One word to describe the real estate market on the West Shore and around Greater Victoria in 2014? Stability.
Which is not a bad thing, says Victoria Real Estate Board president-elect Guy Crozier. Seeing year-over-year increases in unit sales has shown continued confidence in the housing market, which also happens to be a leading indicator of economic well-being in a region.
“It actually started in the summer of 2013, but for 2014 we saw 12 months of increases in sales over the year before,” Crozier says. “It shows the market really firmed up. Whatever corrections there were (in 2013) over the previous year or two have definitely subsided.”
House prices remained relatively consistent through the year, as did interest rates, a key factor in determining affordability, he says.
Adding to the stability of the market, Crozier adds, was the strength at all levels of the marketplace, from first-time home buyers up to people looking for more high-end homes.
One transaction often relates to another in real estate. When first-time buyers purchase a home, the seller is often moving up or scaling down into a different property, and up the line it goes.
“Each market strengthens the next,” he says. “When the market gets tough, it’s often because we don’t have as many first-time buyers moving into the market.”
The West Shore continues to see healthy sales of properties in multi-home developments, Crozier says. Combined with strong bare-land purchases in the Happy Valley corridor and on Bear Mountain, it points to a market with a lot of confidence, he adds.
As far as who’s buying out here, Crozier says the breadth of choice available for home buyers; from condos and townhomes to new and pre-owned single family detached homes; attracts everyone from first-time purchasers to families to retired folks.
He notes that unlike the Greater Vancouver market, which sees a higher percentage of international migration, people who move to the Capital Region to retire are more likely from within B.C. or from other provinces in Canada.
“They may have experienced Victoria at some time in their life and when it comes time to retire, they think of Victoria,” Crozier says.
Older newcomers are buying properties across the board, he adds, but location is very important to them. “People want to move to areas where they’re close to a village, where they can walk to get a coffee or groceries or a neighbourhood pub. (And) it seems every time the clock turns another five years, that (retiree) demographic is more active than (people) the same age five years before.”
As for 2015, Crozier sees much of the same scenario happening with the overall market, with interest rates expected to remain low and area home prices not likely to vary much from current levels.
“We’re kind of in the middle of a cycle,” he says. “Our market grew from 2001 to 2009 and prices went up 150 to 160 per cent on average. That happened in from ‘88 to ‘94 as well, (and both times) the market corrected a little bit. Then it stays flat for five to seven years; I think we’re in the middle of that period. The market needs to breathe for a while.”