Sales are down, and prices may soon follow, but how much is the question that those in the market for homes will grapple with in 2013.
The year-end sales numbers released by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) revealed a sharp drop-off, with the decline in sales largely due to the last three months of 2012.
Across the region, which runs from North Delta to Abbotsford, sales of all home types were down 10.6 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011.
Sales had been strong through the first half of the year, then suddenly began dropping toward the end of summer, with the trend picking up steam in the fall.
"The last half of 2012 was like a Mexican stand-off," said FVREB president Scott Olson. "Buyers kept hoping for greater price drops while sellers who didn't have to sell just took their home off the market rather than lower their price."
Average prices suffered as buyers stopped picking up higher-end properties.
The average home sale in December, 2012 was for $458,517, down 9.5 per cent from $506,393 in the same month a year ago.
The FVREB looks at both the price of a "benchmark home" as well as the average prices across the market. The price of a benchmark home, which is an average home for sale in the community, tends to fluctuate less than the overall average, which can be pushed up or down more sharply by the sale of some very expensive or cheap properties.
In Langley, the price of a benchark home in December was $540,000, up one per cent from the same month in 2011.
Meanwhile, the average price of a detached home was $541,246, down seven per cent over the course of a year.
More alarming are sales numbers. Langley is one of the relative bright spots in the FVREB area. In 2012, there were 1,223 sales of property here through the Multiple Listing Service, down just 1.1 per cent from 2011. That's down 12.1 per cent from 2009, and 20.9 per cent from 2007, five years ago.
Region-wide, sales are down 26.4 per cent over five years.
Olson is looking forward to a more balanced market in 2013.
Last year was the second-slowest year for sales in Fraser Valley since 2003, but inventory levels of unsold homes are also dropping.
"Inventory levels are down, which is a sign of a healthy market where insufficient demand leads to reduced supply,"Olson said. "This is also keeping prices in most areas either flat or down only slightly."
Both the Vancouver area and Toronto markets have seen similar situations recently, with declining sales, slowly followed by reduced prices.
@ Copyright 2013