Musing About Living Elsewhere – “Vancouver is nice, but it sure ain’t worth the cost.”

“I’m originally from here but moved away to study. Came back with a wife and a professional degree this past December. Between the two of us (both healthcare professionals) we make far more than the average family in Vancouver. However, we think of leaving every day due to the cost of housing. It’s a constant debate. I’m not sure how much longer we will hang around. We “could” buy a house if we felt the need but the fundamentals are just ridiculous – this can’t go on forever. Since I arrived our department has lost two colleagues to the high cost of living in Vancouver.
My wife is from Edmonton where we could get higher paying jobs, lower cost of living and cheaper real estate. Then again we’d be in Edmonton.”

EST at VREAA 1 Jun 2012 11:17pm

“If our families weren’t here I suspect that both of us would be more inclined to pick up and leave. The second component is the fact that the rest of Canada is not extremely desirable – to us. You have Calgary,Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Hardly a plethora of choices, and all come with punishing winters.
Often these days I find myself in envy of our Southern neighbours. While things are certainly not all rosy down there, the US remains the land of opportunity for those willing to seek it. Add to that the amazing variety of locales to live in, and constantly decreasing costs of living and it makes it exceedingly difficult to want to stay in Vancouver. Too bad that for the majority of us living in the US is nothing but a pipe dream, myself included.”

Burt at VREAA 2 Jun 2012 9:05pm

“I moved away a little more than a year ago. My preconceived notions of how much I would miss Vancouver turned out to be nothing like reality. Sure I miss my good friends and family that live there, but everytime I go to visit I’m so glad to leave and return home. Vancouver is nice, but it sure ain’t worth the cost.”
Escapee at VCI 6 Jun 2012 9:20pm

24 responses to “Musing About Living Elsewhere – “Vancouver is nice, but it sure ain’t worth the cost.”

  1. @Burt’s entry…

    the USA and Canada could loosen the restrictions on cross border migration, that would solve quite a bit of problems for the thin skinned Canadian. Alternatively it would also help the thick skinned Yank. Surely we must be approaching an equilibrium.

  2. People need to start looking south. Ive heard this argument so many times about where else would you want to live in Canada other than Vancouver. I’m in the process of moving to Los Angeles and its not as hard as most think. There is a serious lack of engineers in the united states and they are starting to recruit in Canada to fill the void.

    • You are an engineer, which explains why the US is letting you in. Any look at the unemployment rate based on education and profession indicates there is a shortage of certain job classes.

      Not all Canadians can be as mobile. Be sure to tell your kids.

  3. I was casting about looking for 2012’s version of DeGaulles ‘Vive Le Quebec Libre’, (July 24, 1967), and I think, today, I found it.

    Could we see this declaration manifest on the opposite side of the country? A third estate hero with ~power~ commenting about the ‘Time being right for border Liberty? Surely the effect in Quebec was swift, the Separation movement blew mostly hot or warm for many years.

    A resounding downdraft in West Coast RE prices would naturally be the result if a Border Liberty speech was made today…. A speech made by a man or woman of at least DeGaullist stature. .. I don’t know who that would be.. perhaps a staged event, the Hegelian dialectic at work, Hollywood has lots of talent for these put-ons…

  4. Certainly not Tsur Somerville!! Although CTV did a piece on the potential 15% decline in prices in Vancouver, and used an SFU economist to discuss it. They did however say some ‘other people’ do not think a price decline will occur. Certainly a 15% decline on homes over 2 million will hardly increase affordability for people.

    • As others here have been quick to point out……Vancouver has already had a 12% decline (if not more) so it is not very creative of the banks to say we wil have 15% drop within two years time in this city. Hell, we will get that in 60 days the way things are moving.

  5. Interesting the comments here about moving to the US. The same thought occurred to me reading this tonight. People in Vancouver, can and should seriously consider Seattle as a viable option – best yet, Washington state has no state income tax – creating a huge tax differential for take home pay – let alone similar homes and neighborhoods at up to 1/3 to 1/4 the cost. The Free Trade and NAFTA treaties provided for labor mobility for educated professionals – lots of jobs are covered. If a person has a degree and works in their field, they likely would qualify. Healthcare like these people are talking seems a no brainer. I’d check it out.


  6. It’s easiest for those with tech degrees to cross the border – software jobs, engineering. There’s also a social security treaty between countries. You can transfer you credits back and forth.

    It’s about 30% cheaper to live in the US in terms of food and purchasing all sorts of random stuff–airline tickets, books, dairy, manilla folders, shampoo, plastic bags. If you’ve saved a big enough down payment, you might be able to buy your home outright. In Austin, TX there are many nice houses for 300K.

    But it is a hassle to move to a different country. Learning new systems, meeting new friends, applying for permanent residency, the money looks different, the culture is different. It’s a big hassle. Don’t do it unless you’d enjoy the adventure.

    • Oh ya! What a culture shock moving to the States! You could not find too more similar countries on the planet than the U.S. and Canada.

      Vancouver shares more in common with Seattle, Portland, SF, LA and SD than they do with Toronto. Trust me…I left Vancouver 12 years ago for Southern California.

      No if you are talking about moving to Texas…then we have a little more to talk about. Even then, the Albertans will be right at home.

  7. Those who may remember my post from early February may remember that I got the call from a former client to move (back) to Zurich and work for them. Decision time is this week – – and it’s 90% done deal. 2 Reasons for my departure.

    #1 – Cost of real estate
    #2 – Professional opportunities lacking in Vancouver

    I could deal with #2 if #1 was not so rediculous. Where the incomes and cost of housing become so out of line, the city ceases to function in balance and part of that equation is that people who can leave do. At 50% of the current housing cost, things would be relatively in balance, even though real estate would still be expensive.

    One thing that disappoints me a bit and makes me want to wait around is that I honestly can see that the bubble is starting to deflate. I was running some analysis on price evolution in Richmond and Vancouver. No matter how you slice it, the Vancouver West prices are down – and down at least 10%. In addition, there has also been a complete halt to the higher priced sale listings. Large price concessions are being made by sellers who are significantly in the money and would like their gains locked in. There are declines in Richmond and none of this can be attributed to sales mix of ultra-luxury properties as that segment does not really exist. Richmond is down at least 5% in past 3 months. Van-West apartments are pretty flat but the trend in past month has been one of a decrease of both average and median. So – the signs are there – – the question is will it be fast or slow. And . . .Will the HPI for June come out of another 420 party at REBGV? No matter what it is – -I’m fairly sure I won’t be here to see it in person.

    • 1. Sorry to hear you’re leaving us but, at the same time, wish you all the very best. You contributions here have been thoroughly appreciated; many thanks for all your analyses, considered posts, and for sharing your story.
      2. Thanks for your latest price analysis re Westside and Richmond. The price drops do appear to have started (over and above change in sales mix affecting averages, as you point out).

    • Zurich has affordable real estate? (No sarcasm…honest question.)

      • Switzerland has a very low home ownership rate – only 34%.
        Homes in Switzerland are expensive, but incomes are MUCH higher than here.

      • When my rent goes up by 50% but my income goes up by 3 times (not to mention the 8 weeks vacation) – it’s a much better quality of life. And in Switzerland – although expensive – – all of the metrics are in balance including price / income and price rent. In fact Price/Rent is almost legislated through Rent controls. Throw in the fact that capital gains are not taxed and pensions are lucratice and taxed at a much lower rate, it’s a much better place overall.

        To quote the Swiss . . “It’s expensive, but the quality is better”.

  8. “The second component is the fact that the rest of Canada is not extremely desirable – to us. You have Calgary,Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Hardly a plethora of choices, and all come with punishing winters”. ~~ Burt
    Excuses, excuses. Do you even know how spoiled you sound? You listed 4 big cities in other provinces and they are all no good. Not very original. More than 30 million Canadians live somewhere other than Vancouver. Do they come crying here about not living there in the BPOE? Don’t think so.

    It is a big world Burt. Time to grow up.

    • Don’t you know that every other city in Canada, save for maybe Montreal, is an urban sprawl American-style wasteland with no culture and no natural beauty to speak of? And Montreal has winters that regularly dip below -5 C, so that puts it in essentially the same boat.

      Every other Canadian that looks at Vancouver and says “It’s an awfully nice city with atypically mild weather for a Canadian city” is just butt hurt not to have grown up in Vancouver and become a dyed-in-the-wool west coaster?

    • I won’t bother to detail my whole life, suffice to say I wasn’t born in Canada. I appreciate what this country has to offer better than most, I am well aware of how fortunate we are even having these discussions.

      That being said, I am also able to view things pragmatically and weigh what options are of best value.

      Having grown up in -20 to -30 winters I can appreciate how punishing dealing with this weather can be for months at a time. Vancouver is the only Canadian enclave that offers comfortable temperatures year round. This is partially why I envy our Southern cousins, a multitude of states offer comfortable climates.

      To us – let me further emphasize what I meant. Montreal is a no go for many, though English is widely spoken it is a French first city. Neither one us speak French, so its not a realistic option.

      Toronto is a large city, with many large city problems. Its also no longer cheap, incomes are slightly higher but it doesn’t offer enough of a net benefit for us to consider moving across the continent for.

      Calgary is an option, close to family in BC and noticeably cheaper. Good jobs in Alberta, its viable. Winters are punishing, summers scorching.

      Ottawa, can’t comment too much. Winters are still a minus. Though high paying government jobs are available.

      Overall none of these cities offer a tantalizing enough option to relocate away from our families and restart our professional lives. I am self employed, so it would require for me to reboot and start from scratch.

      Americans are fortunate in that so many states offer comfortable climates to relocate to, and many are cheaper than the west coast. Another major plus is the cost of flights in the US, even if we moved away from family we could book flights for a 1/4 or less of the cost in Canada. Long weekend visits would be a more realistic option, when living at a distance from family.

      Its not about being spoiled or entitled, its merely a fact that for its enormous size Canada only has a few large cities separate by huge distances. Its not the easiest country to pick up and relocate in. This makes leaving Vancouver harder than one might think.

  9. Why do those who say that real estate is too expensive choose to leave instead of rent? Bizarre.

    • Because, for some reason, renters are second class citizens in Vancouver.

    • Self-selection. Something about inmates and asylums.

    • Have you seen the price for rent everywhere else in the country? Vancouver is off the charts delusional in both the ownership and the rental categories. It is just that the relativity factor of rent/own makes it seem “normal”. It is not like that in most other places except a few resort towns. I just don’t know how any of you can get by with the cost of living being so high. Cripes, even your gas prices are nuts. Way too high.

    • As Farmer said, rent is not cheap in this city. I make a very good salary here but I can’t afford to rent a newer 2 bedroom condo that’s bigger than 800 sq ft or a 2 bedroom townhouse. Well technically I can but then I would have no money left for emergency fund, RRSP, RESP, etc after rent, utilities, daycare, and day to day expenses and we aren’t even big spenders with big restaurant and clothing budget. $1000 in rent generally gets you either pretty bad rentals and/or really old rentals with that nice moldy smell which makes you think “hmmm….this must really help my toddler’s brain and respiratory developments to become an athelete or get into Harvard”.

  10. Rental prices in Vancouver are almost as stupid as the housing prices. We own our place (for many reasons it works for us, although I would absolutely not encourage others to buy in this market), and we actually pay about $800 LESS in mortgage and taxes than it would cost us to rent a similar house in our area. It’s utterly stupid.

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