Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

House sales dropped dramatically throughout the north for the first six months of this year as economic activity slowed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And April, the first full month of the pandemic, featured the largest drop of all with sales at a low not seen since January of 1988, reports Shawna Kinsley, the president of the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board.

She said the provincial government’s state of emergency, which brought on strong physical distancing guidance, halted real estate activity which is highly dependent upon in-person contact.

“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,” Kinsley added.

Along Hwy16 from Vanderhoof west to the coast, Prince Rupert was one of two communities not to experience a drop in sales of all kinds or dollar value with 89 properties sold from January to June worth $29.9 million compared to 89 properties worth $23.5 million being sold for the same time period in 2019.

But for detached homes, sales in that city dipped from 65 for the first six months of 2019 to 62 for the same time period this year.

The other community to register an increase in total sales was Fort St. James where 27 properties of all kinds sold for $5.3 million to the end of June this year compared to 26 properties worth $4.6 million to the end of June in 2019.

Dramatic drops were experienced in Terrace with detached house sales of 55 for the first six months of this year compared to 76 in 2019, in Kitimat at 31 sales compared to 42, in Smithers at 39 compared to 53, in Houston at 9 compared to 20 and in Burns Lake at 4 compared to 13.

Vanderhoof and Fort St. James were the only northwestern communities to experience an increase in sale of detached houses. In Vanderhoof, there were 20 sales compared to 19 and in Fort St. James there were 12 sales compared to 10.

For the same six month comparison from 2019 to 2020, average selling prices for detached homes increased in four communities — $285,817 to $331,020 in Prince Rupert, $179,945 to $197,482 in Houston, $294,783 to $318,243 in Smithers and $134,069 to $197,500 in Burns Lake.

But they declined in four other communities, from $225,907 to $220,325 in Vanderhoof, $239,550 to $197,266 in Fort St. James, $386,494 to $370,891 in Terrace and $392,128 to $342,452 in Kitimat.

It took an average 88 days for a house to sell in Prince Rupert, 58 days in Terrace, 89 days in Kitimat and 66 days in Smithers.

The real estate board does caution that real estate is a local commodity and that an average price can only give an indication of trends within specific communities. All figures were supplied by the real estate board.

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