Category Archives: 07. Avoiding Vancouver

Folks who’ve either left Vancouver, or decided not to move here, solely or largely because of RE prices.

A Veterinarian’s Dilemma – “Living in a 300-square-foot closet, moving to northern B.C. or renting for life.”

“My veterinarian, owner of a successful west-side practice, emailed recently to say young professionals like him “are left with a choice between living in a 300-square-foot closet, moving to northern B.C. or renting for life.”
– from ‘Here in B.C., we’re richer than we think — on paper’, Barbara Yaffe, 24 Mar 2014

[Posts are, as you can see, very sporadic. No change in our outlook for Vanc RE market. -ed.]

Families With Children Leave Vancouver – “We bought a townhouse in Port Moody in 2006, sold it in 2011 and bought a house. We couldn’t have done that in Vancouver. Absolutely not.”

“Last month, The Sun reported preliminary results of a Vancouver school board survey that found many families are leaving Vancouver due to the high cost of housing.

The purpose of the survey was to pinpoint the cause of the declining enrolments, which is bad news for school boards because fewer students means less government funding and difficult decisions about cuts to spending and closing schools.

In each of the past three years, the Vancouver school district has had a net loss of 600 to 700 students, the report shows. A typical elementary school in Vancouver has about 300 children.

Tracking where the students who left Vancouver schools went isn’t easy; there is no central source of this information.

Ministry of Education figures show a drop of about 10,000 students in all B.C. schools between 2008 and 2013, which could be attributed to people having smaller families, people moving out of the province or other factors.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly where Vancouver’s students are going, at least some of them are heading to the eastern suburbs.

Catherine Cowan and husband Trevor are among those families, moving to Heritage Mountain in Port Moody from Burnaby in 2006, primarily because of the lower cost of housing but also for the town’s livability, good schools and community feel. Before moving to Burnaby, they lived in Vancouver.

“We bought a townhouse (in Port Moody) in 2006, sold it in 2011 and bought a house. We couldn’t have done that in Vancouver. Absolutely not.”

- from ‘Go East: Families leave Vancouver for suburbs Surrey, Coquitlam, Langley school enrolments rise while more expensive areas see decline, Tracy Sherlock and Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, 4 July 2013 [hat-tip RESkeptic]

“I just visited Manhattan for a week, and happened to snap some real estate ads on both the Upper West and Upper East sides of the island. Compare to Vancouver. It simply doesn’t compute.”

IMG_1003

IMG_1004

“I just visited Manhattan for a week, and happened to snap some real estate ads on both the Upper West and Upper East sides of the island (both very affluent areas). Compare these prices for these apartments, located in the heart of the one of the world’s most important metropolises with all the employment opportunities that go along with it…. to how far one’s money goes in Burnaby, Downtown, etc. It simply doesn’t compute.”
– from ‘L’, via e-mail to VREAA, 8 Apr 2013

Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association Annual First-Time Buyer Seminar Attendance Plummets

“The Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association presented its 19th annual free seminar for first-time homebuyers in Surrey on March 19. This event is the largest of its kind in North America, drawing aspiring homeowners from virtually all Metro Vancouver municipalities – and beyond.
Attendance over the years has averaged 800. One year, registrations were cut off three weeks before the event, as 900 eager people had already signed up. Last year, attendance dipped to a tad under 600.
This year, despite significant promotion and a top-notch panel of speakers, about 500 prospective first-time buyers registered. Moreover, an audience head count revealed less than 300 attendees.
Mind you, I believe a number of external factors contributed to the attendance drop – March break, heavy rain, traffic and a Canucks game. Also, it appears the wealth of information available at folks’ fingertips kept some of the registrants at home that night.”

– from ‘A world of advice’, Peter Simpson, The Vancouver Sun, 6 Apr 2013

Thanks to RG, who sent the above link to VREAA by e-mail, and who adds:
“The interesting bit is Mr. Simpson’s rationalization that the marked drop in attendance may be attributable to, “March break, heavy rain, traffic and a Canucks game” …
Seriously? … “rain” and “traffic” resulted in far less than half of the typical numbers of potential first-timers from seeking critical purchasing information? Wow.”

“Mere mortals could not afford housing in Vancouver even back in 2004.”

“Moved from Montreal to Vancouver, stayed six years, (got-the-hell-out-cause- I-didn’t-like-it), moved out to Ottawa. In each city I had a job waiting at 90K range.

Mere mortals could not afford housing in Vancouver even back in 2004. House was fully paid off in Montreal, even with that equity we realized we were going to have the largest mortgage ever. With wife and three kids, living in a condo was not considered, so we moved a little east of the city – Pitt Meadows, commuted into Vancouver for work. Wife gradually found self employment – accounting – in small businesses locally. Loved the views, hiking with kids in the mountains, crossing to Victoria by ferry.

Shocked by real estate prices. Stunned by the cost of everything else. Couldn’t believe that salaries in general here were Lower than Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Where in Vancouver would someone bring up a couple of kids on 60k? Where did the 35k salaries live? Was not impressed by the theatre and music scene. Good Chinese food, and Indian food, but otherwise, Vancouver does not hold a candle to Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa. Only place that made real bagels seemed to be Granville Island. Drove down Hastings Street one day. Remarkably like NYC of the seventies, down and dangerous.

Was slightly depressed by weeks and weeks of cloudy days. Missed the changing of the seasons. I love a sunny cold winter day, so bright with the sun reflecting snow. Came to realize that there were no advancement opportunities in my industry. (Like most other Vancouver industries, only a branch office in town.) A survey of some neighbours’ professions: Two teachers, one small business owner, four retired.
Realized that there would be nothing for my kids to do once they hit teenage years in Pitt Meadows. Take a 1.5 hour bus ride to see a band downtown? If would be a pain for them to go to either UBC or SFU.
And where would they live as adults? Love my kids, but after a degree, you’re out. Didn’t see a future for them here.

Moved to Ottawa. Housing is aprox 1/3 the Vancouver cost. We live 20 minutes drive from downtown and Parliament buildings – in traffic. Oldest attends Carleton U, also about 20 minutes away, by bus. High school is 4 minute walk for other two. We lucked out at Canterbury High.
Unknown to us when we moved here, it’s the city’s premier arts school. Incredibly motivated kids apply to attend Canterbury from all of eastern Ontario. We happened to move into its catchment area.
Ottawa has Carleton U and Ottawa U. Montreal (1.5 hour drive.) has Mcgill and Concordia U, if the kids want to adventure out to another city and/or immerse themselves in french language.
Ottawa has virtually no reports of grow-op busts, unlike west coast.
Ottawa has NAC, and host of other theatres, many museums, byward market. Rideau canal has pleasure boating in summer, and becomes world’s longest skating rink in winter. Hiking and cycling, cross country sking in Gatineau park is great. Montreal is 1.5 hours drive with major Jazz/music fest. Many of those acts come to Ottawa the week before or after.

Kids still facebook old buddies from the Pitt. Several bored buddies are serious dopers, dropped out, etc. We’ll go back to Vancouver to visit, but never to live.”

- Dadeedumer at VREAA 9 Mar 2013 11:57am

Thanks for sharing your story, Dadeedumer.
We bemoan the fact that RE prices have driven many from Vancouver.
And we agree that, by 2004, prices were already overextended beyond those supported by fundamentals.
– vreaa

VanCityBuzz – Vancouver vs. NYC – “If Vancouver wants to keep waving the world class flag, she’d better get used to being compared to those with a few hundred years experience, because beauty and access to a lot of natural resources can only take her so far.”

guggenheim

Empty-Chairs

“Vancouver is often touted as a world class city by local boosters. While the costs of living and real estate prices are certainly indicative of that caliber, our culture (or lack thereof) and the locals’ inability to get to know themselves without making a big stink about how dissatisfied we are with one another, leaves us to question whether or not our very young city is really ready to step up onto the global stage. There’s only so many years a city can ride on having hosted the lesser of the Olympics, no matter how many gold medals were won by locals. Only so many venues can close before the so-called ‘creative’ class finally throws in the towel and leaves everything to the mercy of developers, corrupt political parties and their sycophant friends. So since I’ve just returned from a five month stint in New York, I’ve been asked by the good people at Vancity Buzz to write up a piece comparing some of the finer points of life in both cities.” …
“Housing and Real Estate Development
I’m no expert when it comes to discussing the finer points of housing and real estate, however as someone who at this point can never even hope to think of one day dreaming about the mere thought of buying a property in or around Vancouver, it’s important to mention that many New Yorkers are in the same boat. I was warned that everything is much more expensive in NYC, but this isn’t true at all. If anything, prices for lodging are almost exactly the same. My trendy, 1500 square foot loft cost close to, if not slightly less, than what you’d end up paying here, which is about three grand per month. And just like here, it pays to have roommates.
There are always new development projects happening all over the city, with walk-ups and high rises popping up all over New York, like zits on a teenager’s chin, boasting deals “starting at only 500K!” The difference between there and here is less of a marketing push. Of course, there are the requisite flyers falling out of every free weekly, but I didn’t notice such an in-your-face attempt as Vancouver’s to get me to sign over the next 30 years of my wages in exchange for a tiny, poorly built shoebox in the sky. Nor did I see any buildings wanting to have sex with the handsome new 12 story about to go up just off Bedford. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t looking, or there was a lack of real estate focused billboards, I don’t recall.
New Yorkers, while dealing with various gentrifying forces, are less likely to complain about being priced out of their neighborhoods thanks to fairly rigorous rent control initiatives, which, like the subway, place the rich and poor side by side, often in the same building. Still, just like Vancouverites, there are grumblings among Gotham locals about everything going condo and being sold to absentee foreign investors. But boy did they have a laugh when I showed off CrackshackorMansion.com.” …
“Conclusion
If New York is a grand dame of the urban world, gaudy, spackled with lights and experienced in the ways of love and war, then Vancouver is like a naturally beautiful teenage girl: not sure of what she yet wants or what she’s capable of, only that she’s good looking enough to, for now, have her pick of suitors at the expense of those who really have her best interests at heart. …
All in all, these are two different places, with their own unique styles, so is it even really fair to compare the two? Well, if Vancouver wants to keep waving the world class flag, she’d better get used to being compared to those with a few hundred years experience, because beauty and access to a lot of natural resources can only take her so far.”

– from ‘A Tale of Two Cities: Vancouver vs. New York’, by Hipster Designer, VanCityBuzz, 6 Mar 2013 [hat-tip proteus]

“Talked to a Vancouver man who sold all his assets in Vancouver. He told me he bought a newer house in Arizona for $105K that has a renter that pays $850 a month.”

“I went to a real estate seminar in Phoenix and the prices to rent ratios were awesome for investors. Talked to a Vancouver man who sold all his assets in Vancouver. He told me he bought a newer house in Surprise Arizona for $105,000 that has a renter that pays $850 a month. I guess Canadians have higher incomes for higher price real estate.”
happy renter at greaterfool.ca 4 Mar 2013

High Paid Vancouver Workers Choosing To Live In The U.S. – “The cost of housing is four to five times what they are accustomed to; He did not want to move because he can have his $400,000 mansion in the U.S., versus getting a little home for $1-million in Vancouver; There are other really pretty places out there.”

Eric Murray is chief executive officer of growing clean-tech company Tantalus Systems, based in Burnaby, B.C. Mr. Murray, however, lives in Raleigh, N.C., where he owns a 3,500-square-foot house and puts his three kids through private school.

He is a Canadian, with several family members in Vancouver. But when his career trajectory sent him to Raleigh, he decided to stay put. Mr. Murray is one of a growing number of workers in the Lower Mainland who live in the U.S. You could call them cross-border jobbers.

“My father’s entire family is in Vancouver, so for our relationship, it would be great if I lived there,” he says in a phone interview. “But for me to pick up and move from Raleigh, where I have a fully wooded lot, and a very nice home, and I can send my kids to private school, this sort of stuff – to do that in Vancouver, I just can’t swing it economically. When we looked at this whole thing, we knew we would have to compromise on housing.

“Absolutely, I would live in Vancouver if I could afford it.”

Technology is the third-largest contributor to B.C.’s gross domestic product, says Bill Tam, president of the B.C. Technology Industry Association. He says there is demand for about 4,000 more employees in the industry, and the majority of qualified people come from the U.S.

“Especially in the Vancouver area, technology has been one of the faster growing industries,” he says. “So when companies have had to expand and recruit managers to come here from the U.S., some have relocated to places like Blaine, Wash., close enough to commute on a daily basis. That’s the level of creativity they’ve had to resort to.”

Others, he says, fly in from more distant U.S. locations, like Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray used to fly into Vancouver every other week. These days, he’s flying in every third week.

“When they come across and recognize the cost of housing is four to five times what they are accustomed to, they end up being commuters,” says Mr. Tam.

Sierra Wireless CEO Jason Cohenour, who was travelling and couldn’t be reached for comment, works in Burnaby and lives in the U.S. Tom Ligocki, CEO of Richmond-based Clevest, says he has several employees who live in a golf course community at Semiahmoo Resort, near Blaine. One of his engineers, Jeremy Westbrook, commutes from his home near Blaine to work in Richmond. It takes them about 30 to 40 minutes to make the drive.

“None of the folks in the U.S. want to move to Vancouver,” he says. “The simple example that I heard from one gentleman is that he did not want to move because he can have his $400,000 mansion in the U.S., versus getting a little home for $1-million in Vancouver.” …

“There’s no point in even talking about the Vancouver market. We are just talking to them about directly moving to the Semiahmoo resort,” he says, on the phone from a conference in New Orleans. “If you can’t bring them to Vancouver, that’s the only option we have.

“And they do certainly make very good wages,” he adds. “These are high-end experts that we are hiring.

“But all these folks are used to living in a house. They are used to American comforts, and they are well paid, and they can afford to have a nice luxury home wherever in the U.S.”

“I get into this discussion all the time with guys. Vancouver is great. The mountains and ocean are super. I get that. I would love to live there. I have a lot of family there. But I don’t see how the economics would work for a young person trying to do both of those things, unless they had a similar opportunity in another really pretty place.

“And I have been in a bunch of different countries and there are other really pretty places out there.”

- from ‘Some Vancouver workers have been priced right out of the country’, Kerry Gold, Globe and Mail, 22 Feb 2013 [hat-tip Aldus Huxtable]

Smart business people know: Vancouver RE is woefully overpriced.
– vreaa

“Where in the world would you pay $888,000 to live in this beauty?”

v988743_1

242 E 48th Ave, East Vancouver
2619 sqft
[really? -ed] Old-timer SFH, 33×140 lot
For Sale: Ask price $888,000

MLS®: V988743. Blurb: ‘Amazing property including legal basement suite. Some updating to electrical, and plumbing. Over 2600 sq ft of living space. Some hardwood floors, wood burning fireplace, newer deck, garage, 9 bedrooms [surely not! -ed.], 5 baths on 3 levels. ***close to all amenities and all levels of school including Langara College. All these on a great southern exposed, oversized lot. Well Priced,ASSESSED VALUE $865K.GREAT INVESTMENT WITH REVENUE POTENTIAL****NEEDS A LITTLE TLC’

Hat-tip to ‘Pretzels…thirsty’ for popping this example up in a recent thread and who added: “I think there should be an open web survey for this.
“Where in the world would you pay $888,000 to live in this beauty?”

This entire house looks like a bad basement.
One can only imagine the threat to one’s morale if you ended up an occupant of one of those 9 bedrooms.
– vreaa

South China Morning Post Headlines MAC Marketing Deceit – “Bogus Buyers”; “Scam”; “Teetering Market”; “Steadily Falling Prices”.

scmp
Supposed homebuyers Chris and Amanda Lee were exposed as employees of MAC Marketing Solutions in Vancouver [image and caption accompanying the SCMP article]

“A senior executive at a Vancouver marketing firm was forced to resign after employees of the company were caught posing as the daughters of rich Chinese property buyers in interviews with TV reporters.
The deception was intended to create the impression that Chinese buyers were still queuing up to buy into Vancouver’s teetering real estate market, which has long been fuelled by money from China and is now rated as the second least-affordable city in the world, behind Hong Kong, according to the Demographia consultancy.”

“The scandal erupted after a series of news reports this month, sourced to MAC Marketing, suggested that an influx of Chinese buyers would give the Vancouver property market a boost over the Lunar New Year period. That would have been in contrast to statistics from the local real estate board showing that prices have been steadily falling in Vancouver for the past eight months.”

“TV news crews at an open house for the new Maddox apartments in downtown Vancouver on February 9 were introduced to two buyers supposedly from China to support the notion of a Lunar New Year boost, who identified themselves as sisters Chris and Amanda Lee. In an interview with CTV, Chris Lee said: “I’m from China, and that is my sister, Amanda. So, we are looking for a place together.”
She told the reporter their parents were visiting Vancouver for Lunar New Year and were bankrolling the sisters’ purchase of an apartment. “So, if we like this place, we have to tell them and they make the decision. Yes, really, Chinese people like to buy at this time [Lunar New Year].”
A similar story was carried by CBC, featuring Chinese house hunters Chris and Amanda Lee.
Two days earlier, a story predicting a Lunar New Year boost in property sales was carried by The Vancouver Sun newspaper, quoting McNeill.
However, an anonymous local real estate blogger known as the Rainforest Whisperer last week questioned whether the sisters were authentic Chinese buyers, after another internet posting showed that an “Amanda Lee” worked for MAC on the Maddox project.”

“MAC was eventually forced to admit that both the “Lee sisters” were its employees, and that they weren’t even sisters. MAC hasn’t revealed the true identity of “Chris Lee”.
“We regret we did not do a better job at ensuring full transparency with those interviewed and apologise for any misunderstanding this may have caused,” MAC said last week.
McNeill told the newspaper : “I don’t know if it was an overzealous employee or if this happened in a formalised way.”
In announcing the resignation on Wednesday, McNeill refused to reveal the identity of the executive who quit.
“McNeill owes an explanation to the media [whom MAC duped], to the broader real estate community [whose reputation MAC has irrevocably damaged], and to the general public [the ultimate targets of this fraud],” the Rainforest Whisperer wrote.”

“The average price of a detached house in the core district of Vancouver West topped out at C$2.25 million (HK$17.13 million) last May. It has since fallen by more than 11 per cent.”

– from ‘Bogus buyers exposed in scam to boost property market in Vancouver’, South China Morning Post, 22 Feb 2013 [hat tip to numerous readers who alerted us to this via comments or e-mails]

The SCMP article carries some big messages, regardless of veracity:
1. The Vancouver RE market is falling.
2. Sellers are desperate enough to attempt subterfuge.
3. Buyer beware (moreso than usual).
This fiasco is turning out to be a spectacular back-fire for MAC Marketing and will quite probably have deleterious effects on the entire Vancouver RE industry.
Ongoing kudos to Whisperer for detecting the blatant deceit.
Regular readers know that we have always maintained that off-shore buyers of Vancouver RE, along with the vast majority of local buyers, have been buying on the premise of ever rising prices.
Now news is getting out that prices are falling.
And the knowledge of the seller desperation implied by this marketing deceit could have a more profound negative effect on buyer sentiment than any of us had initially guessed.
Do you see why we maintain that falling prices will beget falling prices?
– vreaa

Original story covered here:
CTV TV News Featured ‘Condo Buyers’ Actually Marketers Of Very Same Condos!
VREAA 13 Feb 2013

“Just came back from Miami. Quite shocked when I saw ok-looking houses go for $150K-$300K. I used to be the kind of guy who would not stop talking about BPOE, but my mindset has definitely changed recently.”

“Just came back from Miami, Florida, I was quite shocked when I saw ok-looking houses in Coral Gables that resembled what you see Commercial Dr to go for $150K-$300K. It’s 30 C degrees in February, city is not as nearly congested as Vancovuer is (hello North Shore), and in all honesty, there were much less signs of homelessness and poverty that you’ll see in your average lower mainland neighbourhood. … I used to be the kind of guy who would not stop talking about BPOE, but my mindset has definitely changed recently…”
Knight at VREAA 22 Feb 2013 9:02am

Thanks, Knight, for the story. If you like, tell us more about the mindset change.
Why should it change now? First time in Miami? Traveling changed your perspective? Economic comparisons?
Or something changing for you here in Vancouver? Has the stalling market influenced you?
– vreaa

“We’ve previously felt tied to Vancouver because of my six-figure salary, but lately we decided that we might just move anyway. Given the cheaper housing elsewhere, it might pay to take a pay cut.”

“It’s nice to see prices finally dropping, but at this point my wife and I don’t give a rats. We’ve decided to keep renting and stay mobile regardless of further drops.
We’ve previously felt tied to Vancouver because of my six-figure salary, but lately we decided that we might just move anyway. Given the cheaper housing elsewhere, it might pay to take a pay cut and live somewhere where it doesn’t rain most of the time. It won’t happen for a year or two until we get all our ducks in order, but we’re no longer committed to living in a sub-arctic rainforest. Life’s short, money isn’t everything, and there’s better places to live.”

betamax at greaterfool.ca 16 Feb 2013 5:43am

‘Martin From Richmond’ Update – “Prices are down more than 15%. Another thing worth considering is that 2013 is the Year of the Snake for those of Chinese ancestry.”

“Prices have dropped more than 15 per cent in one popular neighbourhood in Richmond.
Almost a year ago, a 2800 square foot, five bedroom three bath house sold in the Garden City area for $952,000, a bit above asking price in what was described as a cash sale that followed a bidding war between two interest parties.
Within the last week, another house, a 2400 square foot, three bath house on a similar-sized lot sold in the same neighbourhood for $805,000, below the asking price of $838,900 and even below assessed value.
In both cases, the homes didn’t need any work, and were move-in ready, updated, and well-designed.
The $147,000 drop in price works out to be a 15.4 per cent price drop in the area.
And I think it’s an indication that at least one home owner seriously considered “cashing out”, and ultimately did, and that others might do the same, if the real estate industry continues to grind to a halt.
Another thing worth considering is that 2013 is the Year of the Snake for those of Chinese ancestry.
A renowned Richmond fortune teller and feng shui expert predicts that the Year of the Snake will see profit margins slip, and said business will slow down
Whether you believe in Chinese astrology is not the point; considering the influence of foreign and mostly Chinese buyers on the price spikes since late in 2010, it’s whether this significant subset of deep-pocketed people believe it.
The fortune teller said 2013 will see a significant slow down, and said people will be more careful in spending their money.
As with my earlier “self fulfilling prophecy” comment, if Chinese investors really do believe that 2013 will be a slow year, that could influence their decisions, and in fact, result in a slow down. It all depends on if enough people are drinking the Kool-Aid.
But the fortune teller also noted that the “wealthy Chinese” are unlikely to liquidate their assets by taking low-ball offers, and will decide to rather sit on their properties, awaiting better times.
So, recent sales activity (according to the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board, January 2013 sales were the second lowest for that month since 2002) combined with the Chinese New Year, could further trigger prices to slide.
Something worth considering for those who are mullling over the possibility of re-entering the world of home ownership.”

– Martin from Richmond, via e-mail to VREAA, 6 Feb 2013

We don’t believe in astrology any more than we believe in leprechauns, but we do ‘believe’ in the fact that others believe in such things, and that those beliefs can influence herd behaviour.
A speculative mania is itself based on false beliefs.
– vreaa

“I am in LOVE with the natural beauty here, but I can’t find work! The more time goes on, the more sad, lonely, desperate and lost I feel in this city.”

“Wow, this is really defeating. I mean, I am in LOVE with the natural beauty here, but I can’t find work! it’s ridiculous! I live in Surrey and the job market seems horrendous. I’ve applied for about five months straight, and nothing. nada. it’s like you’ve got to be super cut throat to find that you’ve competed with hundreds of other sorry applicants. forget having credentials. really? this is sad. I want to believe that it’s possible to find a way to stay here, but the more time goes on, the more sad, lonely, desperate and lost I feel in this city…which feels absolutely awful as I left Toronto feeling the same way. What the hell kind of life are we supposed to live where your next meal is being paid by the service industry job that you abhor and can’t wait until you find your next soul sucking job? where are the JOBS other than the oil loving alberta? what the hell is wrong with this country?”
Tova at VREAA 2 Feb 2013

Now THAT Is A Laneway House

oWBlN

KTfWk

ePCDg

LtwLl

knp9A

UXwe4

71jEB

- found at http://imgur.com/a/ny4uA, by proteus (the poster with many names).

Somewhere in Europe, it seems.
Inexpensive, but sound workmanship. ($280K? We think not.)
Pleasant interior.
Non-leaking tiled roof.
Soul.
– vreaa

One Moving Company’s Inbound/Outbound Moves For BC 2012

inbound outbound
– Inbound and outbound moves by state or province, according to Atlas Vans’ annual U.S. and Canada moving trends map, as published at businessinsider.com 3 Jan 2013.
BC shows 269 outbound and 169 inbound moves for 2012.

Not Good For The School – “The chance of them coming here, even with a massive research budget, is basically close to zero becuase they can not afford the housing that they would be accustomed to for their life situation. If this city continues as it is for the next 20 years, we will have no more city.”

serpent-eating-tail

“I was at a party last night. Some interesting local celebs were there as well as some normal people (like me). One was a young professor from UBC. They are from out of town and are quite open to both renting and leaving town in the mid-term as it does not make sense to own here. They also commented that the University has had little success in attracting talent from outside Vancouver to fill top-level positions. Let’s say you want to hire a new dean of Science. You have found a 48-year-old who is at the top of the field, an amazing educator and researcher and who would be a trophy to have in the school. The chance of them coming here, even with a massive research budget, is basically close to zero becuase they can not afford the housing that they would be accustomed to for their life situation. Thus – most jobs are being filled internally now. Not good for the school.”
– from a comment by yvr2zrh at VCI 21 Dec 2012 4:36am

In the same comment, yvr2zrh also made the following interesting and archive-worthy statements:

Regarding market sentiment and activity:

1.) MOI for December will be the second worst in 15 years. We will likely hit 11. This is a really bad sign as we are typically quite low at the end of the year.
2.) Comparing to 2008, we are deteriorating now. For December, there are even pockets of Vancouver where we may see the December sales lower than December 2008. For November, we compared against November 2008, which is likely Vancouver’s worst month in history. We were up 90% against November 2008 in terms of unit sales but for December 2012, we are only going to be up about 35%.
3.) Van West Detached, Van East Attached and North Van are trending below 2008 lows.
4.) We are starting to see serious motivation in some sellers. Although we have the real estate board spewing out concepts such that sellers will collude to restrict supply to keep prices high, this just does not affect the market. We have a free and open market with 10,000′s of market participants. You will have a lower supply when prices are weak but this will not counteracy the downward forces of the market.

Regarding Carney’s housing allowance in London:

As someone who has worked around the world for over 10 years and who knows many of the housing situations for executives in Central London, I am not surprised or shocked at the alllowance and what this will allow him to get will be nice but not outrageous for someone of his level. In London, for $20,000 per month, you can get a decent apartment for an executive family. Remember that he will keep his house in Canada and only move there temporarily. Thus, he will need to pay out of his own pocket, extra rent, which when paid for by the BOE is taxed. Thus, a 400,000 annual allowance will basically be enough for him to get a 2,400 sq ft apartment in the city of London in which he can live and possibly use for typical entertaining.
That being said – if UBC were to hire a professor to come here on a permanent basis, in order to make them whole on housing, you would likely need to offer a 1.5 million signing bonus, which would be taxed, and from which they would have enough to get into the housing market at the level which they are accustomed to. If this city continues as it is for the next 20 years, we will have no more city.

“We live in Vancouver and it’s all we can afford” – “As though living in Vancouver and having no money go hand-in-hand”

“Have had a listing on Craigslist for almost a month to sell a nice quality baby car seat. Finally got an offer last night, 50% below asking because “We live in Vancouver and it’s all we can afford.” I put obo on the thing and I don’t care why you’re making the offer you are, but I just thought that was interesting, as though living in Vancouver and having no money go hand-in-hand, it’s a given that you have no money.”
Angela at greaterfool.ca 29 Nov 2012 12:24am

Baloney Budgets – “I understand you’re trying to make Vancouver look like a place people would want to live. Every one of these case studies is misleading, and you are doing people a disservice by offering them as accurate.”

“Every one of these case studies is misleading, and you are doing people a disservice by offering them as accurate. I understand you’re trying to make Vancouver look like a place people would want to live (and therefore make money off assisting them with their relocation), but please exercise some ethical restraint. 1) There is nowhere in Kits Allison can buy a month’s worth of groceries for $170, unless she’s living off of plain oatmeal and carrots. Shopping at IGA, Safeway or Choices could easily run a person $100 per week, not including much protein, and she can forget the occasional bottle of wine. 2) Gerald is spending almost 50% too much on his apartment. Back before people thought of housing as a place to sleep instead of one more status symbol, the lender rule was no more than 28% of your gross salary should go towards housing. His $36k/year is $3000/month; 28% of that is $840, so his $1225 rent is $385 too high. An actual financial planner would tell you the same thing. But since he can’t rent a studio in Coal Harbour (or maybe anywhere in Vancouver) for $840, he’d be stuck in a basement suite in Dunbar or Kits. Do any of your prospective clients know how much of the city lives in someone else’s basement? Also, what about paying off his student loans, or did he luck into rich parents? 3) You have not factored in the impact of interest rates returning to their long-term norm of about 7% (never mind the rate reset they’ll face in a few years, courtesy of the bank). What does that do to Mara and Jeff’s mortgage amount? Also, where are these people eating out so cheaply? A nice dinner plus wine four times per month at the listed total means their final bill with tip is $60 every week. Please show me a restaurant where a couple can get a “nice dinner” including a bottle of good wine for $52 including tax; I’d like to go there. Do they have any existing debt to service? 4) Same interest rate problem as Mara and Jeff. Misleading people as to the actual costs of living in this city helps no one but yourselves.”
– Dan, commenting below an article at 2vancouver.com titled ‘Vancouver Money and Budgets: A few case studies’ [23 Nov 2012], that sketches out proposed budgets for people in Vancouver in 4 different situations. As Dan points out, the budgets have elements of fantasy about them. [hat-tip to VCI; posted here for the record.]

It’s expensive to live in this city, largely because of costs associated with accommodation. This is very, very bad for Vancouver: It forces young people away, and diverts resources from other areas of the economy. We’d bet that relocation companies like ‘2vancouver.com’ have some relevant stories they could tell. – vreaa

Sad, Young, Inquiring Minds Want To Know: “Could someone explain why Canadian housing prices have gone up so much in the last few decades? Why are houses not being built to meet the demand and keep the prices in line with inflation?”

From ‘As a young Canadian, the current real estate market makes me sad. What is your view?’ a thread at reddit.com started 24 Nov 2012. [hat-tip poster_with_many_handles]

“I was born and raised in Canada and as a young adult, I want to be able to start a family and buy farm property in Alberta, not too far from a major city. However, the current real estate market makes this dream rather hopeless unless I want to owe my life to a bank, if I can even qualify for the massive loan I would require. I am curious what other people’s view is on real estate in Canada?” – slowbreeze

“I live in Toronto and I’m probably never going to be able to afford a house if I also want kids.” – Mun-Mun

“Could someone explain why housing prices have gone up so much in the last few decades? Why are houses not being built to meet the demand and keep the prices in line with inflation?” – wugitor
[EXCELLENT questions. Watch how your college economics professor tries to squirm out from under those. Housing costs in Canada should rise at the rate of inflation (more specifically, wage inflation). Period. Speculative manias distort from that, but the effects will be temporary. -ed.]

“My dad and I have the same career (dentist). He bought his 4-bedroom, detached Toronto home in 1979 at the age of 26. This house is now worth in excess of $1,000,000. Imagine a 26 year old buying such a house now! I am 29, and despite having the same career I am unable to afford a home, let alone a detached house. The times they have changed.” – Ostracized

“I just bought a very nice recently renovated tri level split in my city in the nice part for 160k, granted I live in a small city of about 80 thousand, and it isn’t as exciting as Toronto or whatever, but I paid 20% down, and have very small mortgage payments, I make a decent living and have quite a bit of disposable income. I travel at least twice a year and generally buy things I need. I think it all depends on where you live. Live somewhere smaller and you can get a lot for your money.” – PartyMark

“Move to Windsor Ontario. Houses for $50-150k. (And more). I lived in Toronto, moved to Windsor because paying $250k for a condo, or $350-$550 for a starter home is absurd. I bought a 4 bedroom, 2 bath w/pool for $130k.
I would never move out west or to a big city… It is obvious that average Canadians can’t afford to pay off a $500k mortgage. They are just hoping to sell for a profit. Someone is going to be left holding that bag… And it isn’t going to be me.”
– Bortology

Bortology said: “It is obvious that average Canadians can’t afford to pay off a $500k mortgage. They are just hoping to sell for a profit. Someone is going to be left holding that bag… And it isn’t going to be me.”
Amen.
Sensible young chap.
– vreaa

The Post-2009 Global Housing Bubble – “$1,050,000 will only buy a tiny house that is merely “livable” in Vancouver, where median real-estate prices are an astounding 9.5 times median household income.”

“After the cataclysmic mid-2000s housing bubbles in the U.S. and European PIIGS nations, one would think that the world would never allow another housing bubble to rear its ugly head again. Unfortunately, this thinking is completely wrong. Since 2008, the world has openly embraced new housing bubbles with astounding vigor in complete defiance of all lessons taught by the Global Financial Crisis.” …

[Amongst accounts of about 16 RE bubbles, the following:]
“Canada’s Housing Bubble
Canada is experiencing a classic bubble economy that is driven by a commodities export boom (which is part of the commodities bubble) a massive housing bubble that is larger than the U.S. housing bubble was at its peak, a consumer debt bubble and global “hot-money” investment inflows.
Canada’s bubble economy is driving a U.S. export boom that has helped the U.S. economy recover from the Great Recession – this is just one of the many reasons why the U.S.’ recovery is actually a “bubblecovery.”
Canada’s housing bubble is now nearly 40% larger than America’s bubble at its 2005 peak. Price-to-rent ratios, a common real estate valuation measure, are flashing clear warning signs of a bubble as well. Even the IMF is warning of a Canadian housing bubble (but seems to understate the extent of the bubble and its risks as “official” organizations tend to do).
Vancouver homes are now pricier than NYC homes, thanks partly to Chinese investors. $1,050,000 will only buy a tiny house that is merely “livable” in Vancouver, where median real-estate prices are an astounding 9.5 times median household income.” …

“The world is experiencing a massive Post-2009 Housing Bubble that will pop and finish where the U.S. and PIIGS housing bubbles left off in 2008. The global economy has “recovered” from the Great Recession on the backs of more housing bubbles – this is why I call the recovery a “bubblecovery.” Believe it or not, the Post-2009 Global Housing Bubble has the potential to grow larger due to global central banks’ incredibly stimulative monetary policies that have been implemented as a response to the Global Financial Crisis. When this epic pan-country housing bubble finally pops, it could conceivably throw the world into a devastating depression.”

- from The Post-2009 Global Housing Bubble or Housing Bubble 2.0, Jesse Colombo, at Stock Market Crash!, undated article

Berlin’s ‘Bubble’?


“Prices have risen, for residential properties, by almost a third, in the past five years.
In fact, George Soros has warned of a property bubble…
Not the view of the local real estate agents…
Apartments yield an average of 5 to 5.5%.”

– from ‘Could Berlin Be In A Property Bubble?’, Bloomberg, 28 Oct 2012

In Vancouver, we know that prices have to double or treble, and yields have to reach real-negative numbers, before you can really boast of having a bubble. What’s German for ‘wussy’? Try harder, Berlin.
– vreaa

Cost To Rent A Luxury Two Bedroom Unfurnished Apartment In Desirable High Income Cities, And In Vancouver

- from ‘Sticker shock: Cost of living varies widely’, Mercer, 9 July 2012 [hat-tip clive]

Vancouver rents are pretty much in line with incomes; RE prices aren’t, yet.
– vreaa

Sitting With Equity And Eager To Use It – “They purchased the three-unit brownstone, in the up-and-coming area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, for $725K, by re-mortgaging their Vancouver house for around 80 per cent of its value.”

“Meet Rodney Hynes and Thomas Hunt, Vancouver owners of a new brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“We’d like to thank the over-priced Vancouver real estate market for making it possible,” says Mr. Hynes, dryly.
Mr. Hynes, who works for Aboriginal Affairs, bought a home on Vancouver’s east side with Mr. Hunt, a TV producer, nine years ago. They purchased the house, which needed a $200,000 renovation, for $268,000. According to a recent appraisal, it’s worth $850,000.
They purchased the three-unit brownstone, in the up-and-coming area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, for $725,000 (U.S.), by re-mortgaging their Vancouver house for around 80 per cent of its value. Because the Brooklyn property will bring in rental revenue of $7,000 U.S., their mortgage and other expenses will be more than covered.

Full disclosure: I’ve known these guys through friends and media connections for a number of years. They are a perfect example of Vancouver buyers who were initially reluctant to jump into the market, but once in, soon embraced the seemingly endless ride, as, year after year, the value of their home climbed. They were smart, or lucky enough, not to lock into a five-year rate, but instead went with a variable rate so low that they rapidly paid down a hefty chunk of their principal. It meant they were sitting with a lot of equity, and they became eager to use it towards another purchase.

You won’t hear the Suze Ormans of the world advising consumers to mortgage one’s home to the max. Most every money expert will tell the average middle-income earner to pay down the mortgage, not borrow further on it.

Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt had almost paid off their Vancouver home but chose to mortgage it to the max so they could own the brownstone clear title. I spoke to a few Century 21 realtors in Vancouver and Toronto who help clients liaise with realtors south of the border, so they can work their way into the U.S. market. When I ran the idea of maxing one’s mortgage to make a U.S. purchase possible, the realtors weren’t so sure they’d personally go that far.

Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt say they have already endured shocked reactions from friends, of the “are you crazy?” variety. But the couple regularly travel to New York, and one day, when they’ve paid down the mortgage, they will reserve one of the small suites for themselves, as a pied-à-terre.

“Canadians are very conservative, especially around matters of money,” says Mr. Hynes.

Says Mr. Hunt: “What’s interesting is when you go to New York and you’re doing what we’re doing, you see it’s as normal as can be. There are people from all around the world purchasing real estate, and being entrepreneurial about it.

“We’re not worried.”

Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt aren’t alone in their quest for U.S. real estate. Overall, foreign purchases of U.S. properties have gone up 24 per cent in the last year, according to a recently released report by the American National Association of Realtors (NAR). Canadians are, by far, the greediest buyers. We account for 24 per cent of the foreign sales stateside in the last year. Meanwhile, the second-biggest buyer, China, is responsible for 11 per cent of sales. Toronto realtor Paul Indrigo said he relies on such stats to help Canadians find properties in popular hot spots in Florida, California and Arizona.

But it’s not a straightforward process, purchasing an American investment or holiday property that’s nowhere close to home.

If Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt want to renovate, which they do, their property management company will have to hire contractors. To do the work themselves would require a work visa. As well, non-residents of the U.S. are expected to pay a 30 per cent withholding tax on gross rental income – unless, of course, they find an accountant who can help them file the forms that will save them from having to take such a hit. Fortunately, there are local accounting firms who’ve become expert in U.S. tax laws and one of them, a Surrey firm, helped guide the way for Mr. Hynes and Mr. Hunt.

“There will be challenges every step of the way,” says Mr. Hunt. “Taxes are huge. Expenses are really high. Insurance is high. Water has to be paid for separately. We have to budget for maintenance.”

And the vacancy rate isn’t the same as Vancouver, adds Mr. Hynes. In an up-and-coming neighbourhood like Bed-Stuy, they say demand is so much lower that people might not show up for an open house on a rainy day.

However, compared to Vancouver, the New York market is a breeze, says Mr. Hunt.

“We spent two years looking for a house in Vancouver, and the fact that we survived a sellers’ market here meant we didn’t freak out about the New York purchase.

“The market in Vancouver was way more intense.”

‘Going all in: Canucks max out their mortgage to buy in Brooklyn’ Kerry Gold, The Globe and Mail, Oct. 19 2012 [hat-tip Jack]

So, this couple paid $468K ($268K purchase, plus $200K renos) for a house that now has an appraised value of $850K.
This means they could have liquidated their RE for a profit of about $382K (minus commissions and fees etc).
Instead of doing that, or of being content with having a paid off home in desirable Vancouver, they decide to go ‘all-in’ real estate, with leverage.
They borrow 80% of the current value of the East side property ($680K), and purchase the $725K US property.
Thus, by our very rough math:
Value of RE carried:
East side $850K + Brownstone $725K = $1.575M
Mortgages:
Eastside $680K + Brownstone $45K = $725K
(Is it also fair to assume that, because this couple paid down their mortgage rapidly, and because they required a 80% HELOC to purchase the US property, that they don’t have much else in the way of savings/investments?)
Thus they are very likely leveraged RE:net-worth at about 2:1.
Overall, this looks like a situation where a household is overextended into RE and very vulnerable to RE weakness ahead.
On their side, they likely purchased the US property at a reasonable value, and it is currently cash-flow-positive.
The US housing market may have bottomed, but quite possibly not; the Vancouver RE market has only now begun to descend.
– vreaa

“Just came back from Portland, Oregon. One heck of a beautiful place. $250K-$300K for a lovely home. Drive up to Vancouver, pay 5x more for a house. Makes perfect sense, right?”

“Just came back from Oregon. Portland is one heck of a beautiful place.
Houses? $250-$300 for lovely home.
Coast. Fishing. Skiing. Hiking. Hunting. Motorcycling. All close. Drive south to CA for beach long weekends. Drive up to Vancouver, pay 5x more for a house. Makes perfect sense, right?”

Sebee at greaterfool.ca 16 Oct 2012 1:03pm

HuffPost – Vancouver ‘No Fun City’ – “Ludicrously expensive housing prices…”

“There’s the ludicrously expensive housing prices downtown and shortage of young professionals…”
– from Welcome To Vancouver: ‘No Fun City’, Mitch Moxley, Huffington Post, 5 Oct 2012

Headlined largely for the description of the housing prices.
Read the whole article. 867 Comments, and counting.
Also see our own post on this ‘issue': “What’s REALLY Good About Vancouver?”, 14 May 2012
– vreaa

The Mayor – “When mortgage and rental costs eat up the discretionary income of a large swath of our population, it depresses spending in the local economy. When our communities start losing young families and seniors on fixed incomes, we lose vitality and a sense of generational continuity. Unaffordable housing is damaging Vancouver’s community fibre.”


“…each street will be about this wide…”

“Nearly every day since I became mayor, I’ve heard from family after family and business owner after business owner about how the high cost of living impacts their lives.
One day, it might be a young couple whose second child is on the way, and who’ve decided it’s time to buy a home. And they’ve come to the conclusion they simply can’t do it in Vancouver’s housing market, and they’re planning to move to the Fraser Valley.
The next day it might be a senior, someone who can tell me the names of the families who’ve lived on their block going back half a century … but with a fixed income he just can’t afford to stay in his neighbourhood.
I’ve spoken to people in deep distress because they hold down three jobs and it’s still not enough to make rent. I’ve talked to owners of major companies who can’t fill positions because their workforce is leaving the city for somewhere more affordable.
And I lost count a long time ago of the number of people who just laugh off the idea of ever owning a home here.
The lack of affordability imposes a burden on everyone. When mortgage and rental costs eat up the discretionary income of a large swath of our population, it depresses spending in the local economy. When our communities start losing young families and seniors on fixed incomes, we lose vitality and a sense of generational continuity.”

– from ‘Unaffordable housing is damaging Vancouver’s community fibre’, by Mayor Gregor Robertson, Vancouver Sun, 8 Oct 2012

Bingo!
Interesting that anyone is capable of writing anything at all about Vancouver housing without mentioning the pachyderm squatting on the coffee table: the speculative mania, the bubble, preposterously overvalued homes; whatever you want to call it. Homes are overpriced by a factor of two or three.
Let’s wait and see what happens to affordability once home prices drop to the vague vicinity of those determined by economic fundamentals. There will still be challenges, but they’ll be very different from the ones that people are pretending to try to solve now.
– vreaa

“The housing situation in the Lower Mainland is out of control and has been for some time. Heck, in Regina you could buy two houses and still be way ahead of where you’d be in Vancouver.”

“The housing situation in the Lower Mainland is out of control and has been for some time.” …
“Vancouver’s median house price was $678,500. Median income was $63,800.
If you can put up with harsh winters, other western cities offer far better value.
In Calgary, median income is $91,499 while the median price of a roof over your head is $353,700.
In Regina, the house price is $244,000 while median income is $74,200, still higher than that of Vancouver. Heck, in Regina you could buy two houses and still be way ahead of where you’d be in Vancouver.
A Royal Bank report on Canadian housing affordability on Monday warned: “Affordability measures for the Vancouver area … are inching ever closer to the worst levels in the annals of Canadian real estate.”

– from ‘Jobs and affordable housing draw young people, families away from B.C.’, Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver Sun, 4 Sep 2012

Noted for being in the Vancouver Sun.
BTW, we’re not sure if we’ll be able to continue to link articles from the Sun: they have announced they will begin to charge for access to online content. The editor stated [22 Aug 2012]: “A growing number of major newspapers around the world, including the New York Times and London’s Times and Guardian, have adopted pay models for digital content. Today, The Sun follows suit.”
This reminds one of the commercial landlords on Robson waiting (with empty stores, it should be noted) for “Rodeo Drive and Park Avenue” rents.
– vreaa

“I am a boomer, I see the problems that high housing prices are causing for the younger generation. I have two children; one challenged with a large mortgage, another priced out of the Vancouver market.”

“Yesterday while visiting friends and family, I started to talk about the price of Real Estate and how I see it affecting the younger generation.
Let me first say, I am of the boomer generation, I see the problems that high prices for housing is causing the younger generation. After all, I have two children of my own and see the problems that they are dealing with. One family challenged with a large mortgage, another one of my children priced out of the Vancouver market.
Now back to the conversation, I stated that the prices were out of reach for the normal working family and a family member made the argument that it was all relevant. He claims that prices of houses for his parents were cheaper than he bought and when he bought his first home he was making $300 a month.
True, he was making that money back in 1966, but in that same time period my father was making $70 a week and bought five acres and a two bedroom home for $9800. If we round that up to $300 it would have taken my father less than three years of work to purchase that home.
Two years ago, I looked at the same property, it now was selling for over $800,000. My son is in the $40,000 dollar range, like most people that is an average wage, it would take him 20 years of work to purchase the same property.
Wages have not kept up to inflation, let alone the cost of housing. This is going to cause the housing market to stagnate and if the young generation are lucky, prices will fall. There is some sign of that happening now in Vancouver.”

– from ‘House Prices and Young Folk’, by ‘RA’ (a ‘Retired British Columbian’) at their blog ‘Voice of the Wet Coast, 28 Aug 2012

Someone Sipped A Latte In The Rain – “I was staying with my aunt and uncle in their $2 million tear down. The city has no industry other than renovating or demolishing and building houses. Such a funny place.”

“Just got back from Dampcouver. Such a funny place . . . was staying with my aunt and uncle in their $2 million tear down. The city has no industry other than renovating or demolishing and building houses. Beyond that is seems like a pricey adult theme park . . . and tourism has such high paying jobs. Funny thing is you sometimes have 7 for sale signs in a row even in the ritzier areas. Guess there must be something special about sipping lattes in the rain.”
bsallergy at greaterfool.ca 24 Aug 2012 10:58pm

Move here. Buy some RE. Then you’ll understand.
– vreaa

“Shows much larger than the square footage” – “That’s good, because at 508 square feet, this place is only slightly larger than some of the bedrooms available in similarly-priced houses in other markets.”

“Vancouver — $688 Per Square Foot
This one-bedroom, one-bathroom corner unit in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood “shows much larger than the square footage,” the realtor boasts. That’s good, because at 508 square feet, this place is only slightly larger than some of the bedrooms and living rooms available in similarly-priced houses in other markets. The condo boasts “gorgeous mountain views,” but it’ll cost you — $688 per square foot.”

– from ‘What $350K Will Buy You In These Canadian Markets’ slideshow, Huffington Post Canada, 24 Aug 2012

“We have decided, again, not to buy this year. Been the same since 2007.”

“We have decided, again, not to buy this year. Been the same since 2007. But we are going to move to either Bowen Island or Squamish to rent while the wee ones are still at home. Looking at a nice place on Bowen that was just taken off the market – absolutely gorgeous house listed at $599K that is renting for $1800. By my math that’s a monthly price:rent of 333 or 27.7 annualized.”
ArthurFonzarelli at VCI 21 Aug 2012 10:58am

“Young people are leaving B.C. for other provinces at the fastest rate in years, raising concerns about a sputtering economy and unaffordable housing.”

“BC stats from January to March show more than 2,500 have uprooted and left.
Both economists and folks who live here blame the economy, housing affordability, and the high cost of living in BC.
A woman we spoke with isn’t shocked by the mass exodus earlier this year. “No, it’s not surprising at all. I was actually thinking of doing that myself, especially towards the US; you get way bigger houses [in the States] for a small amount.”
One man tells us he’s done it before and could do it again.”
[Leave twice?! -ed.]
‘Thousands of people leaving BC for other provinces: Some Vancouverites not surprised, blaming jobs and expensive housing’, news1130.com, 16 Aug 2012 [hat-tip RESkeptic]

“Young people are leaving B.C. for other provinces at the fastest rate in years, raising concerns about a sputtering economy and unaffordable housing.
The latest numbers from B.C. Stats show that from January to March this year, 2,554 people left B.C. for other provinces. That’s an alarming jump that continues a negative trend started in 2011, when B.C. logged a net migration loss interprovincially of 1,920.
In an interview Wednesday Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central Credit Union 1, said B.C.’s negative migration “seems to be accelerating.”
Pastrick said those leaving B.C tend to be young people looking for better employment opportunities, but there also could be a “push and pull” factor of younger families seeking both better jobs and more affordable homes in other provinces. …
B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix said interprovincial migration is “complicated” and B.C.’s negative trend covers a short period, so he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions.
But housing affordability and B.C.’s habit of exporting raw resources without developing manufacturing jobs are likely culprits, he said.
“If this trend continues in the coming quarters it is not good for the economy or the government’s record,” Dix said. “We have to focus on making things and manufacturing in a consistent way, and training our [workforce].”
B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon was not available for an interview for this story.”

– from ‘Young people fleeing B.C. in big numbers: Are bad economy and pricey housing to blame?’, The Province, 16 Aug 2012

For dozens of other stories in this vein, see the ‘Avoiding Vancouver‘ sidebar category.
The bubble has been bad for our society.
– vreaa

“There are over 5,000 homes in Vancouver for sale for over $1 million. In comparison, in April, just over 7,000 homes sold in the entire US (135 times the population) for over $1 million.”

“There are currently over 5,000 homes in Vancouver metro area for sale for over $1 million according to MLS.ca. In comparison, the NAR reports that in April, just over 7,000 homes sold in the entire US were sold for over $1 million. And this despite the fact that the US population is 135X greater than the metro Vancouver market, the average personal disposable income in the US is 20% higher than the Vancouver average ($37,100 vs. $30,800) while US per capita GDP is higher than the average for all of BC.”
– from Vancouver housing in full correction mode: Implications for Canadian banks, Ben Rabidoux, The Economic Analyst, 3 Aug 2012

Truly remarkable. Thanks to Ben for that insight.
– vreaa

“We will buy a house in Spain in 2014. We would be happy to pay $150K Canadian for a detatched Villa with Ocean views and a pool. I have to disagree with the predictions for a housing crash here in Vancouver.”

“I’m waiting to buy a house in Spain. A country house 5 to 20 K away from the drab concrete settings of the coast. I used to live in Gibraltar in the mid 80s when the Costa Del Sol was pretty much sand dunes and an acre of waterfront was $40,000.
We will buy in 2014 which is when we would be happy to pay $150K Canadian for a detatched Villa with Ocean views and a pool. I have no idea if the market would be at the bottom then but that is one hell of a deal and we would be very happy to purchase at that price. We have duel Citizenship .
I have to disagree with the comments about a housing crash here in Vancouver.
It’s pretty solid on all fronts. There may be a level or even a 10% correction but there will be no crash.
I used to think there would be a crash (since 2004) but after much thought I became aware that as crappy as Vancouver is during the winter etc its still the warmest and most interesting place in the entire country to live. Our banking system is tight. Commodities + resources are in abundance.
Canada is rocking on the business front as is evident in the real estate prices across the country. If you have cash its a very safe country to bring your treasure to.
It’s just not comparable to Spains economic woes and the parallel is stretching it a bit.”

– comment by ‘a different fred’* at VREAA 29 Jul 2012 3:50pm [*'fred' is not the same fred who posts many trollish comments. ed.]

Seeking Value In RE… And Other Spheres – “When my PhD is done, I’ll be more than happy to shake the dirt of Vancouver off of my shoes. Pretty much any other city I go to in North America has either a lower cost of living or better job opportunities or both.”

“Most of the new UBC profs I know live in tiny sky boxes, an hour commute out in the suburbs, or are up to their ears in debt. Remember that years of grad school followed by a half-decade of post-docing leaves them with very little savings. Either mortgage up or buy small and/or far out, because you don’t have a damn thing for down payment.
Honestly, when my PhD is done, I’ll be more than happy to shake the dirt of Vancouver off of my shoes. Pretty much any other city I go to in North America has either a lower cost of living or better job opportunities or both. The only way I lose as a trained scientist is by staying in the lower mainland. This is the sentiment amongst pretty much every other grad student I know who doesn’t buy in to the “best place on earth” dogma.
Vancouver has become a place where young people piss away their 20s in pseudoretirement and student debt and a resort town for the pacific rim economic elite and babyboomers who bought property pre-2001.”

“I’ve seen a few professors trade up in the real estate market after being in Vancouver for several years. This usually was because they were able to buy a place in East Van, Kits, or Dunbar pre-2004 and trade up as the market got over heated in combination with their income plus the spouse’s… I also know of one person who related the market to a E. coli growth curve and pointed out that we’re hitting plateau phase right now as all economic nutrients have been used up and got the hell out at the peak. Maybe luck, maybe real foresight.”
‘UBCghettodweller’ at VREAA 17 Jul 2012 8:55am and 2:11pm

“As a highly trained specialist, it usually makes sense to go where your skills are valued and appreciated, and you can be financially rewarded for having those skills. It is difficult to argue that Vancouver abounds in such opportunities for highly trained scientists (there are exceptions, e.g., geologists and forestry-related scientists).”
‘Anonymous UBC Professor’ at VREAA 17 Jul 2012 9:39am

“I stuck it out as a postdoc for a few years and then, adios! And I’ll tell you, I’ve never looked back (although I visit from time-to-time… mainly just to remind me why I’m gone).”
E.G. at VREAA at 17 Jul 2012 4:28pm

“I have a sister-in-law who graduated form UBC with a PhD in BioChem. just a few years ago. She would have happily stayed in Vancouver, actually she would have happily moved anywhere she had to, for a post-doc or tenure-track position. RE was not an issue, simply landing a good job was #1. My understanding is faculty positions are difficult to come by. A good friend of mine with a new doctorate was just offered a position at UPEI and he is extremely happy, again RE not a factor, just getting an offer was the trick. I sometimes wonder if we place too much weight on the significance of Vancouver RE in regards to career, especially in the early years. After all, renting is always a great option, even for professionals. Regardless, my sister-in-law landed at Stanford, and rents.”
Allen at VREAA 17 Jul 2012 11:14am

“The phenomenon isn’t restricted to Vancouver (albeit, Vancouver’s RE market distortions arguably exacerbate it)…
Here’s a timely piece from NewsWeek’s Joel Kotkin on ‘GenerationScrewed’ that addresses those themes.”

Nemesis at VREAA 17 Jul 2012 1:20pm

“Perish the thought there are vast expanses of undeveloped land in North America, ripe for the picking. Areas of California, once deserts and groves, turned into some of the most progressive areas on the planet over the past 40 years.
The “generation screwed” needs to figure out other methods of getting what it wants. Muscling in on the previous generation’s territory is likely going to meet with resistance. From that perspective it should be no surprise apartments are becoming smaller.”

jesse at VREAA 17 Jul 2012 3:24pm

Wise people take advantage of resources that are irrationally undervalued, rather than getting in line to compete with the herd for resources that are irrationally overvalued.
– vreaa

“I moved to Vancouver in 2008 and despite being able to purchase, have held off due to the insane RE market. For now, I will continue to rent.”

“I moved to Vancouver in 2008 and despite being able to purchase, have held off due to the insane RE market. I rent a large beautiful home with a pool in the Dunbar area. Landscaping and pool maintennace are included in the rent, so needless to say, I have a very nice life style here. For now, I will continue to rent. If I ever consider purchasing a house here, I will offer well below market value. For now, I am having too much fun and can’t be bothered to look at the crappy homes listed for so much money.
The reason that I came to Vancouver is that my two children are attending UBC. They are now close to graduating and will likely have to leave Vancouver for a place with a more reasonable cost of living/RE. I will likely leave as well so that I will be in a better position to help them financially. This is too bad, as I like Vancouver, the people and lifestyle. I am afraid that many people are going to be seriously hurt by the artificial RE market here and will end up losing everything or become slaves to the bank for the rest of their lives.”

– DR, via two e-mails to VREAA, 24 Jun and 2 Jul 2012

Musing About Living Elsewhere – “Vancouver is nice, but it sure ain’t worth the cost.”

“I’m originally from here but moved away to study. Came back with a wife and a professional degree this past December. Between the two of us (both healthcare professionals) we make far more than the average family in Vancouver. However, we think of leaving every day due to the cost of housing. It’s a constant debate. I’m not sure how much longer we will hang around. We “could” buy a house if we felt the need but the fundamentals are just ridiculous – this can’t go on forever. Since I arrived our department has lost two colleagues to the high cost of living in Vancouver.
My wife is from Edmonton where we could get higher paying jobs, lower cost of living and cheaper real estate. Then again we’d be in Edmonton.”

EST at VREAA 1 Jun 2012 11:17pm

“If our families weren’t here I suspect that both of us would be more inclined to pick up and leave. The second component is the fact that the rest of Canada is not extremely desirable – to us. You have Calgary,Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Hardly a plethora of choices, and all come with punishing winters.
Often these days I find myself in envy of our Southern neighbours. While things are certainly not all rosy down there, the US remains the land of opportunity for those willing to seek it. Add to that the amazing variety of locales to live in, and constantly decreasing costs of living and it makes it exceedingly difficult to want to stay in Vancouver. Too bad that for the majority of us living in the US is nothing but a pipe dream, myself included.”

Burt at VREAA 2 Jun 2012 9:05pm

“I moved away a little more than a year ago. My preconceived notions of how much I would miss Vancouver turned out to be nothing like reality. Sure I miss my good friends and family that live there, but everytime I go to visit I’m so glad to leave and return home. Vancouver is nice, but it sure ain’t worth the cost.”
Escapee at VCI 6 Jun 2012 9:20pm

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous, Cheap By Vancouver Standards

7039 Senalda Rd, LA
3,535sqft SFH, 10,308sqft lot, 4Bed/5Bath
Ask Price: $1,995,000

The Vancouver Sun today featured the fact that ‘TV’s Dexter puts ultra-cool L.A. home on the market’, with no less than 20 photos of the house (samples above). This kind of celebrity-housing porn is usually designed to induce gasps of awe at both the property and the price tag. We’ll bet that only in Vancouver does the average citizen, when viewing pictures of this $2M-ask property, respond “Hmmm, not bad; pretty good deal!”.
– vreaa

Obligatory Vancouver same-price property comparison:

4632 W 11th Ave, Vancouver Westside
2,362sqft SFH, 46x122lot
Ask Price $1,998,000

“I work in the software industry. I’m preparing to move away. Other high tech employees with the skills and talent to get better work opportunities elsewhere are leaving the company due to the stupid cost of living here.”

“I’m one of those so called bitter renters. I have chosen to rent because I believe that living close to work is important for family health reasons. Our household is also loosely budgeted with the idea that the wife can stay home if she chooses. As we have a young child now, she is choosing to do that for the near future.
An opportunity came up at work for a company transfer to the US of A. Company transfers are pretty sweet. Most expenses are covered. Moving to a state with 0% state income tax, and homes cost oh, 75% less than they do here.
It’s a tough decision, lol. But you know, sacrifices have to be made.
I work in the software industry, and as I’m preparing to move away, I’ve been in informal discussions with some of the higher ups in my company, and in the discussions I’ve heard that other high tech employees are leaving the company (and the lower mainland) due to the stupid cost of living here. These are the shining star employees that are fleeing, as they are the ones with the skills and talent to get better work opportunities elsewhere.
Just in regular meetings, it’s come up with the upper level management, that the housing in vancouver is just CRAZY, and they worry for their children’s futures. Not only do they consider the housing to be CRAZY, but the also point out that salaries are out-of-proportion low. (Those two are likely related.) Also other general feelings that commutes are taking longer. Commutes from white rock to richmond used to be 30 minutes outside of rush hour, but in the past few years, it’s consistently been 45 minutes instead. (outside of rush hour)
VREAA I know you’re reading this, and I’d likely be interested in contributing to a series about my experiences in this new place outside of the ‘Best Place on Earth’, if you deem my writing style and content worthy of publishing.
In any case, after waiting so long and quite a large amount of marital stress over housing, we’re moving away.
I gotta say, at first it was a hard sell with the spouse. She didn’t want to leave her friends, but then she saw the shopping, the beaches (wow!) and um, the housing down there. And she came around.
There’s a lot more to write about. Differences in taxes, health care, car insurance, property taxes, and those HOA fees. Bottom line though, I’ll be paying a LOT less interest when I purchase down there. Credit ratings may be a bit of a challenge. Seems even with large DP’s you need a good credit rating for the best mortgages.
Good luck to all intelligent posters. I’ll still be hanging around these forums. I’ll just have to observe from a distance as the meltdown progresses.”
“I think we will choose to rent for at least the first year.
It just makes sense to take a little bit of time to get familiar with the area before committing to buying a place we have to live in for a long time. It does seem that monthly costs are really high in the area we are moving too.
Maybe we won’t like it down there. Who knows, leaving may open our eyes to the truth that Vancouver really is the BPOE. I’m thinking likely not. I’m looking forward to the adventure of being someplace new and different. Life should be fun and exciting. 30+ years of debt is just not for me. It’s really amazing how much Vancouver demonstrates the ‘emperor has no clothes’ children’s story.”

‘curious lurker’ at VCI 6 Jun 2012 5:27pmand 8:12pm

Thanks for the story, curious lurker. All the very best for the move and with future endeavours. We’d certainly welcome hearing more of your experience living away from Vancouver. Send updates via your own blog (see White Rock renter’s suggestion below) or by e-mail to us (see ‘contact’ above) and we’ll post them here.
Needless to say, we are saddened by the ongoing process of skilled individuals being pushed away from Vancouver due to housing costs, and we look forward to a time when housing here becomes more reasonably priced and less of a hinderance to the health and growth of the city.
– vreaa

“CuriousLurker – If you blog about your experiences moving stateside, I know I’d be interested. My family is in the exact same position as you, except husband hasn’t formally started applying for jobs there yet (software engineer). The only thing that keeps us here is family, really. I would love to know how education and health care measure up from someone actually making the switch. I think too often we dismiss the US as a non-option because of the assumption that schooling is terrible and health care is too expensive. I’m betting with better salaries, cheaper cost of living, and affordable housing that maybe healthcare costs and even private school costs would balance out and maybe we’d still come out ahead. I don’t know. I’m just sick of it here, the rain, and the attitude that somehow its different here. Let us know if you start a blog.”White Rock renter at VCI 8 Jun 2012 3:05pm

“I recently left Vancouver with my family, we sold our house and moved to the island. If we had stayed we would have had a mortgage for 20 more years, pouring all our extra money and time into our house.”

“I recently left Vancouver with my family, we sold our house (Feb 2012) and moved to the island. We were in Vancouver for 11 years and both our kids were born there. We traded our large mortgage on our old house (we did a ton of work on it but it still needed about a 200k reno on it) for a brand new house with a mortgage that will be paid off in one year (it also has a rental suite). You would not believe the amount of stress that has been removed from our life. There is no more stress as what would happen if one of us lost our job or don’t make bonus one year. My wife and I will be 42 and mortgage free, time to travel with our kids, save for retirement and RESP’s. If we had stayed in Vancouver we would have had a mortgage for 20 more years, pouring all our extra money and time into our house just so that we can live in Vancouver? Its just not worth having that debt hanging over our head for the next 20 years just to live in Vancouver, Vancouver isn’t that great. I don’t get why someone who has 1 million to 2 million in equity (paper equity???) would not sell and leave Vancouver. I understand for some people its not possible, but take a look around the rest of the world, real estate does not always go up, and no its not different in Vancouver. People work their whole lives and don’t make that kind of money especially after tax. You could put that amount of money in a diversified portfolio of dividend stocks and make $50,000 a year in income or more. Take the money and run… run away and live a life with less stress, more travel, discretionary income and a more secure future. Just my two cents worth, but its coming from someone who has done it and has never been happier. If one day I begin to miss what Vancouver has to offer I will go over for a weekend and stay at the Pan Pacific…guess what I can afford it now!!!”
‘debt free = stress free’ at VREAA 5 Jun 2012 9:59am

“I’m a stay home mom and my hubby is a lawyer making over $100K but we cannot live a decent life style here in Vancouver. We have decided to move out of province for a better paying job and affordable housing.”

“I’m a stay home mom and my hubby is a lawyer making over $100K but we cannot live a decent life style here in Vancouver. We are renting a 960sqft 2 bedroom suite in North Van but a nice three bedroom house cost about $3000 for rent. Vancouver is great but it really rains too much and to be honest the housing is the killer. It’s only for uber riches or those who have been here for a long time. We could move out of Metro Vancouver to other parts of BC but then salary would be much lower. We have decided to move out of province for a better paying job and affordable housing and good education for kids. Which city would fit the bill? I would be happy to pay $2000 for a newly updated 3 bedroom town house and the priority would be where good public education is.”
sora at mothering.com 27 Apr 2012 6:43pm [hat-tip Jeff Murdock (and 'Anonymous' at VCI)]

An Ambivalence Of Riches – “Its HARD to leave once you’ve lived in Van. Had I never left Calgary I could have lived there for the rest of my life and been satisfied.”

“My husband and I moved to Vancouver from Calgary 3 years ago. In terms of employment and housing, were not doing so hot out here. So why do we stay and rent a crappy basement suite?…the reason is you think Calgary is nice and green until you move to Van. That’s when you realize how truly cold Calgary winters are and how not-so-green it really is (just some random pine and poplar trees spread out over fields, really). Its HARD to leave once you’ve lived in Van. Had I never left Calgary I could have lived there for the rest of my life and been satisfied (perhaps, happy) and would have never seen the weather and beauty Van has to offer. Now we have to make the difficult decision to go back to Calgary since living in Van has cost us a lot. We have family and friends back home (Calgary) and they’re all in their late 20′s like us, they’re getting great jobs, have money to travel, and are buying up 300,000 houses (not apartments, not townhouses…actual houses with 3 or more bedrooms and a backyard). My advice to anyone is, if you live in Alberta, stay there, don’t TRY Vancouver, it’s very hard to leave once you’re here just because of how beautiful it is.”
LisaMK at VREAA 3 Jun 2012 1:07pm

Full and satisfying lives can be had in Vancouver and in Calgary… and in hundreds of other places around the globe.
– vreaa

Mancouver – “I just spent a week in Manhattan and there are a load of gorgeous studios and 1 bedrooms in the $300K to $440K price range.”

“I just spent a week in Manhattan and there are a crap load of gorgeous studios and 1 bedrooms in the $300,000 to $440,000 price range, and I’m not talking crap neighbourhoods in Manhattan, I’m talking about some very cool hoods. The condo fees are definitely higher, but include heat and air conditioning……and seriously we’re talking about N.Y, not to mention that the actual apartments are waaaaaay cooler than Vancouver’s ugly crap boxes with 8′ ceilings and “granite counters”.
So much for that stupid argument “Vancouver is cheap compared to New York and London”.

vangrl at VCI 12 May 2012 11:04am

Local DJ Leaves For The Prairies – “My wife and I had this crazy idea that we could afford a house. Your prices here are insane.”

“Heard something on the radio just now. This DJ on Sonic Radio just announced this was his last broadcast, as he and his wife want to live in a city where they can actually afford a house, so he is moving to Edmonton.”
– S, via e-mail to vreaa, 1 Jun 2012 [thanks, S -ed.]

“I didn’t catch the whole thing, but was listening to the radio this morning, 104.9 FM, around 9:50 a.m. and the DJ was leaving, today was his last day. He said something along the lines of (paraphrasing), “My wife and I had this crazy idea that we could afford a house. Yeah, your prices here are insane. I thought I’d be here longer, but no. I didn’t even stay long enough to change the plates on my car, I still have Saskatchewan plates. That will look really good to the police, ‘Where are you coming from?” B.C. ‘Where are you going?’ Alberta. ‘What’s with the Saskatchewan plates?'” I gathered he was here about seven months. So another one bites the dust. I Googled for a while but couldn’t find anything online about a DJ’s comings and goings at Sonic FM. I don’t really listen, so I don’t know who it is. Would be nice to have a bit more detail for your blog, but c’est la vie!”
– Angela, via e-mail to vreaa, 1 Jun 2012 [thanks, Angela -ed.]

‘The Province’ Publishes BC’s Shocking Price:Rent Fundamentals – “If the number is higher than 15, it’s generally not a good time to buy. Our numbers are through the roof, from 29 in Prince George to 73 in West Vancouver.”


A map of the price-to-rent ratio of cities throughout Greater Vancouver.

“Take the house price and divide it by what it costs to rent for a year to get the price-to-rent ratio: Price divided by (Monthly rent x 12) = X.
(Estimates for additional costs of homeownership, such as taxes, maintenance and insurance are factored into the equation.)
If the number is higher than 15, it’s generally not a good time to buy.
If the ratio is less than 15, buying is a better deal than renting, if you plan on living there for at least five years to offset moving and closing costs.
By the time the number hits 20, renting is apparently the way to go, except if buyers expect to stay put for at least 15 years, according to a formula used by trulia.com to rank major urban U.S. centres every year.
B.C.’s numbers, as shown in the graphic, are through the roof, from 29 (Prince George) to 73 (West Vancouver).”
“Local real estate experts say the number is simplistic and doesn’t factor in other market drivers.”

– from ‘Where it’s cheaper to buy (or, more likely, rent) in B.C.’, Susan Lazaruik, The Province, 12 May 2012

Ergo, it is not a good time to buy, anywhere in BC, especially in the LML.
The only other “market driver” of importance is the insanity that accompanies a speculative mania.
Almost all purchases are speculative, and have been so for years.
It is good to see The Province printing something like this.
Will their readers realize what it means?
– vreaa

“Vancouver faces a loss of its brightest painters, dancers, designers, makers and performers to greener pastures. There just isn’t much affordable space. It’s an unsustainable bubble at this point, I don’t think anybody can disagree with that.”

Underneath the vibrant, diverse surface of a thriving arts and culture scene, Vancouver faces a loss of its brightest painters, dancers, designers, makers and performers to greener pastures.

As property values skyrocket higher than any other city in the country (second place worldwide), Vancouver’s artists are facing stark choices about their future. Many find day jobs, paint and create in their bedrooms, or gradually drift to the suburbs. But an increasing number are leaving the city in what Red Gate’s founder, Jim Carrico, describes as a “steady migration of artists.” They’re going to Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, even Berlin, Germany.
“The shortage isn’t of expensive space!” Carrico says, laughing sardonically as he describes Red Gate’s Kafkaesque quest navigating city permits, applications and bureaucracies, both before their eviction and now in the search for a new home. “There’s lot of expensive space around. There just isn’t much affordable space. . . It’s an unsustainable bubble at this point, I don’t think anybody can disagree with that. When median prices in Vancouver are more than twice as any other city in Canada, and yet median salaries are lower.”

“The majority of corporations said to us, ‘Arts and culture isn’t where we put our money.’ Vancouver is notorious for a wait-and-see attitude. It’s very hard to convince anybody in this city to get involved in something before it happens.”

The fear of a Vancouver becoming a hollow Disneyland of a city is one shared by many artists.
“It’s a great point, I totally agree,” Kate Armstrong reflects. “There’s a way a city can become so expensive that it (becomes) empty.
“This is such a beautiful city, and it’s a huge risk the way real estate is going here. It’s becoming a postcard of itself – so smooth that no one can afford to live in it. It risks becoming increasingly one-dimensional. If we really lost our artists – and we do take them for granted – we would feel it in ways that we can’t begin to describe.”

The loss of Vancouver’s talent to LA, Montreal, New York and Toronto is something that should concern us all, says artist, lawyer and recent independent City Council candidate Sandy Garossino.
“We’re draining the lifeblood out of our city with the disappearance of the artists,” she says. “By the time you’re at a certain point in your life, you can’t afford to live here.
Garossino rattles off the pros and cons of the various art Meccas on the continent which are pulling some of the city’s creatives away: New York City (expensive, but renowned arts scene); Montreal (mind-bogglingly cheap, and a real arts “incubator”); LA (relatively affordable, great community).

– from ‘Vancouver’s arts and culture bleeding out in “steady migration”, warn city creatives’, David Ball, Vancouver Observer, 9 May 2012
[hat-tips to 'Aldus Huxtable' and  'granite countertop']

Riddle: “Look in one direction you’re in New York City. Look in another direction, you’re in Paris. Where are you?” Answer: “You’re in New Westminster, British Columbia!”

“Five years ago, I couldn’t imagine looking anywhere outside of my beloved Mount Pleasant ‘hood, let alone anywhere east of the Drive. But when my girlfriend — now my wife — moved in with me in 2006, space quickly became a premium in our creaky 620-square-foot leasehold apartment on East 14th Avenue. There weren’t any two-bedroom places available in the area for less than $300,000 — and those that were anywhere near that price were unlivable and needed extensive renovations.
Stubborn as I was, she convinced me to look outside Vancouver for places to live.
Not live in Vancouver? I hated the idea — I mean, I really hated it. I was adamant that I be able to walk to a cafe or a pub without having to follow a maze of residential streets or cross highways to get there. I wanted to be part of a community, not a matrix of parking lots and six-lane freeways.
Realistically, though, we had to get a bigger place. In desperation, we checked out options in Coquitlam and Burnaby — both of which, as I expected, made owning a car a necessity. Richmond and Surrey were, for me, out of the question. I wanted more character than the bland, cookie-cutter architecture I saw out there.
One night, I was looking on MLS.com. When I narrowed the search down to two-bedroom apartments under $300,000, to my surprise a huge cluster of affordable apartments showed up in New Westminster and not much west of there.
“What about New Westminster?” I asked my then-girlfriend. We’d been there once or twice on day excursions, and for a change, I didn’t feel a knot in my stomach when I considered the possibility of living there.
We quickly learned we could easily get a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment within our budget and it wasn’t long before we secured a great place at the top of Carnarvon Street with a beautiful south-facing view of the Fraser River and plenty of sun. Two years later, we don’t feel the need to be closer to anything, because, well, everything’s already nearby.”

“It’s not only more affordable than Vancouver, it’s brimming with character, artist studios, indie cafes, old parks, and fixer-upper opportunity. Young people are moving out here in droves, and Mayor Wayne Wright is openly courting them. The city’s downtown core also is one of the most densely populated areas in the Lower Mainland.
This is more than a story about the revival of New West. It also may be about the salvation of Vancouver. As B.C.’s biggest city verges on becoming a reserve for the wealthy, it chases away the younger, creative talent that gives a big city its lifeblood and secures its future as a productive centre. Do those priced out move 20 minutes away on SkyTrain? Or, as so many do, do they leave for Toronto, Montreal or cheap and cheerful Saskatoon? When New York got too expensive for the creative young people that make New York hum, other places separated by bridges and tunnels became home to that population — most famously Brooklyn.”

Urban issues journalist Frances Bula hears the future in conversations around her Vancouver dinner table.
“I know that my 29-year-old son and his friends, who are artsy and not very rich, often talk about New Westminster as a place they’d consider,” Bula tells me. “It has beautiful old buildings, a sense of place and… it’s easy to get to by transit.”
In fact, she adds, “New West is attractive because it’s one of the few areas outside downtown Vancouver with a sense of history. There are a few more areas scattered around the region — lower Lonsdale, Annieville, Steveston, Fort Langley, Cloverdale.
“But,” Bula continues, “New West is closer and not so suburban feeling as North Van. I see it possibly being more like Georgetown in Seattle or Williamsburg in New York.”

One person’s gritty, of course, is another’s alarm bell. In December, Maclean’s magazine ranked New Westminster Canada’s 15th most dangerous city.

New Westminster’s varied edges makes it a natural locale for the movie industry, actor and stuntman Patrick Sabongui says.
“You can look in one direction and be in New York City. Look in another direction, and you’re in Paris.”

– from ‘Vancouver Needs a Brooklyn, and New West Could Be It’, Keith Mackenzie, The Tyee, 5 May 2012 [hat-tip Jeff Murdock, and, via e-mail, Aldus Huxtable]

A good article, in many ways; worth the full read.
New Westminster sounds like it has all sorts of things going for it, without needing to be likened to anywhere else.
Similarly, Vancouver is a fine city that doesn’t gain by desperate wannabe labels like “Vanhattan“.
– vreaa

“There’s a lot of peer pressure to move back home coming from family and friends, who don’t understand why anyone would want to leave the ‘best place on earth’. We feel a subtle undertone that what we’re accomplishing is worth less because we’re not doing it in Vancouver. As ex-Vancouverites born and raised, we can’t help but subconsciously agree.”

“My husband and I are both professionals in our early 30’s (medical and legal) who were born and raised in the suburbs of Vancouver and grew up in comfortable middle-class families. We both moved to Alberta after our undergraduate degrees at SFU, to pursue our respective professions at the University of Alberta (cheaper tuition and better regarded programs than UBC for both of us). After graduation (around 2008), we chose to stay in Alberta for a little longer to save up for a house in Vancouver. We’ve been following the housing market in Vancouver ever since and we read VREAA and Greater Fool every day. Following the market with the dream of someday moving ‘back home’ has become a ritualistic obsession, waiting for the day the market tanks and we can fly back to Vancouver with suitcases of cash. Needless to say, we’re still waiting and watching.

Since we left Vancouver, we have been the ‘outsiders’ in our respective families (both families are located exclusively within the lower mainland), flying home for Christmas and in the summer but missing out on the everyday family gatherings. There’s a lot of peer pressure to move back home coming from family and friends, who don’t understand why anyone would want to leave the ‘best place on earth’. We feel a subtle undertone that what we’re accomplishing is worth less because we’re not doing it in Vancouver. Of course, none of the people judging us have ever lived or worked outside of Vancouver. As ex-Vancouverites born and raised, we’ve had the ‘Vancouver superiority complex’ imbued in us and can’t help but subconsciously agree.

Both of us have held various jobs in Edmonton and have recently relocated to a small town a couple hours out of Edmonton for better career opportunities (i.e. to save up more money to move back home). Funny thing is, we’re actually starting to like it. Growing up, neither of us had thought much of the small-town life, believing small town folk were hicks (Vancouver superiority again). But, friendly people, a 5-minute commute to work, affordable housing, and stable jobs where we can easily make 3-4x what we’d make in Vancouver are awfully tempting. The cost of living here is much lower than Vancouver. There is no PST/HST in Alberta, and gas is about 30c/L cheaper. Housing in our town is fairly priced compared to the median family income. Alberta is also quite a beautiful province full of outdoor recreation opportunities, although it took us a while to appreciate its charms.

Young people in our town have amazing opportunities both to work and start a family. A colleague’s husband bought his first house at 18 (6 years ago), with money he made working in a skilled trades job. (By the way, detached houses under 100k still exist!) Because there is a REAL economy here, based on tangible things like trades, equipment manufacturing, outdoor recreation, etc, there are plentiful jobs available to anybody willing to work. I remember growing up and struggling to find a summer job in high school/university. I wouldn’t say jobs were plentiful growing up in Vancouver.

Sure, we can’t get sushi at 10pm on a Sunday, but going to Edmonton is an easy drive on the weekends to soak up some culture and go shopping. The irony is, in many ways the small town lifestyle is more cultured and wholesome than where we grew up. People take time for real self-actualization: gardening, baking, reading, travel, outdoor recreation, and community involvement. Contrast this with young people in Vancouver who either still live at home into their late 20s, or have moved out into 600k condos while earning 70k a year (if that), and go around driving luxury cars, thinking they’re hot stuff because they “own” a house in Vancouver.

If it weren’t for the family ties we have back home, we would not even be considering moving back. Vancouverites perpetuate the illusion of the ‘best place on earth’ either because they’ve never lived anywhere else and don’t know any better, or to justify a vastly overpriced lifestyle in which a person pays more and gets less than anywhere else in the country. To see the situation as it really is would be heartbreaking for most young people who’ve mortgaged their futures in an attempt to live a similar lifestyle to that they grew up with. Sadly, Vancouver has permanently changed, and it’s not just housing prices. Whether the bubble bursts or not, the social landscape of the city has been irreversibly altered and we’re not sure the ‘new’ Vancouver is a place in which we want our children to grow up.”

- ‘Watching And Waiting’, via e-mail to VREAA, 26 Apr 2012

‘W&W’ generously shares with us her complex, mixed feelings about living in Vancouver (or not).
It is often challenging for young people to make decisions about where to live (family, jobs, lifestyle, ‘social landscape’), and atypically large differences in RE prices add another significant variable. Over the last 5-10 years, the RE variable has become a game-changer for many.
– vreaa

“We had every intention of staying in our house on the Westside well into our golden years, but then we watched our ‘hood and city change. A little more than a year ago, 5 Asian developers bid on my property and were more than happy to let me triple my money.”

“I bought one of Jack Wood’s Castle Houses on the westside in 2000. It was a sweet little place, a little down on its luck, but with good bones and it represented to me part of Vancouver’s heritage. We put time and money in it and I think we made it shine again, at least the neighbours seemed pleased.

We had every intention of staying there well into our golden years, but then we watched our ‘hood and the city change. Property prices began their unprecedented ramp up. Small and medium sized businesses were forced out as developers put up tall condo towers, and replaced those small service or manufacturing facilities with street level bubble tea shops and acrylic gel nail salons. And, those towers blocked the view of the ocean and mountains I had taken for granted, and a big part of what was so special about Vancouver. Closer to home, sweet little houses stopped getting rehabbed, instead knocked down, replaced by the ubiquitous McMansion that was all house, no property, and no soul. Then the edicts started coming down about embracing this brave new world that was The Best Place on Earth.

My 6 km commute from downtown became 45 minutes – on a good day. A “good day”also meant no one flashed you the bird.

So a little more than a year ago, 5 Asian developers bid on my property. They were more than happy to let me triple my money, because all of them planned on knocking my house down because they were sure they could make even more, because 2000 sq ft is not big enough to warehouse people’s stuff.

I’m over on the island now. Bought acreage. My propety taxes are less than a tenth of what that city lot cost me. There’s nothing I have to do without over here, we have all the shops & services – even the internet -and I’ve got the ocean and mountain views back – with lakes thrown in. This place cost less than our 2000 Vancouver purchase, even after the reno’s I did; but, it’s not all about the money – I knew where we moved to was physical beautiful, what I hadn’t realized was how kind, thoughtful and inspiring the people are here. That I wasn’t expecting. When one of our vehicles repeatedly crapped out (it had been stolen from front of our Vancouver place and apparently used in a crime so the police kept it for 6 weeks while they dusted) people here stopped to help, the garage ran taxi for us. When they held their charity auction in December, bids on all the donated products and services were all for greater than the declared value, on everything, because “it was for charity”. We have had to relearn the art of “chatting” as the folk here partake of this quaint practice. I was born & raised in Vancouver, but its amazing to experience life away from there.

The agent that sold our house in Vancouver recently sent me a picture of what’s going up on the property (it’s still not finished) – yup, in the 4000 – 5000 sq ft range. It was sad for me to see that the old plum tree planted by the first family that lived in my old house was in the way of the triple garage, or maybe its a laneway house, in the back yard, and it’s been knocked down, too.

I found this site a few months back. I had thought I was the only one thinking “this can’tbe sustained” and finally decided to google ‘Vancouver Bubble’. I’m writing for the first time here, because of the differing sites I’ve been looking at, this seems to be the only one where you folks don’t get nasty and attack differing views. So that’s my anecodote.

For what its worth, we are professionals, qualifying as 1%’s. Funny, it never felt that way over there.”

- ‘Relaxed & Happy Islander’, at VREAA, 14 Apr 2012 5:39pm and thereafter.