“There’s a lot of peer pressure to move back home coming from family and friends, who don’t understand why anyone would want to leave the ‘best place on earth’. We feel a subtle undertone that what we’re accomplishing is worth less because we’re not doing it in Vancouver. As ex-Vancouverites born and raised, we can’t help but subconsciously agree.”

“My husband and I are both professionals in our early 30’s (medical and legal) who were born and raised in the suburbs of Vancouver and grew up in comfortable middle-class families. We both moved to Alberta after our undergraduate degrees at SFU, to pursue our respective professions at the University of Alberta (cheaper tuition and better regarded programs than UBC for both of us). After graduation (around 2008), we chose to stay in Alberta for a little longer to save up for a house in Vancouver. We’ve been following the housing market in Vancouver ever since and we read VREAA and Greater Fool every day. Following the market with the dream of someday moving ‘back home’ has become a ritualistic obsession, waiting for the day the market tanks and we can fly back to Vancouver with suitcases of cash. Needless to say, we’re still waiting and watching.

Since we left Vancouver, we have been the ‘outsiders’ in our respective families (both families are located exclusively within the lower mainland), flying home for Christmas and in the summer but missing out on the everyday family gatherings. There’s a lot of peer pressure to move back home coming from family and friends, who don’t understand why anyone would want to leave the ‘best place on earth’. We feel a subtle undertone that what we’re accomplishing is worth less because we’re not doing it in Vancouver. Of course, none of the people judging us have ever lived or worked outside of Vancouver. As ex-Vancouverites born and raised, we’ve had the ‘Vancouver superiority complex’ imbued in us and can’t help but subconsciously agree.

Both of us have held various jobs in Edmonton and have recently relocated to a small town a couple hours out of Edmonton for better career opportunities (i.e. to save up more money to move back home). Funny thing is, we’re actually starting to like it. Growing up, neither of us had thought much of the small-town life, believing small town folk were hicks (Vancouver superiority again). But, friendly people, a 5-minute commute to work, affordable housing, and stable jobs where we can easily make 3-4x what we’d make in Vancouver are awfully tempting. The cost of living here is much lower than Vancouver. There is no PST/HST in Alberta, and gas is about 30c/L cheaper. Housing in our town is fairly priced compared to the median family income. Alberta is also quite a beautiful province full of outdoor recreation opportunities, although it took us a while to appreciate its charms.

Young people in our town have amazing opportunities both to work and start a family. A colleague’s husband bought his first house at 18 (6 years ago), with money he made working in a skilled trades job. (By the way, detached houses under 100k still exist!) Because there is a REAL economy here, based on tangible things like trades, equipment manufacturing, outdoor recreation, etc, there are plentiful jobs available to anybody willing to work. I remember growing up and struggling to find a summer job in high school/university. I wouldn’t say jobs were plentiful growing up in Vancouver.

Sure, we can’t get sushi at 10pm on a Sunday, but going to Edmonton is an easy drive on the weekends to soak up some culture and go shopping. The irony is, in many ways the small town lifestyle is more cultured and wholesome than where we grew up. People take time for real self-actualization: gardening, baking, reading, travel, outdoor recreation, and community involvement. Contrast this with young people in Vancouver who either still live at home into their late 20s, or have moved out into 600k condos while earning 70k a year (if that), and go around driving luxury cars, thinking they’re hot stuff because they “own” a house in Vancouver.

If it weren’t for the family ties we have back home, we would not even be considering moving back. Vancouverites perpetuate the illusion of the ‘best place on earth’ either because they’ve never lived anywhere else and don’t know any better, or to justify a vastly overpriced lifestyle in which a person pays more and gets less than anywhere else in the country. To see the situation as it really is would be heartbreaking for most young people who’ve mortgaged their futures in an attempt to live a similar lifestyle to that they grew up with. Sadly, Vancouver has permanently changed, and it’s not just housing prices. Whether the bubble bursts or not, the social landscape of the city has been irreversibly altered and we’re not sure the ‘new’ Vancouver is a place in which we want our children to grow up.”

– ‘Watching And Waiting’, via e-mail to VREAA, 26 Apr 2012

‘W&W’ generously shares with us her complex, mixed feelings about living in Vancouver (or not).
It is often challenging for young people to make decisions about where to live (family, jobs, lifestyle, ‘social landscape’), and atypically large differences in RE prices add another significant variable. Over the last 5-10 years, the RE variable has become a game-changer for many.
– vreaa

65 responses to ““There’s a lot of peer pressure to move back home coming from family and friends, who don’t understand why anyone would want to leave the ‘best place on earth’. We feel a subtle undertone that what we’re accomplishing is worth less because we’re not doing it in Vancouver. As ex-Vancouverites born and raised, we can’t help but subconsciously agree.”

  1. If you are feeling the easy comfort of the small town life now in your, what? 20s, then you are really going to be feeling it mid 30s.

  2. “To see the situation as it really is would be heartbreaking for most young people who’ve mortgaged their futures in an attempt to live a similar lifestyle to that they grew up with.”

    i.e. cognitive dissonance. This is one of the more insightful comments yet.

  3. This sounds equally familiar to someone who grew up in (insanely overpriced) Toronto. No one could believe I’d leave it, but I did, for Montreal, then NY where I’ve stayed in 1989. I could actually afford to buy a home here!

  4. Basement Suite

    “waiting for the day the market tanks and we can fly back to Vancouver with suitcases of cash”

    Question is, how many tens (hundreds?) of thousands are like you, and me, with money to buy, just waiting for a reasonable (or less unreasonable) price. Personally this market would have to obliterate before I would enter, real estate disgusts me now; I want an extra fair price for all the bullshit. But there will be plenty of buyers on the way down. Enough to cause another 2008 bounce? We will see.

    • Good point, Basement. But with home ownership rates at record levels, how many prospective buyers are there? And in a falling-price environment, will the desire to own remain?

      • Basement Suite

        Indeed that is what may prevent a bounce this time around, weariness and psychology, a growing realization among the remaining renting folks how stupid things are here. (20% off sure ain’t gonna do it for me.) To quote myself for truth ;): “Personally this market would have to obliterate before I would enter, real estate disgusts me now”

        So lets sit back, make some popcorn, and watch the show.

      • Agreed. It’s going to be quite a show…

      • Yellow Helicopter

        I really don’t think there are that many. Ownership is at, what, 70%? There may still be some ‘investors’ waiting in the wings out there, but anecdote-wise, I’m in my early thirties and most of my friends have already bought, and are mortgaged to the hilt. It’s only our 20-something friends that are renting.

      • basement suite,
        If 20% off doesn’t do it for you what will? What is your buy-in level? what area?

      • “It’s only our 20-something friends that are renting”.

        you’re kidding, right?
        Most of the renting posters here are pushing 40, 50+

      • Basement Suite

        F1:

        What were we a couple months ago, 10.6 times median income? Don’t know what it is today, but 20% off that is 8.5 times median. Even New York City was “just” 6.2 in that same survey, and was 10th least affordable on Earth. By that metric we should drop 42% just to match New York City, and we are not the new New York City. Or, median income could rise 71% here. I don’t see that happening. Even at 40% off, we don’t even get down to New York City, which is 10th least affordable. So even at 40% off, Vancouver is stupidly priced relative to its meager wages. Would I take a look at 40% off? I don’t know. There are lots of places I’ve seen listed here where 40% off would not interest me in the least. There might be the odd deal to be found, but who knows. But 20% off? That’s barely a dip in a raging bull market, 2008 redux.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/23/canada-house-prices-vancouver-2nd-least-affordable_n_1224207.html

    • There are many who think they would leap at almost any discount who will, when the time comes, be repulsed by falling prices. That is the nature of markets: people like buying on the way up, they hate buying on the way down. It’s insane, yes, it’s the opposite of ‘buy low, sell high’, yes, but the group keeps on doing it, in all markets, cycle after cycle.

      • Basement Suite

        True Vreaa, and even deeper than that, those who DO buy low sell high in say the stock market (e.g., me) are also wary of trying to catch a falling knife. You might gradually scale into stocks on the way down, but that’s not so easy with a one-time home purchase. So timing is more important in RE. I have seen enough charts (e.g., Nortel) to know that what has gone to moon may retrace deep, and that the first 20% is no bargain when a ponzi scheme goes bang. All this to say, that even (especially) the “smart(er) money” ought to be in no hurry to get in, so really, who is left when both the dumb and smart money want nothing to do with it? So, I do see your points, now lets see if fear or greed wins the day.

      • Ralph Cramdown

        At least with real estate, you KNOW what the P/E is – i.e. what it could rent for. With Nortel and other accounting scandals/growth stock failures, who can value? Makes it a bit easier when bargain hunting.

      • Basement Suite

        I think what it could rent for is also bound to change. I suspect one reason for sky high rents in Vancouver is the sky high RE, i.e., us renters are not escaping scott free from this bubble even while renting. Housing in the US has slid for quite awhile, not sure where it’s at now trajectory-wise, but hard to pick a bottom in housing there. In stocks, I grant you, even book value is no guaranteed bottom due to trust issues, but the buying of a house all at once is a scary part, you don’t generally do that in stocks, so you do need to be more right in housing, and put all your chips down at once. Makes a huge purchase on the way down scary.

    • “how many tens (hundreds?) of thousands are like you, and me, with money to buy, just waiting for a reasonable (or less unreasonable) price”.

      investors are waiting too.
      You might get a permanent discount on a condo but the land discount will be brief

      • Beyond Debt

        Why don’t these “investors” buy now elsewhere, where there are deals? Crashes take many years, so I doubt they will wait that long.

      • f1 -> “the land discount will be brief”
        You are saying this presuming that the supply/demand relationship remains ‘linear’, whereas it won’t. There will suddenly be a vacuum below land (and condo) prices.

  5. This story sort of echos my experience. We moved to Houston to take advantage of new opportunities, try something new and, hopefully, save some extra money. For the last few years, we’ve planning our return to Canada with a plan to land in Calgary or Vancouver (but in the case of Vancouver, we could figure out how to find jobs in our line of work). Vancouver was always our preferred destination… if a little harder to secure. But during the ~3 years that we’ve been hatching our plan, Vancouver seems to have changed. A few months ago, I was offered a job in Vancouver for the same pay that I make in Houston. I turned it down. What seemed like the ideal place a few years ago doesn’t look like somewhere I want to live anymore – the price of homes is part of it, but not the only reason. As much as I have disliked living in Texas, my Houston neighborhood feels like a real community with neighbors who visit with, and look out for each other. Having made at least one trip to Vancouver per year over the past 7 years, I think we would be losing that were we to move to Vancouver.

    • You hit the nail on the head – community is sadly missing in Vancouver neighbourhoods. Our mainland Chinese neighbours prefer community with fellow mandarin speakers and our old Canadian neighbours have left this area. The school our kids go to is in vast majority new Canadians that generally prefer to stick in ethnic groups.

      • true Manatee.
        There are much better communities than Vancouver – it ranks up there with Canada’s worst (Toronto).
        English is the tie that binds. Try the north shore. Many cultures but everyone speaks English

  6. Its interesting to me how all these anecdotes of ‘longing to live in Vancouver’ are predicated on buying some shitty house.

    The part that leaps off the page at me was this;

    “…and stable jobs where we can easily make 3-4x what we’d make in Vancouver…”

    ARE YOU INSANE

    Living in Vancouver probably isn’t worth what would be effectively a 75% tax to you in whatever profession you have, give your heads a shake.

    whiteshoes

    • Basement Suite

      I wonder if that 3-4X was an exaggeration. Maybe they just can’t get any job at all in their profession in Vancouver, so they’d have to be a barista here. Otherwise 3-4X the income sounds a bit much.

      • Watching And Waiting

        Hi Basement Suite,

        Astonishingly, the 3-4x figure we mentioned was not an exaggeration. As rural professionals, our schedules are almost fully booked every day with clients/patients. We have friends in the same fields in Vancouver, and they tend to have massive gaps throughout their days. Adding insult to injury, established billing rates are much lower in BC than AB for what we do, coupled with higher costs of running a practice.

        Additionally, the rural lifestyle offers a future opportunity to ‘buy-out’ our respective practices and run our own show. That is certainly a lot more rare in Vancouver (simply due to competition, etc).

        The 3-4x figure was premised on us being able to find a job in our respective fields in Vancouver. If we knew the earning potential was so great in rural AB for what we do, we would have probably moved sooner.

      • Basement Suite

        Wow, that sounds great, well congrats on the move. Things that make ME go hmm. Indeed you would be crazy to ever come back to Vancouver. Even rents here are nuts, I am finally looking for a decent pad after decades of school and years of power saving, trying to get above ground so I can start a family and a real life (better late than never). Vancouver really is driving people out. Enjoy your paradise.

      • UBC dental school prof to his students: “if you want to make a lot of money, go practise in Alberta.” No bull.

  7. “Whether the bubble bursts or not, the social landscape of the city has been irreversibly altered”.

    Evidently. [Or in at least the following instance of YVR ‘De-Coupling’, where the DomesticDisputations were not, for a change, focused on the MaritalAbode]…

    [CBC] – Sperm ruled an asset in B.C. lesbian separation

    http://tinyurl.com/7f6my5e

    • sperm debasement is a very serious issue – pb is cronyc among elites

      • Very serious. And then there’s poor Roy… by the time KD was finished with him… Well, it all ended in tears. Made for a great song though. Live & Learn.

      • lesbans and sperm – well baited sir. i succumb too easily. ciao 🙂

      • That seems something relatively easy to divide. How about when a market turns illiquid…

      • dr. j must be the evil genius within … i was just stricken by the inappropriately debase imagery

      • Speaking of EvilGenius o GreatChubster… And Ladies, pray forgive this WalkOnTheWildSide… But I’ve often mused on the contradictions inherent in KD’s ‘orientation’ in the context of her avowed Veganism.

      • may i conjecture … that one or either serves to enhance the ideal (or sense) of perversion in the other – i offer you depravity as stimulus, sir

  8. This bubble has been most difficult for those of us who are from Vancouver. For people from elsewhere, you always have the option to “go home” once this place gets a bit much.
    Like the W&W, I’ve also been away from Vancouver for years at a time and missed weddings, a high school reunion, seeing grandparents before they died, etc. I keep getting pulled back here, even though I know this is a bad place to build my life now, financially and career-wise.
    What’s worse is a real estate market crash will cause so much pain to so many I know. I’ll finally have a decent chance to enter the market, but I suspect people won’t be in a mood to feel happy for me. I really don’t know what to do.

    • Basement Suite

      ” I suspect people won’t be in a mood to feel happy for me. I really don’t know what to do.”

      Feel happy for yourself and your own life and family, just like current owners feel now. They don’t feel bad for you or me, so don’t feel bad for them. I will seriously dance for joy the bigger the crash, just like I would have done back in Holland when tulip bulbs went from a million dollars a bulb back to a buck a bulb, just like when Bernie Maddoff was eventually found out. When pyramid schemes finally collapse, it is always a good thing; the longer it goes, the more victims it will take. However, I would not call current participants in this Canadian housing ponzi scheme “victims”, so even more joy will I have when this goes bang.

      • Beyond Debt

        I’m not so sure all current owners are happy. I’m seeing more complaints on places like Facebook. Young adults who bought expensive condos aren’t having much fun. They often work three jobs and no longer have a social life, and must wonder if their tiny place is worth it. Longtime owners might be smug and deserve a smack-down, but others are already losing the game.
        I want to tell people to sell before it too late, but every time I talk about real estate, people look at me like I have two heads or just kicked their dog. If only this was about just tulip bulbs, it wouldn’t snag so many naive people who are just trying to follow social norms.

      • Beyond Debt -> “I’m seeing more complaints on places like Facebook. Young adults who bought expensive condos aren’t having much fun. They often work three jobs and no longer have a social life, and must wonder if their tiny place is worth it.”

        Please send these stories along/ link them.

  9. Watching and Waiting

    The 3-4X number reflects not only increased billings for our respective professions (higher fees in Alberta) but also more clients and a chance to own businesses in a less competitive environment…in Vancouver we’d probably be working as associates instead of owning our own practices..

  10. Couldn’t agree more. I moved to Alberta as well, and had reprogram my brain from growing up living “lower-class Vancouverite” lifestyle with no opportunities. In otherwords, we weren’t millionaires. I still miss the night life, out doors and some other things about Vancouver, but it’s funny how pompous friends and family can be about how great Vancouver is when all they do is work to pay for a little moldy shack and pizza by the slice.

  11. I completely get the OP’s point from the social fabric point of view. People in Vancouver are selfish, narcissistic and materialistic beyond belief, and it disgusts me completely. It’s not the city I grew up in any more, and if I were in their shoes, I would not move back. As another poster said, why would you pay a 75% tax and degrade your lifestyles for the sake of misplaced nostalgia? Better to come back and visit, and build a decent life in a better place.

    I would love to leave this city and never look back, but a number of things (my career and my husband’s are both very tied to this city, plus we have elderly parents who will soon need assistance…) are keeping us here for now. While we are not in the kind of overstretched position that a lot of Vancouverites are in, I just don’t like this city any more, and would leave in a heartbeat if I could for the kind of lifestyle described above.

    • Watching And Waiting

      Hi RESkeptic,

      Sadly, both of our families are located exclusively in Vancouver. Certainly having our children group in constant contact with their grandparents, cousins, extended family, etc, is a large consideration for us (instead of seeing them a few times a year on special occasions).

      • stay away from Vancouver and irrevocably change your family tree. Ripping yourself from your extended family comes at a great cost – ask me.

      • Well now you know part of the reason why Vancouver wages are so low, and why investing in property is so rarely a good move: you’re dealing with a city that is chronically underemployed either by necessity or choice.

    • We’re also tied to the Lower Mainland for family or would be gone in a heartbeat. I must admit the thing that MOST irritates me is the BPOE idea. Sure, I like Vancouver. But I loved Waterloo, and Ottawa, and Montreal, and New York … well, hell, even in the Pacific NW there are tons and tons of locations other than Vancouver that I’d love to live.

      I don’t want to live in the best place on earth. I want to live in a nice place, one of many. It’s too bloody *religious*, the talk around Vancouver these days, like Vancouver is the One True City and all other cities are Heathen. Or maybe we’re the one City to Rule Them All, yes, my precious.

      It’s just gross. That, more than anything else, is what makes me want to leave. Because I am renting, and it’s affordable. I just don’t like living in Gollum-City.

  12. Watching and Waiting’s post speaks volumes about small town life and echo’s so much of what I’ve come to love about it. Cheap housing, outdoor recreation (I live in a fisherman’s paradise), slower pace, ultra-low crime rates, low property taxes, and a sense of community are but a few reasons to love it.

    Work took me to Winnipeg in 2008 from my posting in rural MB. I chose to keep my house in the sticks as a weekend residence instead of being caught up in the RE mania in Winnipeg. I rent an apartment walking distance to work, so I avoid commuter jail. When I’m off work I can’t wait to get back to the country.

    As for a sense of community, I’m going to a fundraiser tomorrow (supper and social) to raise money for the local arena. I’ll take that over meeting for coffee at Starbucks watching narcissists text away on their iToys any day of the week.

    I spent 2 weeks in Vancouver in 2008. You couldn’t get me to live there if you held a gun to my head.

    • “You couldn’t get me to live there if you held a gun to my head.”

      Luckily I’d wager that every buyer/denizen in Vancouver has free will.

      • Actually, Jesse… quite a few YVR denizens do ‘have a gun pointed at their heads’…

        http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/octip/

      • At the risk of ‘OverKill’… (the following headline has always appealed to Nem’s ‘sense of the macabre’/admittedly distorted humour – albeit, it is nevertheless emblematic of a tragically serious and worsening problem)..

        [BurnabyNow] – Realtor charged with slavery

        …”Filipino woman forced to work around clock/Police”…

        http://tinyurl.com/cxqxqt9

      • If I had a steel dollar coin for every nanny forced by her employer to take out a mortgage I’d still be stuck without bus fare.

  13. Ralph Cramdown

    “Money is flat and was meant to be piled up.” — Scottish Proverb

    There will come a time when money talks and credit scores walk. We’ll be there together, ‘Watching And Waiting’

    • wordpress strongly discouraging this post … can we trick it?

      🙂

      • [THROWING DOWN THE GAUNTLET]… A SemioticRiposte..

        O GreatChubster!, if W A R is your Heart’s desire… so be it.

        [DearEd/Readers will note the clever thematics and forgive Nem the incessant WeatherHolds that have thus far precluded his ‘finishing touches’ on our Season2 InauguralBlastRadius]

      • Well you know, Nemesis, your sorties to the interior are much appreciated and while I’m sure they are done solely and exclusively on a professional basis, it may not be too long before you can save some gas, buy some decent shoes, and try on some urbanism for size.

      • a contest? my award for episode 1 belongs to jeff for dylan rhymer and the most enduring image of the week. for those not inclined to sift a little, here is a follow-on …

  14. Wow. I could have written that virtually identical experience.

    This part: “Vancouverites perpetuate the illusion of the ‘best place on earth’ either because they’ve never lived anywhere else and don’t know any better, or to justify a vastly overpriced lifestyle in which a person pays more and gets less than anywhere else in the country.”

    …is perfect. And it’s not “either”. It’s “both.” Vancouerites are probably the most insular folks who I’ve met.

    • When I left Vancouver for Toronto in the ’80s (to get a job), my Vancouver friends looked at me with disbelief: How could I leave?. The stunned look I got also meant that they couldn’t picture life in TO, because they had never been east of Hope.

  15. I am wondering how the locals view those “newcomer”

    Could it be “a lot of unskilled or trade jobs don’t pay enough for those workers to live in xxxx anymore, Everyone has a story about children of long-time families who can’t afford to live there.”

  16. This has been a common theme on this blog. Basically we are in the same situation as “watching and waiting”, except we chose to stay here and have discussed moving back at various times, but not even looking at housing, the deciding factor was more about lack of jobs or taking a 20-30% pay cut. I feel it may be better just to have our “working” lives here in Calgary and then retire to Vancouver later so we can enjoy it more. I have now met about 3-4 families from the Lower mainland in our immediate neighborhood and none of them have any plans to go back any time soon. I guess for us we will come back and visit family and friends whenever we can. Most of my family actually realizes it is better for us to stay than to move back.
    “As ex-Vancouverites born and raised, we’ve had the ‘Vancouver superiority complex’ imbued in us and can’t help but subconsciously agree.” – totally agree with that comment from the couple. I would argue I have the “west-side Vancouver superiority complex” inside me – If I go back I ain’t living in Richmond, Coquitlam etc!

    Anyways…Alberta has been good to us. Just look at the last election here – Alberta is probably more “liberal” than B.C. in terms of its government.

  17. I have lived in quite a few different places both in Canada and abroad and if Vancouver isn’t the best place on earth it is definitely in the top 3. I also grew up in a small town and you couldn’t pay to go back to live in one. They are very unhealthy places.

  18. NO WAY and not even close! I have lived on 3 different continents on more than 4 different countries and visited countless more and can say without a doubt Vancouver is the most overated city I have ever lived in. Sure compared to the rest of Canada where everywhere else it’s a no brainer but it’s a city with ridiculous house prices, embarrasingly low wages and crap weather. How is that liveable?

    Go to Melbourne, a vibrant and cosmopolitan city where it’s mild all year round, you can own a home for half the price and wages are 30% higher. You’ll never ever want to return to Vancouver.

  19. My husband and I moved to Vancouver from Calgary 3 years ago. In terms of employment and housing, were not doing so hot out here. So why do we stay and rent a crappy basement suite?…the reason is you think Calgary is nice and green until you move to Van. That’s when you realize how truly cold Calgary winters are and how not-so-green it really is (just some random pine and poplar trees spread out over fields, really). Its HARD to leave once you’ve lived in Van. Had I never left Calgary I could have lived there for the rest of my life and been satisfied (perhaps, happy) and would have never seen the weather and beauty Van has to offer. Now we have to make the difficult decision to go back to Calgary since living in Van has cost us a lot. We have family and friends back home (Calgary) and they’re all in their late 20’s like us, they’re getting great jobs, have money to travel, and are buying up 300,000 houses (not apartments, not townhouses…actual houses with 3 or more bedrooms and a backyard). My advice to anyone is, if you live in Alberta, stay there, don’t TRY Vancouver, it’s very hard to leave once you’re here just because of how beautiful it is.

  20. I seriously thinking of moving to Calgary now. There is such a falacy in the city of Vancouver that it’s the best Canada has to offer, and it amuses me that anyone thinks it has so mcu to offer.

    I guess ignorance really is bliss.

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