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Buyer Diaries: Vancouver

  • Hi Kristin, you're probably going to have at least one bridge between you and your places of work :/
  • Hi Kristin. I'm wondering if you and your husband have ever considered Bowen Island? My partner and I spend time there each summer and love it. I realize that it's a whole different thing spending some time in the summer versus year round, commuting to work etc... but based on the things you've cited as items of importance, you might do well there. Yes, you have the time and cost of commuting to an from an island but it's a beautiful commute. If island living and the commuting is something you could both manage, it seems like the other items would be covered (ie good-sized house, reasonable prices, good-sized lots ideal for those who love to garden, peaceful community, easy access to the mainland etc... My partner and I live in the West End and we love it but we're "condo people". If I was interested in a house and if the other factors were do-able, I'd seriously look at Bowen but I would go with the addage "try before you buy" in terms of spending some time over there, going back and forth a bit to get a sense of whether it's for you or not. It sure is a pretty place to live. Here's a site that I've looked at the odd time out of curiosity: www.bowenislandrealestate.info
  • Kristin, have you looked into borrowing more but spending less on other things to balance the budget? Like getting rid of your cars--assuming you each have one--they cost so much money per year & if you live in the city you really don't need to own any. I know borrowing more is scary, but real estate is an investment, cars are not. Also, getting a place with a basement suite (or two) helps with affordability. We own a house in Mount Pleasant that has two basement suites & we live car-free, which saves us tons of cash. We just use Modo or a rental for the occasional trip that's farther than transit or our bikes can take us.
  • I would take a serious look at Squamish. We moved our family there 4 years ago, and we both commute to the city on the new Sea to Sky highway. My drive is 45min to Strathcona, and the community is bursting with young families and possibility!
  • We are in a very similar situation as you. I think it is time first-time home buyers to be innovative. It is also time for first-time home buyers and principal home owners to get together and ask both the Federal and Provincial govt to do some thing. 1) Eliminating of property transfer tax for the $500K 2) Eliminating GST on the first $1 mln
  • I am in a similar boat, but without the new son! As a fellow engineer, I decided the solution for me was to stop trying to play the market and that I needed more money to get my foot in the door of Vancouver real estate. So I packed my bags and headed east. There are plenty of high paying jobs in Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland that you can peck away at for a few years, then move back to Vancouver with a much larger sum of money for a down payment. I figure if you're already considering moving to Victoria and Nanaimo for cheaper real estate, you're not opposed to moving, at least for a couple years.

    Jim
  • Seeing as you've looked at Nanaimo, you know there are many many options in the $400-500,000 range. I would stay out of North Nanaimo as it has become an over-priced suburban ghetto. Old Nanaimo, Central Nanaimo and Harewood have some gems with lots of trees and character. Don't be put off by snooty types who look down on the place. I live above the university in beautiful home with a million dollar view but a less than half-million dollar price tag and can walk to work. Everywhere in town is a 10-15 minute drive. I would seriously consider here or elsewhere on the island. There are engineers and landscape architects happily employed.
  • How about Port Moody?my wife and i moved there just before we had our first child. It is walk able! Has trails! The ocen, lots of parks, and the skytrain will be coming in a few short years. no bridges between you abd Vancouver. Check out New port Village area. You'll love it.
  • Hi Kristin, in 1988 my partner and I returned to Canada, after 18 years away, with a houseful of furniture and $20,000! Even then, finding a place in Vancouver was completely out of our reach. Then we discovered Bowen Island and managed to find a rancher fixer-upper within walking distance of the ferry. We paid $87,500 for it, spent a year doing cosmetic work on it and, being garden lovers, reworked the overgrown one third of an acre into an attractive outdoor space. By the end of the year, we put the place on the market and sold it for double what we paid! This allowed us to look back to the mainland and we subsequently moved to Port Moody. As a previous poster pointed out, perhaps you should consider Bowen Island. At that time, the ferry being operated was much smaller than the current one and sometimes getting off the island on the first morning run was a real challenge. Anyway, something to consider.
  • Hi. You should look in the Queen's Park area of New Westminster. Beautiful heritage homes, huge park like properties. New West is the best value in the lower mainland. Good transportation with Skytrain right there, the beautiful river front which has just got a new park, and now an influx of cool and hip restaurants. The best place for young families in my opinion. Vancouver is for the old and childless.
  • I’d be very cautious about buying a house or a condo at the moment. You could very well be buying at the peak. And I don’t mean the peak of Burnaby Mountain! A lot of people in Vancouver believe we’re in a huge real estate bubble, and that opinion has gradually gone mainstream in the past year, with economists, and even the Royal Bank (!) saying there could be a significant pullback. Spend some time on this Vancouver site for some context: vreaa dot wordpress dot com. You won’t be happy if you buy, prices drop by 20% or more, and you lose all your equity.
    Why not rent somewhere larger for a year or two and continue to watch the market closely? The massive run-up in Vancouver prices over the last decade is very unlikely to be repeated in the next decade. You say “the thrill of paying someone else’s mortgage is starting to wear thin.” As a Vancouver homeowner, I’ve done the math and the cost of renting has to be compared against _the total cost of homeownership_, not just against the monthly mortgage amount. In addition to the purchase price of a house, the homeowner pays mortgage interest, property tax, house insurance, utility bills, repair and maintenance costs, and in many cases, major renovation expenses. Renting and ‘investing the difference’ may leave you farther ahead financially. Buying now also means taking a mortgage at some of the lowest interest rates ever. Great, right? But will these almost-unheard-of rates continue indefinitely? If you’re contemplating taking on a jumbo mortgage (in Canadian terms, not Vancouver terms, which are distorted) you need to stress test your finances to see if they could handle interest rates at more normal levels, say around 6%.
    My wife and I went the fixer-upper route with our place in East Van. $300,000 later we have a great little bungalow with a really nice 2-BR rental suite, and a place that’s 75% renovated. Another $60 to $100K should finally get us out of our 1970s kitchen! (You can read about our saga on VREAA, the web site above. Click on the sidebar “Mortgaging Our Souls in Paradise”.) There are no easy answers in Vancouver at the moment. But the pendulum could swing.
  • Hey, you confront a problem with about a million new variables. Almost all pundits have called this a bubble for a long time--and if you listened to them, you may have gotten locked out of the market for good.
  • Kristin we often visit Nanaimo and I know there are many areas that would make your criteria. Look at the areas of Cilaire, Newcastle (Vancouver Avenue!) and Departure Bay. You will find lovely homes, beautiful properties and be able to walk to everything in town. These neighbourhoods have many larger, high potential homes, some older and are in areas of growing interest for "non-commuters".

  • Hi Kirsten, I am an engineer that lives in Victoria, having moved from Vancouver. Yes the market is far more doable here, having dropped10% since 2007. This is in fact sharp contrast to Vancouver. You could find a $500k fixer upper in a decent part of town, and it is a buyers market now. BUT.... The employment situation is terrible here. Neither you or your husband would be n demand here and would find it very difficult. Wages are also significantly lower here as there is virtually no industry. Would you still be able to afford the same amount here with a significantly lower income? Best of luck. I don't miss Vancouver at all, of that helps.
  • Very wise of you to set a realistic budget, to deal with the unforeseen. The banks have been all too willing to lend more than prudent, and who can blame them since the government guarantees them against losses (through CMHC).
  • Hi Kirsten, I don't think you will have luck finding a detached home in Vancouver for this price. Surrey/Langley/Abbotsford and maybe Coquitlam would be the most bang for your buck in that range. But why not look into a half duplex in Vancouver or North Vancouver?
  • What about Coquitlam? In my older neighbourhood northeast of Coquitlam Centre by Coquitlam River, there are a number of decent houses in your price range built in the 70s to 80s with nice size lots, nice neighbourhood, close to downtown Vancouver via the West Coast Express and upcoming Evergreen Line. Even if you don't drive, it takes my wife and I about 45 minutes to carpool downtown in the morning and an hour 15 minutes to drive home. Transit is 60 minutes flat each way, so it's a wash.
  • Hi Kristin, you are in a tough position, finding a home in Vancouver for $500,000 is next to impossible, I would advise you to look at homes with a suite for rental income that would allow you to buy at a higher purchase price. I know there are some areas in North Van that have what you are looking for. I am an owner of a mortgage company and I think you need to sit down with someone that can show you how to make your money work for you while owning a home you love. all the Best
  • I am in a very similar situation, age, income, location, no child yet but plan to in the next year. We love our current location which allows us both to bike to work less than 10km each way. Houses here are in the 600-700K range. We cannot afford to buy yet, and I don't think you can either. We pay 900$ month rent for a nice suite. We have 100K saved up for a downpayment and will not buy until we can get the home we want with a mortgage that we are comfortable with. My two cents on your situation is to continue to rent in Burnaby until you have a 20% downpayment for a house and location you actually want. I don't think taking a pay cut to come to the island is going to help you because it's still a choice between price or commute.
  • We moved from Calgary to Vancouver about 7 years ago. Was considering buying a house back then, but the prices were outrageous (or so we thought at the time). We bought a townhouse instead, and watched the price of detached home keep climbing and climbing. Now, with a "balanced" market, we decided to take the plunge and get a detached house.
  • As I was saying... It's hard to time the market. You just have to determine what you can afford. Going from renting to buying a house is a big step, especially with Vancouver house prices. If you enjoy living here, you may want to consider a townhouse. My current place is about 1800sqft, 3 bed, 2 bath, with a basement. It's as big as some "old timers", plenty of space for a growing family. Simon Fraser Hills is located by Burnaby Mountain Secondary, close to shopping and skytrain and Hwy 1 (no bridges). You don't have your own garden, but there are community gardens in the area. Prices are well under your budget.
  • Hi, I’m Kristin. I’m a 30-something living in Vancouver with my husband and our new son. At the moment, we are renting a 2BR/2BA condo that (barely) meets our needs, but the thrill of paying someone else’s mortgage is starting to wear thin and we are getting ready to take the plunge into home ownership. The trouble is, we live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and we aren’t sure that being house poor is exactly a good alternative to renting. Vancouver is an amazing city with tonnes to offer, but if our whole paycheque is being sunk into the roof over our heads, and there is nothing left to enjoy what this city has to offer, then really- is there any point…?

    So, we’re opening our home buying search a little wider than might be typical- our “circle of interest” includes Metro Vancouver, plus a few spots on Vancouver Island like Victoria and Nanaimo. We know we won’t be able to check all our boxes- so we’re going to explore and see if we can find somewhere that makes both our hearts, and our wallets, happy. Our ideal home, one that ticks ALL the boxes, would be something like this: 3+BR, 2+BA, single family detached, a yard that has some character, a house that has room for us to add value, in a community with young families and associated amenities, nearby our current jobs which we both love, and all for less than half a mil. Anybody have a magic lamp I can rub? ;)

    So, if you live in this city, or one like it, and you didn’t buy before that nasty line on the average home price graph took a massive turn upward, then you likely know what I’m talking about. Feel free to follow along and see how things go for us, and where we end up…
  • Since we are just starting our search, I turned to mls.ca to get a feel for what we are in for. Since staying in Vancouver would be ideal for many reasons, I started there. I set the parameters in the search to the following: price range 0-$600K, 3+BR, 2+BA, detached, house. This image is what came up.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with this area- the red dots in the bottom right corner are almost all in Surrey. There are a few on the north side of the river in New Westminster, and if I could show further east on the map you’d see several more options in Port Coquitlam. There is not a single house available in Vancouver, Burnaby, or North Vancouver for less than $600,000. (OK- there’s one, and it’s on Marine Drive- a perfect environment for raising a child…)

    So- why not move to Surrey? Well- a big reason is a very nasty bridge that links Surrey to the rest of the city, meaning that commuting to and from work becomes a pretty serious part of your day. Now, a million or so people do this- but it’s just not something that we’re interested in doing. Moving to PoCo avoids the bridge, but the commute is still long- at least an hour each way during rush hour.

  • With the depressing Vancouver map fresh in my mind, I tweaked my search location to Victoria, but otherwise used the same criteria. In this case, I got the message “Your search returned too many results.” I had to bump the minimum price up to $400,000 just to get the properties to plot on the map.

    This is a much smaller area, with a much narrower price range, and many more options. Now- I know what you’re thinking- if I’m not willing to cross the Port Mann bridge in my commute, why am I putting the Georgia Straight between me and my job? Well- this move would require job changes for both my husband and me, which is why we’re not already there. At this point, though, we are considering multiple options since we strongly believe there is a lot more to life than where you work each day.

    Now, I could plot the map for our third city of consideration- Nanaimo, but I won’t. You’ll just have to take my word on the fact that there are plenty of options, and I can guarantee that if I take one $600,000 house listing from each city and compare them, the one in Vancouver is going to fall short. Unless, of course, you’re looking for a $600,000 tear down...

  • We rent this view- but it turns out its now available to buy. Our building is currently the last in a line of buildings on Burnaby Mountain, which means we have uninterrupted views to the north and west- and in these parts, those are pretty nice views to have. However, I awoke to the sound of chainsaws a few weeks ago, and now just outside our window is a tree cemetery which reminds us that a new building is going up which will rob us of both our views, and our privacy. However, it also means there will be a condo identical to ours, but it could have our name on the deed, and not someone else’s…

    With that in mind, I wandered into the Presentation Center the other day to find out what my options were. It definitely not the “single family detached” home we dream of, but in Vancouver we have to be realistic about what we’ll be able to afford. The building is called Altitude, and it boasts that there are “none higher”- it will replace our current building as the highest residential housing in the lower mainland. Take that Shangri-La!

    There are a few townhouses available at the bottom of the tower, which are attractive options since we don’t exactly love condo living. However, the largest measures in at 1045 sq ft, and the cheapest among them start at $449K. Plus, being south facing and on the bottom level, you’re not getting the views that make living on the mountain worthwhile.

    So, I shifted focus a bit and looked instead at the condos in the tower. I explored floor plans offered on the 8th floor, or higher, and in the north west corner to mimic where we currently live. The most attractive option (price excluded) is a 2BD +den with a large terrace. The unit is still only 940 sq ft, and weighs in at $550K. Pretty hefty pricing for a unit that my family will outgrow pretty quickly…

    Throwing caution to the wind, I made a final inquiry about one of the largest units in the tower- the Penthouse. At 1100 sq ft, it matches our existing space (which is functional, but not ideal) and has a third bedroom. However, the ticket price is $680K, which makes the Penthouse more than a little out our reach.

    So- while Altitude will offer spectacular views, and ones that we could own rather than rent (at least until Tower 2 goes up…), it doesn’t check off near enough of our boxes to make it a viable contender in the search. We will just have to enjoy our view while we can, and continue the hunt.

  • Wow- nothing like a little real estate discussion to bring out the passion in people!

    Despite the catchy G&M title referring to a $500K fixer upper in Vancouver I do, in fact, know that is impossible- and I’ve appreciated the comments that suggest alternate locations such as Squamish, or even Bowen Island. Having grown up on the island, I know that the “pace” these places offer is more aligned with our family.

    Although we didn’t actually get to any open houses on the weekend, we did make a trip out to Port Coquitlam to get a feel for the space. A gorgeous walk on the Pitt River dike (pictured) was enough to peak my husband’s interest. While the commute would still be a pain (it took just shy of 30 minutes to get there, and our jobs are a further 15 minutes in the opposite direction- plus this wasn’t during rush hour) there is always flexibility in adjusting our work schedules to minimize the number of “in office” days per week. By the time we pulled ourselves off the dike, all the Open House signs were down, so instead I let my fingers do the walking and focused my search on mls.ca to the PoCo region. It’s a much prettier picture- with several 3+BR/2+BA detached homes available for less than $500K. I did the same for Squamish, which also offers several options. But, given that our jobs aren’t in downtown Vancouver, but actually in Burnaby, the commute still favors PoCo. Not that the commute is the only consideration, certainly, and Squamish has other factors that win points over the burbs of PoCo.

    Hopefully I’ll get to a few properties this week, since I’m not keen to rush in to a decision, get in way over my head, risk the financial security of both my retirement and my children’s future, and make the hugest mistake of my life. But really, with two sets of parents around to eventually bail us out with inheritance, I don’t see the problem with getting in a little over our head now, while interest rates are so low. We can always sell our second SUV if we need a little cash down the road...

  • Canada's housing is dropping, in Vancouver they'll be a large drop in prices. Unless you're willing to live in that house for the next 20 years, I wouldn't be buying anything right now. Every western country has suffered a sizeable reduction in prices except Canada, it'll happen here too. Prices have already started to come down...save your money invest it, find a nice place to rent and sit tight. Let the value come to you and it will.
  • Hey Kirstin, I know living on Marine Drive in Bby isn't ideal, but what you may have forgotten is that the house on Marine Drive once renovated, will be worth more than the house in Poco or Coquitlam. In a few years, once you have paid of more of your mortgage and make the decision to sell the house, you'll have a much larger dwntpmt for the house of your dreams east of New West. That's what we did and we had a $500k dwnpmt on our larger and bigger house.
  • So, our home buying/searching took a bit of a lull last week as we continue to think through exactly what we want and how we want to go about getting it. We listened to Rob Carrick’s Hangout and certainly heard him say “wait 6 months, re-evaluate, and then be prepared to wait another 6 months”. One or two other commenters have also suggested now isn’t a good time to buy, and we are certainly paying attention. We are not in a rush, but I also can see the value in looking, learning, and gathering information.

    I spent a long weekend on the island visiting my family, and since my parents live in the Nanaimo area and now have “grandson-inspired” motivation to lure us across the water, they took some time to show me around and do a little house hunting over there.

    Nanaimo isn’t for everyone, and we’re not even sure if it’s for us, but it does have a huge amount to offer- affordable properties included. Some that we investigated include:

    3BR/3BA, 2000 sq ft, waterfront (well, one road between the property and the beach), custom built, designed and styled, with a rooftop deck with gorgeous views. For $600K you’re paying for all the work to be done- it’s not at all a fixer upper, but it was an interesting data point nonetheless.

    3BR/2BA, 2500 sq ft, legal and partially finished suite, 2007 construction, with a huge yard, $380K. There are lots of these types in Nanaimo- fairly new build, lovely in most ways, less than $400K. Everything you need for sure, but maybe not quite the “character” (in either the home or yard) that we’d love.

    4BR/2BA, 2200 sq ft, authorized suite, large yard and nice ocean views, $290K. This one is more the “worst house in the best neighbourhood” style with room in both the house and budget to add value.

    So- though none of these homes are actual contenders in our search, they demonstrate the range of possibilities available, and it was certainly interesting to look around.
  • So, a question for the masses: what exactly is a “starter home”? Does everybody need to have a starter home? Must your first purchase on the property ladder be the very bottom rung? Should my expectations as a first time homebuyer be just to get four walls and a leaky roof, and build from there? Or can I hope to have my first home be something that actually works for my family, and something that will last for many years without “roughing it”? The reason I ask is that I’ve been thinking about the difference between my generation (maybe that’s too blanket of a statement, but roll with it…) versus that of my parents. My parents bought their first home when they were 25. When I was 25, I lived in a crappy basement suite that I rented (and had been doing so for 3 years). Now that I’m 33, I have 10+ years of a professional career under my belt, and I’ve spent most of that time living in dark basements with mouldy walls. So- do I still need to do the whole “starter home” thing? Or can those 10+ years count as “time served” and I can expect to move directly to a home that works for the stage of life that my family and I are actually in? There seems to be an attitude of: “Kids these days want everything and want it all at once. They have no respect for working hard and sacrificing. Don’t they know it’s a race to the bottom?!” But, just because I haven’t bought a starter home, doesn’t mean I haven’t lived the equivalent lifestyle, right…?

    So, anyway, no house hunting to report on. Just some reflections on the process ;)

    Oh- and a flyer in my mail slot indicates that a condo in our building identical to ours, but two floors lower, sold for $530K. Maybe that could have been my starter home- I mean, it is only on the 9th floor after all…
  • I would recommend looking into New West, however Queens Park is out of your price range. However, there are some fixer uppers that are in the 500-600 range, with nice lot sizes that do come up. Best advice, I can give is with regards to school catchments. Buy a house with the best school catchment. I know there are lots of issues with the Fraser report, but go for the top 2 quartiles, so any school in the top 350 or so. It really affects property values and if you do not care now, you will. Hume Park area is awesome and undervalued with the uncertainty with the small school but that got recently addressed by the school board. There are also lots of places in the 600-700k range that have self-contained suites that could help too. The livability here is awesome, worth checking out and it's the Hyack Festival right now!
  • I’m glad to hear you and your husband are “paying attention” to the voices advocating caution. A commenter below admonished me for “confronting a problem with about a million new variables.” Well, I guess there are two approaches to buying a house in this current market:

    • Search out as many diverse opinions as you can, study what has happened to Vancouver real estate over the last decade, and why, and carefully analyze what the total cost of ownership would be if you bought a house at current prices. And what it would be if interest rates normalize (say, 6%).

    • Close your eyes and jump. There may be a big pile of pillows below, or there may be jagged rocks.

    Regarding Nanaimo and other lower-cost destinations nearby: these smaller cities have also experienced a house price bubble. On a percentage basis, average prices in these other cities have escalated as much as average Vancouver prices, but because the prices were significantly lower to begin with, they continue to be lower than current Vancouver prices, and appear like ‘a deal’ in comparison. But if there’s a crash, these other cities will crash too. And maybe sooner and harder than the core of Vancouver, because a crash will probably affect the periphery first.

    Regarding a “starter home”: the term is largely realtor spin, or the kind of thing said by well-meaning, but not always well-informed, friends and family. In 2003, we bought a starter home, or a fixer upper, in East Van for $355K. Over the past decade we’ve spent an additional $300K renovating it, and we’re only 75% finished. Similar numbers apply to renovations undertaken by two sets of friends in our neighbourhood. It probably would have been financially wiser, and definitely much less stressful, to spend more money initially on a better house. Unfortunately, better houses in East Van and Burnaby currently cost close to a million dollars, and twice that on the West Side. But if there’s a significant correction, prices for good houses could fall to within your budget. Keep in mind, also, that if you buy a starter home with the idea of moving up to something better, moving, when you factor in real estate commission and property transfer tax, costs about $50K.
  • I think it depends what you mean by starter home. I've heard it said you need to stay in your home 5 years to "break even" on closing costs etc. I personally did not want to be moving in 5 years either, so I insisted on a 3 bedroom house because we were hoping for 2 kids. We got lucky that our 3 bedroom turned out to be in a good school district, so that is another valid factor to consider if you don't want to move in the near future.
    But does anyone really need a second bathroom? Granite counters? Finished basement? IMHO, no. Those are nice to have and can always be added down the road *should your finances and interest rates allow it*. If not, you still have an adequate roof over your head and can have a very happy life without these things.
  • Interesting question about starter homes. I think you should buy a house that you can afford - whether it's a 'starter' house or not is irrelevant.

    If you have been a diligent saver for the last 10 years, then you can probably buy more house than most first-time home buyers.

    I don't agree with the idea that you have "put in" 10 years. I'm 10 years older than you, and although it was much easier to buy a house 10 years ago - most of my friends and myself did the crappy apartment thing for a long time before buying. I bought my first house at age 30 after living in basement apts since graduating.
  • Wow, a month of ‘Home Buying Blogging’ came and went quicker than expected… I fell off the wagon last week as we had grandparents in town, but also because we are admitting to ourselves that now “isn’t the right time”, if you know what I’m sayin’…

    We did have a birthday party in PoCo to attend on the weekend, so we checked out two open houses in the area. The most promising ticked off all the boxes specific to the property itself- all the right space, room to add value through renos, and a great backyard that felt private and was bursting with potential. It was even on a quiet road, and in a neighbourhood that felt like kids could find friends. However, it didn’t tick the biggest of the three “location location location” boxes (did I mention it was in PoCo?), and the price tipped the scales at $569K. Around here, it’s a good price for what you get, but that still doesn’t make it affordable. The second property was just kind of “less” of everything- including price. It was under-budget at $489K, but nothing made us feel excited, including the busier street out front.

    The truth is, our hearts just aren’t in it at the moment. So, looking at properties has become a research exercise, and not an exciting search for “the one”. We have admitted to ourselves that it’s not the right time- and that it might be a good idea to wait for the market to correct, and renting is (still) the right idea.

    Nonetheless, the experience has been valuable- starting the search in the way we have hasn’t hurt us in any way. We’re going to continue watching the market, reading the opinions, crunching numbers, saving for a down payment, and looking at houses to get a feel for what we want, and where we want it. After all, it takes me 3 months and 2 spreadsheets to choose a cell phone plan- so a year of watching, learning, and researching the housing market is nothing…
  • I’m impressed with how quickly you and your husband have assessed the situation and adapted your plan. Many people would just push through, even as they had growing misgivings, and make a commitment they might well regret. You’ve moved quite a distance from your first post three weeks ago.

    I think your current approach is exactly the right one, and it’s what I’d be doing if I didn’t already own a house and was looking to enter the market at some point. All the research now, and seeing lots of houses, will stand you in good stead when it does come time to make an offer. You’ll be able to assess value better, and you’ll be more likely to see the shortcomings that less experienced first-time buyers might miss.

    If the market does start to correct in a meaningful way, the next difficult decision will surround when to buy. A lot of people will be tempted to jump in at price reductions of 15% or 20%. Perhaps enough of them to create a modest, if short-lived, rebound in prices, which could prompt even more people to jump in, fearing a new round of price increases. That may be the time to continue renting. I’m not sure the stock market is a particularly good parallel for the real estate market, but phrases like ‘dead cat bounce’ and ‘catching a falling knife’ certainly come to mind.
  • Kristin, You're situation is very similar to my wife and mine. We started in Vancouver, lived frugally for 10 years to save a down payment and ended up moving to Victoria when we were ready to start a family. There were sacrifices. My wife took a job with the Province and I went freelance -- because there are few decent job options here in my field. We lived in Victoria for a year, got a feel for the best neighbourhoods and school districts and bought a fixer-upper home in the Oaklands/Fernwood area for under $500K. We put a suite in, started a family and have even begun to garden. The area is overflowing with kids and babies, and has a great mix of young parents and retirement-age boomers. But it's clear the area is getting younger. The locals schools are comparable in quality to Burnaby, the weather is mild, and we can ride our bikes or walk to every service we need. The pace of life is slower though -- an old joke here is that traffic jam is a one-light wait -- but that's not a bad thing if you're ready to settle down. Take a hard look at Victoria -- the prices have come off lately. You can find some gems between 400-500K around here (tip: 2 bdrs/1bth bungalows with lots of yard can easily be converted to 3 bdrs/2 bth for under $50K). You'll need to sacrifice some lifestyle (living without a car is VERY possible -- check out the www.victoriacarshare.ca) We have NO regrets. It's an amazing way to live.
  • After owning our own home for 28 years, we sold and moved into an apartment for a little while. Boy, I can't believe how cheap it is to rent! Not paying property tax pays for two months rent all by itself. The difference in insurance is another months rent, differences in electricity, utilities and home maintenance covers off the rest of the year. We won't even talk about mortgage payments. Surprisingly, we've found renting very liberating. We're not in a big hurry to buy again.
  • Good idea to get off the 'need to buy' bandwagon. Only buy when your head and gut are aligned. Vancouver feels overripe and even if the PoCo place is nice recent stats have shown commuting is bad for relationships and personal health.
  • Good for your Kirstin ! Wise choice to keep renting. There is absolutely no way prices can be justified or sustainable in Vancouver or even in its suburbs. Spend the time with your child instead, there will be plenty of much cheaper houses to look at in the future.
  • Hi Kristin, well I guess the choice really comes down to it: if you want to play ball in Vancouver you either need 1) to have existing equity in a property 2) have parents who will contribute to your downpayment and/or 3) be willing to take on large debt loads that require two incomes and take a big chance rates won't go up or one of you won't stop working for whatever reason. Daunting for those who don't have 1 or 2 on their side. As Joshua in War Games said, "The only winning move is not to play." FWIW I think this market will implode but it will take a long time, relatively speaking ;)
  • Don't fret Kirsten, I am 51 and just bought a 3BDR in Victoria. I must be out of my mind, but we love the house, and renting and buying in Victoria is neck and neck. I will die in this place, but I still assert, the market is collapsing, fast, and will not abate for at least the next year. but who has a crystal ball? Not me. Victoria, there are some great deals, and more coming. Vancouver is a Joke, move to Victoria in 1-2 years, and you will be able to pick up a 3-4 BDR, with 7000 sq ft lot for $400K. (or less)
  • The Buyer Diaries are now closed. Thanks for following our home buyers' adventures. Here's where you can find a recap of Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.
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