Ryan Berlin: Pandemic or no pandemic, January 2021 was another record month in the Vancouver Region.
The transition from one year to another is often accompanied by a renewed sense of optimism and hope for (positive) change, and this was perhaps never truer than when we watched the calendar flip from 2020 to 2021.
Indeed, there was (and is) much to feel good about here in the early stages of 2021, including the initial wave of COVIDd-19 vaccinations being administered, our economy’s continued recovery, and the feeling that we are a little closer to the day when we can interact with our friends, family, and co-workers in ways we haven’t for almost a whole year now.
Of course, not everything has changed or is expected to change in the near term, and this includes the housing market dynamics that were established in this region midway through 2020. More specifically, home buyers in the Vancouver Region remained very active in the first month of 2021 (not surprising), with total MLS sales surpassing 4,000 for the first time in any previous January in this market’s history (somewhat surprising).
To put a finer point on it, January’s sales count of 4,003 was 4% higher than the previous January high, reached in 2016; it was 57% greater than the past-decade January average; and it was 62% higher than the count from this time last year (January 2020).
Notably, buyers continued to pursue homes of all types, with year-over-year sales counts up by 48% for condos, 63% for townhomes, and by 78% for detached homes.
Relentless resale demand has worked to significantly constrain supply (inventory), with the 12,112 total MLS listings in January down 12% versus last year and 25% versus the past-decade January average.
This was wholly driven by ground-oriented housing, with year-over-year detached and townhome inventory down 31% and 21%, respectively, while condo listings were 18% higher. Having said that, January’s supply of condo listings was still 2% lower than the past-decade average for the month (detached and townhome supply were lower by 42% and 28%, respectively), so in a longer-term context the availability of condos remains limited at the margin.
The month-to-date data for February tell a similar tale, with the housing market’s foundation being buttressed by a regional economy that boasts the lowest unemployment rate among major Canadian metro areas and employment that has continued to recover (albeit at a slowing rate) against a backdrop of job losses at the national level.
The relatively strong performance of our local economy is something we can all feel good about; here’s to hoping we achieve more balance in our housing market at some point in 2021.
Ryan Berlin is the Senior Economist with rennie intelligence.
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