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Buying in Victoria

Victoria – The Garden City. British Columbia’s provincial capital is frequently referred to as “paradise” by those who live there (or those who just wish they did). That sentiment has been demonstrated by the rapid growth of Victoria’s real estate market in the past few years. Census results recently released from the 2006 survey indicate that the metropolitan area of Victoria has seen 5.8 percent population growth since 2001.

In the past couple of years, real estate prices in Victoria BC have gone through the roof, more than doubling. Buyers have frantically been trying to keep up, worrying that the market is either about to plummet or is continuing upwards (and consequently scrambling to get in before prices rise any more). However, buyers can breath a sigh of relief, for a little while at least, because analysts are predicting that the market has leveled off.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) says that “the market is shifting into a balance between supply and demand following four years of conditions which favoured sellers.” New house starts in the region are also leveling off. Municipalities outside Victoria are experiencing the most rapid growth of the region, as prices and availability of properties within the Victoria city limits have made buying there more difficult. “West Shore markets will dominate the Metro Victoria new house market this year, approaching a three-quarter share of the region’s new houses.”

The population of View Royal has grown over 20 percent since the last census, with Langford close behind at 19.2 percent. Langford’s real estate market reflects that growth – it has seen the strongest single municipality house building, with a third of all new houses in Victoria being built going up there.

What all this means is that buyers are finally getting a break. With the softening of the market, the balance of power has shifted from sellers to those looking to purchase. Many first-time buyers have been choosing to enter the market on the ground floor, purchasing condominiums or townhomes, both of which are selling for significantly less than detached residential homes. In February 2007, 208 condos were sold – mostly within the city of Victoria proper. Median price: $262,500. As the homes get larger, people start moving outside of the city. Sixty townhouses were sold in February, with the majority in Saanich East and – surprise, surprise – Langford. Median price: $370,000, though those in Langford sold for significantly less, at $323,158. Single family homes are still the biggest sellers in the region, and 349 were sold in February. Real estate prices in Oak Bay and North Saanich continue to topple the scales; both municipalities averaged well over $600,000 for houses. On the lower end of the spectrum, Esquimalt and Sooke were the winners, both averaging under $400,000.

Bev McIvor, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, predicts that the market conditions should make both buyers and sellers happy this year. She explains that, though there are certainly a number of “luxury” homes on the market right now, there is also ample opportunity for regular people to get in to the game. “At the high end there were 17 single family sales of over $1 million in February, but it is important to note that over 25 percent of single family homes sold for less than $400,000 and over 44 percent of condos sold for less than $250,000.”

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