If you've been eyeing the housing market in Metro Vancouver with astonishment over the last few years, that feeling could soon change.
Last month, property sales in Metro Vancouver fell to a 10-year low, and parts of the Tri-Cities were in the same basement.
According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), home sales dropped 18.4 per cent in July, marking the lowest total in the region since 2000.
In Coquitlam, the number of sales in July dropped 26 per cent from the previous year.
Residential property sales in Port Moody remained relatively flat in July, but Port Coquitlam bucked the trend and saw home sales increase by 14 per cent.
"We're seeing some areas that are quite flat and no changes, and some areas we still have pockets of activity," Sandra Wyant, president-elect of REBGV, told The NOW.
She suggested July is typically a slow month for real estate sales, noting buyers and real estate agents alike often tend to be on holidays.
In the case of Port Coquitlam, she suggested the community is attracting more first-time buyers because of the price.
The sluggish sales haven't been reflected in a major adjustment in home prices just yet.
The Multiple Listing Services Home Price Index benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver declined 0.7 per cent in July compared to June, but increased 0.6 per cent to $616,000 in the last year.
The benchmark is considered a typical property.
In Coquitlam, the benchmark price for a singledetached home last month was $719,900, which signalled a 0.4-per-cent decrease from June.
However, that benchmark was still up 4.3 per cent from July 2011.
In Port Moody, the benchmark price of $852,200 was a jump of one per cent between June and July, and 3.4 per cent for the year, while in Port Coquitlam the benchmark of $561,600 turned out to be a slip of 0.6 per cent between the two months.
But the benchmark price still rose by two per cent from the previous year.
The REBGV isn't ready to call July's numbers a sign of major long-term changes in the market.
Wyant noted sales activity in the spring was quite good, and cautioned a better indication of the market could come after August.
She said prices could start to come down as competition amongst sellers heats up.
However, Wyant said it often takes a while for sellers to make an adjustment in the marketplace.
"Right now it's a fabulous time to jump into the market," she said, adding there are many choices and no pressure to make a decision.
But one financial expert believes Lower Mainland real estate has reached a turning point.
Andrey Pavlov, a professor of finance with Simon Fraser University, noted prices in Vancouver have rocketed past those in places like New York and San Francisco, and in the case of the Tri-Cities, are comparable to suburbs of those major cities.
He suggested the pace will not continue and predicts prices will likely drop in the Vancouver area.
Pavlov argued home prices rose dramatically in the Lower Mainland, not out of income or general economic growth, but rather debt accumulation.
With low interest rates and easy qualification terms, people have been taking on more and more debt.
"I think this engine of real estate price growth is now done," Pavlov told The NOW in an e-mail.
"So I don't see where the future support for real estate can come from."
And he's especially concerned for the condo market.
He explained that singlefamily properties would always hold their value to some extent because usable land in the Lower Mainland is limited.
But he contends condos have absolutely nothing that can support them. And in cases where the quality of a new development might be in question, he can see prices of condos in the suburbs dropping by half or more.
The benchmark price for an apartment in Coquitlam, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam for July was $252,000, $313,700 and $222,200 respectively.
Though apartment prices in Port Moody and Coquitlam both increased in the last year, Port Coquitlam was down nearly five per cent.
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