The small amount of homes that are on the market on Vancouver Island are getting snapped up in the blink of an eye.

Even with the lowest inventory on record,  sales of single-family homes in January increased by 66 per cent board-wide from a year ago but were down five percent lower from December.

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) reports that last month, 286 single-family detached properties (excluding acreage and waterfront) sold on the MLS, compared to 172 the previous January and 302 in December 2020. 

In the condo apartment category, sales rose by 46 per cent year over year (63 to 92) but dropped by 26 per cent from the previous month. 

Row/townhouse sales increased by 75 percent from January 2020 and 45 per cent from December.

Active listings of single-family detached properties were virtually the same as the previous month (420 compared to 421). There were 212 condo apartments and 95 row/townhouses for sale last month, down nine and 20 per cent, respectively, from December.

The VIREB says the historically low inventory continues to plague buyers. The demand is there, but there are not enough listings to satisfy it.

“A dearth of listings is an ongoing issue throughout our area,” says VIREB president Ian Mackay. “We’re confident that sales activity would be much higher if we had adequate supply.”

As it is, adds Mackay, realtors are seeing multiple offers around 50 percent of the time, which means sellers are receiving more than their asking price in many instances.

“We’d normally say this is a great time to sell, but with so little inventory available, buyers and sellers are in a Catch-22 situation,” adds Mackay. “It’s hard to part with your home if you have nowhere to move.”

The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) does not see the inventory situation improving until more supply comes online later in the year. 

BCREA and local real estate boards are advocating with policymakers at the provincial and regional levels to encourage streamlining the development process so that municipalities can expand supply more quickly to meet demand.

Naturally, the robust housing market is fueling price hikes across the island. 

The benchmark (or typical) price of a single-family home hit $596,500 in January, a 12 per cent increase from the previous year. 

The benchmark price of an apartment reached $316,400, an increase of 10 per cent, while the benchmark price of a townhouse rose by 12 per cent year over year, climbing to $459,800.

In Campbell River, the benchmark price of a single-family home hit $528,000 in January, an increase of 14 per cent over last year. 

In the Comox Valley, it was $620,100, up by 11 per cent from one year ago. 

Duncan reported a benchmark price of $561,900, an increase of 17 per cent from January 2020. Nanaimo’s benchmark price rose by 11 per cent, hitting $604,500, while the Parksville-Qualicum area saw its benchmark price increase by 12 per cent to $686,600. 

The cost of a benchmark single-family home in Port Alberni reached $371,200, a seven per cent year-over-year increase. 

For the North Island, the benchmark price rose to $283,200, a seven per cent increase over last year.