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Downtown Vancouver condo values up 39% per square foot, nation's priciest: survey

Mix of rising prices and shrinking floorplans means much less bang for your buck in urban core

Despite the softening in the real estate market, condos in downtown Vancouver and detached houses on the West Side are the most expensive homes in Canada on a per-square-foot basis, a new national survey reveals.

The average price of a downtown Vancouver condo is now pegged at $1,345 per square foot, which is a staggering 39 per cent higher than one year previously, according to the Century 21 Canada report released November 7.

Since last year’s survey, downtown condos have overtaken West Side houses as Canada’s priciest per-square-foot home type. West Side detached homes slid nearly five per cent year over year, but follow close behind at $1,147 per square foot.

Single-family homes across the whole of Vancouver averaged $845 per square foot in the first six months of 2018, down from $890 in the same period of 2017, said the report.

Stepping over the border into Burnaby offers much more living space for your money, with per-square-foot detached house prices averaging $599, up 1.91 per cent from the same period in 2017.

At $898.50, West Vancouver’s house prices were the fourth-priciest homes per square foot in Canada, beaten out – as they were last year – by downtown Toronto condos. The West Vancouver per-square-foot figure is a 10 per cent increase over the same period last year. 

So why are West Vancouver’s notoriously expensive houses so much less expensive than the West Side’s, on a per-square-foot basis?

“In West Vancouver, most of the homes are on considerably larger lots than the 33-foot lots that are typical for the West Side,” Brian Rushton, executive vice-president of CENTURY 21 Canada, told Glacier Media in response to last year’s survey. “That means when you break the numbers down on a per-square-foot basis, it’s the West Side that’s more expensive.”

Per-square-foot house prices in Richmond also increased by more than 10 per cent year over year, to $677.

Century 21 acknowledged that, because the survey compared price data in the first six months of 2018 with the same period in 2017, price declines since that time are not taken into account.

Rushton said of this year’s survey, “It is no surprise that Vancouver’s downtown and West Side once again topped the list of Canada’s most expensive properties per square foot, even with a small decline over the last year. Looking across B.C., the price variation is remarkable. Going out just one or two suburbs cuts your price in half, while prices in more rural areas are closer to a quarter or less of those in Vancouver.”

Rushton added that the bigger bang for your buck is prompting home buyers to move to better-value areas. “We are hearing anecdotally from agents in the Fraser Valley and in communities like Victoria that they are seeing an increase in the number of Vancouver residents moving to take advantage of lower house pricing, which the surge in prices in Chilliwack and elsewhere would seem to support.”

Victoria’s detached houses offer much better value than Vancouver, even with an 11 per cent annual increase taking them to $509 per square foot. In Fort St. John, the cost of a square foot of detached house dropped more than 27 per cent to just $171. Prices in Vernon increased 10 per cent year over year to $366 per square foot, added the report.

The real estate brokerage said that per-square-foot prices were calculated by Century 21 franchisees across Canada, taking into account local average or benchmark sale prices and square footage of homes sold in their area.