielsen.

The numbers are nothing to get worked up about, he said. "You can't find a better place than B.C. (to weather a recession). It's a great place to hold back and build your fort."

For those inclined to worry, Nielsen had some simple advice: "Don't panic. It's like getting lost: Sit on a log and think."