We’re seeing signs of life in Vancouver Island’s real estate market.

While the pandemic had a significant impact on the island’s housing market in April, May’s numbers indicate that it may already be recovering.

Last month, 246 single-family homes sold island-wide which marks a 54 per cent drop from last May.

However, sales bumped up from April, when 189 houses changed hands. 

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board president, Kevin Reid, said May’s activity began quite quickly: “I think a lot of realtors got back to work, to the normal job of showing and listing houses. We had a significant increase in activity over April. April was pretty much a closed month.”

Meanwhile, sales of apartments decreased by 56 per cent year over year but were significantly higher than in April, with 44 properties changing hands compared to 17 the previous month. 

As well, townhouse sales dropped by 70 per cent year over year but rose by 65 per cent from April. 

There are fewer homes on the market, too.

Inventory of single-family homes last month dipped by 14 per cent year over year (1,486 to 1,282). 

Active listings of apartments rose by 21 per cent (339 to 410) year over year, while townhouse inventory dipped by four per cent (185 to 178). 

Even in this age of COVID-19, house prices are holding steady.

The benchmark price of a single-family home board-wide was $528,800 in May, an increase of three per cent from the previous year and marginally higher than in April. 

Regionally, the benchmark price of a single-family home in the Campbell River area last month was $449,900, an increase of five per cent over last year. 

In the Comox Valley, the benchmark price reached $532,000, up by two per cent from one year ago. 

Duncan reported a benchmark price of $482,100, an increase of three per cent from May 2019. 

Reid said the island’s value for dollar has “always been excellent” when stacked up against many other areas in Canada.

“And, of course, Vancouver Island’s a beautifully natural place to be and very desirable,” he added. “Through the COVID disaster Vancouver Island’s health authority performed incredibly well which is kind of reinforcing our lifestyle and outlook.”

On a provincial level, home sales posted sharp declines in April due to the pandemic. 

That said, housing markets have historically bounced back after a recession and Reid believes this will be no different. 

He predicts that Phase 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan will translate to a bounce back in both home sales and prices. 

“There’s some pent-up demand from buyers, there are sellers who need to dispose of properties for various reasons, and that’s getting back to normal,” he said. “I do see an upward trend carrying on to the fall of 2020. I think we’re going to see a real estate market and other market sectors have a very distinct recovery over the next nine to 12 months.”

Since real estate was designated an essential service, some transactions have continued despite the pandemic, but Reid said the first priority of the real estate industry has been public health and safety. 

“We’re still taking precautions while out showing properties… gloves, masks, disinfectant wipes…. those things are all being deployed.”

Reid believes the current health precautions will carry on through the summer and into the fall.

“While COVID is still in the environment, I think everybody is going to be taking precautions.”