My girlfriend and I aren’t looking to do anything outrageous. All we want to do is buy a detached home within an hour commute of her Richmond employer. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A 25-year-old, 1700 sq ft rancher that needs a little fixing up would be just fine.
Problem is, we want to buy with cash. We just sold our home in Delta for $650,000 because we no longer wanted to make $800 mortgage payments, especially with all the telltale signs of a correction/popping bubble in the air. We walked away with $450,000 cash and no debts.
But what have we been able to find for nearly a half million dollars? In Vancouver/West Van/North Van/Burnaby, nothing. In Richmond, a one-bedroom crack shack tear-down where airplanes fly so close you can count the rivets. In White Rock, $450,000 buys you a either a 600-sq ft “cottage” on its last legs or an empty view lot.
Yes, we can find something in Surrey, but it’s in a neighborhood where you’re scared to walk down the street. So that leaves us with Langley.
Here, $450,000 buys you an old yet serviceable detached home in a bland, distinctly blue-collar neighborhood. Far from what we’d prefer, but at least there’s an iota of hope that something will pop up that isn’t directly across from a school or on a busy, noisy, truck-filled thoroughfare. Of course, we’d then have to sink a few tens of thousands into the place so it doesn’t look like a total relic, but there is hope. Moreover, you can actually see signs of a correction out there. Listings are staying on the market for months at a time and price reductions have begun.
And that’s what give us pause. If the correction is already full steam ahead on Vancouver Island, the Okanagan, and even as close as Chilliwack and Abbotsford, we’re thinking it won’t be long until its tentacles reach further into greater Vancouver.
So, given that we’re both just over 50 years of age and don’t want to have all our retirement money trapped in a depreciating older home in the distant suburbs, our thoughts have now turned to renting. The problem here is that we need at least a 3-bedroom place. She’s an artist on the side and I am a writer, so we both require some sort of home office. But a three-bedroom rental that’s not a total piece of crap will cost us in excess of $1800/month. Worse than that, the most we can make by investing our life savings in a no-risk high-interest savings account is 2%. A ridiculous, measly 2%.
If we’d been born in the US, we’d flee immediately to Arizona where we’re not socked in by 8 months of rain every year, where you can buy a case of beer for a third of what it costs here, and where you don’t need an extra mortgage for groceries every week. And where a nice house in a good neighborhood runs just about $175,000.
If my girlfriend could transfer away from Richmond, we’d go to the Okanagan, where $450,000 now buys a beautiful, upscale home with a lake view. Or Vancouver Island, where we could likely buy what we need, with an ocean view to boot, for $350,000.
Instead, we’re here. And it hurts. We’re not rich, but we’re not poor, either. And we’ve both been thrifty all our lives. We’ve done it the way they teach you to do it. And now we have a half million dollars and no debts. But it seems that half million isn’t enough. Not yet, anyway.
I don’t want to wish ill will upon anyone, especially someone who bought at the highs with a 5% downpayment and is now carrying a 40-year mortgage that covers 95% of their house. But I do wish for a return to normalcy. They say Vancouverites spend 74% of their income on their homes. They say that Canadians are more in debt per capita than residents of any other nation on earth. But my girlfriend and I are neither of those. We’ve been smart, and we’ve lived within our means. And all we want is a decent, affordable, midlevel house in a solid neighborhood that won’t fall down and is near enough that she can commute to her place of work. It doesn’t seem like much to ask.