Despite a weak finish, Squamish had its hottest year ever in real estate in 2003, according to statistics from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).
The REBGV stats, which tracks sales of properties listed on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS), show that housing sales in Squamish were down in December both compared to the previous month and even December of the previous year.
A total of 14 MLS properties sold in December 2003, down from 21 in November and 18 last December.
In fact, the entire last quarter of 2003 was lower than the previous year, with a total of 67 properties sold compared to 95 in the last three months of 2002.
But the year overall showed a strong increase, with 445 properties changing hands in 2003 - a 21.5 per cent increase from the 366 sold in 2002. That's nearly double the 11.9 per cent increase across the Lower Mainland for the year.
"Two recurring factors had a significant influence on the market throughout 2003," said REBGV president Bill Binnie. "Month after month, we continued to see historically low interest rates combine with pent-up demand to fan an already healthy housing market.
"This activity was a continuation of a strong 2002 market, but was further fuelled by confidence in the economy, heightened interest in real estate as in investment and excitement during a year in which we won the Olympic bid."
The biggest increase in Squamish's numbers came in apartment sales, with 74 transactions in 2003 compared to only 41 in 2002. Townhouse sales increased by less than 10 per cent, while sales of detached single-family homes went up 16 per cent, from 245 in 2002 to 284 last year.
The other major change was in the price of the properties sold. The median selling price of detached houses and townhouses skyrocketed from 2002 to 2003, from $231,500 to $310,000 for single-family homes and from $140,000 to $195,000 for townhouses.
The median price of apartment sales only rose slightly, from $100,000 in 2002 to $105,000 in 2003.
The REBGV's benchmark price, which represents a typical single-family property in the market, topped $350,000 for the last three months of the year. That's more than 60 per cent over the benchmark price for the previous year and more than double the benchmark price three years ago.
By comparison, the benchmark price for Greater Vancouver increased 15 per cent over the year.
Squamish's benchmark price for single-family homes, which has traditionally been lower than anywhere in the Lower Mainland, leapfrogged over several communities in the past year, including Maple Ridge, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam, and is now very close to communities such as East Vancouver.
But Squamish's benchmark price is still lower than the Lower Mainland average of $445,000.