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B.C. housing markets easing into balance

By Bryan Yu for Business in Vancouver

Weaker home sales continued through April but the slide in sales showed signs of moderating. B.C. Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales fell for the fourth straight month in April to 6,590 seasonally adjusted units, down 1.8% from March, compared with a 6% drop the previous month. Since a fourth-quarter peak, sales have fallen 30% largely due to federal mortgage stress tests.

Declines were concentrated in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Okanagan Mainline real estate board regions, which, incidentally, are home to the highest-priced markets in the province. In contrast, sales rebounded in Kamloops, the South Okanagan and northern regions.

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Weaker sales are pushing most markets back into a more moderate balanced state. Listings are staying on the market for longer, and active listings are on the rise, particularly in the Lower Mainland and Victoria. That said, there is no flood of new listings with owners opting to remain patient given strength in the labour market and economy.

After four successive declines, the average MLS value edged higher by 0.2% to $698,150.  More substantial sales declines in higher-priced regions and sales softness for higher-priced properties contributed to recent weakness. Since December, the average price has declined about 5.5%, with roughly half accounted for by geographic composition. Benchmark price indexes available for the Lower Mainland and Island markets continued to appreciate at a 1% to 2% monthly pace.

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