As we celebrate entering our fifth year of publication, we wanted to thank you for your readership, as well as your business. We love having the opportunity to build relationships out of what has become a long-running endeavour for us. Our Q Report readers and clients “J&J” came to our offices to meet us after being sent a recent edition of our report by a fellow subscriber, and their ultimate success in securing a dream property is a testament to the data-driven service we provide to clients who need to purchase or market a home. But don’t take our word for it — here’s an excerpt of an email we received:
“[The Q Report] contained a wealth of information, statistics and analysis about real estate prices and sales volume in Victoria. I was blown away by the in-depth research and analysis. I am a retired accountant and am used to reading a large number of reports, so I don’t impress easily… Dirk and Fergus assisted us in obtaining a fair and reasonable price. We get possession in 5 weeks and are extremely satisfied with our purchase. The whole process only took 6 weeks from start to finish, much less time than we were expecting. What we thought was going to be a long and stressful project was actually remarkably short and with minimal stress. There was never any pressure to view any listings and Dirk and Fergus were a pleasure to work with. I highly recommend them.”
Enormous thanks to our amazing clients for their kind words.
Getting into this edition, we see that every metric shows us what we can feel the market is doing, in market times, prices, inventory levels, and discounts. Buyers aren’t feeling pressure to act, but they are out there, qualified and ready. In the example above, empowering someone with well-prepared market research to demonstrate exactly where the value is for their purchase, provided them the confidence to make a great decision. For sellers, using the same kind of research to find the right price that will spur uncertain buyers to action will be crucial to making a sale.
Read on for more, as we get into the specific insights and show you What Actually Happened.
BC Assessments Released
Scratching your head about the 2023 BC Assessment you received in the mail? You’re not alone. 2023 is proving to be yet another year where tax assessments have disconnected from the street value of homes — though to an even greater degree than in other recent examples. Most assessments went up from 2022 to 2023, with averages around Greater Victoria reported by BC Assessment between +9% to +15% depending on area. Remember, this doesn’t necessarily mean your taxes will go up by this amount, since the mill rate for property taxes is set each year based on the municipality’s budget. As long as your increase is in line with your neighbours’, it shouldn’t be a worry, unless your newly elected mayor and council have been writing a lot of big cheques.
There is an explanation for the increases, even when home prices have been going down. Assessments are dated to July 1 of the previous year, so regardless of the year, they are already well out of date when issued. Victoria was in a very different market in mid-2022; most properties had seen a significant lift in value from the previous year, and those gains had only just begun to erode by early summer. Compounding this, BC Assessment data comes from closed sales, which tend to lag contracts by several months. As an anecdotal example, a Vancouver-based fellow REALTOR® recently told an interviewer while discussing property assessments that he sold his personal residence $100K below its assessed value… Back in July 2022. His point: don’t hang your idea of your home’s value on your 2023 assessment. We can provide you the specific, real-time, market-based insights to show you what would be reasonable to expect.
Tales From the Trenches
In addition to the kind words from our successful buyer clients at the beginning of this edition, we liked the idea of sharing two other first-hand stories from the Q4 market with our readers, to illustrate Q Report logic in action leading to winning results.
During the slowest December in over a decade, we marketed two homes which both ended the year sold. First was an updated older home in a desirable, established area. Market research led us to the right price conservatively below $1.5M, which saw four buyers express serious interest within the first days on market. Interestingly enough, no buyer was willing to compete in a multiple-offer situation or bid above asking; evidence that our market has returned to a saner place. One decisive buyer did bring an offer at asking price quickly after seeing the home, with due diligence conditions — another sign of a more balanced market — and succeeded, as agents for the other prospective purchasers each called to find out if the sale would firm up, or whether their more timid buyer might have a second chance to act.
Secondly, the early December listing of a family home with a suite in the Bear Mountain area that had been used as a revenue property saw tepid interest when launched at around $1.1M. Within two weeks the price was adjusted to just below $1M, which quickly generated a rush of showings and a successful offer. When the home was priced correctly, buyers responded — even during a snow storm. We know from both of these experiences that there are plenty of qualified buyers looking to purchase, but they will only act at the right price.
Your $1M Over/Under Bet
Talking specifically about that $1M price point, this is a good time to remind sellers that if you think your property is worth just over $1M, we would suggest that it had better be worth a solid $1.1M+, all day long. $1.05M is a tough sell in this market, and the key piece of information to understand exactly why is within financing regulations. Regardless of the size of the mortgage, any purchase with a price below $1M is eligible for default insurance, allowing purchasers to buy with smaller down payments (as low as 5% down) and access more favourable ‘insured’ mortgage rates. Over $1M requires at least 20% down — that is, $200K+ in cash or equity — and higher ‘uninsurable’ lending rates. The result of this regulation is a much larger pool of buyers with their home search criteria set just up to $1M. If you are priced at $1.05M, you are invisible to this group, even if you have some negotiating room in your price and might be willing to sell to one of them. This insight, the resulting correct pricing, and quick, decisive action, together led to a timely and successful sale, and one family who is ready to move on while other listings in their area collect dust.
We know that sellers can’t afford to hang on to last year’s mindset with regard to their property’s value. If you missed our Q3 Report, you’ll want to catch up on our piece on market times and pricing. TL;DR: Using local, current data, we showed that listings that take longer to sell, sell for less money. This is a statistical reality that sellers don’t usually want to face, but aiming too high with your initial list price ends up costing you in your eventual sale price, in real dollars, not to mention the time and energy of an extra six weeks of showings. Think of it as having your budget for new furniture , appliances, or improvements evaporate if you don’t price your home correctly. Want to see the numbers for yourself? Click here. Need to know if your house is likely to actually fetch seven figures? Click here.
As we closed out 2022, we saw our market continue its adjustment in response to the year’s rapid rise in interest rates. Fewer properties sold, and those that did, took longer to do so, and sold at a discount.
Single family homes took the biggest hit in pricing, which is not surprising since they had seen the largest relative increase over the preceding two years. Strata sales remained somewhat stronger and lost less ground on pricing. The luxury homes segment shrunk the most in volume; the pool of buyers clearly dried up as purchasing power was beaten down, leaving listing inventory higher than it has been in recent memory, though sale prices held surprisingly strong, suggesting that sellers of higher priced homes were perhaps more willing or able to wait out the market in the short term. Whether this trend continues will remain to be seen.
Pandemic Trends Reversing
We produced this visualization comparing price growth (and decline) versus distance to Downtown Victoria in 2021 and 2022. Each point represents a municipality’s year-over-year (Y/Y) price change, expressed along the vertical axis as a +/- percentage, and along the horizontal axis by distance to the downtown core in kilometres. The light blue series shows 2021’s median sale price change compared to 2020, the dark blue series shows 2022’s median sale price change compared to 2021, and each series has a line representing the average of the individual data points.
As our HPI® analysis often noted during the depths of the pandemic, areas further outside the core saw prices explode as COVID-19 fears and work-from-home drove massive demand for rural properties. This trend reversed as the second half of 2022 saw BC winding down pandemic protocols and more and more people returning to the workplace. The value of proximity clearly made a comeback, as we see here. Price softening in recent months largely seems to be hitting a little harder in areas further removed from the downtown core.
We are seeing and hearing that REALTORS® are having trouble pricing properties right now. As a seller, if you haven’t seen an offer after 21 days of market exposure, the market is telling you you’re priced too high.
For buyers, in the near term, there is little reason to expect prices to being accelerating again. Without the pressure of a rising market, a qualified buyer can remain prepared to act until they perceive value, especially as interest rates begin to stabilize.
As we continue to bring buyers and sellers together in the coming quarter and spring market, the importance of accurate pricing is greater than ever.
Detached Homes, <$1.5M
Detached homes around Greater Victoria saw a Q4 sales slump. Transaction volume was only one-third of what it had been at the height of the pandemic market, and still only half of the last pre-pandemic Q4. Listing inventory more than tripled year over year, though the real story is that the number of homes available went from its lowest level ever recorded to only about half as much as the last quarter we measured pre-pandemic.
Prices have crested back down from their heights a year ago, and market times have doubled. As we mention elsewhere in this Q Report, this quarter’s numbers foretell that our spring report may look much worse. Case in point: Q4 2022’s median prices were down 10% from one year ago (Q4 2021), but the subsequent quarter (Q1 2022) added another 9% to sale prices. Even if we don’t see any further softening of sale prices during Q1 2023, the upcoming Y/Y price declines for Q1 are going to add up to be even larger.
To revisit a metric we often cited when things were running hot: sales over asking accounted for just 14% within this segment in Q4 2022, compared to 79% back at the apex of the market in Q1 2022. How the times have changed.
We also found interesting that that our stats show the median price for single-family homes dropped to just below $1M. As we outlined above in The Explainer, This is good news for buyers and sellers, as purchases under $1M are eligible for default insurance, which opens up more homes to a much larger pool of buyers at more favourable rates and down payment terms.
Strata Homes, <$1.5M
Volumes were down nearly 40% Y/Y in the attached homes market; in fact, Q4 2022 saw even fewer sales than our quietest-ever quarter at the start of the pandemic lockdowns in Q2 2020.
Year over year, prices showed surprising stability, and strata held the tightest listing discount at just 3.3%. Though as with detached homes, we expect to see a reckoning for the further 9% bump we tracked as the buying fever peaked in Q1 in our next report. Market times were up from around three weeks a year ago to five weeks today.
Active listings, although doubled Y/Y from a record low, remained soft as new listings dropped off. This made for a strong sales-to-new-listings ratio:
However, the lack of new listings leaves us wondering what to expect from strata listing activity in the new year. We’ve had the sense from some sellers that they are holding off listing with the expectation that conditions will improve, though a number of them may have to accept that this is where things are at and bite the bullet in the year ahead. If this comes to pass, the protective influence of low inventory on prices may well fade as buyers are provided more options.
Luxury Homes, >$1.5M
Teasing out market data separately for the higher end of the market always proves interesting, and Q4 2022 was no exception. Even though standing inventory has been sitting significantly higher for several quarters, median prices remain surprisingly stable. Listing discounts actually decreased by 2% from the previous quarter, though this may be a consequence of more realistic asking prices. And average days on market remains just a few days above the rest of the market. The number of active listings fell most significantly for luxury homes, back to pre-pandemic levels, which likely helped keep sellers from having to undercut one another to get attention.
And of course the rub in all this is that the number of sales tanked by nearly half Y/Y. The cause of this relates directly back to the main reason for all this market shift — mortgage rates — and the bigger the mortgage, the bigger the sting of those interest rate increases. Expect to pay around $600 per month for each $100K borrowed at current rates, and compare that to around $350 per month per $100K at discounted late 2021 rates. That difference, multiplied by the extra hundreds of thousands of dollars required to secure a higher priced purchase, means the difference between a large pool of qualified buyers and a small one.
The MLS® Home Price Index® (MLS® HPI®) is purpose-built to gauge neighbourhoods’ home price levels and trends, using more than a decade of sales data and sophisticated statistical models to define a “typical” home based on the value home buyers assign to various attributes on homes that have been bought and sold. These benchmark homes are tracked across localized neighbourhoods and different types of houses. The Q Report’s HPI® trends compares relative regional price movements around Greater Victoria by tracking the HPI® Composite Benchmark Price across 15 districts, comparing Y/Y price changes.
If you recall how the HPI map has looked over the past few Q Reports, you will no doubt find this quarter’s Y/Y benchmark price changes muted, to say the least. We’ve gone from numerous districts posting double digit gains, to very little movement compared to a year ago, right across the board. Of course, this belies the story that happened within that year:
Within the past year, looking at Q/Q change, or 2Q change (6 months), we expect that the double-digit reports will return beginning next quarter, but in the opposite direction we saw up until now.
It recently came to the attention of the MLS® technical staff at the Victoria Real Estate Board that our Home Price Index® data has been calculating incorrectly. Our intuition on the apparent disconnect between real-time price trends and the HPI® raised the question in our Q2 2022 report, speculating that the algorithm may have regarded the first few weeks of price declines as a ‘blip’ rather than a ‘trend,’ as we saw median sale prices sliding, but the index value continuing to climb for several months last year.
It seems that when the Victoria and Vancouver Island associations began using a consolidated MLS® in 2020, the Home Price Index® was being fed closing dates by the new system, whereas most of our statistical reporting uses a pending sale date when the contract is unconditional, rather than when the title actually transfers. This is because the closing date always lags the contract sale date by weeks, or often months. By using the contract sale date, our statistics are much more real-time.
The good news is, now that the error has been discovered, we are expecting a fix soon, and historical data in the HPI® will also be recalculated retroactively to maintain consistency and integrity. In the meantime, we are cautioning clients that just like their BC Assessments, pricing data from the HPI® is going to have to be considered out of date until the fix goes in, and as the market contracts, real-time market values may be different (that is to say, may be lower) than the current HPI® index value suggests.
Thank you for reading The Q Report. Whether you are a new or long-time reader, we hope our market insights have been valuable, and you would feel comfortable approaching us with your questions or your unique situation.
As we mentioned elsewhere in this report, current Y/Y comparisons show a softening market, but not to the extent that we expect to see in our next release. We have been through the most dramatic shift in the housing market in recent memory, and commentators remain divided about how close we are to seeing the bottom. One thing we know for sure though, by the time you can confirm you’ve seen the bottom, it’s already behind you.
If you want or need to make a move in early 2023, knowing the right price for the market is going to be key. For sellers, this means being in time with (or even ahead of) the market. Ask yourself if you would rather sell faster and for more, or if you would rather wait weeks for that offer, and end up taking less. For buyers, understanding that there is less pressure to act, make sure you get the insights to give you confidence that you are paying the right price in a dynamic market.
Lastly, we would be remiss in not mentioning at all two other headline news stories that came in with the new year — BC’s “Homebuyer Rescission Period,” formerly known as the “Cooling-Off Period,” which the government obtusely claims will help buyers secure financing or a home inspection on their purchase transaction. As we predicted, with the return of conditional offers, this complex, poorly thought out, and poorly executed bit of legislation adds pages of paperwork and throws sand in the gears of the home selling process, but will have no effect on the market, access to housing, or pricing, which is why we have left it as a footnote. In the same vein, the new federal ban on foreign buyers has caught much ire in the international press, with the actual regulations announced just over a week before it came into effect leading to a sloppy and chaotic launch. Prepare for no direct results from the policy, but governments happy to take credit for changes to the market caused by other forces.
The real storm brewing on the horizon is the lack of new housing supply, as the feds plan to welcome nearly half a million new Canadians each year for the foreseeable future. Interest rates and inflation are already hammering the construction industry, shattering profitability, and we expect the slowdown in new housing construction to be steep as economic recession takes hold.
May we find the upsides of the current down market. Not too far off is our next hot streak.
Do you or someone you know need real estate advice, personalized market insights, a home marketed and sold using the best tools and accurate data? We are available to be your personal resource. Get in touch today.
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Dirk VanderWal & Fergus Kyne
Newport Realty | Christie’s International Real Estate
(250) 385-2033 | email@example.com
All views and opinions expressed in The Q Report are solely those of its authors, Dirk VanderWal and Fergus Kyne, and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Newport Realty Ltd. or the Victoria Real Estate Board. Not intended to solicit parties already under contract. E&OE.
For a list of terms and definitions used in The Q Report, click here.
The Q Report’s analysis includes listing and sales data exclusively from the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) ‘Core’, ‘Westshore’, and ‘Peninsula’ regions. Data is analyzed for unconditional pending and completed sales that occurred between 2022/10/01 and 2022/12/31 except where speciﬁcally noted otherwise.
BC Real Estate Association
Canadian Real Estate Association
The Globe and Mail
Victoria Real Estate Board