COVID-19 Halts the Vancouver Island Real Estate Marketplace
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, no aspect of the Canadian economy was left untouched and the real estate market felt this acutely with a major slump during March and April. During this period, many British Columbians experienced layoffs, placed themselves in social isolation and were hesitant to open their homes to strangers. For many, listing their homes or searching for a new home took a backseat to navigating the “new normal” during this very odd time in history when schools, workplaces, and all public spaces shut down, seemingly overnight. Also, as restrictions on rental properties were put into place to protect tenants from eviction during the lockdown period, owners of these properties were unable to list these homes. With realtors also self-isolating and avoiding in-person meetings, the market in the Victoria Real Estate (VREB) region was uncharacteristically quiet during what would normally be peak season. Live-streamed open houses, virtual walkthroughs, masks and sanitizer waiting at listed homes became common as the first weeks wore on.
The Vancouver Island Real Estate Market Bounces Back
The market experienced a stronger than expected bounce-back in late May and June, closely timed with the start of Phase 2 of the BC Restart Plan. As a result, in June the number of homes on the market was much closer to 2019 numbers and sales in June 2020 in the VREB region surpassed sales from June 2019. Despite a slow spring, home prices continued to rise. The sale price of an average single-family home in Victoria topped $1 million in June. Competitive/ multiple offers have also become common due to limited inventory. The BCREA, VREB, and VIREB, Real Estate professionals and other industry experts report this is likely due to a pent-up demand from buyers and sellers having to wait throughout the spring (normally the ideal time to buy and sell) to make their move.
Changes by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) may also have played a role in demand with new changes resulting in reduced borrowing power. The eligibility rules for a mortgage have now changed to include an inability to use borrowed funds for a down payment, requirements for a higher credit score, and a lower amount of debt that an applicant is allowed carry. Some buyers, particularly first-time buyers, may have felt a push to purchase a home before those changes came into effect July 1. “COVID-19 has exposed long-standing vulnerabilities in our financial markets, and we must act now to protect the economic futures of Canadians,” says Evan Siddall, CMHC’s President and CEO, of the changed eligibility rules for borrowers requiring mortgage insurance.
Changes in Pricing Could Lead to New Opportunities
Rising home prices are believed to be a result of limited inventory and more competitive/multiple offers seen through May and June as the market began to recover. Despite this initial rise, lower valuations may come into play as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and as we experience a potential second wave.
The Vancouver Island Market Moving Forward
The Real Estate market on Vancouver Island is a mixed bag and it remains to be seen how it will fare long-term, particularly after Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other government assistance programs wind down during the next few months. The CERB benefit, for example, is available from March 15 to October 3, 2020 but can be applied for retroactively up until December 2, 2020. These programs have temporarily taken the pressure off to pay the mortgages and bills and even defer taxes Industry professionals believe it’s possible there may be a surge in sales as these programs phase out, forcing homeowners to list their properties.
A bit of good news: in the most recent market intelligence report by the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCCREA), it is “anticipated that while the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will be deeply felt, the bounce-back will be faster than in previous recessions. As the protection measures are lifted, as we have already seen in parts of the Province, the pent-up demand will return to local markets with buyers keen to take advantage of low interest rates.” The long-term effects remain to be seen, but on the positive side, a combination of lower interest rates, increased inventory and a drop in valuation have the potential to create an ideal buyer’s market and faster sales.
- In April 2020, sales in the VREB dropped by 58.8 percent compared to April 2019
- Condo sales are down 3.2% with 209 units sold in June 2020- believed to be at least partly a result of rising Strata insurance costs.
- Single family home sales are up 16.8% with 460 homes sold in June 2020
- Sales in the VREB region were up in June at 808 properties sold, compared to 740 properties sold in June 2019
- There are currently 2,698 active listings on the VREB Multiple Listing Service (MLS) as of the end of June 2020
As one of Victoria’s longest-standing appraisal firms, rely on our years of expertise if you are considering buying, selling, or re-financing. At D. Fritz Appraisals Inc. located in Victoria BC, our expert team understands that these are uncertain times and its of utmost importance to have the most accurate and comprehensive valuations possible. To get the full picture of the value of your property, contact us today.