“It was a chance conversation with a seasoned realtor that tipped me off to the whole bubble back in 2004. When I met my wife she had just purchased a condo in Surrey for $135k. We moved into it and met a tough-as-nails older woman who had been a realtor for 30 years and lived in the building. She shared the history of the building with us. Units had originally sold for $170k but a leaky condo adventure had dropped the value down to $70k, many lost their homes but those that were left were holding out for the prices to return to $170k. I asked her how long that would take. She pondered it, referred back to her 30 years of experience and said. “Probably 10 years.”
Almost exactly one year later in mid 2005 she came to us to tell us she could get $160k for our unit if we wanted to sell and move to a larger unit. We took her up on it and bought a larger unit in the same building. We got an over ask offer of $164k and bought a bigger unit for $170k. A year later and I was now working in Burnaby, a crappy commute. The condo needed a new roof and we had an assessment of $5000 that we had to take HELOC to pay for. We got a call to check out a place in a co-op in Burnaby near my work. It was perfect for the family we wanted to start. When we returned from checking out the co-op there was a flyer under our door. Our friendly realtor had just sold a comparable unit to ours for $240k.
Our families told us we were nuts to sell and rent. I smelled a rat, this experienced realtor had predicted 10 years to appreciate from $135k to $170k. And two years later the value had skyrocketed to $240k. My sister explained that I didn’t understand because I didn’t have kids yet how important it was for us to have real estate holdings to leave them. I decided that when I did have kids, they would be better served having me home for the two hours I would have been commuting then having a condo in Surrey 50 years from now. We pulled the trigger, the realtor actually sold the place to the same people who had bought our previous unit and we are now renters in Burnaby.
I knew nothing about real estate when I met my wife, she had bought into the market with an inheritence and had a bit of trouble walking away from ownership. But strata drama had shown her that she didn’t really own much of anything, she couldn’t rent her place out, she couldn’t decorate the way she wanted, she could have the pets she wanted, it was really a lot like living in a co-op. Except your crazy neighbours are toying with a massive chunk of your equity when they make silly rules. (They tried to make the building a 55+ while we lived there).
But ultimately it was that chance conversation with the realtor when she genuinely predicted a slow, steady increase in value that paced with inflation that tipped me off to the anomaly that was this price increase. I watched it shoot up and I was not prepared to sit back and watch it drop back down, taking my windfall with it. My wife is glad we made the move too, now she tries in vain to explain to her friends and family that they are headed for financial ruin if they continue their real estate delusions. But we all know how that goes.”
Thanks for your story, and for all your other comments on the blog, lexlimo.