Anatomy of the Housing Downturn in Vancouver, Canada

Anatomy of the Housing Downturn in Vancouver, Canada by Wolf Richter – Wolf Street

It’s not pretty.

In 2018, “each month has brought weaker than normal sales, rising inventory, and continued downward pressure on prices” in Vancouver, British Columbia, writes Steve Saretsky, a Vancouver Realtor and publisher of real-estate blog, Vancity Condo Guide. The market faces another headwind: “With the Bank of Canada determined to reach a neutral rate of interest of between 2.5-3.5%, borrowing power continues to erode.”

The single-family price spike unwinds.

The hardest hit segment are single-family houses (“detached houses”). Sales volume in the city of Vancouver has dropped to 27-year lows for most months of the year. In October, sales plunged 32% year-over-year to 146 houses, the third worst October on record. The plunge in sales was first triggered by the imposition of a tax in August 2016 on nonresident foreign buyers – mostly investors living in China. This chart from The Saretsky Report shows sales volume in every October going back to 1991 (click to enlarge):

Inventory for sale of all types of homes combined – single-family, townhouse, and condo – in the city of Vancouver surged 24% year-over-year, “pushing prices lower across all property segments,” he writes. Within that group, townhouse inventory jumped 34% and condo inventory soared 74%.

But inventory of single-family houses edged down by 4%, to 1,556 listings, “primarily a result of sellers taking their house off the market and trying to wait out current conditions,” Saretsky writes. Given the decline in sales, months’ supply surged 35% to 10.7 months. “This has paved the way for buyers to negotiate steep discounts”:

We have now been in a weak detached housing market for over two years and as a result, price declines are becoming more noticeable and more significant. There is strong evidence from previous housing booms that volumes tend to lead prices by about two years, and for the most part that has been the case here in Vancouver.

The median sales price of single-family houses in October dropped 13% year-over-year to C$1.88 million. From the peak of the crazy spike in the spring of 2016 to October 2018, the median price has plunged by over C$700,000 or 28% (click to enlarge):

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Wolf Richter

In his cynical, tongue-in-cheek manner, he muses on WOLF STREET about economic, business, and financial issues, Wall Street shenanigans, complex entanglements, and other things, debacles, and opportunities that catch his eye in the US, Europe, Japan, and occasionally China. WOLF STREET is the successor to his first platform… TP-Title-7-small-200px …whose ghastly name he finally abandoned in July 2014. Here’s the story on that. Wolf lives in San Francisco. He has over twenty years of C-level operations experience, including turnarounds and a VC-funded startup. He earned his BA and MBA in Texas and his MA in Oklahoma, worked in both states for years, including a decade as General Manager and COO of a large Ford dealership and its subsidiaries. But one day, he quit and went to France for seven weeks to open himself up to new possibilities, which degenerated into a life-altering three-year journey across 100 countries on all continents, much of it overland. And it almost swallowed him up.