The real estate market in Langley saw a 50 per cent drop in sales in April as the full effect of the pandemic kept people inside and disrupted the economy. (Langley Advance Times files)

Coronavirus hammers Langley housing market

Without buyers visiting open houses, sales dropped 50 per cent

As expected, the coronavirus pandemic had a big impact on Langley home sales in April, according to statistics released by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board on Monday.

Sales of all home types across the region, which runs from North Delta to Abbotsford, were down by 50.3 per cent compared to the same month last year. A total of 688 houses, townhouses, and condos changed hands, down from 1,383.

The decline was even steeper from last March, down 52.3 per cent from a month that was seeing the market recover from the doldrums that had struck in 2018 and early 2019.

In Langley, sales of detached houses were down to 39 in April from 86 the year before, a 54.7 per cent drop.

Townhouses fared somewhat better, with 45 sales, a 42.3 per cent decline from April 2019, while condos saw the steepest decline, with 32 sales, down from 82, a 61 per cent year-over-year decline.

Benchmark and average prices were still up April, with the benchmark Langley detached house still selling for just over $1 million, up 5.5 per cent from last year, and 1.3 per cent from March.

The benchmark price of a townhouse rose 2.6 per cent year-over-year to $566,300, while the benchmark condo price was up 1.4 per cent to$425,500.

Many people simply took their homes off the market, resulting in a decline in the number of homes listed for sale.

The drop was not a surprise, as uncertainty and an inability to show homes has scared away buyers.

“Even though March’s initial numbers promised a banner spring, we expected the market to respond this way in April,” said FVREB president Chris Shields. “Both sales and listings contracted in tandem as we all moved swiftly to embrace the measures necessary to respond to this global pandemic.”

He said the market remains “stable” because the volume of new listings fell even faster than sales in April.

Realtors have begun livestreaming virtual open houses and offering more digital transaction options, and Shields said those options will likely become mainstream even when physical distancing is no longer a requirement.

It is uncertain how much impact in the long term the coronavirus pandemic will have on local home prices, but a forecast by Moody’s released at the start of the month predicts a 10 per cent decline in prices in B.C. as well as a nationwide slowdown in new housing construction.

The April Canada Housing Outlook document from the bond credit rating service extrapolated a variety of scenarios, depending on when the economy begins to open up again.

It’s baseline forecast predicted Canada’s housing prices decline for two years before rising again in 2022.

In B.C., the decline is predicted to last into 2022 and take about 12 per cent off the price of housing.

More extreme forecasts based on later re-openings of the economy suggest that, in worse case scenarios, housing prices could fall by 20 per cent or more, and might not begin to recover until 2023.

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