Steve Flynn  RE/MAX Crest Realty- Burnaby 

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Canadian retail sales rose 4.8% m/m on a seasonally-adjusted basis in February. Sales were higher in 9 of 11 sub-sectors, led by higher sales at motor-vehicle and parts dealers as well as gas stations.  Excluding motor-vehicles and gasoline, retail sales were up 3.8% in February.  Statistics Canada also released a preliminary estimate for March showing retail sales increased 2.3%.

In BC, seasonally-adjusted retail sales were down 0.1% m/m but were up 1.8% m/m in Vancouver. On a non-seasonally adjusted basis,  BC retail sales were up by 12% compared to the same time last year.   

In February Canadian e-commerce sales rose 92% year-over-year to $3.1 billion, accounting for 6.8% of total retail sales. The share of e-commerce was down 1.3 percentage points  as more brick-and-mortar stores were open to in-person shopping.



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The Bank of Canada maintained its overnight rate at 0.25 per cent this morning, a level it considers its effective lower bound. The Bank reiterated what it calls "extraordinary forward guidance" in committing to leaving the overnight rate at 0.25 per cent until slack in the economy is absorbed and inflation sustainably returns to its 2 per cent target. The Bank is now projecting that will occur in the second half of 2022 rather than in 2023.


The Bank is also continuing its quantitative easing (QE) program, though it will be reducing its bond purchases from  at least $4 billion of Government of Canada bonds per week down to $3 billion per week. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that the economic recovery has been considerably stronger than forecast and noted risk associated with the rapid rise in home prices, a risk the Bank will continue to monitor. Strong growth in exports and business investment, along with additional fiscal stimulus from the federal and provincial governments are expected to push Canadian Real GDP growth to 6.5 per cent in 2021 and nearly 4 per cent in 2022.

A dramatic re-set of market expectations for growth and inflation prompted a jump in government bond yields over the second half of February. However, since then bond markets have calmed with rates trending sideways for the past several weeks. As a result, Canadian mortgage rates have plateaued around 2.14 per cent on a five-year fixed rate.  However, the Bank's announcement of a tapering of its QE program and an earlier date for potential future rate increases  may put some upward pressure on mortgage rates in coming months, which along with the proposed 5.25 per cent minimum qualifying rate, could have a moderating influence on home sales through the summer.



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Canadian housing starts increased 21.6% m/m to 335,200k units in March at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), after declining in February. Building activity was up month-over-month in both multi-unit (+34%) and single-detached (+4%) segments. On a year-over-year basis, starts were up 70%, though this measure will become quite distorted by base-year effects going forward as we compare to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The six-month moving average in Canadian housing starts stands at a very strong 273,664 units SAAR. 

In BC, housing starts increased by 57% m/m to a record high 71.2K units SAAR, following an increase of 21% in the previous month. That remarkable jump in new home construction was the product of a flood of building activity in the multi-unit segment, which was up by 77%, while single-detached starts were up 7%. The rise in the multi-unit segment was led by Vancouver, which reported a 71% increase in multi-unit starts in March to an all-time record of 3,120 units or 41K units SAAR.  On a year-over-year basis, total housing starts were up by 106% in BC. 



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Vancouver, BC – April 13, 2021


The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 15,073 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in March 2021, an increase of 123.3 per cent over March 2020 and a new all-time record for monthly BC home sales. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $947,707, a 20.4 per cent increase from $787,032 recorded in March 2020. It should be noted that average prices across the province are being skewed higher as more expensive single-detached homes remain a higher share of dollar volume during the pandemic. Total sales dollar volume was $14.3 billion, a 168.9 per cent increase from last year.

“Home sales in the province shattered the previous record, led by markets in the Lower Mainland,” said BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. “While mortgage rates have risen in recent months and a modest tightening of mortgage regulations is on the horizon, market activity is expected to remain very strong through the spring.”

Total active residential listings were down 24.4 per cent to 22,337 units in March. The total inventory of homes for sale remains severely depleted, but new listings activity has accelerated in response to high prices.

“While the total supply of re-sale listings remains at crisis levels, many markets saw record new listings activity in March. Strong new listings activity will need to continue for some time before markets will see a healthier balance with less pressure on home prices,” said Ogmundson.



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Canadian employment gained 303K jobs in March (1.6%, m/m), bringing total employment to within 1.5% or 296K jobs of its pre-pandemic level from February 2020. Both part-time employment with full-time employment contributed to the gains in March, rising by 128K and 175K jobs respectively.  The national unemployment rate decreased by 0.7 percentage points to 7.5%, which is the lowest rate since February 2020. 

In BC, employment grew by 35k (+1.3%, m/m) in March. The unemployment rate decreased from held steady at 6.9%, which is the lowest rate the province has recorded since February 2020. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, employment increased by 32.3k (+2.2%,m/m), following a rise of 13.9k in the previous month. Compared to one year ago, employment in BC was up 8.4% (+116.7K) jobs. 

Employment in BC and other parts of Canada may slow in April as more restrictive "circuit-breaker" polices are implemented to mitigate rising COVID-19 cases. Fortunately, daily vaccinations have ramped-up considerably and the labour market should be in a much better place by early summer.




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March home sales and new listings set records in Metro Vancouver:


The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region* totalled 5,708 in March 2021, a 126.1 per cent increase from the 2,524 sales recorded in March 2020, and a 53.2 per cent increase from the 3,727 homes sold in February 2021. 


Last month’s sales were 72.2 per cent above the 10-year March sales average and is the highest monthly sales total ever recorded in the region.  “In March, residents bought and listed homes across our region at levels not seen before,” Taylor Biggar, REBGV Chair said. “This surge in activity is increasing upward pressure on prices. We’re beginning to see double-digit price gains for single-family homes and townhomes over the last 12 months.” 


Demand was most pronounced in rural and suburban areas. Delta – South saw a 195.8 per cent increase in sales over 2020 – the largest increase in Metro Vancouver. This was followed by Whistler, which experienced a 194.7 per cent increase, and Squamish, which saw a 188.6 per cent increase in sales. 


There were 8,287 detached, attached and apartment homes newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in March 2021. This represents an 86.8 per cent increase compared to the 4,436 homes listed in March 2020 and a 64.2 per cent increase compared to February 2021 when 5,048 homes were listed. 


The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 9,145, a 4.8 per cent decrease compared to March 2020 (9,606) and a 9.4 per cent increase compared to February 2021 (8,358). This is 18.6 per cent below the 10-year March total listings average. 


“While we did see a record number of listings enter the market last month, the demand in today’s market isn’t allowing that new supply to accumulate. As a result, the overall inventory of homes for sale decreased compared to last year,” said Biggar. 


For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for March 2021 is 62.4 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 52.9 per cent for detached homes, 79.9 per cent for townhomes, and 65.4 per cent for apartments. Generally, analysts say downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months. 


“Today’s activity can be attributed, in part, to an economy that’s showing signs of recovery, historically low interest rates, high demand for space, and increased household savings,” Biggar said.  


The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is $1,123,300. This represents a 9.4 per cent increase over March 2020 and a 3.6 per cent increase compared to February 2021. 


Sales of detached homes in March 2021 reached 1,965, a 130.6 per cent increase from the 852 detached sales recorded in March 2020. The benchmark price for a detached home is $1,700,200. This represents a 17.9 per cent increase from March 2020 and a 4.9 per cent increase compared to February 2021. 


Sales of apartment homes reached 2,697 in March 2021, a 128.8 per cent increase compared to the 1,179 sales in March 2020. The benchmark price of an apartment is $715,800. This represents a 3.7 per cent increase from March 2020 and a 2.6 per cent increase compared to February 2021. 


Attached home sales in March 2021 totalled 1,046, a 112.2 per cent increase compared to the 493 sales in March 2020. The benchmark price of an attached home is $872,200. This represents a 10.4 per cent increase from March 2020 and a 3.9 per cent increase compared to February 2021. 



Areas covered by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver include: Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond, South Delta, Squamish, Sunshine Coast, Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Whistler.



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The data relating to real estate on this website comes in part from the MLS® Reciprocity program of either the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) or the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB). Real estate listings held by participating real estate firms are marked with the MLS® logo and detailed information about the listing includes the name of the listing agent. This representation is based in whole or part on data generated by either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. The materials contained on this page may not be reproduced without the express written consent of either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB.