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Lower Mainland housing prices makes Kelowna look nearly affordable

While the cost of housing has been rising dramatically in the Okanagan and Thompson regions, there are some parts of the country that make this market look tame.

An annual survey by real estate company Century 21 compares the price per square foot of houses in many of the larger markets in Canada.

It found that prices in Kelowna – the only Interior city in the survey – went up 31 per cent, which is low compared to some other B.C. cities.

“B.C. real estate is the most expensive in the country and remains so again this year,” the report says. "Prices in the outskirts of Greater Vancouver saw the largest increase, with Chilliwack prices up over 40 per cent to $406 per square foot, Delta up 38 per cent to $570 per square foot and White Rock/South Surrey up 44 per cent to $625 per square foot.”

These prices are for single detached homes. The most expensive such houses in the country were in Vancouver Westside at $1,208 per square foot and even pricier were downtown Vancouver condos at $1,310 per square foot.

By comparison, Kelowna houses went up 31.4 per cent to $368 per square foot from $280 per square foot in 2020.

Other B.C. cities on the list include West Vancouver ($971 per square foot), Vancouver Eastside ($877), North Vancouver ($794), Burnaby ($688) and Victoria $588).

The closest city to Kelowna on the list is Chilliwack at $406 per square foot.

Last year’s Century 21 report includes comparable data from 2017 to 2020. They show a steady increase, year over year, in most markets.

Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic hit the real estate market hard in the early part of 2020, prices for most B.C. cities in the survey were still up last year from 2019.

The cheapest city on the list was Moncton, NB at $142 per square foot this year.

As the pandemic set in, the ability to work from home created a desire for larger spaces but also the ability of workers to relocate to more affordable cities.

That meant prices in larger cities tended to be softer than in traditionally less expensive markets, the report says.

That was felt quite dramatically in Atlantic Canada.

“Atlantic Canada has long been seen as the most affordable region in Canada for housing,” the report says. “But over the past year, prices have consistently increased with working from home becoming a viable option for many Canadians. Halifax has seen the biggest increase in prices, but Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton and St. John’s are all seeing double-digit increases.”

Halifax is the most expensive Atlantic city on that list at $291 per square foot, still well below Kelowna's $368 per square foot.

The picture isn’t quite the same in the Prairie provinces.

“Prairie house prices have seen some growth, although they are the slowest-growing areas of the country,” the report says. “Many markets in Alberta saw decreases in previous surveys but are up anywhere from three to 15 per cent depending on the city and home type.”

Saskatoon came in at the highest Prairie city at $314 per square foot.

No Alberta cities were listed.

The survey collects data on houses that sold in the first half of the year.

“By looking at the price per square foot at the same time each year the firm is able to get a good idea of how prices have changed over time for similar properties,” it says.

See the full report here.

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