Home prices jump with more gains forecast

Sales up as last buyers sign on to beat deadline for 35-year terms

Lower Mainland real estate prices have gained ground in the last couple of months

Buying a typical detached house in Metro Vancouver costs about $50,000 more than it did in November.

And at least one forecast calls for the gains to continue – at a more gradual pace – this year.

The 6.3-per-cent house price jump to $848,645 in February from $796,900 three months earlier was driven by big price increases in Richmond and the west side of Vancouver, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

Richmond’s benchmark house price rose $190,000 in that period to nearly $1.1 million, while the Vancouver west side gained $222,000 to $1.85 million.

REBGV president Jake Moldowan said the intensity of buying activity in those areas indicates houses there are the most sought-after properties in the region.

Benchmark attached homes in the Greater Vancouver region have gained about 3.3 per cent so far this year to $507,000 while condos are up 3.2 per cent to $399,400.

The Greater Vancouver association covers Metro Vancouver except Surrey, North Delta, White Rock and Langley.

Port Coquitlam was the only city in the region to experience any drop so far this year, with detached houses down about 1.4 per cent.

Further east in the Fraser Valley, benchmark detached houses went for an average of $514,000 in February, a gain of about 3.2 per cent so far this year.

Valley townhouses were down slightly to $316,600 and apartments are up 2.3 per cent to $245,500.

One factor driving sales right now is the pending change in lending rules that will ban 35-year mortgages on March 18, making it more difficult for some buyers without big enough down payments to qualify for more conventional terms.

“Some clients have asked that their sale complete before that date,” said Fraser Valley Real Estate Board president Sukh Sidhu. “A 35-year amortization could be more attractive to those buyers.”

Central 1 Credit Union economist Bryan Yu said a sales surge early this year was expected as some younger first-time buyers move to beat the deadline.

But he predicts the dampening effects of the tightened mortgage rules and expected uptick in rates should be offset by Metro Vancouver’s continued population growth and improved economic conditions.

Yu projects median home prices in the Lower Mainland will rise four per cent this year, stay flat in 2012 and gain six per cent in 2013.

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