Greater Victoria real estate sales, prices surge amid 'mobs' of buyers, low inventory

“Mobs” of buyers are viewing homes for sale across the region, putting in offers well above asking prices and waiving inspections as the real estate market continues surging during the pandemic and traditional slower winter months.

Home sales of all types hit a record 863 during February, smashing the previous mark of 780 in 1992, and sailing past the 772 sales in 2016.

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And prices are climbing.

The average price of a ­single-family home in the capital region breezed past the $1-million mark in June as the inventory of available homes for sale withered.

February’s single-family home average price hit $1.16 million — up from $888,000 during the same month a year ago. Last month’s average was beefed up by the sale of 30 properties that sold for more than $2 million — with 12 of those selling for asking prices and above, said Dustin Miller of 8X Real Estate in Victoria.

He said an equestrian farm in Central Saanich listed for $6 million went $155,000 over asking and there were three ­condominium sales for more than $2 million each, including the penthouse at Hudson Place One, the tallest building in Victoria.

The Victoria Real Estate Board said the benchmark value — or median price without the high and low end of sales — for a single-family home in the region’s core municipalities during February increased year-over-year by 9% to $948,200, a 1.7% increase from the previous month.

The benchmark value for a condominium in the core remained close to last year’s value at $525,400.

Real estate board president David Langlois said the market is caught between constrained inventory and high demand.

“The good news is that we have seen some stabilization in listings and condo pricing between January and ­February, but we continue to see huge pressure on single family homes,” said Langlois. “New listings are snapped up as soon as they are listed.”

That’s resulted in pressure on single family homes, where there is significant competition for desirable homes. “And in our marketplace most homes are desirable … and people are ­competing for properties and pushing prices up.”

There were 1,318 active listings for sale on the board’s Multiple Listing Service at the end of February — 38% fewer than the same period a year ago.

Miller said there are fewer than 400 single-family homes available across the entire system right now. “In a typical year we will see the most amount of inventory go online in April and May, but if the current trend continues, we will see only around half of the number of new listings compared to what was normally seen in the past.”

Kevin Sing of DFH Realty listed a modest, three-bedroom no-step rancher in East Saanich on Thursday for $759,000 and has shown it to nearly 50 prospective buyers over four days. He’s scheduled appointments from dawn until dusk and has received several offers, some unconditional, and several well over the asking price.

Sing said although the federal government’s mortgage stress test has put many younger buyers out of the single-family-home market, empty nesters, older couples who are downsizing or families with students at nearby Camosun College and the University of Victoria are lining up for the East Saanich home.

The demand for real estate seems insatiable, said Sing, and it isn’t just Greater Victoria.

“It’s worldwide,” he said. “I get on regular Zoom calls and everyone is experiencing the same thing, from Manhattan to the Grand Caymans. Unless you’re in a war zone, the demand for housing right now is just ridiculous.

“It’s hard to explain … it seem we have collectively decided [during COVID] that nesting is what we want to do.”

Langlois said the theme for 2021 is going to be inventory — “where does it come from and how much new supply can be approved — so that this situation does not persist.”

“We’ve seen the government attempt to influence the housing market in hopes of dampening the demand for home ownership,” he said. “The foreign buyer tax has changed nothing … our market continues to zoom forward with almost no foreign buyers. The government adjusted mortgage qualification rules, those are absorbed by the market and buyers adjust.”

Langlois said concerns about housing prices and availability should be addressed by supporting new developments in municipalities. “Be vocal with your local council or neighbourhood association,” he said. “These stakeholders hold the power in these negotiations and help to make space in your community. Gentle density and the building of new homes are the only pathway to moderate housing prices in our area.”

Miller said buyers and sellers should expect a competitive trend, including “mob-like numbers of people” showing up to see new listings.

He noted “bully offers” being submitted within hours of a property being listed and the waiving of all buyer protection contingencies such as home inspections.

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