Real estate rebounding

Recent housing numbers show a definitive narrowing of the gap between supply and demand.

A surge of summer activity is sowing optimism in Columbia Valley real estate, as recent numbers show a definitive narrowing of the gap between supply and demand.

“People are excited about the prospect of owning a recreational property in the valley again,” said Barry Benson, managing broker and owner of Royal Lepage Rockies West Realty and a valley realtor since 2005. “That’s the biggest factor, in my view.”

Overall sales of homes and properties between Canal Flats and Brisco jumped up thanks to a good summer and very strong sales in September. Before the end of last month, sales had reached 34 units, up from 9, 16, and 15 in the previous three years.

Throughout 2013, sales across the Columbia Vallery have been up in all months except for February and March.

The biggest increases in sales percentages came in the category of homes worth up to $400,000, as declining lot values have driven falling prices for affordable family homes, and oversupply has led to a continuous downward slide in prices for condominums.

“The valley was busy this year — we had some great weather, and people were out vacationing in the valley again,” said Mr. Benson. “The other factor is Phoenix, and buying property in the U.S.; that has quietened down as well. I don’t think people are doing that as much, with prices going up there.”

“The main factor is our proximity; it’s very convenient to be two and a half or three hours away by vehicle (from Calgary),” he added. “With the affordability we can offer, we’re seeing younger buyers and younger families coming into the market; they’re looking at getting recreational properties.”

Condominiums and townhomes in the valley had an unexpectedly strong September, with 17 units sold before the month was through, reversing the trend from previous years in which September sales declined drastically. There were one, two and four units sold in previous Septembers.

“It’s a bit surprising to us as well,” said Mr. Benson. “It may be that people are recreating in the summertime, seeing on the Internet and through our marketing the price point of properties, and moving forward on their purchase. Typically it dives off in September, but that certainly wasn’t the case this year.”

The sales figures are especially hopeful for Radium Hot Springs, “just by virtue of the number of condos that are there,” said Mr. Benson. While the inventory os condominiums listed remains high at 277, it’s come down from 293 in August 2012 and 297 the previous August.

With the number of total listings in the valley currently sitting at about 900, down from 1,008 last September and 990 in September 2011, the gap between listings and sales is narrowing.

“With the inventory numbers going down slightly, and sales increasing, I suspect over the next year or two, we’ll hopefully come into more of a balanced market,” he said. “Market data would suggest we’re near that point; prices are pretty close to being at the bottom.”

“In Cranbrook and the West Kootenays, the market is still sluggish,” added Mr. Benson. “Our market didn’t experience that this year; we had a good surge of activity. We’re not seeing price increases persay on properties, because of our high invetory, but as we get into more of a balanced market, hopefully we’ll start to see some modest increases in property values.

Numbers from Landcor Data Corporation, a B.C. real estate analyst, show there were 991 sales in the  Kootenays as a whole in April through June this year, down from 1,056 sales over the same period in 2012.

Average condominium prices in the region dropped from $189,091 last year to $166,460 in this year’s second quarter. The average detached home in Kootenays was worth $270,216 earlier this year, up slightly from $268,156 over the same period in 2012.