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Central 1 Credit Union predicts Lower Mainland home prices are going to fall another 5 percent before bottoming out as the beleaguered market continues to correct.

“While the economy is solid, buyers are constrained by financing capacity while most prospective sellers are less willing to cut prices and are holding out,” writes Bryan Yu, Central 1’s deputy chief economist, in a B.C. Economic Briefing.

“Speculators and owners of high value property in the Lower Mainland are selling at substantially lower prices relative to a year ago, reflecting the change in market conditions and greater willingness to sell,” Yu continues.

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Already, the benchmark price of a Greater Vancouver home, which includes condos and houses, has sunken to $1,011,200, down 7.7 percent from a year ago as of March.

While an average price would be based on all home sales, the benchmark excludes transactions at the high and low ends of a market. Experts say this better reflects pricing in a given market because averages are skewed by luxury home sales and excessively low-priced properties.

Central 1 attributes much of the Lower Mainland market’s weakness to policymaker interventions.

Yu cites federal mortgage stress testing that was introduced in January 2018 for uninsured mortgages (read: mortgages for which the buyer has a downpayment of at least 20 percent) as a headwind for the housing market.

The new stress testing, which already existed for insured mortgages, requires uninsured mortgage borrowers to qualify at a rate that is 200 basis points higher than they are being offered. So if an applicant is signing on for a rate of 3.5 percent, they’d need to prove they could keep up with monthly payments at a rate of 5.5 percent.

The stress testing — which the government has been steadfast about maintaining despite calls from the industry to change the rules — was not the only factor holding back the market.

“Recent provincial government measures including the speculation tax in select areas of the province, hikes to the foreign buyer tax and other policies further curtailed demand,” Yu notes.

“In contrast, the economy remains firm with rising employ- ment, a tight labour market and moderate population growth. Excessively low sales are a testament to this disconnect,” he adds.

The 1,727 homes that changed hands across Greater Vancouver last month represented a 31.4 percent decline from sales activity a year earlier.

“A further price decline… of five per cent is anticipated in the Lower Mainland, but conditions will be steady elsewhere in B.C.,” Yu concludes.

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