Realtors in Metro Vancouver usually experience a bump in real estate activity around Lunar New Year, which begins on Friday this year.
Some realtors say they already have seen a mix of overseas buyers and Vancouver locals making big purchases this month — echoing the real estate boom that Vancouver's market saw eight years ago. But several say this year's spike is different because local buyers are also driving sales.
Realtor Tom Gradecak said he has sold three west side houses in the last two weeks, and all of them for more than the asking price. None of the homes stayed on the market for more than a week.
"It's not unusual to see a competing offer on a place if it's well-priced, but we're seeing more of them," he said. "One house that we sold last week had nine competing offers. Another one we sold had five."
Another realtor, Clair Rockel, said she's noticed the same urgency, or eagerness.
"This year is better than I've seen in the last two or three years," she said.
She's sold two houses well over asking price in less than a week, but she doesn't think it's related to the upcoming holiday.
Rockel thinks people are trying to buy ahead of what they predict will be higher prices in the spring.
"This year is different because of the local buyers and the confidence in the market values right now," she said. "The buyers are not just Chinese New Year buyers."
But Rockel said the momentum from buyers during the Chinese New Year usually kick-starts the market and carries it forward for the rest of the year.
If the local demand keeps up, instead of just a blip coming from the overseas or investor buyer, "that's going to keep our housing market good and high in Vancouver," she said.
But Tsur Sommerville, Director of UBC's Centre for Economics and Real Estate, says the recent spike in sales isn't necessarily a pattern or an indicator of a trend.
"My general feeling about anything that happens in a real estate market on any given week or month is 'let's see if it happens again and then we'll start to think about it,'" he said.
But early indications from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver do suggest this month will end with more sales than in January of 2012 or 2013.