Michael Loewen

Michael Loewen is president of the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board.

Home sales in the Central Okanagan bounced back in July, leading experts to predict a slow recovery.

The local housing market has been in decline over the past year-and-a-half.

Sales volume peaked in early 2018, and the average selling price for a single-family detached home set a record high of $782,400 in July 2018.

Since then, the number of homes sold in a month bottomed out at 194 in December 2018, and the average house price sunk to $650,785 in November 2018.

In July, 511 homes of all kinds — single-family (detached), townhouses and condominiums — were sold in the Central Okanagan on the Multiple Listing Service, according to the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board.

That’s an 18.3% jump from the 432 sales in July 2018.

Despite the big monthly hike, year-to-date sales are still lagging.

From January through July of this year, 2,692 homes sold in the Central Okanagan, which is 9.4% off the 2,970 sold over the same period in 2018.

Average selling prices are a mixed bag.

For a single-family detached home, it was $713,300 in July, down 8.8% from the record-setting $782,400 of July 2018.

In July, the average selling price for a townhouse was $517,900, just slightly off the price of $518,200 a year earlier.

Condo prices are stronger, with a 5.6% increase in the average selling price, to $362,700 from $343,300.

“While prices have experienced a moderate climb throughout the year, inventory has plateaued as potential sellers in the region could still be holing back, waiting for the market to fully recover,” said board president Michael Loewen, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Kelowna.

“It will be interesting to see if demand will slowly normalize.”

The average number of days a home is listed for sale before it sells is also an indication of market health.

In July, a home generally spent 64 days on the market before being purchased, compared to 50 days in July 2018.

What that means is potential buyers feel the market is soft enough that they have the time to shop around and even negotiate a lower price.

While the economy is generally good and employment strong, some people have been scared off selling or buying a home because of tough new mortgage rules, the speculation tax and the threat of higher mortgage interest rates.

Competition from the rental market may also be a factor.

A record number of apartments has been built in Kelowna, and the vacancy rate has eased as a result.

People who might have felt ownership was their only option may now be opting to rent.

Some home sellers may now choose a rental instead of jumping into homeownership again.