Blog by Mark Longpre

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Real estate bounces back

The Lower Mainland's real-estate market veered from bust to boom last year.

Year-over-year sales in the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver soared 172.2 per cent last month, the board said Tuesday.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board reported a similarly dramatic rise last month -- 148 per cent from December 2008.

"In 12 months, we went from the worst January in 20 years to the third best December," Fraser Valley board president Paul Penner said.

Penner and Greater Vancouver board president Scott Russell said low interest rates, a recovering economy and resurgent consumer confidence fuelled housing markets' strength.

First-time homebuyers were a key factor, Penner said.

"An informal poll of our members in December revealed 40 per cent of home sales were by first-time buyers when it would normally be in the 25-per-cent range," Penner said.

For the Greater Vancouver board, the benchmark price for detached homes rose 18.3 per cent to $766,816 between December 2009 and the same month a year earlier.

The Fraser Valley board's benchmark price for detached homes rose 7.2 per cent to $497,732 in December from the same month a year earlier.

For the full year, overall sales in Greater Vancouver climbed 44.8 per cent, while those for the Fraser Valley increased 26 per cent.

The Fraser Valley board had 15-per-cent fewer new listings last year. This decrease in listings helped to put upward pressure on home prices, especially in the lower to mid-range part of the market, Penner said.