While fewer people bought homes in 2012 compared to the previous year, a local developer believes more home buyers are shifting their focus to Maple Ridge.
The Greater Vancouver housing market experienced below average home sale totals and modest declines in home prices over the past year.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that total sales of detached, attached, and apartment properties in 2012 reached 25,032, a 22.7-per-cent decline from the 32,387 sales recorded in 2011, and an 18.2-per-cent decrease from the 30,595 residential sales in 2010.
Last year's home sale total was 25.7 per cent below the 10year average for annual Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales in the region.
However, Epic Homes sales manager Norm Jones said the market has the potential to heat up locally.
Epic Homes has built more than 650 residences in Maple Ridge over the past dozen or so years.
"I think we're going to see more people moving out here, as the community continues to grow," Jones said. "As far as pricing goes, I think it's levelled off, and I think it will stay that way for awhile."
Jones believes Maple Ridge is attractive to home buyers for two reasons: affordability, and, just as importantly, accessibility with the 2009 completions of the Golden Ears Bridge linking Langley and Surrey to Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge and the new Pitt River Bridge.
"It's one of the lowest-priced, accessible communities in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Two new bridges have made it accessible. Maple Ridge is not as far away as it used to be anymore," Jones said. "You're getting a lot for your money out here. It's attractive to a lot of buyers and empty nesters alike."
Jones believes it's still a good investment to buy a home, adding that "Maple Ridge is one of the better places to invest."
"It's growing and amenities are coming, finally," he added.
Epic Homes' focus is in the Albion area, with the most recent focus on a new, 27-house development called SpringSide.
"Albion has been designated as a place for growth in Maple Ridge," Jones said. "It's by design."
STEADY AS SHE GOES
Meanwhile, housing prices are holding steady, relatively speaking, across the board in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
In Maple Ridge, the average price of a detached home was $463,400 in December, about a one-per-cent jump from the previous month, but a drop of 0.6 per cent from six months ago and a 2.5-per-cent decrease from the same time in 2007.
The price of townhouses in Maple Ridge, at $267,600 in December, dropped 3.5 per cent from the same time in 2011, and a full 7.5 per cent from December, 2007.
Apartment prices, at an average of $191,100 are headed in a different direction, up 5.4 from December 2011.
But it cost more to buy a condo in Maple Ridge five years ago. The price has dropped 6.2 per cent since 2007.
Further west in Pitt Meadows, the average price for a detached home in December was $499,900, a slight decrease (0.3 per cent) from the same time a year ago, but up 1.2 per cent from 2007.
The townhouse market has turned around somewhat around for sellers. At $323,300, the average townhouse price has increased 4.5 per cent from three years ago.
It's a sellers' market for apartments in Pitt Meadows, as well. The average value of $241,300 is 10.5 per cent higher than six months ago, and 4.5 per cent higher than 2009.
For sellers, the news isn't as rosy when you look at the West Coast's real estate market as a whole.
Since reaching a peak in May of $625,100, the MLS Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver has declined 5.8 per cent to $590,800.
This represents a 2.3-per-cent decline when compared to this time last year.
"We saw home prices come down a bit during the latter half of the year. During the same period, we saw fewer home sales and listings," said REBGV president Eugen Klein.
The benchmark price of an apartment property decreased 1.9 per cent from December 2011 to $361,200. Since reaching a peak in May, the benchmark price of an apartment property has declined 12.8 per cent.
The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 2.6 per cent between December 2011 and 2012 to $450,900. Since reaching a peak in April, the benchmark price of an attached property has declined 4.4 per cent.
- With files from Vancouver Sun reporter Michael Bernard