Real estate market hot despite COVID rules

Victoria’s red-hot real estate market is unlikely to see much change with the introduction of more relaxed pandemic health guidelines.

The pace of the market is expected to remain high and real estate agents are likely to continue to take precautions even though the province has relaxed its guidelines.

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Veteran agent Tony Joe said he and several colleagues intend to continue wearing masks, using sanitizer and pre-qualifying would-be buyers before they shop for new homes.

“That hasn’t changed and probably shouldn’t change,” Joe said, adding no one should expect to see a rash of open houses on weekends just because they are once again allowed.

“If ever there was a time to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of open houses it has been the past 16 months,” he said, noting only a tiny percentage of homes sell as a result of an open house and not having them over the past year and a half has had no ill effect on home sales.

“In many ways, I think it’s time to start thinking about doing things differently now that we have virtual tours and 3-D tours where people already feel they can walk through a house online,” Joe said, adding people can now disqualify themselves from showings by touring online to see if a home suits them or not.

Joe also said having more relaxed rules will do nothing for Victoria’s market, which has only picked up pace over the past 18 months.

“It would be a different story if the market was in the tank and needed a jolt,” he said. “But it’s been busy.”

Numbers released Friday by the Victoria Real Estate Board testify to that. There were 942 properties sold in June, 16.6 per cent more than the 808 properties sold in June 2020.

Condominium sales were up 61.7 per cent from June 2020, with 338 units sold, though the number of single-family homes sold dropped to 440 in June compared with 537 at the same time last year.

This year, the region has seen 5,789 sales of all property types, up from 3,134 through the first six months of last year, and 3,674 in the first six months of 2019.

“We see now even more sales activity than the return to the market we saw last year,” said board president David Langlois. “And our inventory is much more restricted, with more than 1,300 fewer listings for sale than the year previous. We can see the strong impact this shrinking supply has had on year-over-year prices.”

There were 1,375 active listings for sale at the end of June, nearly half of the 2,698 available at the end of June 2020.

The dwindling inventory drove prices up significantly year over year.

The benchmark value for a single-family home in the Victoria core — Victoria, Saanich, Esquimalt, Oak Bay and View Royal — in June was $1,063,500, up from $896,700 at the same time last year. The benchmark value for a condominium in the core is now $531,100, up from $490,400 last June.

“We’re still at a deficit of inventory and, if anything, the demand has increased since the pandemic,” said Joe, who is seeing a lot of interest from Ontario and the Lower Mainland. “We have an inventory problem and it will be like this for some time.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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