High Paid Vancouver Workers Choosing To Live In The U.S. – “The cost of housing is four to five times what they are accustomed to; He did not want to move because he can have his $400,000 mansion in the U.S., versus getting a little home for $1-million in Vancouver; There are other really pretty places out there.”

Eric Murray is chief executive officer of growing clean-tech company Tantalus Systems, based in Burnaby, B.C. Mr. Murray, however, lives in Raleigh, N.C., where he owns a 3,500-square-foot house and puts his three kids through private school.

He is a Canadian, with several family members in Vancouver. But when his career trajectory sent him to Raleigh, he decided to stay put. Mr. Murray is one of a growing number of workers in the Lower Mainland who live in the U.S. You could call them cross-border jobbers.

“My father’s entire family is in Vancouver, so for our relationship, it would be great if I lived there,” he says in a phone interview. “But for me to pick up and move from Raleigh, where I have a fully wooded lot, and a very nice home, and I can send my kids to private school, this sort of stuff – to do that in Vancouver, I just can’t swing it economically. When we looked at this whole thing, we knew we would have to compromise on housing.

“Absolutely, I would live in Vancouver if I could afford it.”

Technology is the third-largest contributor to B.C.’s gross domestic product, says Bill Tam, president of the B.C. Technology Industry Association. He says there is demand for about 4,000 more employees in the industry, and the majority of qualified people come from the U.S.

“Especially in the Vancouver area, technology has been one of the faster growing industries,” he says. “So when companies have had to expand and recruit managers to come here from the U.S., some have relocated to places like Blaine, Wash., close enough to commute on a daily basis. That’s the level of creativity they’ve had to resort to.”

Others, he says, fly in from more distant U.S. locations, like Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray used to fly into Vancouver every other week. These days, he’s flying in every third week.

“When they come across and recognize the cost of housing is four to five times what they are accustomed to, they end up being commuters,” says Mr. Tam.

Sierra Wireless CEO Jason Cohenour, who was travelling and couldn’t be reached for comment, works in Burnaby and lives in the U.S. Tom Ligocki, CEO of Richmond-based Clevest, says he has several employees who live in a golf course community at Semiahmoo Resort, near Blaine. One of his engineers, Jeremy Westbrook, commutes from his home near Blaine to work in Richmond. It takes them about 30 to 40 minutes to make the drive.

“None of the folks in the U.S. want to move to Vancouver,” he says. “The simple example that I heard from one gentleman is that he did not want to move because he can have his $400,000 mansion in the U.S., versus getting a little home for $1-million in Vancouver.” …

“There’s no point in even talking about the Vancouver market. We are just talking to them about directly moving to the Semiahmoo resort,” he says, on the phone from a conference in New Orleans. “If you can’t bring them to Vancouver, that’s the only option we have.

“And they do certainly make very good wages,” he adds. “These are high-end experts that we are hiring.

“But all these folks are used to living in a house. They are used to American comforts, and they are well paid, and they can afford to have a nice luxury home wherever in the U.S.”

“I get into this discussion all the time with guys. Vancouver is great. The mountains and ocean are super. I get that. I would love to live there. I have a lot of family there. But I don’t see how the economics would work for a young person trying to do both of those things, unless they had a similar opportunity in another really pretty place.

“And I have been in a bunch of different countries and there are other really pretty places out there.”

– from ‘Some Vancouver workers have been priced right out of the country’, Kerry Gold, Globe and Mail, 22 Feb 2013 [hat-tip Aldus Huxtable]

Smart business people know: Vancouver RE is woefully overpriced.
– vreaa

44 responses to “High Paid Vancouver Workers Choosing To Live In The U.S. – “The cost of housing is four to five times what they are accustomed to; He did not want to move because he can have his $400,000 mansion in the U.S., versus getting a little home for $1-million in Vancouver; There are other really pretty places out there.”

  1. He is getting paid really big bucks and his work allows him to work fr home so it justifies the commute. For a lot of people, it does not. Brain drain out of Vancity plus inability to attract skilled workers lead to sad economy and lack of competitiven

  2. pricedoutfornow

    Right before the bubble burst in the US, I remember reading crazy stories like this one about housing in the US. Things like how doctors were being offered subsidies and “affordable housing” options in California so they could afford houses. When the general population starts realizing that it’s just ludicrous how out of touch housing prices are with the rest of the world, I think that’s when we will see a change. That would be right about now, for Vancouver. I hope this crash is quick and dirty, we need some sanity in this city.

  3. Every worker at every level of society seems to have cottoned on that Vancouver is really a terrible place to make of a go where household economics is concerned. Yes they all love the city but reality dictates you must choose other locations to live if you have not already bought in many years ago.

    Who will happily give up a large home on a fully wooded lot in a warmer region in favour of blistery cold, rainy city where a newcomer is condemed to renting in a small condo inside the city for affordability?

    Boy, you better really love that job before you come to Van.

  4. Vancouver is to Silicon Valley what Kelowna is to Vancouver. The high prices cannot last.

  5. RE prices and taxes on everything are lower in USA….if you can move and have a good job your after tax cash and buying power almost doubles. What you give up is family support, low gun crime rate ( yes, in Chicago alone they had over 500 folks killed in one year ) , universal medicare and some social programs that very from province to province. Personal choice, more $$$ not always = better life.

    • If you’re in a position where you can move to the US then you wouldn’t be moving to Compton – you would be somewhere much safer, have way better and affordable access to medical care, no comparison in the quality of schools and job opportunities etc. If you are in the bottom 25% then yeah, you are wayyyyyy better off in Canada.

      • I lived and worked in USA for few year and still believe that Canada offers better quality of life than US ever will. Better off cash wise – YES, better life….well, not always. As I said it’s a personal choice. For some cash=happiness I guess.

      • Royce McCutcheon

        “Cash = happiness” is a glib dismissal of what is going on in Canada – and Vancouver in particular.

        My family has tried to make a go of it in Vancouver. We are succeeding and have great family roots here. But a move has been a potential Plan B since we started our professional careers. And if it does, it would be more likely to involve the US – and it would be for reasons beyond simple cash. There’s climate. There’s the fact that working opportunities in our professional fields are more stimulating and diverse (2 people busting their butts for a decade want to see their talents put to good use!). There’s the fact that our home town has become hostile in its indifference towards young people and young families as it’s got high on a Tony Montana-sized pile of mortgage debt yeyo. Why would we want to raise our families in a place like that if things won’t change? And what sort of quality of life are we talking where our RESPONSIBLY afforded choices for owned accommodation – on 2 good incomes – are either too small for a growing family or necessitate huge commutes that squander precious time that could be applied to happier pursuits? (Aside: we have a great family-friendly rental option but as others here will attest these can be relatively tenuous.)

        America is not a panacea. I have recent firsthand family experiences for how screwed up it can be. But the region my wife and I grew up in currently SUCKS for young people. And friends and family in other parts of the country aren’t high on young people’s prospects in other urban areas here either (acknowledging of course that Vancouver is a special breed of crazy). We don’t want to move to the US. We are trying not to move there. But you can only ignore big differences in a variety of quality of life measures (not just $ by a long shot) for so long. And if the implosion from this real estate foolishness is big enough on local, provincial, and national levels, we’ll be forced out anyways.

        (Apologies to all for the text block.)

      • UBCghettodweller

        Pretty much my sentiments about the USA as well. Life is great as long as you aren’t in the bottom quarter to third of income earners.

  6. West Van Tree Dweller

    I work for an engineering software company in North Vancouver. We simply gave up trying to attract qualified people to Vancouver many years ago – they like the city, but once an engineer / software developer in Austin or Raleigh or Portland figures out the house exchange, fuggetaboutit. Even Silicon Valley types find our house prices to be out of line. Our sales manager lives in Portland, just laughs when we ask him about relocating, says “sure – just give me a housing equivalency package!”

    • And MAC Marketing gets referenced in the Vancouver Observer “empty open house” article……

      “It’s not just what they did, but that they did it so badly. They could have just found a waitress or whatever, somebody who didn’t obviously work for them.”


      • It really bothers me that this RE agent thinks it would have been okay if MAC had just hired a waitress or something… Ya, ether way the “story” would still be a big lie perpetrated by an employee of MAC – full time or contract, sales associate or actress, unless the segment ran with an advertising or fictionalization warning, what MAC did was morally and legally wrong. But this RE agent thinks hiring a waitress would be okay because then MAC wouldn’t have gotten caught? I dont get it. Creating and perpetuating fraud, no matter how its done is wrong. Clearly poor ethics are a huge problem in the RE biz and some serious regulations aimed at protecting consumers from this sort of blatant manipulation and deception is needed.

      • It bothers me that the “journalists” came out of this as innocent victims.

      • “It bothers me that the “journalists” came out of this as innocent victims.”

        Agreed, but I doubt, even after this, they set the line on the right side of ethical. Somehow this specific type of lying is offside but other forms of “persuasion” are considered perfectly fine not only for standard practice for selling/marketing but also for what journalists allow in as unbiased reporting pieces.

        Reporters are angry, but arguably no more angry than a homeowner who found significant defects, too late, after an improper home inspection.

    • How’s that gentrification working out?

  7. Mr Murray likes Private Education, well, this sector just got hammered today.

  8. el competidor … http://tinyurl.com/bdwz8ho … lol – different sort of race to the bottom

    • Wow, and they even have a computer-generated voice describing the listing. We are truly in Bizarro world when they are asking someone to pay nearly a million dollars for that crack house and they can’t even be bothered to get a real human being to read the listing description.

  9. Obviously this article interviewed a bunch of self-entitled whiners who can’t see beyond their nose, and a bunch of incompetent HR who can’t properly articular the beauty of living in Vancouver. I mean if we have billionaires stampeding to Vancouver because it’s the best place on Earth, the only place where you can possibly ski, surf, and golf in one day, how could you possible not want to come here?!?!

    As well, we have a world class education system that we are exporting to China and the world! Why would you possibly want to send your kids to private school in US no less??!

    Yes, living in Vancouver requires some sacrifices but that’s the kind of expereinces that makes you a better pereson, a better parent, and giving your kids that much better life experiences. There is no job where renting out your basement is beneath you, or living in a townhouse with your kids doubling up in bedrooms.

    People just need to stop being so self entitle and expects everything at once in the best place on Earth, they need to be more like the boomer generation who made it in Vancouver through hardwork and sacrifices!!

    ok yeah, it’s all in jest to the bulls. Actually, one serious question I would ask is why the hell aren’t the local companies hiring local people for managers and avoid all these hassles?! I think the answer is probably because the companies here are too cheap to properly train and develop talents locally and find that good employees flock to greener pastures as soon as they can, except for those who don’t due to family, laziness, etc.

    • Are you saying that local companies are not willing to spend big money on local people so they are hiring cheap American labor?

    • Planet Earth to Space889….there are a lot of places in the US where you can “ski, surf and golf” in one day…….very close to Van, Seattle for example.
      In Seattle I live in a house that the average Vancouverite can only dream about,,and I’m not wealthy…
      Ski, Surf and Golf…..ahahaha, Vancouver middle class cannot afford it anyway….

  10. One of my clients is in the technology biz. He told me about the ridiculousness of Vancouver housing as if I didn’t know already.

    I can’t remember if it was Seattle or Portland, but the number of car rentals a day they do at the Hertz counter at their airport is 4000, or it could be 3000, or maybe it was 2000, I can’t remember exactly.

    The rentals at the Hertz counter for Vancouver? 200

    It could be the Canadaline, but I would think that if your work is going to pay for it, I’d get a car.

    Business is leaving Vancouver.

    • Business is leaving….so is anyone else with a lick of common sense. I am picking Avocados in my back yard now. Oranges are on their way. Who cares about skiing and surfing anyway when you can have warm sunshine and T-shirt weather every single day of the year for a tiny fraction of the monthly cost of Vancouvers obsessive misery with homes and lands.

      What a rat race it has become. I wil never go back there.

  11. I think I mentioned this before. How it’s ironic that the people who work blue and grey collar jobs need to be close to Vancouver and are forced to pay high housing costs. Others who are wealthy often have more flexibilty. Maybe they own their own business or are contractors (can work remotely). So they could actually live in Blaine or on a acreage in Abbottsford or whatever.

  12. [NoteToEd: I thought, WTF… Tom went to a lot of trouble to put this together for the FrostBacks (and I am ComcastUniversalNBC expatriate/’outcast’, after all)… so, for the benefit of all you NativeYanquis who, for one reason or another, find yourselves crossing the frontier to toil away in the GreatWhiteNorth, NexusEnabled or otherwise, and who didn’t get the HR RelocationDVD… here’s your BackGrounder – think of it as a public service announcement… PS, ED – Everytime I see ABC’s PJ… I tear up a little… remembering the foreign bureaus… the lavish budgets… the days when EditorialRocked and TheSuits were kept in cages. Aside: Don Hewitt (original Producer, CBS 60Minutes) had no idea what unintended mayhem he would let loose when he created a NewsMagazine that morphed into a PhenomenalCashCow and unintentionally, became the defacto industry ‘BusinessModel’ – NewsAsProfitCentre.]

  13. RoboRedaktor has seized a Goodie, ED… Just between the two us, I think he’s a more than a little worried he’ll be replaced by a YanquiFrostBack…

  14. Along the other themes of people employed by RE having too much vested in it:


    “if your career is in real estate, you might want to think twice before investing heavily in REITs.”

  15. The “nice” things about articles like this is they conveniently ignore the realities of living in the USA: the gun crime, racial divisions (still very much there), cost of healthcare etc. And the large exurban wooded lots aren’t going to be such a sustainable option going forward.

    Sure bash Vancouver for its high real estate prices, but don’t lose the plot by holding up places like Raleigh-Durham as some heaven-on-earth.

    • uh yeah, sounds like you’ve never been to RTP. Keep telling yourself that Vancouver is a peaceful oasis and our healthcare and social safety net are gonna be just fine in the next 10 years, after all the baby boomers have raped it to shit. Anyone with half a brain, and we know how hard that is to find in Vancouver, is going to find a good job in North Carolina and they’re going to have their gold plated healthcare paid for so stfu with your Tommy Douglas bullshit.

      • You sound a little bitter. I’ve lived in the Raleigh area, and I know what its like. One step up from South Carolina, but that’s not saying much. You can take your little pity party over not finding a good job here back to Dixie.

      • Pity party to Dixie? HaHa. I laughed like hell. That was a great one-liner.

    • What exactly is unsustainable about large wooded lots?

  16. it’s that easy……”what goes up must come down”….

  17. The US is going through a deflationary process whereby the living standards of all, except the very top tier, are being reduced.

    The excesses of the past are catching up with the present – there isn’t a bubble been discovered that can inflate out of the gradual reduction in standards of living.

    In the early nineties, my first job was at an aeronautical firm outside LA – I was making $80,000 per annum: which was pretty goo considering I was 24 and recently graduated from a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering.

    I left above job and move to software (from hardware) as I thought it was more exciting – little did I know then how fortuitous the decision would be.

    My former colleagues whom I have kept in touch with have had checkered employment due to retrenching that kicks in every 3-4 years – their salaries have remained in the 70-80K range per annum.

    Quality of life in the US is degrading – if you are rich, all is peachy – otherwise, it can be rough and on a downward trajectory.

    • ‘quality of life degrading’ … true of whole 1st world, though very arguably least bad in usa … have bug out plan for if/when things cross that line and don’t move the goalposts – met many vietnamese on my 1st job who did – memorable stories … fwiw-imo, pharma/drug dev is not likely to get done anywhere else ww for various structural reasons + aging 1st world demographic is backstop / demand driver … rn, pharmd, md in drug industry all premium goodies but not must haves – experience counts so find a way to get some … good luck friends

      • Not true, the social safety net has much wider gaps in the USA than most other parts if the 1st world. As menominee points out, one bad layoff can set you on a very steep and very fast downward trajectory.

      • 🙂 well let’s not forget the soviets had a robust version of that concept … until they didn’t … and that europe and japan are discovering now that, at the end of the full can kicking cycle, all those safety net fcns are merely a ponzi facade … because at best, the programs – though perhaps well-intentioned – are ultimately administered by economic incompetents … usa simply has less facade

  18. Thinking in terms of aggregated national statistics probably isn’t the best way to think about how likely it is that violence and crime will actually have a material effect on your life if you relocate from country A to country B. Thinking in terms of a single crime category instead of the broad spectrum of criminal activity is even less likely to give you a useful understanding. Having said that – if you want to see how Canada compares to the rest of the OECD in overall crime – here’s a good resource.

    Click to access crime_stats_oecdjan2012.pdf

  19. I’m originally from Western Europe and I lived for 3 years in Vancouver (emigrated as professional) before moving to the US…so I have no “emotional attachment” to a particular city or nation so maybe I can be a bit more unbiased.
    If you are a professional, the US beats Canada by a mile (cost of living, opportunities, career and knowledge development)……if you are minimum wage material you may have some generic advantage in Canada but definitely NOT in Vancouver…
    I rather be a Wal Mart worker in Seattle than Vancouver.
    The US high crime myth is just…a myth, except in some specific cities and realities…as someone said before, if you decide (and you legally can) move to the US nobody forces you to live in Compton…..
    Seattle for example has a lower crime rate than Vancouver (specifically burglaries)
    In my experience, a lot of people that keep pounding their chest with the Vancouver myth (best city on the world and bla bla bla) are simply people that have no where to go, they rather live in rainy and overpriced Van than shovelling snow out of their driveway in the rest of Canada in winter….I been in Calgary for a while…..nice people and good opportunities but….brutally cold.
    It is remarkable how Vancouver was able to build such undeserved reputation, just scratch the surface the the ugly reality is clear…..It took me only a month or so to really figure out that city.

    • This is spot on.

      Despite being Canadian, I’ve got no particular emotional attachment to Canada. I’ve lived and worked around the world and know that Canada isn’t as great as many Canadians think and that Van isn’t anything near the best place on Earth. To be honest, when I hear Vancouverites saying this, it sounds exactly like the Americans we would complain about saying the US is the greatest. Most of them simply can’t have lived outside Canada.

      I actually just returned ti Canada after having lived and worked in the US for many years. Life was comfortable enough. We knew nice people. The public schools were fantastic and crime was much lower than in Van (which I really hate to admit). The climate was so much better than anywhere in Canada We could plan outdoor events weeks in advance except in mid winter. In the summer, we were virtually guaranteed nice weather. Pay is much higher and the job selection is way better. Even the commute was quite good (25 easy minutes). And the drivers are better (!!). We moved back because I see the US imploding in the future. While I still see this happening, we’re very seriously thinking of returning to the US anyway. The downsides there aren’t worth the few advantages Canada has.

      Canada’s advantages are the health care system (for the time being, at least) and I have the stability of being a legal resident without needing an employer to sponsor me. That’s it. Returning to BC was a huge shock. It’s crazy expensive here, not just housing. Food, booze, entertainment, restaurants, car insurance (OMG) … And then you look at the housing. Getting work is much harder and the pay is 1/2 to 2/3 of the US. Plus a horrid commute. And absolute crap weather.

      BPOE? Say it as often as you want but it’s just not true.

      • W Tucker: Totally agree with your comment. We are duel Canadian and US citizens and we have lived in the US around 10 years now. For most of the Canadian, where else in Canada would give you the mild weather with mountain and ocean view? I am not surprise most of them think that Vancouver is the greatest (with reinforcement from other studies). That said, we are moving back to Canada in the summer mainly because of my son is planning on attending UBC in the Fall. For us the parents, we are retiring so that the medical system is a plus in Canada. However, we are keeping our options open to keep our US citizenship. It would be much easier for my son to go anywhere in North America if he choose after his schooling in Canada (Graduate school or search for work in the US).

  20. Thinking of relocating? best check with an astrologer who is experienced in AstroMap.

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