“My new path forward?? Here it is: Sell. Move back to the USA to the most expensive housing market in the country and still be able to buy a real house with actual quality and real architecture for 50% less than what sheet holes cost here.”

If this anecdote doesn’t make you sit up and think, nothing will. The Vancouver RE market is perversely distorted, and this is profoundly unhealthy for our society.  – vreaa

vanhattan at vancouvercondo.info December 28th, 2010 at 4:41 pm“Here is my situation. I moved here in 2005. I could not find a ‘decent’ place to rent that would accept a very well behaved dog so we decided to buy a condo of a whopping 889 square feet. We hated the condo and paid more than 3x what our gorgeous home with 22 foot ceilings, 1/2 acre treed lot with more than 3x the square footage cost. (sold our 3,000 sf home for 330K, bought our 889 sf condo in Van for 377K). The purchase and shock of living in this shit hole almost cost me my marriage. F*ck, even the dog hated the place. So we sold 15 months later for 488K. Never saw an uneducated unemployed dog make a 100K+ in one year but that is what our dear Buster did as we would not have purchased except for him. Purchased another condo, this one a more reasonable 1050sf brand new condo with great views, great neighborhood. Still nowhere as nice as our old ‘home’ but at least manageable. Purchased for 700K. The latest comps put our place at 900K+.

Ok so here is our situation. Have a huge desire to get back into a real house again. Have been searching for over a year now. Have been looking at complete sheet boxes going for over 1.5 million that before I moved here I would NEVER have even considered even looking at much less buying and LIVING in. This is what we found one recent weekend: Falling down complete sheet boxes with more than 30+ people showing up in the first 10 minutes of an advertised open house. I am NOT racist in the least bit but have to say that 80% of the lookers were of Asian decent. Guess what???? The damn place sold for 100K over asking at 1.6M the very SAME day!!!!!!!!!

I got so depressed I went home almost in tears. My new path forward?? Here it is: Put the place on the market this spring for 200K under current valuations per a comparable sale one month ago. This is still 100K more than what we paid for it but being 200K below the most recent comp should sell in a weekend. Guess what. I am getting the F#%k out of here. We should be able to easily get out of here with 250K more in our pocket than when we arrived. I figured if we had rented the same places vs. buy we would have paid about $150K over the same period. So we will walk away from the best city on earth living essentially rent free with 100K to spare. What are we going to do next? Move back to the USA to the most expensive housing market in the country and still be able to buy a real house with actual quality and real architecture for 50% less than what sheet holes cost here. This metro area also actually has jobs that pay on average 3x what they pay here.

Bottom line: even though I have been very lucky with this real estate market in Vancouver, I can’t believe what places are still selling for. My opinion is that prices will continue to go up as long as the Asians keep moving here en mass buying any sheet hole for above asking price. My estimate is that China still has a couple of years left of their bubble before it bursts so Vancouver will probably still go up and up and up for another couple of years.

I am out of here. I want to stay, but simply cannot afford it. I am not bragging but I make 5x the average wage of the average resident and can’t for the life of me figure out how anyone makes it in this town.

So am I a bear? Am I a bull? Neither. Just a very discouraged Vancouver resident who simply cannot believe the prices of the crappy 2nd world real estate here. I simply cannot afford to live here and I make more than 200K/year!!!!!!!!! My quality of life is worse than when I made 65K/year before I moved here! Really folks. This city is insane. I am getting out. I have loved Canada and loved Vancouver, except for the housing situation. I will always have fond memories of the place and will leave being a Canadian citizen but have reluctantly thrown in the towel. I would much prefer to live in Canada than in the US as our values are much more Canadian but I also want a better quality of life.

So perhaps we will return but only if the real estate prices return to earth. From where I sit this is still a far way off.

Humbly, a soon to be former Vancouverite.”

20 responses to ““My new path forward?? Here it is: Sell. Move back to the USA to the most expensive housing market in the country and still be able to buy a real house with actual quality and real architecture for 50% less than what sheet holes cost here.”

  1. I was offered a gig that paid that well, in Sydney, turned it down. Practically, because of RE prices, we would not have lived in Sydney, but somewhere out in the outback 1 hour down the train line, another Chinese driven market? Undoubtedly. Only place i have seen that rivals Vancouver prices, nice town though, good luck.

  2. You’re doing the right thing. Your comments parallel my exact thoughts. Goodluck on your new adventure.

  3. Shocking post indeed. But how can you make 250k profit, live essentially for free for five years, have a 200k + salary, and not be able to afford a house for rent that accepts a dog? Chances are, you would only have to rent for a couple of years, and that rental is already paid for by your RE profits. You must really love ownership to move to a completely new country for it.

  4. I agree with TPFKAA, you should stay and rent or buy a house in Burnaby or the North Shore, where your money will go a lot farther. A friend of mine just rented a nice house on the west side of Vancouver for $2700. Said they saw a lot of vacancies and negotiable landlords – oh, and they have a dog, a cat, and rabbits…

  5. I agree and am in the same situation after 4 years here.
    But unfortunately I dont have a green card! If I could live in the states, I would move to San Diego tomorrow and NEVER look back to this place. It is not easy to get a green card nowdays.
    In all honesty, we are overtaxed and overpriced for evth, if you shop across the border, you know what I mean. Why? People say we have great healthcare. True, it is free (almost – 100$/month) but if you ever come to depend on it, beleive it or not you will have to wait for more than 6 to 9 months to see a specialist. But you pay nothing, that is the only bright side. The only health care you will get is by raising hell and going into the emergency.
    So far, much of what canada prides itself of, I found it to be propoganda and information supression. So for those who can, now is a great time to move to the states in my opinion.
    It is very hard to find a good rental place for a family especially if you are looking for a detached house at a reasonable price. Contrary to what people say, renting is not a good alternative for a family here. But you can find very cheap accomodation if you want to rent one of those thousand basement suits. And regarding buying, i dont even look at the houses anymore – it is simply insane and it has the potential to stagnate here for long time.

    • True, it is free (almost – 100$/month) but if you ever come to depend on it, beleive it or not you will have to wait for more than 6 to 9 months to see a specialist. But you pay nothing, that is the only bright side. The only health care you will get is by raising hell and going into the emergency.

      Sorry, can’t confirm that story.

      I had to see specialists twice, that there is a waiting list is only normal, hence why they are called specialists. As long as it isn’t a life threatening thing suck it up.

      To think that the US system could deliver instant access to specialists proves that you never have used the US system either. They are so fragmented because of the way their private (but yet publicly funded to a large degree) healthcare is that you need to first figure out if the specialist you want to see is actually covered by your plan, then you need to still get an appointment.

      The only reason why the people WITH insurance can get in there quickly is because so many don’t have any access (beyond the ER) at all.

      This entire North American entitlement to everything is part of the problem while the entire real estate thing is going to go on for decades to come, nobody has the patience anymore to wait their turn, it all must be now now now.

      As for my personal experience? Yeah, I had to wait 4 months to see an endocrynologist and two months to get an MRI done, but guess what, that wasn’t life threatening.

      Second time around I needed to wait two months again for an MRI and a month to see a specialist for my knee. Was it pleasent? No, but it didn’t kill me either, we’ll see how long I have to wait to go under the knife (if at all) but all it will cost me is $60.50/month, I’ll take that over a $30K “instant access” option.

  6. good luck to all those who are gonna move to a bankrupt country.

  7. Save for RE prices Vancouver is a very affordable place to live (the quality/selection vs cost of restaurants here is unbeatable). This guy makes over 200K a year, has banked several hundred thousand on RE flips and he is complaining about ‘not being able to afford to live here’?

    He could easily afford to rent a DT penthouse to impress his family/friends if that is his goal (seems to be).

    Why are you featuring this drivel?

    • Last March I had a baby and my mom come from one of the Toronto suburbs to help me and my wife out for a few weeks. My mom has been a home maker all her life, she know how much things like food cost. She could not believe how expensive food and groceries were in Vancouver, every time we went to the grocery stores should be telling me that this item is $1.50 in Vancouver but only $0.89 in the GTA for exactly the same item. I travel a lot and I can assure you Vancouver is very expensive compared to other cities in North America.

      • Ah, Food prices.

        Firstly: Try Edmonton, not cheap either, actually food is quite a bit worse (but booze is cheaper, yeah!) or try even further north.

        Meanwhile. Yes, food in the GTA is cheaper, if you know where to go. But the reality is: If you know where to look you can eat cheaply in Vancouver too, just don’t buy everything at Safeway, Save-on or Urban Fair, they are really a rip-off (though the cheese selection at the Urban Fair in Yaletown is really good, though the prices as les-amis-du-fromage are better).

        I get most of my veggies from a little Asian store across the street, I buy milk etc. at the No Frills (also in the GTA, though unlike the GTA stores here they aren’t that good on the veggie prices, mainly because unlike in the GTA they only sell “Grade A” stuff. Difference between A & B? Your cucumber will be less nicely shaped etc. But who cares? I chop it up anyway and don’t buy my produce for it’s beauty aspect).

        Making use of Costco is useful too. For non-perishables like toiletpaper etc. Costco can’t be beat. Meat too. Buy a large cut, cut it up, freeze what you don’t need right now and cook the rest. Huge savings there.

        I also make use of the farmers markets during the months of summer and have the tendency to can my own veggies in the summer as well.

        Overall, cost of living in Vancouver will be higher, but if you’re smart about it it won’t cost you much more than living in the GTA, main financial drain I found for me was:

        – Booze (now doing home brew for my beer, haven’t bought any beer in the store since then, only occasionally go out for a beer and mostly just “hop places” between people’s places).
        – Restaurants / Bars: Extremely expensive here, two beers and you’re out $20, no thanks.
        – “Entertainment”, well firstly there isn’t that much that is truly interesting and those things that are are pretty pricey compared to other places (thankfully I don’t care about sports, the ticket prices I have seen for Canucks games etc. are just criminal).

        So in summary: You can live in Vancouver quite nicely if you do a bit of a legwork on food, either don’t drink or make your own and make use of the outdoors.

      • In my opinion there is no reason why food should be more expensive in Vancouver than the GTA both are major Metro areas. The only thing I think is that stores must pay more for rent or financing large commercial mortgages. I think one of the indirect effects of the bubble is higher costs for everyone.

      • What makes food costs higher here is simply supply & demand. People here are willing to pay more, so it happens.

        I spread my shopping out. I know what is cheap in one place and more expensive in another. So my grocery trip usually involves a bunch of stops along the way to get the better deal.

        This isn’t any different in Toronto, but economy of scale DOES apply to some degree, you have how many people in Southwestern Ontario? More than in the entire Province of BC, so there would be a price difference for sure.

        But yes, Safeway et. al. obviously do rake in a nice margin due to lack of competition. Though I saw the other day that there is a second No Frills opening in town, which can only be good.

    • Vancouver is a very affordable place to live (the quality/selection vs cost of restaurants here is unbeatable).

      Spoken as someone who clearly has never spent any time in Montreal. Or any of the major cosmopolitan US cities (LA, NY, SF, Houston, etc.). Vancouver mid-range is very poor value: overpriced mediocrity is my overwhelming memory of eating out in Vancouver or Whistler (I am unreasonably uptight about spending over 50$ for something I can cook much better myself — I’m not even that great a cook!). Vancouver higher-end (roughly meaning >100$ / person before wine) is about the same as anywhere else with money, if a bit pricier. Surprisingly enough, I’ve been totally blown away (like, transported into another dimension of sense and experience — toe-curling food orgasms, etc) more times eating out in the last year in Calgary than three years in Vancouver / lower Mainland. Whoocoodathunkit?

  8. Blammo,
    it’s all bs, isnt it!

  9. I am sceptical as to whether this post is genuine. Who really lists for $200K less than the nearest comparable? Why? If you want a quick sale or competitive bidding you wouldn’t need to be that extreme.

  10. IMO, I’m far less skeptical of this post than you guys, and I don’t see it as ‘drivel’ or ‘bs’.
    Remember that everyone has expectations regarding accommodations that are commensurate with their own levels of education and income.
    vanhattan may be a high income earner, but that doesn’t make it any less appropriate when he complains that there is a profound lack of value in the RE market here.
    He has secured higher income (with all the sacrifices that go with achieving that) and is puzzled about the lower standard of living that that affords him here compared with elsewhere.
    He has the flexibility to look at the broader market (including other cities and other countries) and is now going to move to where there is far more genuine value.

    He is not really any different from others at different income levels bemoaning the fact that, for their income levels, accommodations available to them are far lower quality than they expect.
    And, yes, he could rent, but we’ve previously mentioned that some people value the convenience of ownership more than others, and he is choosing ownership over renting.

  11. @vreaa – I don’t feel the sentiments expressed in the post are drivel or bs but I’m still sceptical. As a lawyer, I get lied to day in and day out. You get to develop a sense of what is truthful and what isn’t (which is not to say that sense is infallible). Nobody hates money enough to list at $200K below comparables. Maybe it is just a rant tacked onto an otherwise truthful post but I am suspicious by nature I guess.

    Having said that, I can sympathize with the sentiments expressed because I was often told by realtors (back in the days that I was actually looking) that my expectations were too high. Just because I didn’t want to buy a falling down piece of crap at a price that would have bought a nice home almost anywhere else on the continent I was “unrealistic”.

    • I agree that it simply wouldn’t ring true to give a place away for 200K less than comps. But vanhattan doesn’t actually say that he’s going to do that, he says “being 200K below the most recent comp should sell in a weekend.” What he wants is a efficient sale… he’d very likely get a bidding war and sell for higher, likely less than 100K below comps. Regardless, he’d have achieved his goal, to be out of the market, and with a profit to boot.
      I think the essence of what he’s saying re the 200K below is that he’s not going to hang around and nickel-‘n-dime it at the risk of getting caught in the spring of 2011.

  12. I agree with the sentiment in this post. I have been discussing moving out of BC with the Wife if things don’t get better by end of 2011 I am likely going back to Ontario, for the money I can save in Ontario I can visit BC a couple of times a year.

  13. “I’m far less skeptical of this post than you guys, and I don’t see it as ‘drivel’ or ‘bs’.”

    It’s not so far-fetched. I would bet all of us know at least one person who has begrudgingly moved away for better career and lifestyle opportunities elsewhere. More than a few vow to return.

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