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.
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:
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. :)
Vancouver laneway houses are becoming more and more popular. Our cute home is one of only a handful of finished and occupied laneways in my Vancouver neighbourhood, but taking a quick stroll around, and you’ll see many nearly completed or under construction.
When we first started looking for places to rent, my ideal place was a laneway house. These little cottages in the city really appealed to me because 1) I love small spaces, 2) tons of privacy, and 3) you don’t have to worry about noisy neighbours. So when this laneway came up in our ideal neighbourhood, we did everything we could to snag it.
Our laneway is a 685 sq.ft. two-storey, two-bed home. It costs us $1,650/month in rent, and is located in our favourite neighbourhood in Vancouver.
The rent is comparable to any decent apartment in the area (we were looking at a 1-bedroom for $1,700/month before we found this place), so the only thing we are giving up is a little bit of space in exchange for renting an entire structure. And as for the space, it’s about the same size as my townhouse – the only difference is the laneway is two levels.
When you first walk into the house, you are greeted with stairs, as well as the kitchen area, and RD’s computer desk. There is also a small laundry closet off to the right of the computer desk.
The first floor is where we seem to spend most of our time. I love the kitchen island, and think it was a really smart thing for us to buy. Not only can we take it with us anywhere we go, but I sit there to work on my laptop, it’s the perfect size for two people to prep meals, and it adds much needed seating.
If we were going to entertain (which for us would be rare), we could put away RD’s computer and use the desk as a table.
Walking up the stairs, we have a washroom to the left. It’s clean and modern, and has enough space to hold a trunk full of extra towels, etc.
Straight ahead off the upstairs landing is our bedroom. It’s the smaller of the two bedrooms by far, but it fits a queen sized storage bed (which fits all of our sports gear, backpacks, bedding, etc.), night table, and has a pretty big double-door closet for RD’s stuff.
The last room upstairs is the second bedroom, which we have turned into our living room – with our couch and television.
We ended up having to buy a new-to-us couch off Craigslist. It’s not ideal, but it looks nice and fits the space well.
The only picture of the closet I have is from when we first moved in – but the closet is a semi-walk-in and spans that entire width. It fits a surprising amount of stuff (all of the crap I had in my old walk-in closet fits in the space).
And that’s our little house! :) It’s small but functional, and the perfect size for us. It took a while to get settled and combine our stuff together, but after about a month of living here full time, it’s starting to feel like home.
Time has been flying by. In late October, RD and I started talking about moving in together. The timing seemed perfect: my home was on the market, and he had been thinking of leaving his house as well. I accepted an offer on my townhouse on November 2nd, and we had a 1-year lease signed on a cute little laneway house by November 10th.
If you live in Vancouver, you’ll probably relate to how nuts the rental market is here. According to CMHC, the rental vacancy rate sits at 0.8%. That is a crazy figure, and while it’s always been like that in Vancouver, I never really understood what it meant to have to deal with it. When I first moved here, the woman whose job I was taking recommended me to her landlord. So not only did I take her job, but I took her apartment too. :) Then I moved into New West (where rentals were quite easy to find), then out to Port Coquitlam, and then I bought my townhouse – where I’ve lived for the last 5 years.
Related: How I saved for my down payment
I’ll admit that even though the rental process was stressful, we have had an easier time than most people finding a place to live. Here’s how we did it:
Knowing what you want
We knew exactly what we wanted: a clean one-bedroom apartment with lots of light (no basement suites) in pretty specific areas of East Vancouver. That’s it. We had no sq.ft. requirements, gave up dedicated parking, and weren’t even picky about in-suite laundry (although secretly I was only showing him listings that had dedicated laundry).
There were also secondary things that would be “nice to have.” Like hardwood floors, a quiet tree-lined street, lots of storage, free parking, and I didn’t want to live in a boring, cookie-cutter apartment if we could help it.
Set your budget
Our original budget was $1,400, but we realized after a day of searching that it wasn’t going to give us what we wanted (see point above). Our main must-have was to find a place in one of our desired neighbourhoods. So our budget slowly began to rise. This increased the inventory available to us, and the places got nicer. Not even close to luxury nice, but definitely better. We weren’t sure where to draw the line as we crept closer to $1,700, but I remember RD showed me a listing his friend sent him that was $1,850. We both cringed at the rent and decided $1,700 was the maximum we would pay. I mean, if we’re going to rent, we’d better both be saving money as well, right?
Be quick (really quick)
Since I’m glued to my computer most of the day, I made sure to check Craigslist every couple of hours. This may seem a bit obsessive, but we learned quickly that apartments go FAST. It’s pretty much a given that if an apartment listing has been up on Craigslist for more than 24 hours, it’s already gone. So to get ahead of the competition, I checked online all the time and RD and I were in constant communication.
I’ve never had to deal with renting in Vancouver before, but RD knew what was up. So he had printed up all of our information to take to open houses, so that we apply immediately. We lost one apartment because we decided to fill out an application later that evening, so when the laneway house came up and I was out of town, RD went to see the open house and filled out an application on the spot.
Look good on paper
RD pointed out that we are desirable tenants because we look good on paper. We are in our 30’s with stable jobs and comfortable incomes. We have good references, don’t smoke, and don’t have pets. And when you show up to open houses with your act together (see above point) you end up looking pretty good.
Have your finances in order
We had all our finances worked out so that when the house was offered to us, we could sign the lease and put down a damage deposit immediately without having to wait and shift around money. PC Financial, for example, makes you wait until the next business day to access any money from your savings accounts.
What was your experience renting your last apartment?
Was the process difficult, or fairly easy?