HK To Vancouver And Back – “We returned from Hong Kong as expatriates 3 years ago. As a born Vancouverite, I wanted my daughter to finish school here. Now I realize that there is no future for her here after university. She certainly will never own a property here.”

DM at VREAA 21 May 2011 4:41pm
“We returned from Hong Kong as expatriates 3 years ago, I guess we thought we were suffering from burn-out after 8 years and felt it was time to settle down. We rented a property in West Vancouver and my husband, a financial analyst eventually landed a job after 2 years. Working for a small Canadian firm was pretty dull and after tax it was pretty much impossible to make ends meet. Our idea of living in a community where you knew your neighbours and the kids played on the cul-de-sac until dark never materialized as we saw houses being bought and sold and often left empty. House flipping here really is a sport and it certainly doesn’t build ties to the community. The only friends we have made on our street, ironically, are another expatriate family who were acquaintances from Hong Kong. Go figure.

We were certainly looking for the lifestyle of the skiing and the fresh air, but that all becomes a little stale once you have fought for parking at Grouse or are gouged doing ANYTHING in Whistler all while avoiding kamikaze stoned boarders who do not care if they obliterate an entire family. It’s all a bit overrated. The amount of time one spends in traffic here is ridiculous: I can’t understand the logic – we won’t cut down a single tree to expand a road to manage traffic but we will let everyone idle in our cars while merging from four lanes to one on the Lion’s Gate, all while we pump gas fumes into the air. And our government wants to encourage more migration to Vancouver when the citizens we have here can’t get anywhere. Nuts.

Consequently a new position in an international bank in Hong Kong came up, starting tomorrow, pays more than double the Vancouver salary. Thank god we did not buy a property here, because I am not convinced we would have sold it and broken even. While rents in Hong Kong are definitely higher, Hong Kong tax allows you to deduct 50% of your annual rent off your gross income before you calculate your 15%. And the government is so efficient that when they run a surplus (which happened at least twice while I lived there), they give every citizen and permanent resident a tax rebate. Yes, folks this is true. This year, we both got a cheque for the equivalent of $800 Cdn courtesy of the government of Hong Kong. When they ran a deficit as they did during SARS, all government employees took a 5% salary cut. Your employer pays your health care costs unlike here, where the employer deducts extended health off your income. If we need to see a specialist, I can see one the very next day. Health care is excellent and yes, you can find an excellent doctor who will take you on as a patient and give you 45 minutes if you need it. Our daughter had pioneering kidney surgery in Hong Kong 3 years ago that is still not offered anywhere in Canada.

Believe it or not general day to day living expenses (other than rent) are not more expensive than here, transit is excellent, cheap, clean and safe thereby eliminating the need for a car entirely. Hong Kong is an international airport with direct flights to numerous destinations all over the world. How hard is it to leave Vancouver and get to a sunny destination without taking multiples flights that cost an exorbitant amount? With a decent salary and low taxes, when I get fed up with the pollution, I can be on a deserted beach in 4 hours in a 5 star resort for a 1/3 of the cost of a trip to Hawaii .

As a born Vancouverite, I wanted my daughter to finish school here and make friends. Now I realize that there is no future for her here once she finishes university and she certainly will never own a property here. Will we come back ever? Yes to visit the extended family. But, we’ll never live here again, even when we retire. There are plenty of other sunny, less expensive destinations to choose from. Vancouver is a nice place to visit but living here is just not all its cracked up to be.”

Thanks for sharing your story, DM. You and your family appear to be returning to HK for a number of valid reasons, the effects on Vancouver of the speculative mania in housing are only part of the story, but important nonetheless.
We note how “she will never own a property here” has almost become synonymous with “there is no future for her here”.
We agree with commenters on various threads who continue to point out that renting in Vancouver is inexpensive and a viable option, but one has to acknowledge the powerful way in which the housing bubble has caused many who rent to feel disenfranchised. – vreaa

47 responses to “HK To Vancouver And Back – “We returned from Hong Kong as expatriates 3 years ago. As a born Vancouverite, I wanted my daughter to finish school here. Now I realize that there is no future for her here after university. She certainly will never own a property here.”

  1. t’sAlive!”Singapore worked for JimRoger’s (see: AdventureCapitalist) daughters, DM. DoIt!

    Apart from that… “Says it all, don’t it?”


    PS – ‘click’ on Nemesis’ Gravatar. “It’sAlive!”

    • Addendum: Please make that ‘click’ on “Nemesis” and otherwise forgive/excuse typos… Hazards ‘o jugglin’ BBQ, Heineken ‘n iPhone!

  2. RE: transit. Before coming to Vancouver I had no driver’s licence. Didn’t need it in the three major cities I had lived in since age 18. One of them has not even once ever been described as “world class” as far as I’m aware. I am not sure that widening roads here will have an impact on congestion; most studies have shown that traffic volume increases to fill up new capacity.

    Perhaps the city could experiment with staggered workday start and end times. This would halve the rush hour traffic by spreading it around two rush hours each way.

  3. Frankly I think that Vancouver’s transit is not that bad compared to many American cities. I rent in Mt Pleasant and walk/bike/bus/transit most places.

    • If you live on the north shore, it is a rather difficult commute unless you have flexible hours. To have to return to the North shore every night at 5pm is a difficult go in a car.

    • Yeah right!!
      Only for people with no or part time jobs.

      • I live in Mt Pleasant and work full time in the Cambie industrial area. I walk to work. I used to work downtown and took the bus and skytrain. It isn’t so complicated.

      • Certain commutes in Van are very easy and pleasant. Others not so. The car beats many commute times by a factor of three. My bike beats transit by a factor of two-three to almost anywhere excepting the lucky door-to-skytrain-station-door.

        And we all live and work right next to skytrain stations.

  4. So riddle me this: why do so many Chinese want to buy houses here? It runs counter to everything DM says.

  5. DM knows what other Chinese buyers dont???

    Thank to VREAA for pointing this out:
    We note how “she will never own a property here” has almost become synonymous with “there is no future for her here”.

    so for not owning a property in vancouver, the renters have no future in this city? how does that work?

    • Fred -> Your lack of comprehension skills is showing (again).

      Renters very definitely do have a present and a future in the city, but there is pressure from many quarters that makes them feel disenfranchised.
      This is one aspect of a speculative mania.
      It punishes some on the way up, and others, in a different way, on the way down.
      In the end, everybody is pretty much worse off.
      That said, renters will do okay.

    • Fred
      What do you do? Do you have a real job or do you just speculate around and are afraid of the RE downturn? I am serious
      Van is not world class, not by any standards. 2nd tier city..probably. Not even in the same league as Portland or San Jose.
      Dream on..dude

  6. I’m picking up another underlying issue from this post, which is that politicians in BC/ Vancouver are very shortsighted/small-minded. It is so difficult to compare HK and Vancouver on this level, as it is clear that HK has a very long term strategy, dynamic economy, sharp politicians with a bigger vision for society- easily able to weather economic cycles and offer staggeringly better opportunities and careers. As an expat myself ( and Vancouver house owner), DM’s post has affected my worldview. It has become clear that despite my earlier assertions that Vancouver is a great safe haven for some “end of the world scenarios,” it is not a dynamic, robust economy within the current reality, thereby making RE highly susceptible. It is a “bedroom community” for Asia, but will never be a top business city in its own right. Our own plan is to continue owning in Vancouver ( despite the extremely bearish views of this forum and my own disappointment with a complete lack of vision for Canada, BC and Vancouver, we’re still “long Vancouver” as the first Asian city outside Asia), but will continue living and working outside Canada for the foreseeable future. Some call it it self- contradictory, others call it hedging.

  7. I have more than a few friends who prefer Hong Kong because of the active lifestyle it awards them for a comparatively reasonable cost of living, though that’s being eroded recently with higher than usual inflation. HK’s not for everyone but neither is Vancouver.

  8. picked the exact worst 8 years to be away from Vancouver. Bad timing

  9. I’m not in the business of speculating on future prices. Next 8 years could be worse, could be better – you can continue to peg your future on a speculative guess.

    • Stupid answer.

    • Right.

      Rusty telling renters to include 5% per year housing appreciation forever in their buy/rent calculation = value investing.

      Person deciding renting is better value than loading up on debt in the hopes of further appreciation = speculation.

      Next you’ll tell us that all pigs are created equal but some pigs are more equal than others.

      • JRoss,
        obviously you think you’re doing the right thing by renting. You’re basically speculating that the market will one day come to you rather than take some proactive steps. Good luck.

      • ps
        “loading up on debt” is the pessimists way of saying buyers are taking out mortgages. What do you think home ownership means? People take out debt like they’ve never seen before to make this purchase – this is the way it’s always been. If you don’t have the stomach for this level of committment keep renting.

      • The meaning of home ownership is debt? Hahaha, you are so stupid, rusty…

      • Rusty responded with ‘Slavery equals freedom’. I had the wrong Orwell novel. My bad.

  10. Rusty: what do you mean the worst 8 years to be away? If you mean in terms of appreciation of property values, we owned a multiplex unit and sold in in 2008 when we returned. I would argue that during that 8 years away the face of Vancouver changed. It became expensive and congested and the people living here are not the laid back friendly people they used to be. Certainly it is not the city we left in 2000. BTW, to clarify: the Chinese money coming now is from Mainland China, not Hong Kong. There was a wave of Hong Kong immigrants prior to the handover in 1997. After nothing really changed many of them returned to Hong Kong for work. Canadians represent the largest group of foreigners in Hong Kong (around 250,000 I believe) after the Philippinos. I think that says loud and clear that Hong Kongers realized Vancouver is a nice place to visit and get your passport but career or business opportunities are limited. This is where our politicians fail. What a waste of talent and resources – gone. This makes me wonder how long it will be before the Mainlanders realize the same thing…..and how will that impact housing prices?

    • the city is basically the same city since mid-1990s. It’s your perception of it that’s changed. Older, more cynical, jaded. In fact, I think we’ve improved as a city not deteriorated.

  11. VREAA,
    The market is what it is.

    “This is one aspect of a speculative mania.
    It punishes some on the way up, and others, in a different way, on the way down.”

    If you know how to think for a bit, why would you let this punish you one way or the other? In fact, if you are in control of your life, this should not affect you at all regardless of owing or renting. The people here are facing too much pressure of owning!
    Instead of sitting there wishing for 80% crash, go do some meditation at a local community center, you would feel better! And by the way VREAA, you are lack of self-confidence.

    • bahaha!

      sooo awful

    • good post Fred.
      Instead of vilify the homeowner and new immigrant perhaps renters could be doing something more constructive, and certainly less frustrating. Combing real estate blogs and posting racist, profane, and inane comments isn’t going to solve a home ownership affordability problem.

      • Does combing real estate blogs and struggling with a serious case of reading incomprehension help solve affordability problems, Rusty? Hmm? What, pray tell, is your motivation here, and how successful are you? Because I’ll say for sure that VREAA & the Vancouver bear community from VHB forward has been successful in a whole bunch of ways, from data to conversation to providing an alternative viewpoint for confused folks who think Vancouver RE doesn’t pass the smell test but can’t articulate why.

        Whereas you mainly accuse people of entitlement and whine about other people’s motivations.

        On racism, I agree that are racist comments being said about Vancouver’s RE right now, and some of that is coming from RE bulls. But our host has very recently posted commentary on not being blinded and using racism as a convenient scapegoat. That’s different than examining our laws around offshore investment (as well as mortgage underwriting.) The people that created the governance of this City, Province, and Country are Canadians, and it is with Canadians that the responsibility lies.

  12. In general I see this blog vilifying politicians and banks for their easy credit policies as the cause of the bubble (with honourable mention of sleazy realtors)

    Foreign (and domestic) buyers are ridiculed here, but that’s different from story…

  13. JRoss,
    For some reason you don’t want me to reply to your comments – wonder why lol
    How about your own Orwellian response, “ignorance is strength”?
    Good fun you are old boy!

  14. my motivation?
    Reading comments from you morons makes me feel superior.

    • Asset deflation is a worldwide phenomenom… Vancouver isn’t special… it isn’t different… We’re just late to the deflation party.
      Your sense of superiority is hubris.

    • As I figured, that’s what you’re about.
      Serial killers and abusers share the same need to feel superior.

  15. Rusty , you are just a pig who is equal to other pigs. I just laugh at you for every comment your wrpte. It is very entertaining to have a clown talking here. Isn’t it, everybody?

  16. A word on invisible bubble scars

    Was just chatting to some first gen immigrant friends… heard comments about how even if they were engineers and doctors they could not afford a house. I happen to know that their culture values home ownership highly. The wife was saying that she had some kind of an epiphany while at a complex barbecue: “The ones that own a home are not enjoying this barbecue any more than I am. Why should I keep rushing around like this? Are we even enjoying this lifestyle?” She has decided not to work as hard and to essentially stop saving up for a home because it is futile, and to enjoy living in the present.

    I certainly recognise in them the same sentiment of the economically downtrodden who didn’t make it in time to board the equity rocket that took the others to the moon of riches.

    She also says their cousin is a realtor who says a crash is coming – we did not have time to complete that line of enquiry but I will be sure to get more detail and update!

    • “The ones that own a home are not enjoying this barbecue any more than I am. Why should I keep rushing around like this? Are we even enjoying this lifestyle?”

      yes, please enjoy your BBQ. Stop visiting websites that make you so miserable. Stop spending so much time justifying your renting position and get on with your life. No-one judges you for renting, we only judge you for questioning the motivations of those who do decide to buy. Live and let live.

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