March started with a boom for the Vancouver housing market as spring sales activity showed promising signs of taking off after delivering uniformly weak results throughout 2019.

According to Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) data released Thursday, daily residential sales averaged 138 transactions a day in the first 10 days of March before dropping to 93 sales a day in the month’s final 10 days. This 33 percent decline is the first substantial sign in the Vancouver region of the bite the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to take out of sales activity in the spring.

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“The first two weeks of the month were the busiest days of the year for our region with heightened demand and multiple offers becoming more common,” said REBGV President Ashley Smith, in a media release.

“Like other aspects of our lives, this changed as concerns over the COVID-19 situation in our province grew,” she continued.

The strength of early-month sales, along with transactions initiated in the first half of March that closed later in the month, meant the total still rose 46 percent over the same period in 2019. There were 2,524 sales in March, good enough for a 17.4 percent increase over February’s total, but nearly 20 percent below the 10-year average for the month.

With the rapid escalation of the pandemic’s impact on every aspect of life in the Vancouver region, market activity in April is expected to be a much more telling sign of how severely sales will be curtailed.

“Many of the sales recorded in March were in process before the provincial government declared a state of emergency. We’ll need more time to pass to fully understand the impact that the pandemic is having on the housing market,” Smith said.

Real estate services, including realtors, were named “essential services” by the provincial government last week, a designation that REBGV says it is taking seriously and providing ongoing guidance to its approximately 14,000 members.

“This [designation] means that we have a responsibility to do what we can to help residents meet their housing and shelter needs while strictly following the most up-to-date public health orders and physical distancing requirements from our health officials and government agencies,” Smith said.

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