Home Business & Economy Real Estate Unusual real estate market during COVID summer

Unusual real estate market during COVID summer

Tuesday September 1, 2020 ~ GREATER VICTORIA, BC [updated Sept 3/20]

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

In announcing today that a continued surge of property sales occured in Greater Victoria in August, the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) underscored how unusual this summer has been for housing sales.

The unique scenario of homeowners, businesses and communities being living with a viral pandemic has been the game-changer.

Strictly in terms of sales volume, both July and August were active months. Usually peak sales activity is seen in March to May which are peak months each year for property listings when homes are spruced up, weather is pleasant, and people are making any residential shifts prior to summer vacation and back to school.

However, with a pandemic that requires a stay-at-home lifestyle, the surge this summer for finding perhaps a more appropriate home to hunker down in over the winter has been underway.

As well, financing has been cheap, with interest rates at near rock bottom (Bank of Canada rate at 0.25% and the prime lending rate at major banks sitting around 2.45%).

Fast summer market came as a surprise:

Sandi-Jo Ayers, President VREB (2020).

“We have been surprised by the pace of the summer market and are grappling with the evolving socioeconomic effects of the pandemic and how these underlying factors will influence our fall real estate market,” says VREB President Sandi-Jo Ayers.

Ayers says there are many factors that are not found in a normal year, stressing that percentages like these do not fit the normal market profile, especially for mid summer when people are usually on vacation:

  • 48.1% more properties sold in August 2020 than the 661 properties
    sold in August 2019
  • Sales of condominiums were up 29.1% from August 2019 with 262 units sold.
  • Sales of single family homes were up 45% from August 2019 with 509

Some additional inventory got taken up in August, with the number of properties for sale down to 2,584 at month end compared to one month earlier with 2,653 active listings at July 31.

Size does matter:

family room, spacious
Spacious living areas are in high demand during COVID-19.

Whereas over the years a trend has been to downsize (either by lifestyle choice or financial constraint in an expensive market) — oftentimes into condos, in response to the self-isolation aspect of COVID-19 containment, the idea of a sprawling single family home is of renewed appeal for some.

Size does matter when it comes to available space for living and socializing during this pandemic. As Health Minister Adrian Dix explained yesterday, as one example, that a small 800 sq ft apartment cannot accommodate many guests if a 6-ft (2 metre) distance is to be maintained between people. | Physical distancing [BC Centre for Disease Control] | Social bubbles & guidance for workplaces, business, social venues and schools (Public Health Officer)

Bigger will be better for the next few years as families share many more hours together and more people set up home-based offices as a way to avoid contact with COVID in the workplace and general community.

Summer sales volume:

It’s just plain interesting that in both July and August there were precisely 979 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region in each of those summer months. As if to say the summer itself was a bubble, a moment in time that many of us enjoyed or took greater action, before being asked now by Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry to hunker down for a long respiratory-season fall and winter.

The four residential property types in VREB stats are: single family home/duplexes (houses), condominiums, townhome/row houses. and manufactured homes.

Focussing on August, of the 979 properties sold in the VREB region, 936 were residential sales (the rest were lots and commercial). Of those 936 sales, 919 were in the main Greater Victoria area (not including the Malahat or Gulf Islands).

Range of prices based on neighbourhood type:

The Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) sections its market into three main areas: Core (including Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich, Oak Bay), Western Communities (including Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke), and Peninsula (North and Central Saanich, Brentwood Bay, Sidney).

Greater Victoria:

The Greater Victoria area is well known for is wide range of lifestyle options. Prices of course vary based on the impacts of things like community ambiance, ages and types of housing, proximity of schools and retail, and transportation infrastructure and supports.

The average single family home price in August in Greater Victoria was over a million dollars: $1,002,604. Townhomes averaged at $622,407 and condos sold on average at $481,334. The manufactured homes average sale was $262,658.

But to better understand the price differentials for houses, townhomes and condos across the 13 municipal jurisdictions of Greater Victoria, it helps to look at local and regional factors. To highlight some particular points about the broader market area we will look selectively at Langford, Saanich East, Sooke, and Oak Bay.


Belmont Residences East, condos, Langford
Belmont Residences East ~ condos for sale in Langford, BC

Langford represents the growth edge of the west shore for a wide variety of residential property types, with a growing commercial, services and infrastructure base to go along with that as well as several new schools in the works. The area appeals to families, seniors, and young adults getting into their first homes. Good bus service but can be a long ride from west shore to downtown. Average sale prices in August: houses $842,401 | townhomes $515,876 | condos $417,940 | manufactured homes $173,871.

Saanich East:

Saanich East is a well-established part of the core Greater Victoria area. Much of the housing stock is older, designed originally for larger family lifestyles. The ‘mortgage helper’ property is evident here, with secondary suites being popular especially in support of students who attend two major post-secondary institutions in the area (University of Victoria and Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus). Lots of commercial and service retail. Major bus routes. Average sale prices in August: houses $1,098,463 | townhomes $751,176 | condos $479,897 | manufactured homes n/a.


Sooke is experiencing a local housing boom but is 25 km further west of Langford, at the edge of the western municipal area (rural Juan de Fuca lies beyond). The spectrum of services is not wide enough to prevent residents and businesses having to ‘shop beyond’ its borders, mainly because the local consumer base is not large enough to sustain a broad retail/commercial offering. Housing is at a lower price point compared to other areas, but the transportation requirements offset some of the lower house-price advantage. Average sale prices in August: houses $642,421 | townhomes $490,967 | condos $357,667 | manufactured homes $222,475.

Oak Bay:

Oak Bay is one of the oldest areas of Greater Victoria, offering mostly traditional (including heritage style) homes in the top price bracket and mostly older stock. Very much a residential haven, there are a few local shops as well as the picturesque ‘main street’ along Oak Bay Avenue in South Oak Bay. Large yards and statement landscaping are part of the appeal. This is a sought-after area for high-salaried professionals, families, and retirees who also have some condo and townhome options. Average sale prices in August: $1,322,659 | townhomes $835,000 | condos $450,715.

VREB makes comparisons:

realtor, client, face masks, computer
Realtors are adapting to COVID conditions.

“Our business has changed a lot in recent months,” says Ayers. In response to doing business during the pandemic, she says that “REALTORS® have adapted to health and safety requirements and much more technology is being leveraged to facilitate all aspects of the housing transaction.”

“We can also see that though demand is up, there are fewer listings on the market, which increases demand on desirable properties even more. This is why we saw a lot of competition and multiple offers over the summer,” the VREB president said in the September 1 news release.

“Will this continue into fall? That will depend on how much new inventory comes into the market and how our community continues to manage the impact of COVID-19. This is an evolving and nuanced market,” Ayers said, adding about her profession: “If you need us, we are here.”

===== About the writer: Mary P Brooke has been following real estate trends in Greater Victoria since the mid 1990s. 

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