As sales decline, some home and condo prices increase

Despite a global pandemic that has decimated economies around the world, Victoria’s real estate market continued to chug along in April, albeit at a much slower pace.

Selling prices in some categories actually increased last month compared with both last year and March, according to numbers released Friday by the Victoria Real Estate Board.

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Sandi-Jo Ayers, president of the board, said many expected the drop-off in sales to be worse.

In some cases, she said, people had to find a new place to live after selling their homes in early March. “There were people who were caught in the middle and had to look for a property or had a job transfer and they still had to be out there looking.”

The result was that 287 properties sold in the region last month. In any other year, a 59 per cent drop from last year’s 696 sales would represent a market collapse, but in the current climate, it seems reasonable, given real estate agents are now having to offer virtual home tours and virtual open houses to attract buyers.

New listings are slow to come to market as owners wait to see what happens with the pandemic, Ayers said. As a result, the available inventory of properties for sale remains lower than last April.

“Like so many other industries, much of the real estate market is watching, waiting and adapting,” Ayers said.

There were 2,305 active listings at the end of April, 16.2 per cent fewer than April last year. That low inventory is likely the reason for the increase in sale prices.

The benchmark value for a single-family home in the Victoria core in April was $882,700, a jump from $843,500 in April last year and an improvement over the $877,700 mark set in March of this year.

The benchmark value for a condominium in the core, which includes Victoria, Saanich, Esquimalt, Oak Bay and View Royal, increased to $530,700 in April from $512,700 at the same time last year.

Ayers said while some real estate agents have shut down their businesses temporarily, the industry appears to be resilient and resourceful.

She said there are protocols in place to ensure the safety of buyers and sellers.

“I think it took some time to figure things out, but we are an adaptable group and being deemed an essential service, we had to figure out how to do the business,” she said, noting the board has implemented a virtual open-house method that allows agents to live-stream house tours for potential buyers.

“Technology has allowed us to move much of our work online. Now you can participate in an open house from the comfort of your couch and manage your contracts and negotiations securely online.”

Ayers said it’s impossible to know what the market will be like this month or in June, and it’s clear both buyers and sellers are waiting in the wings. “It will be interesting to see what happens in May if some restrictions are lifted and if that makes a difference to our industry.” 

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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