“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.

42 responses to ““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.”

  1. Joe_Blown_Away_By_High_Housing_Costs

    I can’t stand bubble tea and laneway houses. While, I’m at it, I also can’t stand Nester’s Market and Waves coffee shop–those sprout up in every hipster gentrifying Vancouver neighbourhood. Thank God, there’s none yet in Surrey.

  2. Froogle Scott

    This past Saturday morning my wife and I had a good old fashioned breakfast at the Round-Up Cafe on the Surrey ‘boulevard’ previously known as the King George Highway. About three weeks ago we had breakfast at Deacon’s Corner, one of those new trendy/edgy places in the Downtown Eastside that attract hipsters. Guess which place felt more real? I joked to my wife, “Maybe we should retire to Surrey.” What once would have been a typical Surrey joke spouted by a Vancouverite perhaps is no longer such a joke?

    • Joe_Blown_Away_By_High_Housing_Costs

      Absolutely, Froogle Scott. Surrey is where the REAL people live. Riding the bus in Surrey reminds me of riding the bus in Vancouver in the 80s.

    • surrey is the new vancouver

      • 🙂 but seriously. they should rename surrey to new vancouver. it would introduce a much-needed temporal analog, consistent with the west van / van west theme of confusing the shit out of visitors and inflating the value of local knowledge. i mean like ‘delta’. wtf kind of idiot would dream up a name like that.

    • Joe_Blown_Away_By_High_Housing_Costs

      Chubster: I’m not so sure we should rename Surrey to “New Vancouver”. People come to Surrey to get away from Vancouver. We don’t really want too many people to catch on how great it is in Surrey because as soon as they do, we really will be the new Vancouver, complete with gentrifying hipsters. Surrey is a great name because it allows us to fly under the radar.

      I wholeheartedly agree that Delta is a bad name. It’s a geographic misnomer as Richmond is really the Fraser River delta.

  3. Comment on twitter for @vreaa:
    “@waynefougere 2000 sf for 1 family becomes 4000 sf for 4 families (house with 2 suites + laneway home). I guess that’s 1 vote for less density.”

  4. TheNumbersDon`tMakeSense

    Thank you for sharing your story. I`m in my early thirties and left the island to `make it`in Vancouver. Funnily enough, I`m just treading water. It`s time for us to make a life decision, but my spouse still loves this city. I just don`t see how we can raise a family and save for retirement. The two seem mutually exclusive in this town.

  5. And, now a realization that there is, indeed, a subprime mortgage market in Canada: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/04/16/subprime-mortgage-market.html

    • Stop it EG. We don’t bubble and perc here in Canada. We don’t securitize our debt and sell it abroad nor subprime ne’er do wells, bankrupts and the unemployed. Remember; we are special here. In Canada we just don’t stink. See, no smells at all. So we all have to work together and keep the dirty laundry stories to ourselves when we find them in the news.

      • My apologies! 🙂

      • Hey, no problem, EG. Good to see everyone falling in line!

        But getting serious again for a moment, I came across a story today on how Hong Kong is also having a “Vancouver experience”. The government there is slapping stamp duties on property purchases from mainland China as their luxury properties get gobbled up in a buying frenzy.

        What we are really seeing here and elsewhere, is the outcome of Chinese policy decisions to limit home ownership buying of their own citizens. The spillover money is fleeing across the globe but tends to favour some jurisdictions over others.

        Vancouver and Toronto are amongst those favoured destinations but they are certainly not alone. As noted, Hong Kong is feeling the heat as are many US cities. On the surface it seems like a good thing to have money pouring into your country but the reality is quite different on the ground.

        We are now seeing outright social dislocations in BC as a drama of hot money flows displaces once stable neighborhoods with empty and uninhabited dwellings. Toronto is now the new go-to place and it seems the bubble is determined to go the country-mile there as both sales and prices continue to rise to meet the demands from outside our borders.

        Qupted from the article
        “Strong mainland appetite for Hong Kong real estate has been fueled by the Chinese government’s nearly two-year campaign to clamp down on speculative buying in China by requiring larger down payments and restricting the purchase of multiple properties. The measures have given wealthy Chinese consumers — who tend to invest their money in real estate, gold and the stock market — a reason to buy property elsewhere. Hong Kong’s government has imposed its own restrictions to discourage real estate speculation, including higher down payments and an extra stamp duty of 5% to 15% if the property is sold within two years.”

        So we are not alone in dealing with the distortions of Chinese economic policy that has defacto led to the inflation of our own home prices. Indeed, China is now exporting their own inflation to us as we bear a greater share of their policy decisions related to real estate.

        Mainland Chinese see Value in Luxury Hong Kong Market

      • Ralph Cramdown

        That’s what the mortgage broker thinks, too: “A good 30 to 40 per cent of that business isn’t real subprime; it’s prime business that for whatever reason isn’t qualifying anymore.” Classic!

      • Farmer: “On the surface it seems like a good thing to have money pouring into your country but the reality is quite different on the ground.”

        And, it probably depends upon perspective. From the perspective of governments at all levels (and in a near-sighted sense), this money pouring in is great. From the perspective of “Joe Six-pack” (and in the longer term), not so much.

      • They are using African countries as a springboard. But Canada/Vancouver is special.

      • Google-translate miss out the word “Canada”, so here is the gist of the 1st para.
        “Hong Kong Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) received at the end of last year, nearly 20k applicants, of which >10k applicants were approved. And out of the >10k, over 50% came from Chinese nationals who had permanent residency status in West Africa Gambia; and 25% of the successful applicants came from those with PR status in “Canada”, the Philippines and New Zealand.

  6. CBC is telling people to be afraid of housing!

    Be very afraid of the Canadian housing bubble http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/04/16/f-vp-pittis.html

    • So many similarities to the US experience. As I’ve said before, I lived in CA during the run-up, and left just before the POP.

      Everything, including the fact that the MSM is starting to wake up to things, matches perfectly in essence and timing.

      (The other thing that really makes me do double-takes are the zillions of “re-fi” ads on the radio in Vancouver and environs. Again, *identical* to the USA back in the day.)

      • oh you hit on something here. this is my experience too and at first it was hard to believe this could still happen right after the technicolor blow up just next door. what resonates most is a comment david stockman made about the political apparatus being incapable of comprehending the problem. individuals can easily there is something seriously out of whack. but collectively, a consensus on that is only maybe dawning now. how can a mechanism like this solve anything if it can’t even recognize there is a problem until it’s too late? we are probably past the point of no return unless something really horrible happens somewhere like spain to scare the living sh*t out of the entitled classes. tptb keep getting bailed out by the money printing so they’re not feeling any real pain. and until they do, there won’t be real change. that won’t begin to happen until the money printing starts spiking inflation and yields. of course, none of those injections are truly sterilized so there isn’t really a way to withdraw the stimulus. think about it enough and you’ll likely concede the meltdown scenario is not only likely but also very much needed.

      • The problem with the “Vancouver experience” is that prices did drop — for a time — only to rebound to new highs. For anyone not knowing any better that might seem like Vancouver has a demand floor at 2009 prices.

      • jesse -> As you know, we’ve heard people here argue for such “demand floors”.
        Note that your observation is one that supports the validity of technical analysis of price charts… we’d fully expect some prospective buyers to step in at 2009 price floors (mistaking them for ‘demand floors’) and thus causing a bounce at ‘support’… before plummeting through. That trajectory is our most-likely-to-be-followed choice.

      • vreaa, my guess is that any “support levels” will be seasonal-based. If prices say were to drop by next March (OK OK suspend disbelief) they would probably tick up from that level, whatever it is based on previous drops, or at least not fall as much as it was in previous months.

      • jesse-> I’m not sure about the effects of seasonal variations in strength on the way down. Have markets in the US, for instance, shown relative strength in the spring buying months each year since 2007?
        Let’s check that out…

      • @jesse re: 2009 demand floor. the correlation between prices and credit is very clear. whereas the 2008 crash was truly ended loose credit for the us and europe, it was mostly an interruption for canada. when the loose credit ends, and it must one way or another, prices will tank again. eg. end of loose credit for housing in china, prices tank. not news for yourself and regular readers of course.

    • To the Vancouver Courier, Mark Hassiuk,

      Thank you for speaking up in such clear terms. I agree wholeheartedly with your article. It is not racism to expect that our communities NOT be abused by capital flows from outside of Canada. Our concerns about vacant homes are legitimate and need to be heard. For those buyers (the origination of the cash is not relevant) this city is becoming little more than a dumping ground for their own wealth preservation agendas. Local community needs are not their concern nor do they bear a fair share of the costs as an erosion of the local culture takes place before our eyes. That is not racist to suggest that people here feel stressed by excessive property speculation. Especially when some investors live abroad and utilize our local land as little more than a speculative investment vehicle of convenience. Worse…we don’t often have the facts to argue the case. We need statistics and data to prove a case. So lets have them. When will our local civic government and the province acknowledge the damaging effects on civic coffers of this kind of investment activity that is so clearly detrimental to the community and its cohesiveness. There is evidence of the negative impacts on the community at so many levels and yet it is often little more than anecdotes we work with. Most worrisome, normal working families can no longer afford to live in Vancouver. Everyone with a brain in his head can see that. School enrollments are falling. This is what,….the second or third largest city in the country? Surely it must have enough capabilities and competencies to address what is becoming a crisis of housing, a burden on the business community that is deprived of the consumption a normal community provides and a loss of legitimate tax revenues that would accompany a fully engaged city. It is not good enough to have foreign money simply warehouse wealth in city properties while leaving their homes and apartments vacant. Hopefully we are not going to become a ghost city but the evidence is suggesting that is our current fate.

      • Yes Farmer, It’s a cultural method of business and nothing to do with genetics. Anthropologists and sociologists would chuckle at claims of racism by real estate parasites. The beloved Chinese business person knows it’s just about parking money and taking a risk in a free market. Why don’t developers here just admit it was always about the money? Because the debt sheep here are just a little slow in the game and could easily regulate foreign investment just as China does. Alas, our govt is selling out faster than Greece. I’m saving up for a Prospect Point condo as soon as they pave over that deadwood mold factory they call a park.

      • debtless: If you are referring to a cultural method of business specific to the Chinese then you must be blind to all the real estate speculation that takes place in North American by North Americans alone. Real estate speculation is as old as the notion of real estate itself. Have you missed all the reality shows on TV about flipping houses and all the real estate seminars you see advertised on TV?

      • Thanks Debtless, you obviously appreciate my position. Seems we cannot talk about it openly though. Money is indeed the problem. As soon as it is Asian money or Chinese money though the mud-slinging accusations of racism crop up. It makes me nuts because I am not racist nor have I ever been racist. That is how I know the mud-slingers are just using heavy-weighted words as tools to shut down the conversation and deprive us all of a very legitimate discussion. It really makes me crazy because too many people cave and let them get away with that manipulation and then nothing constructive gets accomplished.

  7. Vancouver moment today. Check-out clerk at Safeway on 4th in Vancouver was talking to a co-worker about her phone call from Shanghai. I asked what was she doing, and she told me that she was a mortgage broker who had just done a deal with a guy from Shanghai who had bought a house for his aged parents to come over and live in Richmond.You can’t make this stuff up!!!!

  8. Relaxed & Happy Islander

    I hear you, Numbers.

    I wish you and your family all the best as you navigate thru what you have to.

  9. Cry me a river. Very colourful piece there.

  10. Cry me a river. The old neighbourhood I used to know was surrounded by forest and then the forests were cleared to make way for houses. Oh dear, there goes the dream of a neighbourhood that won’t change in my lifetime.

    • Sure, change happens.
      But very fair for individuals to share opinions on the quality of the changes.

      • West side house owner sells out at a terrific profit, funds idyllic island life and then bemoans changes to their old neighbourhood. That’s rich.

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