Victoria area real estate still strong in April

Victoria board official says the market is balancing out

The approach of tougher qualifying rules for mortgages, coupled with increasing interest rates and promises of more hikes to come, buoyed the Victoria housing market again in April, according to the Victoria Real Estate Board.

Statistics released yesterday by the board showed a strong number of sales in April, with buyers getting into the market and keeping sale prices stable.

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"I'd say it's good, and I think what's happening now is we're balancing out. It's becoming a balanced market -- we're still getting multiples [offers], but not as fast and furious as it was a few months ago," said VREB past-president Chris Markham. "We haven't switched to a buyer's market, but it has come off being a seller's market."

There were 756 homes and other properties sold in April through the board's Multiple Listing Service. That was down slightly from the 789 sales in March, but slightly ahead of the 747 sales in April of last year.

The average price for single-family homes sold last month was $624,149, down from $633,938 in March, while the median price rose to $572,500 from $569,950.

The average price for condominiums was $340,105 last month, up from $336,779 in March, and the median price for condominiums in April remained unchanged at $305,000.

The average price of all townhomes sold last month was $449,556, down from $456,446 in March, and the median price declined to $430,000 from 439,800.

According to Lisa Fibiger, a mortgage adviser with Dominion Lending Centres, those prices remained fairly strong because would-be buyers were keen to get into the market last month.

"It's been a bit of a frenzy out there -- we've seen a lot of volume," she said, noting buyers wanted to get into the market and lock in before tougher qualifying rules for mortgages took effect, interest rates increased again and the new harmonized sales tax -- affecting new homes sales -- takes effect later this year. "It was a combination of all of those things."

Fibiger said some people were panicked by the threat of higher interest rates, but she expects that to calm down significantly as it's clear the rates are not about to skyrocket.

There remains plenty of choice for homebuyers. At the end of April, there were 4,229 properties available for sale, up from 3,712 at the end of March.

"The available inventory is now 10 per cent higher than the 3,861 properties for sale at the end of April a year ago, and this means a wider selection for buyers," VREB president Randi Masters said in a release.

Masters characterized the market as stable and expects sales, which have now returned to levels comparable to a year ago, to remain steady through the year.

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, which covers the area north of the Malahat, was also reporting a strong April.

"The market remains buoyant," said Cliff Moberg, president of the VIREB. "Certainly, local sales have been and are continuing to remain strong."

With 410 single-family unit sales across the VIREB region last month, the average sale price was $348,542, up six per cent from April 2009, and just slightly ahead of the $346,626 posted in March of this year.

In Campbell River, the average sale price increased 12 per cent to $295,831 compared with last April, while in the Comox Valley it decreased two per cent to $347,448.

The Cowichan Valley saw the average sale price increase six per cent to $355,036, while Nanaimo increased four per cent $367,805, Parksville/ Qualicum jumped nine per cent to $401,036, and Port Alberni rose 13 per cent to $214,375 compared with the same time last year.

aduffy@tc.canwest.com

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