BCREA in a recent report is forecasting “stability” in the housing market, but at the same time is also forecasting (average) price drops in most areas:
After declining 12 per cent in 2010, residential unit sales through the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC are forecast to rise by 3 per cent to 77,000 units in 2011 and a further 4 per cent to 80,000 units in 2012. However, BC home sales will remain relatively low by historic measures, falling short of their 10-year average of 87,600 units. While low mortgage interest rates are expected to persist through 2012 accommodating housing demand, headwinds in the global economy will act to restrain BC economic and employment growth.
BC economic growth slowed from an Olympic charged 3.8 per cent in 2010 to a forecast 2.1 per cent this year. Lackluster economic performance is largely the result of weaker than expected US economic activity, some belt tightening and deleveraging by households, and the Euro-zone debt crisis. Employment growth in the province is estimated to fall to 1.1 per cent this year. While emerging Asian markets have tilted some BC exports in an upward trajectory, domestic demand has stagnated. Retail sales in the province are estimated to increase just 1.5 per cent this year after climbing 5 to 6 per cent per annum over much of the last decade. Against this backdrop, moderate consumer demand for housing and relatively flat home prices are forecast through 2012.
Despite more moderate consumer demand, average home prices have climbed dramatically this year. The average annual BC MLS® residential price is estimated to increase 12 per cent to $564,600 in 2011. Rather than reflecting market conditions, the upward skewing of average price data was the result of a change in regional demand patterns and a shift in the mix of home types sold rather than as a result of a return to pre-recession market froth. By the winter months, most of the upward bias in average price data will have dissipated which will contribute to the average annual BC MLS® residential price decline of 2.5 per cent to $550,500 in 2012.
For flat to falling prices, that means months of inventory averaging about 6 for the entire year. That means longer times to sale and more delistings.