British Columbia

Vancouver home sales set new record for December after surging 53.4%

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says home sales were up 53.4 per cent in the final month of 2020 compared with December 2019, hitting a new record for the month.

Real estate board says 1,026 detached homes were sold last month, a 71.3% jump from December 2019

A smokestack is seen off in the background of this aerial shot of Fraserview and the Fraser River in South Vancouver. Rows of single-family homes are visible.
Vancouver real estate agents sold 1,026 detached homes in December 2020, a 71.3 per cent jump from December 2019, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Vancouver's real estate market ended 2020 with a bang, as a December home-buying spree helped the market rebound from a weak 2019, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home sales jumped 53.4 per cent in the final month of 2020 compared with December 2019, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said on Tuesday. The board said 3,093 homes were sold in December, up from 2,016 in December 2019 and slightly more than the 3,064 homes sold in November.

The board said the composite home price in Vancouver ended the year at $1,047,400, up 5.4 per cent from the same time last year.

Board chair Colette Gerber said the COVID-19 pandemic brought the housing market to a "near standstill'' in March, but demand for housing returned through summer, fall and winter— intensified by low interest rates.

"Robust December sales outpaced long-term averages in what's traditionally the quietest month of the year in real estate,'' Gerber said in a statement. "This was part of an unusual seasonal pattern the market followed last year, which can be attributed in large part to the pandemic.''

Changing needs reflected in market

Gerber also pointed to the pandemic's affect on "shifting housing needs,'' as more buyers have searched for standalone homes outside downtown amid more widespread stay-at-home and work-from-home mandates during the pandemic.

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Sales of detached homes led the December gains, rising 71.3 per cent from December 2019 to 1,026. Apartment sales were up 40 per cent from last December, totalling 1,474. Real estate agents sold 593 attached homes, such as townhomes, in December, up 62.9 per cent from December 2019.

Composite home prices were up 10.2 per cent year-over-year to $1,554,600 for detached homes, 2.6 per cent year-over-year to $676,500 for apartments, and 4.9 per cent year-over-year to $813,900 for townhomes, the board said.

A message urging people to stay home is seen on a condo balcony on March 29. The housing market came to a 'standstill' in March as a result of the pandemic. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Across the metro area, Bowen Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Tsawwassen saw the biggest one-month jump in composite home prices in December.

Despite December home sales that were 57.7 per cent above the 10-year average, 2020 as a whole was below Vancouver's 10-year average, after starting the year in recovery from a slump.

Listings down slightly in 2021

A year ago, the board noted that homebuyers had been waiting to see how prices would react to the mortgage stress test, new taxes, and other policy changes. The B.C. government's speculation and vacancy tax, City of Vancouver's empty homes tax and limits on short-term rentals were all in effect by 2019, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said in a recent report.

After 2019 home sales ended up 20.3 per cent below the 10-year average for Vancouver, the real estate board said 2020 wrapped 2.8 per cent shy of the 10-year average.

Heading into 2021, the number of homes listed for sale in Vancouver was down 0.8 per cent in December compared with December 2019 — and down 23.2 per cent from November. That put the sales-to-active listings ratio — a closely watched measure in the real estate market — at 36.2 per cent in December.

The real estate board said that a sales-to-active listings ratio above 20 per cent over a sustained period will push home prices higher.

Gerber said that going forward, "the supply of homes for sale will be a critical factor in determining home price trends.''