Give Me Back My Five Bucks

We will never be homeowners in Vancouver

We will never be homeowners in Vancouver. Combined, RD and I will gross about $165,000-175,000 this year. Our housing costs are relatively low ($1,650/month rent), and we are both good savers with enough in the bank for a decent down payment. The problem is, we live in Vancouver. And according to a recent Globe and Mail article, the average price of detached houses sold in November 2015 reached $2.53-million – which is up 27.7% from November 2014.

More than 91% of 66,752 detached homes surveyed within Vancouver had assessed values of at least $1-million on July 1, 2015, and prices have jumped at least 10% since then.

I just quickly plugged our numbers into a mortgage affordability calculator. Even if we spent a year or two saving a bit more money, we will still be forever priced out of the detached housing market here in Vancouver.

scotiabank_mortgageaffordability1

Based on the above numbers, the bank says we could afford a maximum purchase price of $982,000 (LOL), but we’d also be responsible for almost $20,000 in CMHC mortgage insurance (LOL x2). And our monthly mortgage payments would be $3,800? Hahaha just, no. But I went to Realtor.ca anyway and plugged in a search for detached houses in the Vancouver area that were less than $950,000 – and this is what I found:

housesinvancouver

A boat. In all of Vancouver, we could afford to live on a 480 sq.ft. boat. Sure that boat only costs $300,000 – but you also have to pay $9,700 in moorage fees each year, as well as an annual $1,870 licensing fee. And even still, you’re living on a boat.

As depressing as these numbers are, I’ve never pictured myself living in Vancouver forever. Neither has RD. Even though we both love our neighbourhood, our tiny house, and our jobs right now, I’ve never considered putting down permanent roots in this city. Vancouver is amazing, and I can absolutely see why it is so appealing. But it was always my plan to spend 10 years here gaining experience, and then move back to Victoria where I could use that experience to get a well-paying job. I don’t know if I’ll make it back in that 10 year time frame, but I think long-term living somewhere outside of this city is going to happen. At some point.

In conclusion, it’s obvious we will never EVER be homeowners in Vancouver. And I’m okay with that. Really. Because even if we could afford something, it doesn’t make sense to forfeit everything else in life that we love – like travel and early retirement and living a comfortable life with plenty of disposable income – just to own the roof over our heads. It’s also a very unsettling thought to have so much money tied up in a house that will drop in value when a housing correction hits Vancouver. So we’ll happily continue to pay 10% of our gross income towards rent, and maybe one day we’ll be ready to buy a home in another city … where we can afford more than a boat. :)

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.


Comments

  1. Potato says:

    Vancouver has gone beyond bubble into some new, crazy realm that needs a new word to distinguish it from run-of-the-mill bubbles like Toronto. A housing singularity.

    Rent, save the difference, bug out — good plan! Sanity may one day return to Vancouver, or it may just disappear into an alternate reality, there but not-there, a place where no one under 40 plans to stay for long. Either way, at these prices you shouldn’t be buying.

  2. Catwoman73 says:

    Save up, and bide your time until that bubble bursts! Then you may be able to afford to buy a detached home in Vancouver. If you want one at that time, that is… though moving back to Victoria sounds like a great plan.

    I often wonder how many people actually fall for the banks’ calculations of what they can afford. Even as a non-financially saavy newbie in the housing market, when I bought my first home, I knew the bank’s calculations were WAY off of what I could realistically and comfortably afford. These calculations really should take into account so much more than they do- current lifestyle, future plans for retirement, and so on.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I think more people than we realize absolutely trust the bank’s calculations of what they can afford. And even if they do understand that the amount they qualify for is way more than they can realistically afford (given all the other financial obligations we have), the fact that the money is there for them to use if they choose to, is pretty tempting. Especially when you’re dealing with such an emotional purchase!

  3. That search actually made me LOL. Honestly living in Toronto isn’t much different. We don’t have enough for a downpayment right now, but saving for a few years we probably could. It’s a struggle to me whether it’s better to buy or rent. Housing prices are insane right now. Like you, I would rather travel (obvi) and not pay more than my monthly rent to then be responsible if anything. Our dishwasher broke a few months ago and it was pretty damn easy calling up the landlord and having them replace it (even if it did take a little longer than normal). Great post!

  4. Jordann says:

    That is bananas! No wonder you don’t feel the need to put roots down in Vancouver – it’s self-preservation!

    The market is so overinflated it has lost all touch with reality. I think you’re doing the smart thing by renting your tiny home and banking the cash to spend on experiences and goals you really care about.

  5. vivien says:

    no to condo or townhouse?

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I’m not sure. Living 5 years in a townhouse complex kind of turned me off from having to deal with a strata council. And I’ve never been a fan of condos or high rise towers. So it’d have to be a pretty special place at a very good price to make me want to consider it. :)

      • Cass says:

        We’re in Toronto and were luck enough to buy a very large townhouse in 2009 during the downturn, it’s now worth over $250k more (for now), which is CRAZY. That said, it’s a freehold townhouse, so no fees or council to deal with. That was a MUST for us if it was going to be a forever home. Do they have these in Vancouver? They’re not as common here, but they can be found.

        • Krystal Yee says:

          I’ve not heard of anything like that before, so I’m not sure. That’s lucky you were able to find a townhouse without maintenance fees or a council. I’m not interested in dealing with that kind of stuff either, and I really dislike the restrictions imposed (although I understand why). May look into that option further if/when home ownership ever enters into the picture again. :)

  6. Kat says:

    Hi Krystal,

    I hear your pain. Vancouver’s market is now being unreasonable. I understand why people in our age group think real estate is a good investment. Look at the jump from last year. But i would rather save up to achieve other personal goal and putting all of my money into one investment

  7. SP says:

    Those mortgage calculators never have a line for “retirement savings”, which in the PF world generally comes right after “gross income”! The calculators all told us we could afford REALLY expensive houses. It is probably true if we stopped saving and didn’t spend on anything except living!

    I’m glad you have a lifestyle that fits in with your goals, and can see that homeownership is not a must. Your laneway house is so cute, and living in a fun neighborhood is a great way to spend your time in vancouver

  8. damien says:

    10% of your income in rent, you are doing very very well. You have plenty to save in cash, to invest somewhere else and enjoy life. 0% stress

  9. Jessica says:

    LOLL Thank you so much for posting this!! This is perfect! This is exactly what a lot of first-time buyers (including myself) are going through today. It’s a never ending game of how do I catch up my savings with the housing growth and it’s pretty unlikely. Your MLS search made me cry and laugh at the same time!
    I wonder how the new government rules are going to change the market, if at all?

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