Victoria real estate agent Tony Joe has seen more Victoria buyers coming from the Lower Mainland.

Booms and busts fuel Victoria housing market

Real estate listings in Victoria are in short supply and the value of those homes appears to be rising.

— Tim Collins

Real estate listings in Victoria are in short supply and the value of those homes appears to be rising. Part of that trend comes as the result of economic factors outside of Victoria.

The year started with the busiest month of sales in Victoria since 2002, according to statistics released by the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB). In fact, the total of 539 properties sold in January represented a 53.6 per cent increase over the previous year.

“Our problem now is really related to going out there and shaking out some new listings,” said David Langlois, a broker with McDonald Realty in Victoria. “We had 2,471 listings at the end of January this year, but that was a decrease of 24.7 per cent from last year’s numbers.”

According to Langlois, at least some of the market strength is due to economic realities outside of Victoria.

“We’ve certainly seen buyers coming in from Vancouver,” said Langlois. “The housing market there has created an incentive to come to Victoria. That’s always been the case, but it’s just accelerating now.”

The most recent statistics from the VREB show that about 7.5 per cent of Victoria buyers now come from the Lower Mainland.

And it’s easy to see why.

The average house price in Metro Vancouver was recently reported to be a mind-boggling $1.83 million, according to the Vancouver Real Estate Board. Compare that with the average price in Victoria of $620,000 during the same period and it’s not hard to understand why some individuals in Vancouver may choose to make the jump to the Island.

“It’s certainly something that I’ve seen more and more,” said Victoria real estate agent Tony Joe. “Just recently I’ve done some multi-unit listings in Fairfield and the level of interest from Vancouver surprised me. What’s happening is that people who might have previously invested in revenue properties in places like Kitsilano are now looking at property in Fairfield or elsewhere in the Victoria area. For them it makes more sense since property cost to revenue ratio makes much more sense.”

Some of the interest is also related to the type of properties that a Vancouver buyer’s money can secure.

“I had a couple whose home in Vancouver was worth $3 million,” said Joe. “Since they could work from anywhere, they opted to sell there and buy a much better home in the Uplands…a bigger home with more to offer.”

Economics aside, Langlois is quick to emphasize that a move to Victoria has very often been about lifestyle.

That traditional lifestyle choice has recently served to fuel another influx of buyers — this time from Calgary. These moves, though, are more often motivated by a desire to cash out while it’s still possible to do so. With the weakening of the resource sector in Alberta, home sales in Calgary last year plunged some 26 percent from 2014 and the benchmark price of homes is predicted to fall by 3.44 per cent to $438,652, according to the Calgary Real Estate Board.

“The Calgary buyers are coming in now because they see the latest downturn as the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’,” said Joe. “I’ve had buyers from Calgary who are simply choosing to make the jump to retirement or relocation now…they aren’t willing to wait for things there to turn around.”