Give Me Back My Five Bucks

On renting or buying in Vancouver

Vancouver is expensive.

Okay, yes, stating the obvious. I’ve known this for years,  yet I never really understood it until I started looking for a place to live close to downtown Vancouver. I’ve always lived in the suburbs – whether it was Burnaby, New Westminster, or Port Coquitlam. Rent and housing is cheaper out here – not by much – but definitely manageable.

Now that I’m about three weeks into my search for a new place to live, I finally understand what people are talking about when they describe how horrible the rental and real estate market is in Vancouver. For $1,300 to $1,400 in rent, I could get a small outdated apartment – that is if I can snap it up fast enough off of Craigslist. It seems like as soon as they are posted, they’re taken down. So after a while, I started increasing the amount I was willing to pay in rent. Because, the lifestyle is worth not having the commute, right? For $1,500 to $1,600 I’ll get a more modern (but definitely smaller) apartment.

And it was at that moment – when I briefly considered spending $1,500+ on rent – that I decided to look at potentially buying a home in Vancouver. With a budget of around what my current home is worth, I got to work with my Realtor to look at my options. I realized right away I wouldn’t get everything on my checklist. Every place I looked at had something wrong with it – no in-suite laundry, too far away from my preferred neighbourhood, sky high condo fees, or needed a ton of work I just wasn’t willing to take on. There are some things I’m willing to overlook (like no parking – I can park on the street, and I’d be willing to do some renovations), but location and monthly condo fees are deal breakers for me.

So now I feel a bit stuck. I don’t want to live in the suburbs. I don’t want a roommate. I don’t want to pay $1,500/month in rent. And I don’t want to buy another condo if I can’t find what I’m looking for.

The good thing is that I have time. I’m in no rush to sell my place. The bad news is that the thought of trying to find a new place to live is making me a bit stressed out at the moment. :)

P.S. I am sorry for coming back to the blog and then disappearing again. Things got crazy for a while with work (summer holidays means a way bigger workload for me) as well as in my personal life, but it has all settled down now.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Sara says:

    My friends have rented two places this year for under a $1000 downtown with all the amenities and large space. I was surprised! They are currently living on Alberni St. but had to act fast. Good luck on your search.

  2. MA says:

    You’re a reasonably well-paid professional looking to mingle and mate, not a college student scrimping for pennies 10-15 years earlier in life. Compared to your income, $1500/mo in rent is a pittance and completely avoids the risks of substantial capital loss and/or special assessments in a cheaper, aging condo.

    To say nothing of that savings in transportation costs and commute time…

  3. Carlos says:

    I’m in a similar situation but have a small family, wife and two kids under 2. Loath to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money (including some serious $$$ from my folks to help).

    Would rather rent out an older home in Richmond where we both work, but finding something suitable (3+ bedrooms, that takes pets) is next to freaking impossible.


  4. Helen says:

    Last I heard from my manager, one-bedroom in my building is abt $1,200. West End. Probably depends a little bit on the floor level. No in-suite laundry, but very decent laundry room.

  5. JJ says:

    Agree with Helen – there are still some buildings in the West End that have very reasonable rent. We were near Burrard and Robson for $1100/month in a nice one bedroom not that long ago – older building but reasonable condition – everything but electricity included.

    My advice would be to wait until October/November. I think July to September is a crazy rental time in any place with post-secondary programs.

    Good luck!!

  6. Vivien says:

    Suck it up on a sublease or shared space for a month or 2 while looking for smthn cheaper. October will be better.

  7. Pete says:

    I have to say Vancouver is stupidly expensive to buy. But it’s also true that it’s a nice city to live in. There’s so much speculation in the real estate market there so whoever bought the condos there will somehow charge a higher price to make up the high price they pay.

    Good luck and hope you can find something that works for you.

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