The pandemic isn’t slowing down Vancouver Island’s real estate market.

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board recorded 1,101 sales last month, which marks a 39 per cent increase from August 2019.

All told, 547 single-family detached properties (excluding acreage and waterfront) sold in August, a year-over-year increase of 35 per cent. 

Meanwhile, sales of condo apartments rose by 43 per cent year over year while row/townhouse sales increased by 19 per cent.

“Our housing market rebounded from the COVID-19 downturn far more quickly than expected,” says VIREB president Kevin Reid. “Pent-up demand, low interest rates, and persistent supply shortages are fueling the recovery.”

Reid added that the economic impacts of COVID-19 hasn’t affected people who are already in a position to buy real estate.

“A lot of people who are purchasing real estate are bringing significant amounts of equity or money to their deal, and the mortgage rates are very, very good right now, and it’s a good time to acquire a mortgage and purchase property,” he added.

Supply and demand are definitely having an effect on the market, Reid explained: “We still have a shortage of quality homes in the $400,000 to $600,000 range.”

According to Reid, the hotspots along the east coast of Vancouver Island include Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley, Parksville, Qualicum, the Comox Valley, and Campbell River.

“We’re seeing very healthy volumes of sales in all those areas,” he said.

Reid says its affordability and natural beauty make Vancouver Island “the most desirable place to live in Canada.”

He added that the island’s smaller communities are becoming more desirable for buyers looking to move out of larger cities.

“People need homes. A lot of family life is centred around the home, having a safe place to be, (and) the pandemic has highlighted safety and distance, so people are liking their single-family homes with a nice yard, close to some nice places to recreate where they are not in a very dense population, so we are seeing some migration out of major population centres, like cities, for example, moving to smaller communities.”

Reid acknowledges there is still uncertainty around the Canadian economy and U.S. election, but he is optimistic, a sentiment echoed by the British Columbia Real Estate Association.

“The outlook for the B.C. housing market is much brighter following a surprisingly strong recovery,” said Brendon Ogmundson, BCREA Chief Economist. “We expect home sales will sustain this momentum into 2021, aided by record-low mortgage rates and a recovering economy.”

BCREA expects unit sales on Vancouver Island to hit 8,300 in 2021, a 15 per cent increase over the 7,200 sales projected this year.

Prices are also inching out in most regions.

The benchmark price of a single-family home hit $533,300 in August, an increase of three per cent from the previous year but two per cent lower than in July. (Benchmark pricing tracks the value of a typical home in the reported area.) 

The year-over-year benchmark price of an apartment rose by five per cent, hitting $312,000 but down marginally from July. The benchmark price of a townhouse rose by four per cent year over year, climbing to $432,300 and up by one per cent from July.

For the Malahat and area, the benchmark price of a single-family home last month was $610,200, a seven per cent increase from August 2019. 

In Campbell River, the benchmark price hit $455,600, up two per cent over last year. 

In the Comox Valley, the benchmark price reached $537,300, up by three per cent from one year ago. 

Duncan reported a benchmark price of $480,200, an increase of one per cent from August 2019. 

Nanaimo’s benchmark price rose by three per cent to $575,100, while the Parksville-Qualicum area saw its benchmark price increase by three per cent to $608,300. 

The cost of a benchmark single-family home in Port Alberni reached $329,100, a four per cent increase from one year ago. For the North Island, the benchmark price was $221,000, an 11 per cent increase over last year.