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Lower Mainland rental, real estate markets hold steady amid COVID-19

Last Updated May 3, 2020 at 9:45 pm PDT

Downtown Vancouver and Canada Place are seen here from the NEWS 1130 Air Patrol in the summer of 2019. (Source: Riley Phillips/NEWS 1130)

Vacancy rates have only gone up from 1 per cent to about 1.1 per cent since mid-March.

Rent prices have dropped 3 or 4 per cent

Real estate prices have also dropped less than 5 per cent

PORT MOODY (NEWS 1130) — Amid unemployment and upheaval due to the pandemic, the rental and real estate markets in the Lower Mainland are maintaining stability.

Kevin Axford has both a property management company and a real estate firm, and began bracing himself for a blow to the rental market when he saw the economic toll wrought by the virus.

But he says, so far, things have remained surprisingly stable.

“I was expecting when April 1 rolled around there would be some turmoil. Then, when I was expecting May 1 to roll around I was expecting there to be more or less chaos. But we’re still collecting the rent, the rents are still strong, we’re still renting out our places. So it’s doing, right now in the short run, much better than I hoped,” he says, adding he’s hearing the same from other management companies.

“We’ve had almost all of our tenants paty the rent, very few that haven’t. And then all the government help has been able to make this kind of go smoothly so far.”

The changes he’s noticed have been small. Vacancy rates have only gone up one-tenth of a per cent (from 1 per cent to about 1.1) since mid-March.

Rental rates are down less than 5 per cent.

“So, if something was renting for $2,000 it’s still going to rent for $1,900 plus.”

It’s taking about a week longer to rent out a unit than it used to, but spaces are still being snapped up in less than a month.

“That’s just less people out looking is what I would feel is the reason for that, but still the prices haven’t been affected too much.”

Axford says it’s too soon to tell what the long-term effects on the market will be.

“I wish I had the crystal ball, everybody does,” he says.

He does think instability could begin to take hold if the shutdowns last through the summer and into the fall.

He also notes real estate prices have only dropped about 2 or 3 per cent, although official data from April hasn’t been released yet.

“We were expecting it to soften drastically. When it first got announced that businesses were going to be shut down, things were going to start to be controlled a little bit there was an initial ever so slight softening in prices,” he explains.

The number of transactions has plummetted, with sales volume down 70 per cent.

He attributes this to people’s hesitation to buy in a time where’s there’s an overall sense of uncertainty about the future.

Ultimately, Axford says prices are steady because supply and demand are in sync.