Housing sales slowed by pandemic, prices on the rise

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a drop in house sales across northern B.C., the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board reported on Tuesday.

In the first six months of the year, 1,786 properties sold in the north, compared with 2,298 over the same period last year. The value of properties that changed hands was $538.6 million, down from $716.5 million in the first half of 2019.

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In Prince George, 520 properties worth $180.2 million were sold in the first six months of 2020, compared with 697 properties worth $245.7 million in 2019.

"The first half of 2020 saw a significant decline in housing demand in the region, with sales in April reaching a low not seen since January 1988. Despite the region's struggling forestry, and mining and oil sectors, the decline in the second quarter was primarily due to the state of emergency declared by the province that implemented physical-distancing measures," board president Shawna Kinsley said. "This halted real estate activity across the province, which is highly reliant on in-person interactions. Moreover, significant job losses were reported in the services sector in the region, and large projects such as LNG and BC Hydro paused work that was deemed non-essential."

Despite the 30 per cent drop in sales seen in the second quarter of 2020, prices increased two per cent compared to 2019 due to 18 per cent decline in active listings, the board reported.

The B.C. Real Estate Association is predicting a province-wide drop in sales of 18 per cent for the year, due to the ongoing economic slowdown.

"Meanwhile, as the B.C. economy begins to gradually reopen and demand starts to pick up, resale supply will be slow to respond and the pace of new housing is expected to slow as well with housing starts forecast to fall almost 19 per cent in central regions like Prince George," the association said in a press release."As such, BCREA forecast(s)... average prices to rise by 2.3 per cent in 2020.”

In the western part of the city, there were 84 single-family homes sold this year with a median price of $353,000. East of the bypass, 67 single-family homes sold for a median price of $286,000. In the north of the city (Hart), 72 single-family homes sold with a median value of $385,000. In the southwest part of the city (College Heights), 99 single-family houses sold with a median price of $450,000.

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