VANCOUVER - The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says home sales have plateaued after reaching record highs in March.

In its third-quarter housing overview for 2021, it said the number of homes listed for sale in Metro Vancouver has fallen to lows not seen since 2016.

The increasing correlation between sales and new listings over the pandemic is consistent with more buyers selling their homes and purchasing other, typically larger ones, it said. First-time homebuyers or those who moved into bigger houses made up a large proportion of house sales, it said.

Andy Yan, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, said the earlier rise in sales could be attributed to seasonality where home sales see a surge in the summer as well as people spending the money they had saved up during the pandemic on buying a house.

“We had the sudden drop and then we have the spike, but are we seeing the new normal?'' Yan asked. “We just don't know.''

The board said new homes have continued to be built during the pandemic, with a specific focus on projects for the rental market.

The past 18 months has been anything but typical for the Metro Vancouver housing market, it said in the report.

“A pandemic-induced slowdown was short-lived and followed by a robust recovery,'' it said.

“Sales and new listings have moved back from the record peaks hit in the spring and the inventory of active listings has declined to levels last seen in the frenzied market of 2016.''

Yan said the listings may be back to those seen in 2016 but interest rates are still unprecedentedly low, which could mean longer and deeper debt for those buying a home.

The board said Metro Vancouver's job market continues to recover, but the recovery will be slower in the future.

Job vacancies are high in the Lower Mainland compared with other cities in the country, the report said, and a large increase in housing supply is needed to close the gap.

The board said listings and sales across the region are expected to reflect long-term averages as the fourth quarter begins, and any increase in the number of homes for sale to be “at a rate well below historical norms.''

New listings and sales are expected to remain closer to long-term averages while active listings will slowly build through the fall and into the spring, it added.

“Expect these gains to remain on the lower side of typical as Metro Vancouver's housing market continues to face an under supply of homes and persistent demand pressures.''