Five Couples Lost To Vancouver Because Of RE Prices – “In the past few weeks, the number of our friends who have either moved away, taken steps toward moving or expressed interest in leaving Vancouver has been truly alarming.”

Sheesh at vancouvercondo.info May 28th, 2011 at 10:23 am
“In the past few weeks, the number of our friends who have either moved away, taken steps toward moving or expressed interest in leaving Vancouver has been truly alarming. They are all highly educated professionals and the ridiculous cost of living in Vancouver relative to the professional salaries and opportunities available have them suddenly running for the hills.
I don’t know if it is coincidence or if this is a sign of a larger trend, but I feel like we have all waited a really long time for things to get better here and now, in our 30s to early 40s, we are tired of sitting around waiting for a piece of the pie to come our way.
One couple both have MBAs but have had trouble finding work here that lives up to their potential. A corporate recruiter told them staying in Vancouver will kill their careers; one has already found work in Toronto so we expect both to be gone in a few months.
Another couple, both with Masters degrees, is moving to Edmonton. The husband found a job there and they have just put in an offer on a house. They can buy a beautiful house for grown-ups there for the same monthly costs as renting a dark, dank one-bedroom in the West End.
Another couple have met with an immigration lawyer about moving to the States. They can sell their place here and, with the equity, buy a sweet little house in a trendy neigbourhood in Portland for $300,000.
We also know a Canadian/English couple that were going to move here after living in Japan for many years but, after a real estate tour of each city, chose London, England, as the more affordable option!
The last couple that wants to leave is us! Unfortunately, our jobs are keeping us in Vancouver for now. But we have a young son and just don’t see Vancouver as a place where we can raise a family, save for retirement and have anything left over to buy a place.
All of us, by the way, would pick Vancouver as their first choice. It just seems like the city doesn’t want us. At this rate I really have to wonder what kind of place this will be in five or ten years. Can money launderers, speculators and offshore investors really make Vancouver “The Best Place on Earth?”
There are lots of nice places to live in this world; looks like a lot of us that didn’t get in on the ground floor are setting off to find another one.”

We share this poster’s concerns. Speculative manias in real estate cause misallocation of human capital, and our city is going to be poorer for it. – vreaa

55 responses to “Five Couples Lost To Vancouver Because Of RE Prices – “In the past few weeks, the number of our friends who have either moved away, taken steps toward moving or expressed interest in leaving Vancouver has been truly alarming.”

  1. I understand this issue full-well, and have written two blog comments on this site. My wife and I are both tenured academics who have made a decision to try to leave UBC as a result of the housing issue. I don’t bother participating on the hiring committee in my department anymore, as all our top-ranked candidates do not accept our offer (as a result of the housing situation). However, given the lack of jobs, there is always someone (with much lower potential) who will accept. We just want a decent SFH within a 25 minute commute to work that is in a very good school district and under 1.2M… This would not be an issue almost everywhere I know….

    • Maybe we should change our slogan from “the best place on earth” to “it wouldn’t be an issue anywhere else”.

    • mjw
      you can buy leasehold close to UBC for <500K
      These are usually huge homes with huge yeards and mortgage helpers. They come with annual lease payments of about 10K – which your tenants will cover plus some revenue. If you don't like leasehold idea I suggest half duplex as you get some yard and usually around 1500 sqft.
      There are also some homes in renfrew area that require some elbow grease for <700K with revenue suites.
      Really, this isn't that difficult unless you have attitude of entitlement and elitism.

      • They’re academics, you dork… They have better things to do than scrape paint from dingy basement walls… You’re not addressing the underlying issues, just the symptoms…

      • Rusty,

        I lived on < $900 month from a TA at UBC in point grey for several years so I could obtain an advanced degree. My wife did same. Why would I or anybody else do that if there were not the potential (potential, not promise) of some future reward? That is not entitlement. That is a meritocracy.

        Question for you my obtuse friend – What do you call
        societies that depart from meritocracy? What tends to happen to them in the long term? And just exactly who are the 'elistists' in same?

        You seriously think that is is entitlement for the dentist who fixes your kid's teeth, or the doctor who treats your wife's cancer, or the lawyer who writes up your real estate contracts, or the CA who does your taxes, or the pharmacist who had the misfortune to graduate 25 years after you, or the professor who teaches all of them, to want some chance at a reward commensurate for their efforts? Seriously, what is wrong with you?

        You do realize there are very nice places in the world where people who EARN such qualifications are afforded a better life than an 80 year old house is a marginal neighbourhood with strangers in the basement? Why would anybody who is possessed enough of their faculties to EARN one of the aforementioned careers not question what it has bestowed on them and realize they might be better off elsewhere?

        You seem to think that we should all just accept the status quo and sign up for a lifetime of debt that will fund your retirement with wealth that came your way mostly because of the accident of the timing of your birth and you actually have the balls to call ME entitled.

        To paraphrase my favorite quote from Jon Stewart:

        Go fuck yourself.

        [Amen. Extremely eloquently put (the meritocracy argument, not necessarily the last bit). We usually edit out expletives, but, in this case, for the sake of artistic license, we’ll let it ride. Besides, we’re Jon Stewart fans ourselves. Rusty, address the meritocracy argument, if you are capable. -ed.]

      • A pair of tenured profs at UBC are probably working 70-80 hour weeks minimum and about 4-5 weeks of travel per year. They don’t have time to be landlords.

      • serious academics don’t have time (or the interest) to deal with tenants.

        Because housing is expensive to live in NYC and Chicago, academics are given sweet deals on housing and often free private school for the kiddos.

        Vancouver has developed a similar problem, but the Universities haven’t dealt very well with the housing situation. And, no, their interest free loans don’t cut it. I think academics would be insane to apply for jobs in Vancouver unless things change. If not, UBC will eventually find it difficult to retain top talent.

    • See reply to CanuckDownUnder for new situation in PoliSci @ The Australian University of Australia!… 😉

  2. Its a North American phenomenon; the death of the middle class. Its just exacerbated by our extremely high shelter costs in Vancouver.
    However ,if the market does correct deeply, many will regret moving away. Remember capitulation is a market top symptom.

    • It’s a little hyperbolic to call this the death of the middle class. The middle class can do just fine if they had the financial sense to rent.

  3. One of my best friends has decided to move to Australia with an Australian woman he is dating. Early 30s, born in greater Vancouver, 2 university degrees (one professional), can’t make enough money as a renter to save anything. Buying is completely out of the question for them. They would like to stay here but the high cost of living and low salary is driving the decision.

    • CanuckDownUnder

      I highly doubt this is a housing issue. Price/income ratios in Australia are just as high and from what I can tell rents are more expensive here. Maybe they’re expecting to earn a lot more money?

      Oh wait, the weather is a million times better! 🙂

  4. matt,
    No, statistically , by net worth and income measures, the middle class is shinking in North America.

  5. Ralph Kramden

    Well said – and sadly echoes my experience.

    Went to a good bye party last night. Couple gave up after 2 years and took a job in Brussels. They said they felt like they were fools for living on a main floor in a skunky Kits house, for the same price they can lease a flat in Belgium.
    Ridiculous.

    • We’ll MissYa, Ralph!… BonVoyage ‘n HoistSomeLobster for us when you’re ’embedded’ (ps – if you have ‘eligible’ daughters, beware of “Dockyard”)!… At the risk of carbon-dating myself, this one’s for you….

      “Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me,
      Town to get me movin’
      Keep me groovin’ with some
      energy.”…

      http://tinyurl.com/4jf8y6n

  6. “It just seems like the city doesn’t want us.”
    Yup, the city definitely doesn’t want you. You have to be at least half a million dollars in debt to be considered worthy.
    Remember you need to “borrow to get ahead”.

  7. Are there any data to support that people are out-migrating more now than http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/pop/migration.asp

    Anecdotes are nice — and indeed 2011 may prove different than years’ past — but as it stands it seems more people are moving into Vancouver from other areas than moving out, both internationally and interprovincially. How many immigrants were from China in 2010?

    9,300 out of 44,000 immigrants. Of these, only 3,800 are investor immigrants. So the wave of wealthy Mainland Chinese immigration supposedly driving up prices was done by a whopping additional 3,800 individuals in 2010. Never mind where the other 41,000 people live. Add that to your Landcor data we have for foreign investors. And where are all these “non-Chinese” people living anyways? I’d like to know because all anyone sees these days is Chinese.

    • I think the anecdotes speak more to who’s leaving and what their reasoning is, rather than straight up numbers. I’d bet that the overall migration hasn’t changed in 2011 (although there was a dip somewhere due to temp worker changes, isn’t that correct? I forget who published that… )

      But has the sentiment of those going out/coming in changed? What does that say about how Vancouver’s perceived? That’s hard to track.

      Recently, I’ve heard visitors and those out-migrating to Toronto and Montreal talking about how it’s nice to move to places more relaxed, where it’s easier to meet people and find things to do. Especially re: Toronto, it strikes me as amazing that Vancouver’s getting a wound up / unfriendly / uptight reputation in comparison. I simply never heard that before: we were maybe no fun liquour wise, overly granola … but we still had a stereotypical reputation of being relaxed & friendly.

      • When I came to Canada I first lived in Toronto. I can tell you that Toronto isn’t unfriendly compared to other cities it’s size.

        Vancouver though? Vancouver is in a league of it’s own. There is a mixture of fear and hate of the foreign here that I have never encountered to that degree anywhere else.

    • Absinthe Vancouver has chewed up and spat out people for as long as I can remember. The “unfriendliness” persona is nothing new; when I moved to Vancouver in the ’80s it was a cold slap in the face at the general lack of summer block parties common back east. Everyone seems to have their own thing going on, though there are pockets of community awesomeness.

      • As someone who was “born and raised” (like livestock?) in Vancouver, I see the difference. Parts of town that were “normal” are now all precious and pretentious. There is less creativity in people’s minds too, IMHO. In the end, I hope the coming crash will cure this, but perhaps I’m wishing for too much.

  8. Jessie: Those stats are indeed very interesting. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, it was relatively few investor class people coming into BC. In 1993 and 1994 when there was a terrific run-up in prices, there was a very large number. Now in the past 3 years, the number of investor class people are at nearly the same level as 1993–1994, and we have been in run away mode in Vancouver. It is really too bad that my esteemed colleague at UBC (prof. Tsur S.) does not consider it noteworthy to study this issue in a scientifically meaningful way. Instead of taking on important, but perhaps sensitive issues, he hides behind his tenured position to send out real estate fueled propaganda. He may be well-liked by his real estate buddies, but there is a reason why if you look on his website he has not become a full prof despite being at UBC for almost 17 years…. the scholarship that is expected of a UBC prof is indeed lacking in his repertoire….

    • Does the MSM require expert citations to perform a narrative’s critical thought? If the narrative smells, sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and get covered in dirt.

      Not all MSM outlets are at the beck and call of the REIC.

    • You’d figure Tsur being tenured, he’d have the cajones to have some independent thoughts and research… What’s the point of tenure if not to foster some independent thinking?

      • have the what? the drawers? is he short on filing cabinets? I’m sure a quick visit to an office furniture supplier would fix that 😉

  9. anecdotes yes, but the Vancouver renter lives by these stories. For them the glass is always half empty, always a cloud in the sky. For every couple that gives up on Vancouver there are 4 that move in. This city naturally selects for the people that are willing to fight, persevere and make good on the promise that is Vancouver. Sorry posters, all I see here are whiners and quiters. The strong survive, the weak move.

    • … and the big, strong, smart, rich dudes troll sites full of whiners and quitters because their manhoods are SO BIG.

    • lol!

      apparently the strong have terrible spelling and grammar..

    • Why would I need to listen to these stories? I do know how to do math and compare incomes.

    • “The strong survive, the weak move.”

      The “strong” as in paying more taxes, up to the eye-balls in overvalued RE debt, and poorly paying jobs.
      Yesterday you were comparing Van to Monaco!

      Were you dropped on your head as a baby??

    • “Fight, perservere and make good on the promise that is Vancouver”… Like drug dealers, crooked stock promoters, “Cash Only” tax evaders (including landlords), Ponzi schemers, grow operators and HA? I guess that demographic group represents your ideal Vancouverite.
      Keep your delusions to yourself.

    • I laughed out loud at your comment, Rusty. Vancouver is beautiful, but to position it as the next “American Dream” city is a joke.

    • Money Quote from a happy renter:

      “I could afford a median-priced house, no problem,” said Ms. Lindsey, 48, as she headed off for a holiday weekend in Las Vegas. “But I would be paying more to live in a place I like less.”

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43220037/ns/business-us_business/

  10. if you could ever sell all the bitches and whines from these bearblogs on craiglist , it would make you millionaire.

    Keep it couth. -ed.

  11. Regarding Rusty’s suggestion above about what’s available for mjw, this appears to be the kind of thing he’s describing in Renfrew Heights:

    3816 Lillooet Str, Vancouver; V886268
    1638sqft SFH; 32.5x101ft lot (3282sqft, less than 1/13th acre)
    Built 1928
    2 bedroom suite down (reportedly rents for $1,150 p.m.)
    This leaves owners with how many square feet for themselves? 900? 1100?
    Asking price: $748K

    How are the nearby schools? (mjw and his wife are both tenured UBC academics and would want fairly competent education for their kids.. or is it ‘elitist’ to ask that?)

  12. just to add my little contribution… A friend with an MBA is making plans to leave for Qatar with his family. His wife is a doctor, though foreign qualified and not yet practicing in Canada. A second friend, with a degree, wants to leave with his schoolteacher fiancee within five years if things do not change.

  13. pardon me but who said everyone is entitled to own a house? why cant people live in a rental property and be happy with it; renting is cheaper than owning, people say! and you are saying schools around this location are not good enough for their kids? are your kids only going to school with Henry and William, VREAA? If you have too much free time, go read some more Garth’s book.

    • Fred -> Read the discussion more carefully.
      Nobody is saying anybody is ‘entitled’ to anything.. we are discussing the overvaluation of real estate in Vancouver. Many here are indeed doing as you say, they are staying out of the market and renting.
      And when it comes to education, do you think it is healthy if two university professors are considering leaving Vancouver because they can’t live in a situation where their children have access to acceptable schooling?… they’re paying for public schooling, shouldn’t they get acceptable schooling? (We are genuinely asking what readers know of the quality of the schools near this property.)

      Lastly, your non sequitur comment about our free time/Garth’s book is completely meaningless. Stick to discussing content.

  14. I really do think people are seeing what they want to see here. I have no doubt that high prices are causing some people to avoid Vancouver for other locales and that some people are leaving because ownership is unaffordable. As mentioned there hasn’t been much data on what “type” of person is arriving to and what “type” is leaving Vancouver.

    From what I can gather the commonality amongst the “type” that leaves is that they either don’t like Vancouver enough to stay (and that has been going on forever) or are unwilling to take on large amounts of debt to enjoy a certain lifestyle. Likewise people moving in may be bring great skills and talents but if they take on large debt loads for buying a cash-flow constrained asset like housing it’s unlikely they are sound fiscal managers; hopefully they make up for it with other talents.

    • Sound fiscal managers calculate ratios such as Price/rent ratios… Sound fiscal managers barf when they run those stats in Vancouver when thinking of buying and choose to leave.
      There are no sound fiscal managers who buy here… just speculators and Chinese communists trying to launder their bribes.

    • jesse: “…it’s unlikely they are sound fiscal managers; hopefully they make up for it with other talents.”

      See Nicholas Cage – great actor; lousy RE investor.

  15. Further to my bcstats comment earlier, I just looked at the total numbers of immigrants from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Immigrants from these countries never made more than about 30% of the total immigration numbers since 2000. Other Asian countries (which is a big, diverse freaking continent, at least according to Google Earth) made up about 50% of all immigration sources. Even if we assume that everyone immigrating from ethnic-Chinese-dominated countries is rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, that still leaves the other 2/3rds of immigrants flying below the media radar. Is anyone asking what these people are doing for accommodation?

    There is no shortage of rental accommodation, with CMHC published data showing little in the way of runaway rental growth. (Rents are not increasing at the predefined rental control cap.) Prices are starting to weaken at the fringes of Vancouver CMA. Most immigrants are not, and never have been, from China: in the past 10 years, 2/3rds of immigrants are not ethnic Chinese. Given current trends it is almost impossible for Chinese immigrants, and their descendants assuming they don’t integrate (which they do), to ever become the majority of residents in Vancouver. Concentrating on Chinese immigrants driving Vancouver CMA’s real estate market is simply an incomplete and disingenuous critical analysis: what about everyone else?

  16. racism sucks

    The scapegoating of rich Asians is, typical of realtors, a sinister play on latent xenophobia, based on a convenient and recurrent media narrative about the rise of China. If the realtors were marginally better read, it might be about the rise of India or Brazil. It is needed to convince potential purchasers that drastically overpriced Vancouver real estate is only going to get more overpriced due to scarcity. In the absence of the realtors’ nonsense, racist sales pitch, would anyone seriously suggest that real estate prices on par with Manhattan are sustainable? It’s a testament to the locals’ naivete that most of them can’t see the rich Asian/”the mainland Chinese are coming!” crap for what it is — a mostly unimaginative, definitely racist sales pitch.

    • yes, but the mainland chinese do tend to also share the belief in the rise of prices. While the prices are not sustainable, this belief will help to fuel speculation among members of that community, many of whom have the money to keep the values poumped up for a little while longer. I am extremely unfamiliar with the sentiment in the Brazilian and Indian communities, so cannot comment on those.

  17. just learning/ about HTML tags through experimentation; excuse the italics. how do you end it once it has begun? (the italics, that is; not the bubble)

  18. Let’s try

    Thank you Michael for the advice

    “Any tag you open, you close with the same tag but the / before the letters.”

    Let’s see if I got it right.

  19. BOOOYAAAA!
    That went well.

  20. Won't Stop The Search

    Have been looking @ N.Shore opens for weeks now. Are always the only ones there. Check out how many places are for sale – several in almost every single block all over the whole N.Shore. I honestly can’t imagine how many savvy Chinese investors its going to take to purchase this much housing – esp. the `55 plus only’ housing, or the lovely condos we see that are dirty, reno’d w/cheap PVC/ carpet flooring and shared laundry, run by 20 year strata council veterans on fixed incomes needing extensive maintenance.

    The “Chinese will buy it if you don’t” is just an excuse to overinflate the cost. Hmm. Who originally purchased these homes and is set to walk away with a thousands in profit? The N. Shore is full of neighborhoods of boomer occupied houses. Walk around Pemberton Heights. It’s eerie. No kids outside playing. No kids in the schoolyards. (The North Shore is going through a ton of school closures – makes sense that affordable Surrey now has too many kids in their school system). Walk past the First Nations housing (which is actually dispensed on a waiting list system) on a weekend, and you will see a completely different age demographic in their housing – young people, with children playing in the yards.

    Maybe the issue is an age demographic one, not a racial one. There just isn’t enough “house” to go around for all of us. (If you are in your early 30’s, you missed the boat. If you are in your 20’s, hope you win the lottery.) Just keep distracting us gen xers and y’s with thinking that the Chinese are the problem.

  21. VREAA,
    is there anything affordable these days? Having many degrees does not guarrantee that you have the good lives you want. You can set your expectation, but the outcome is another matter.

    “they’re paying for public schooling, shouldn’t they get acceptable schooling?”
    So you are saying public schooling are not acceptable? Nootka elementary is one of the popular school in the area with many programs. Students who are not in the catchment often be the wait list or draw from lottery.

    By the way, if a person eats bread every meal, should he go out and buy a bakery?

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