Three Strikes; We’re Outta Here – “If you like shoebox living or eighteen renters in your basement, by all means, make Vancouver your home.”

Angie at VREAA 26 February 2011 at 3:09 pm“After living and working abroad for a few years my husband (Scottish Nationality) and I moved back to Vancouver, my home town to start our family. After 1 year of living here we packed our bags for Ottawa and a decent wage and cost of living average. We bought a house and had 3 kids and lived the good life. We decided to move back to the West Coast to be closer to family and see if maybe things have changed. Instead of getting better things are just getting worse. It is only when you see how life is lived elsewhere that you can appreciate how wrong things are here. Vancouver is my home but there is only so much hype one can take, if you like shoebox living or eighteen renters in your basement by all means make vancouver your home, but after three failed attempts at finding balance in Vancouver I am happy to say I am making the right decision by leaving for good!!!”

35 responses to “Three Strikes; We’re Outta Here – “If you like shoebox living or eighteen renters in your basement, by all means, make Vancouver your home.”

  1. “We’re Outta Here!”…

    Indeed. Putting aside, for the moment, the GlobalMacro for a little ‘micro’/local… Nemesis could not help but notice a recent provincial development which will doubtless accelerate this trend…

    [CBC] – Christy Clark voted B.C. Liberal leader

    http://tinyurl.com/6jlx7no

    From Nemesis’ perspective, the most telling ‘element’ in the storylink above is:

    “The Liberals have not said when Campbell will step down and transfer power, but the departing leader was nowhere near the leadership convention Saturday night — organizers noted he was in Washington, D.C.”

    PS to HollyBurn Properties’ tenants… get ready for a rent hike. 😉

    http://tinyurl.com/4vdhsbc

    • Thanks, Nemesis.

      Anybody willing and capable of an analysis of the Christy Clark donor list Nemesis linked [http://tinyurl.com/4vdhsbc].
      What percentage of (a) donors and (b) cash come from the RE industry?

  2. I’m sure you will enjoy living in Ottawa (or another city in Canada — try Calgary, it’s a wonderful city).

    But I’m curious. Why do people say that they were hoping “things had changed” but found that it “just getting worse”?

    One — Are these people hoping for a massive correction that would cause untold misery to the tens of thousands that have saved and bought property?

    And Two — why don’t they look to themselves and say, “We simply do not have the financial resources to live in Vancouver commensurate to our experience in other cities?” or “We can’t afford to live here”?

    If I wanted to live in London next to the Queen or Madonna, I wouldn’t say that “London is too expensive” or that “things are wrong there”, I would simply say that I don’t have the ability to do so.

    If you want to drive a luxury car, but can’t afford to do so, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the car or the capitalistic free market system, it means that you can’t afford it.

    • Vancouver is not London, or NYC or San Diego or even Toronto.
      Poor economy, high taxes, poor infrastructure and delirious RE. The luxury car comparison is laughable. A luxury car has better “fundamentals” than Vancouver and therefore it would make more sense to buy it than live in Vancouver.
      Does this shake the very foundations of your wishful (and must I add, self serving) thinking.

      • Right. Vancouver is Vancouver; ostensibly a suburb of Asia, a beneficiary of the commodity boom, probably the most desirable geographic location in Canada, and increasingly an enclave of the ‘already rich.’

        The fundamentals for the working class are admittedly not great. And certainly to people on the outside looking in it does not seem fair. But as someone who is neutral on VRE as an investment, I am very skeptical of a black swan event (they are called black swans for a reason) decimating local RE prices.

    • 1. 5% down (or less) is not saving.
      2. most houses in Van were not bought during this boom – there are hundreds of thousands of households that could sell at 50% below where we are now and still live like they won the lottery. In 2002, my friends parents bought a nice one bed 65 year lease just off Pacific for $90,000. They could sell today for over 300k.
      3. A massive correction will occur, as it has around the world or prices of basic services will inflate to the point where the people providing them can afford live here. A burger and beer in London will often run you $40 or more. A city is a financial ecosystem – either real estate goes down to restore the balance or the service sector leaves and you won’t have any restaurants or shops to buy anything from. With an economy heavily buoyed by tourism and an expensive Canadian dollar and not much else, which would you rather have happen?

      • 2. most houses in Van were not bought during this boom – there are hundreds of thousands of households that could sell at 50% below where we are now and still live like they won the lottery. In 2002, my friends parents bought a nice one bed 65 year lease just off Pacific for $90,000. They could sell today for over 300k.

        And then what? Take the profits and *gasp* rent? Or move somewhere else?

        You also forget the knock-on effect this will have on people who DID buy in the last five or so years.

        3. A massive correction will occur, as it has around the world or prices of basic services will inflate to the point where the people providing them can afford live here.

        OR, many businesses will go bust because they afford to pay their staff and no customer can afford their product.

        A burger and beer in London will often run you $40 or more.

        Where the heck did you buy your burger?

        A city is a financial ecosystem – either real estate goes down to restore the balance or the service sector leaves and you won’t have any restaurants or shops to buy anything from.

        9 out of 10 restaurants fail normally within a year anyway. So that’s nothing new.

        What’s currently in Vancouver is either the bottom of the barrel or the high priced stuff. I can do without most of the high priced stuff here because the ones I have tried didn’t wow me, not at the price they were charging.

        There is a lot of silly money in Vancouver, or rather was, mostly from less savoury businesses. Everybody I know here in town does not fall into the “rich” category and although we don’t talk “money”, seeing how some live I would say they are already borderline broke.

        With an economy heavily buoyed by tourism and an expensive Canadian dollar and not much else, which would you rather have happen?

        It’s not what I want to happen, it is what could and will happen. The reality is that outside of Tourism Vancouver really doesn’t offer that much. Friends that have come visiting me always parted with the same words: “Nice place, don’t mind coming visiting, but I wouldn’t want to live here, it’s just too boring for what you have to pay.”

        Ooops. world class indeed.

    • Raj -> Thanks for your comment here.
      We agree with Get Real and Nemesis.

      Regarding your point ‘One’:
      You point to the detrimental effects on thousands of overextended owners that the coming correction/crash will cause.
      We will take no particular pleasure in that. It is the inevitable outcome of a bubble in RE. It’s playing out all over the world already.
      Those most severely punished will be those who were most speculative in their purchases, and who have their net-worth most levered to RE.
      The flip side of this phenomenon, of course, is the inconvenience, misallocation of resources and, in some cases, yes, ‘misery’ that the inflation of bubble has already caused for many. (Go back through the archives for many examples).
      Overall, it is better for our communities if RE returns to somewhere in the range of fair value. During that process, some people will experience distress, that is unavoidable. [We will be strongly opposed to almost any kind of taxpayer-backed bail-outs, on the basis of the danger of the future detrimental effects of moral hazard.]

      Regarding your point ‘Two’:
      The argument you’re using complete disregards fundamental ‘value’.
      Vancouver is not NYC/London/Paris.
      It is a decent second-tier city, of which there are perhaps 200 or more in the world.
      To use part of an example VHB used elsewhere, if you were living in a society where pencils were selling for $1000, would you say, “Well, if you want a pencil, that’s what it’s going to cost you here.” ?
      Or would you have the ability to say “It seems that people are overvaluing pencils here.”?

      • I hear you. Just one comment. Your comment regarding Vancouver’s status as a ‘second tier’ city is not tenable … that is not the general perception and in fact I believe that an article (Economist?) once again highlighted its singular position.

        VRE … perhaps … it is what it is and people should get used to it. If you can’t afford it, move on.

        Don’t hold your breath waiting for some black swan event.

      • I hear you. Just one comment. Your comment regarding Vancouver’s status as a ‘second tier’ city is not tenable … that is not the general perception and in fact I believe that an article (Economist?) once again highlighted its singular position.

        Who exactly is seeing it as a first class city outside of the people who nee to see it true?

        Name me one large company that has it’s HQs here and is world renowned. Name me some world class celebrities that make Vancouver their primary home (and are not just living here because they’re working on a show or movie).

        What Vancouver DID get a few years in a row is the “most livable city”, which is true if you live downtown, once you leave that area though things are changing. This does NOT make a world class city.

        VRE … perhaps … it is what it is and people should get used to it. If you can’t afford it, move on.

        I am pretty sure many people are / would consider it if they wouldn’t be stuck here because of bad financial choices.

        Don’t hold your breath waiting for some black swan event.

        I guess because they don’t exist, eh? Just keep in mind: You only need ONE black swan to proof you wrong, but you need many many more white ones to make you right.

        That’s the problem with odds.

      • Raj -> It’s not going to take a ‘black swan’ event for Vancouver RE to implode…
        Sure, rising interest rates, crashing commodities, crashing Chinese RE, etc, will all help (note: none of those are really ‘black swan’ events).
        However, even if NONE of these extraneous shocks came to pass, at some point the bubble will collapse under it’s own weight; and then lower prices will beget lower prices, etc, etc.
        All bubbles suffer the same fate, they burst.

        Of course, after the fact, people will always point to something that ’caused’ the collapse… often just a co-incident economic or social occurrence.

    • I think the point is that Vancouver is Angie’s home town and she has family here. The fact that she’s made three attempts at making a go of it in her home town suggests that she would like to live here, but has come to accept that for the kind of lifestyle she and her husband want for their family, they’re currently priced out.

      Not being able to afford London isn’t the same as not being able to afford the place you consider home (assuming you aren’t a Londoner). People understandably feel anger and resentment if something they consider a birthright, or something to which they have a legitimate claim, is being taken away from them. That’s quite different from pining unreasonably for some luxury.

      There is something wrong with the capitalistic free market system when there are no controls preventing people being disinherited. The situation becomes even more problematic if the people with their hands on the levers have over the last decade been actively reducing the controls (CMHC changes, interest rates, amortizations, etc.).

  3. I know what you mean.
    We hope to move to Ottawa soon for family reasons, but can’t fully commit yet for reasons of work. I keep looking at all the wonderful homes, in communities full of children the same age as ours, that are affordable. My greatest worry is that the rush of departing Vancouverites will snap them up before we get there!

    • Two thoughts:

      Ottawa MAY seem reasonable from a Vancouver standpoint, but keep in mind that, although the numbers are better, it’s still not really a good time to buy there either.

      Secondly:

      My greatest worry is that the rush of departing Vancouverites will snap them up before we get there!

      Unlikely, if there would be a mass exodus happening here it would clobber the prices in Vancouver which would probably prevent a lot of Vancouverites to pack up and move east. It’s a debt trap and many already feel the squeeze but as “think positive” is the only approved way to approach live in North America many will hang on longer than they should and in the end find themselves stuck.

  4. Cool, with you guys gone rental demand will drop a little. In fact, when you’re gone NorthVanRenter, see if I can rent your place – I’ve always wanted to live in North Van.

  5. Many people in Vancouver, especially the “best place on Earth” crowd and real estate bulls have no idea about the rest of the world.
    They live IN a bubble and that is precisely the reason why they can’t see it.
    As “Get Real” said – Vancouver is not London, or NYC or San Diego or even Toronto. And it’s also not even close to Monaco, Barcelona, Zurich, Munich, etc. But it’s No. 1 in hype. That’s why West Side is more expensive than even Beverly Hills or Malibu.

    • The problem I have with comparisons to other cities is the distinct lack of artistic or cultural core. There are fringes and a culture yes but little in the mainstream or “high end”. Maybe that’s OK, but when you see the $ supporting the arts in big centres like T., Sydney, Tokyo, and even Hong Kong, Vancouver is second-tier in this respect; whomever is living here isn’t supporting the arts and for a “playground of the rich” that strikes me as incongruent.

      If you mean expensive and liveable, then yes Vancouver is a nice place to live, but the city needs an injection of some actual class, and not fall back on its outpost-like history, to be elevated to being “cosmopolitan”.

      • Don’t forget the shitty weather and boring architecture.

      • On the architecture front, this is another symptom of the lack of money endowed towards the arts, which includes edifices.

      • To be fair, we do have the world famous “Vancouver special” :-/

      • You are so right Jesse. This City lacks culture and class – I’ve lived here since the summer and am struck by its vacuousness and profound absence of anything meaningful in terms of the arts. For its size this place should be buzzing with creation……nothing. Soul-less. And all people talk about at dinner parties is RE – boring. “this town needs an enema” to quote Jack Nicholson in Batman.

  6. Oh another interesting bit about Vancouver.

    Microsoft and a few other US companies over the last few years set up shop here, or expanded it. This was mainly after the US started clamping down on foreign work permits.

    A friend, who is currently renewing his, told me that as of May the “fast track” program for technology workers that had been in place for almost a decade is going the way of the Dodo as of may.

    What that means is: A company needs to obtain a Labour Market Opinion. When I still was on a Work Permit it took 9+ months in Vancouver, and that was while they still admitted people freely on these jobs.

    What company is going to wait for a year to hire someone they need right now? Expect the tech scene to take a hit later this year.

  7. Vancouver is a Gamma+ world city. Same as Montreal, Nairobi, Bratislava, Panama City, Chennai, Brisbane, Casablanca, Denver, Quito, Stuttgart, Zagreb, Manama, Guatemala City, Cape Town, San José, Minneapolis, Santo Domingo, Seattle.

    NY and London are Alpha++ world cities. 7 ranks higher than Vancouver.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_city

    • Change the weighting on various factors and things shift around a bit. Don’t like violent crime? Sao Paolo drops out of Alpha-. Really like Dim Sum? Vancouver moves up out of Gamma+.

      • The criteria set to be recognized as a major player on the world stage isn’t going to be good Dim Sum, or there’d be some seriously famous small towns in China with excellent home chefs.

        Economic & political power – we don’t haz it, not even if our steamed buns are really good.

  8. I grew up in a multi-ethnic, working/middle class part of Vancouver. Most people were immigrants but they mixed. Children were fluently English and parents were doing their best to learn. There was some sort of common understanding that is missing today. Racism was discouraged because people were just trying to get along, not because it was politically incorrect. Now there are cultural barriers everywhere I look.
    People had real jobs back then, too. There was industry in this city even if it wasn’t globally important. Now if an industry tried to open, the condo owners would chase it away.
    Children played on the block and parents knew each other to some extent. Now they ride in the SUV to school and back.
    This is a cold city now. Even if prices come down, we will be surrounded by miserable, indebted fools. Unless you can somehow isolate yourself from the misery, you will feel it. And you don’t really want to isolate yourself.
    Time to leave…

    • “People had real jobs back then, too. There was industry in this city even if it wasn’t globally important. Now if an industry tried to open, the condo owners would chase it away.”

      Yes, Mike… Somewhere along the way our happy go lucky beer drinking, hewers of wood/drawers of water market economy transmogrified into the financialized market society of condohype and anomie… with all it’s attendant ills.

      My childhood Burnaby home (similar to the over-ask Dunbar ‘tear down’ recently featured here @ VREAA) was razed to the ground and replaced with a wedding cake architecture/monster house… and then the brewery I worked at while attending college was demolished – the site is only now being redeveloped as a, “vibrant, walkable urban community destined to include almost 1.4 million square feet of retail, commercial, health and residential space.”…

      Prior to that my Fraser Valley army base was sold and unsuccessfully marketed as a new housing development… and even my FantasyIsland (yes, that’s what we used to call Esquimalt/Victoria, “De plane, Boss! De Plane!”) based frigates were scuttled and turned into aquatic tourist attractions…

      And subsequently (shortly after my 80’s tenure in the globalpixferbuxbiz) – even the Vancouver operations of my two largest domestic industrial clients – one a railway the other a manufacturer of heavy equipment/industrial plant for the forest industry) were razed to make way for… I think you can guess…

      Which is probably why so many YVR indigenes have acquiesced… Opted out, packed up, moved on (especially those whose roots/origins afford them a longitudinal/historical perspective on the city’s evolution) …

      Well, as strategies go – I can’t deny that it worked for me. But for Xiào necessitating my return in 2005 I would undoubtedly be somewhere else. Indeed, one day, when I am no longer needed here – somewhere else is where I’ll be.

      Caracas??? 😉

  9. My wife and I are in Calgary more so because of the jobs and less to do with housing costs. Both our jobs are paid way less in Vancouver and also there are few if any jobs in Vancouver for us. We come out to vancouver a fair bit, and I have to say the housing is way overpriced for what you get. I guess that is what you get for living in the most livable city. We would love to come back, but I don’t see many young families in our old neighborhoods, and everything besides housing is expensive as well with the HST etc. I would not be surprised if gas is $1.50/litre there soon. Right now my wife and I will come back for regular visits and get our fix of great food and great scenery, while having a greater standard of living in Calgary.

  10. Just came from san diego visiting a friend who left vancouver last year with his wife and two kids. He was lucky as he got a job transfer. I am jealous.
    If i could have a green card or job offer, I would leave this place tomorrow and never look back. Never.
    The reason : permanent shitty weather and constant rain and all hour traffic jam.
    This year I even bought a family pass for skiing in seymour and guess what, we have been only able to go twice so far as it rains all the time on weekends when kids are not at school. What a rip off.

  11. Hey…no what happens when mom and pop pass away and the three kids split the proceedes from the family home? They spend it! Usually not on housing either. Just food for thought here, but my family, which has lived in Vancouver since 1904, is a prime example of what is coming down the line for Vancouver. My grandparents houses will be sold and the procedes dumped into my parents and their siblings retirement funds. (Saving grace really cause we all know how well Vancouverites save for retirement) When the money doesn’t cover retirement, my parents generation will start liquidating their primary residences and downsizing just to afford their ill planned retirements…and my generation…you tell me where in Vancouver we could possibly work that would allow us to afford million dollar homes…a decade of liberal government has removed all industry from Vancouver…that’s why I left…

  12. Pingback: 52% Backed By Real Estate – Analysis Of Contributions To Campaign Of Christy Clark, New Leader of the BC Liberals | Vancouver Real Estate Anecdote Archive

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