Vancouver Home Prices Were Hotter Back When Billy Joel Was No. 1

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It was the late 1980s.

The Berlin Wall was falling, Chinese students were rising up against their government, and Billy Joel was churning out number one hits like "We Didn't Start the Fire."

And in Vancouver, then a smaller city with only a fraction of the populace it has today, home prices were skyrocketing, at a higher rate than they would over two decades later.

BMO released a chart Monday showing that rising house prices are nothing new in the West Coast city.

vancouver average sale price

It shows that prices saw a massive spike in the late 1980s, only to plummet years later — dwarfing any increases that happened in recent years.

"So much has been written about Vancouver's zany house prices that one might think the current situation is unprecedented," economist Sal Guatieri wrote.

"But a longer term lens shows the city is no stranger to outlandish price increases that are usually followed by short-term corrections."

vancouver real estate
Condos along Vancouver's waterfront. (Photo: Getty Images)

Guatieri said prices tend to escalate when demand for housing comes up against a low supply level.

It's a common contention that economists have made in response to continuing price escalation.

He went on to say that housing market corrections haven't had long-lasting impacts historically, but "if speculation is padding demand today and results in overbuilding, then a correction could be more painful than in the past."

"The city is no stranger to outlandish price increases that are usually followed by short-term corrections."

When a correction happens is anyone's guess — even as concerns mount that one is coming.

TD Economics issued an economic forecast last week saying it's unlikely that will happen until next year at least.

Supply may be the culprit on housing prices, but people watching Vancouver's real estate market have increasingly drawn links between inflows of foreign capital and rising property values.

South China Morning Post reporter Ian Young has repeatedly addressed the issue in columns and stories such as one about a downtown property that was sold for $60 million one month, and then flipped to a wealthy Chinese immigrant for $68 million just a month later.

A study last year also showed that most homes on Vancouver's west side, an upscale area, were owned by people with non-anglicized Chinese names, which suggested to the author that they were recent arrivals to Canada.

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