Flat forecast for Greater Victoria's home prices

Flat prices are predicted for the coming year by the new president of the Victoria Real Estate Board as 2013 wound up with an overall decrease in the price of single-family prices.

Although the number of homes sold for the past year rose by four per cent to 5,998 from 5,747 in 2012, the benchmark price for a single-family house slid by 3.2 per cent. That benchmark, representing a typical house, was $479,599 in December, down from $495,400 during the same month in 2012, the board said Thursday.

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The benchmark price has dropped from three years ago when it was $515,500, the board said. And it’s lower than the $483,400 price recorded five years ago.

Year-end numbers were released the same day that B.C. Assessment reported local assessed values for single-family and strata-titled homes have declined in the capital region by two to five per cent.

“I think we are going to see a stronger market than 2013, but not markedly so. I don’t think we are going to have a record-breaking year,” said Tim Ayres, real estate board president.

Sales numbers for 2014 are expected to top 6,000, he said. “Prices would remain flat — not too much going on there.”

Ayres expects interest rates to remain low in 2014.

Buyers are typically looking for something that does not need updating, Ayres said. They are often nervous about buying a fixer-upper that requires additional investment on top of the purchase price.

When it comes to a well-priced single-family house in good condition, “there is always going to be competition for them,” Ayres said.

Price can dictate what type of home first-time buyers purchase. The benchmark price for a condominium in Greater Victoria was $278,600 in December, considerably below a typical single-family house. The lowest benchmark price for a condo in the capital region was $209,100 in Saanich West.

Last month, a total of 188 single-family houses sold through the board’s multiple listing service, as well as 92 condominiums and 32 townhouses.

Saanich East saw 32 single-family sales, followed by Victoria with 28 and Langford with 18. Victoria recorded the highest number of condo sales, at 36, while Saanich East followed with 18.

The total value of all sales, including commercial and acreage, last month was $163.8 million. There were also 13 single-family sales worth more than $1 million in December.

Inventory has tightened year over year. There were 3,554 properties on the market last month, down by nine per cent from December 2012.

“As long as the interest rates stay the way they are, I think we will be OK,” said John Smith, real estate agent with DFH Real Estate Ltd. “I don’t see it getting a lot better personally. It’s a buyers’ market and it is going to be buyers’ market for some time.”

Prices are not going up, he said. “Simple as that.”

Smith does not think there will be an increase in interest rates until 2015. Many people are sitting on the fence hoping interest rates will decrease further, but Smith does not expect that to happen. Eventually those people will decide it is time to buy. “Nobody knows when the market is going to change,” he said.

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