The hunger to buy real estate is there, but there aren’t enough homes on the market to satisfy it.

That’s the story of 2020 for Vancouver Island real estate, with buyer interest at its peak despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The big stumbling block is a major shortage of homes for sale. Vancouver Island closed out the year with its lowest inventory on record 

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) reported that sales of single-family homes in December increased by 34 percent from one year ago but were 28 percent lower than in November.

Last month, 302 single-family detached properties (excluding acreage and waterfront) sold on the MLS System compared to 226 in December 2019 and 421 in November 2020.

In the condo apartment category, sales rose by 94 percent year over year and 16 percent from November. Row/townhouse sales increased by 61 percent from the previous year but dropped by 41 percent from November. 

Active listings of single-family detached properties were 421 compared to 541 in November, a 22 percent decrease and the lowest number on record. 

There were 232 condo apartments and 119 row/townhouses for sale last month, down 24 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from November.

Low inventory continues to be the primary reason behind the weaker sales posted in November and December. The buyers are there, but the listings are not.

“Consumer demand is high, and buyers are snapping up well-priced properties quickly once they hit the market,” says VIREB president Kevin Reid. 

“Multiple offers are commonplace.”

Reid said our current market conditions can be confusing and chaotic for buyers and sellers.

Moving on to pricing, the benchmark price of a single-family home hit $546,900 in December, a five percent increase from the previous year. 

The benchmark price of an apartment reached $312,000, an increase of four percent, while the benchmark price of a townhouse rose by 10 percent year over year, climbing to $450,100.

In Campbell River, the benchmark price of a single-family home hit $473,000 in December, an increase of 12 percent over last year. 

In the Comox Valley, the benchmark price was $550,800, up by four percent from one year ago. 

Duncan reported a benchmark price of $509,600, an increase of five percent from December 2019. 

Nanaimo’s benchmark price rose by one percent, hitting $569,400, while the Parksville-Qualicum area saw its benchmark price increase by nine percent to $639,100. 

The cost of a benchmark single-family home in Port Alberni reached $328,000, a two percent year-over-year increase. 

For the North Island, the benchmark price rose to $236,000, a 17 percent increase over last year.