So where does that leave you if you want to buy a home in the Vancouver market? There is no predicting how the market will fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, but the signs indicate a modest and short-lived slow down. You can always choose to wait, and the reasons for doing so are both many and well-founded. Ultimately, the sooner you get in, the sooner you will own more of your home. If that is the path you choose to take, be conscientious of these important considerations:

  1. Aim for what you can afford. Be realistic about what monthly payments you can afford to determine your price range. Visit your bank or qualified mortgage broker to get an accurate assessment of your finances. If projected payments are close to what you currently pay for rent or existing payments, then you can probably afford the mortgage. Consider what you may be paying if rates go up and be conservative about projecting your income.
  2. Think carefully about the kind of mortgage you will take out. Will it be a floating rate or some species of fixed-term mortgage?

To Buy or not to Buy?

Is now a good time to get into Vancouver’s real estate market? This is the perennial question. People who watch regional trends see conflicting messages. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) suggests that Vancouver is in a buyer’s market while the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) argues we are in a housing bubble. With property sales slowing, lending rates increasing and housing prices historically high, the question of whether or when to purchase a home burns even stronger. The dilemma on many potential buyers’ minds: buy now and risk a significant drop in home values paired with an increase in interest rates, or wait and risk watching prices climb out of reach.

Signs of a Buyer’s Market

The real estate market has gradually softened since the April 2010 climax and, though prices have declined slightly since that month’s record-setting benchmark of $593,419, at $539,600 they are still relatively high when seen from a long-term historical perspective. In fact, the period from March 2009 to April 2010 was one of the highest selling periods in Vancouver Real estate, so within that context, a decline in prices is a normal fluctuation, and a trend toward the baseline.

Factors Suggest Slowed Inflation

Current mortgage rates are unprecedentedly low. Bank of Montreal recently decreased its popular special five-year fixed rate to 3.59%. Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada (BOC) has incrementally ramped up its trendsetting overnight lending rate, taking advantage of GDP growth in order to slow borrowing. It was raised from 0.75% to 1 % on September 8th, the third time in four months. This has caused the Big 6 banks to increase their variable rates a point to 3%. The increased rate, along with the activation of the HST is slowing purchasing activity. The increases are small enough that they will not cause unbearable stress on most borrowers, but they will create more caution amongst buyers, which will slow inflation. This is good.

Stabilizing Factors

A dramatic price correction in the Greater Vancouver real estate market is unlikely to occur. It is one of the world’s most desirable places to live and geographical factors limit massive development, typically causing properties to grow or keep their value. Other factors currently keeping home values stable are continued foreign interest and a slowing new housing stock into the market.