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In search of balance

Even with some increase in the amount of listings, it's still very, very, very much a seller's market.

Anyone who follows this space on a regular basis knows I’ve been highlighting the Vancouver Region’s historically constrained inventory level for the better part of a year.

Indeed, total monthly listings counts have represented all-time lows for each successive month since July 2021—a period spanning seven months through February. As a result of noting all of the broken records that have accumulated during this time, we know we’ve sounded like a broken record, so on some level it does please us to be able to report that total inventory in March was, in fact, not an all-time low for the month…instead, it was merely the second-lowest listings count we’ve seen in any March on record (that is, since 1989).

Despite this continued low level of supply, the housing options for potential homebuyers have been increasing of late, with total inventory for the Vancouver Region in March reaching 11,654 homes.

Some context: despite this being 13% below the level of March 2021 and 30% lower than the long-run March average, it reflects a 19% increase over February’s level. And while we do expect listings to rise during this part of the annual housing cycle, 2022’s month-over-month supply increase into March was notably higher than the typical 7% increase we’re used to.

Inventory wasn’t the only metric rising at an above-average pace in March: sales counts last month reached 6,862, which represents the third-highest total for any March (sales data goes back to 1980). Sales for the month finished 32% higher than in February, which compares to a typical increase between February and March of 26%. And while March’s sales were 23% lower than in March 2021, it must be noted that last March was the busiest month for sales ever recorded in the region; as such, the year-over-year decline speaks more to 2021’s abnormally elevated activity than to the notion that last month’s sales were anything but robust.

Even with rising inventory, the reality is that the busier-than-usual sales activity in March means that market conditions remain heavily tilted in favour of sellers. The sales-to-listings ratio for all property types in March was 59%--significantly higher than the 21% threshold that marks the bottom end of a sellers’ market.

Looking ahead through Q2, listings will continue to rise, but with sales activity remaining relatively strong, balanced market conditions are likely still a ways off.

Ryan Berlin is the Senior Economist with rennie intelligence.