Tuesday, December 12, 2006

the vancouver stampede

There seems to be a growing sentiment that Vancouver is just not worth living in anymore.

I wrote here last week about the exodus of head offices from Vancouver. In metropolitan Vancouver, head-office employment also declined by 29 per cent 1999-2005. There have been a great number of condo conversions, and those office buildings are gone. The City has put a moratorium on conversions, but is it too little, too late?
condos have recently soared in both prominence and price as eager buyers line up for what are often tiny dwellings bearing enormous pricetags.

...(Mayor Sam)Sullivan said. "But eventually you realize, 'My God, we have very little industrial land left'."

It's not just head offices that are leaving (or thinking of leaving) Vancouver either. Foo (too) recently left Vancouver for Halifax, citing his #2 Reason to leave Vancouver as the ridiculous RE scene here. His #1 reason was to accept a good job offer - something that pays above the training wage (hard to find here?).

Sentiments are changing. Check out this link at the Discover Vancouver Forum. This blog is not the only place to see ridiculousness. A sample post -
450 square foot character condo in boutique building, only moments from amenities, including community centre. Parking can be rented from some guy on the corner in a fedora. Kitchen recently remodelled to include a sink, fridge, and a stove! Laundry just up the street by Mr. Kwan. Included in strata fees is doorman. Get in on the market while you still can! Reduced to only $315,000.

A couple of sample comments from my post of yesterday;

Michael said...
My wife and I bring in about $150k per year. We refuse to live in a Vancouver Special in East Van with people shooting up out front. If we move back east we can both get jobs that pay the same or more while actually being able to afford a home. We are going to give it until the spring and then start to look elsewhere. We know three other mid 30's couples with young children in the same situation. If housing continues to move up I suspect you will start to see an exodus of the people that should be driving the economy (not to mention a doctor shortage).

12/12/2006 8:29 AM

Anonymous said...
Ditto here, Michael. I am 35 my partner is 33, and we have two kids aged 9 and 7. My partner is doing graduate work, and I alone make 130k/year. We have no intention of staying once she has completed. It is just not sensible. And amongst our friends, the majority feel the same way.

12/12/2006 8:47 AM

ken said...
Interesting to see the comments about leaving vancouver. I'm in a similar situation and unless something major changes will probably be out of this city within the year.

Granted that this is a tiny representation of Vancouverites, but I did not see anything like this a year ago. VHB was pretty much the only contrarian blog on Van. RE. It's all over the place now.

When we zoom out to take a look at the big picture, something is happening. I don't know how gleeful we should be as we watch the best place on Earth implode around us.

The fire sales will commence in the spring. Gird your loins.


foo said...

Who is this foo and why is he using my name?!! I'm 100% certain I'm the real foo, with 95% confidence interval.

solipsist said...

I'm not sure foo. I thought foo was you.

Are you foo? If soo, who is foo?

Have I been foo'd? I won't be foo'd again.

Anonymous said...

When companies start to get in trouble it becomes a vicious cycle. All the employees who can leave do. This leaves the crap behind which in turn causes the company to do worse, etc.

I think you will start to see a similar situation with Vancouver. Everyone who can leave will for fundimental reasons (wages vs cost of living, lack of good jobs, etc). As there becomes a lack of employees here less head offices will want to be here, etc. I have heard rumours that UBC/SFU are having recruiting prof's due to the housing costs. I have similar things about the large tech companies.

Anonymous said...

You people are unbelievable. There may be a few disgruntled people leaving but that in no way means that the remaining people are the dregs. If you don't like it here and want to live elsewhere then shut up and go.

Babybull40 said...

Pity the foo who foo'd on you foo...Is that really you?

solipsist said...

There may be a few disgruntled people leaving but that in no way means that the remaining people are the dregs.

I'm a dreg, and Van. is stuck with me. I actually do like the weather, well, the short, mild winters anyhow. I'm in the mountains a fair bit too.

I don't think that those who said they were leaving sounded terribly disgruntled, more disappointed.

The reality is that things are out of balance, and it needs to correct itself. The biggest boosters can say how great things are, and for those who have realized wealth (both on paper, and in cash), no doubt. That was all built on the work of the past though.

All of the wealth is not coming to live here, it is just parked here. It will leave eventually, and there will be just a carcass left.

CMHC itself has said that better than 50% of DT condos are bought by speculators. No one else can afford to buy them, and low paid workers cannot afford to rent them. They may be disgruntled, but facts are facts.

Anonymous said...

do you think people will leave for the small coastal towns of BC.
Would you expect to see these towns go up or down in house prices in the next few years?


Anonymous said...

Our situation is the reverse. My partner and I are both 27, and pull in roughly $125000 a year. We would love to live in Vancouver, but would never consider moving there unless the real estate prices dropped significantly. It's just not worth it as our quality of life would shrivel up and die if we bought a home there.

foo said...

I am foo; foo I am.

I do not live in halifax.
I do not leave my lowly box.
I do not live life in a house.
I do not post here with a grouse.
I do not like them prices here.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like false blogs and spam.
I do not lie, foo-I-am.

Patiently Waiting said...

"Would you expect to see these towns go up or down in house prices in the next few years?"

Prices will be down everywhere.

As for leaving Vancouver, I wouldn't miss the show next year for anything. Time to start buying the popcorn...before the speculators get to it.

Ulsterman said...

My anecdote is as follows:

One of my best friends from the UK wanted to emmigrate to either Vancouver or New Zealand. He's been to Van many times to visit me, but much to my frustration, chose Auckland because the salary vs house-price ratio was so much more favourable.

He's 35, got his MBA and CMA qualifications but was unable to source positions paying over $100,000. He figured this was due to the dearth of head offices in Vancouver.

As he said, how could he possibly afford to pay $600,000+ for a house to raise his family in AND only earn $80-90,000?

On December 9th he flew with his wife to start a new life in Auckland, confident in the knowledge that he can land a job paying $80-90k and live in a North-Shore-like area - all the while paying about half the price for the house that he would have paid in Van.

This city makes little sense. The irony is that he would have been one of the rare Vancouverites that actually use the natural features of the area that supposedly justify the "best place in the world to live" moniker.

solipsist said...

Thanks for posting all.

anon. 5:34 - I think patiently waiting has the right answer.

I have not followed prices on the coast and islands so much, but they have gone out of whack too. Not as marked as Van. perhaps, but I believe Squamish has doubled (though I don't know why. More marketing, I would venture to say.)

What is interesting is that Whistler and environs has been declining for a couple of years. Isn't that where most of the Schmolympic venues are?

The RE boom is global, just more stoopid in Van.

foo - are you sure that you are not Dr. Feuss?

Some one has made off with your moniker. Are you not the proprietor of foo.ca? He is foo too. Yikes!

patiently waiting - I think you are on to something regarding the popcorn. Someone could get rich! We could turn 400 sq. ft. condos into giant popcorndo microwave ovens!

Pop! of the bubble + Corn + Condo = Popcorndo. I kind of like that.

anon. 6:10 - thanks for the graphic description of the Vancouver lifestyle. Start watching in the spring. You will see the fireworks clean across the nation.

Anonymous said...

I bought my first house when I was 23(I am 50 now). In Richmond, 8600 sqaure foot lot. 1000 sqaure foot house,obviously no basement for $43,000.00. Interest rate was pretty high I recall, and I could barely afford it. Honestly I have always been making mortgage payments(and trading up). I am a professional. Since I travelled alot for work I never took expensive vacations. I was into "This Old House" way before it was remotely appealing to the masses. I sub contract most of my own renos. Fast forward to today and 16 houses later I am still broke at the end of the month,but I owned, up until Septemeber 6th. $3 million in real estate. WTF is my point? If I could be so arrogant as to give advice- when the inevitable trough comes in about 18 months from now, mortgage yourself up to your a-hole at that time, and build equity until interest rates take off, as they will, and sell it all(probably 2014). Buying real estate has always, always, required massive lifestyle compromises.

solipsist said...

anon. 8:21 -

Sage advice in my view, and very much in my plans.

I think that a lot of the visitors here have similar ideas. Fot us, seeing the trough will not be so hard as seeing the peak. I think not anyhow. I can wait.

foo said...

This foo.ca is an imposter in the housing blog market. What lowly Unix sysadmin would post irrelevant stats and other useless info to VHB?

I guess foo is in fairly common usage in the software world. Especially amongst unix people.

For some strange reason, I can't log in as my blogger self when posting to these comments. Seems like google is determined to kill the real foo and allow the damned mountains-hating, sea-detesting, Olympics loathing, Halifax dweller to survive.

Anonymous said...

Buying real estate has always, always, required massive lifestyle compromises.

Nonsense, nonsense. Back in the 50's and 60's Joe Lunchbucket could buy a SFH anywhere in Canada on one salary. Once two salaries became the norm, you needed two salaries.

If you can afford to rent an asset, you can afford to buy it. That's basic economics. Only exception is when prices have gotten out of whack with rents - like right now. People are buying houses for price appreciation rather than the service of shelter - i.e. speculation.

Getting back to the theme, I agree, Vancouver just isn't worth it. It was just barely worth it in the mid 1980's, and the quality of life has deteriorated significantly since then. I left some time ago and can't see myself coming back. Well, I'll always have the 70's.

Anonymous said...

We moved to Vancouver two years ago. We had job offers in Montreal and Toronto, but I guess we came here for the mountains... We are now seriuosly considering moving back East. No mountains but the quality of life is better in many respects: cheaper houses, cheaper restaurants, more night life, more vibe, more style, more ethnic quarters, better education, better weather (yes, we like snow and indian summers). We are very disappointed in Vancouver: life is way more stressful than expected, too many big houses, big cars, traffic jams, drugs, unorganised city, too many people stressed out by their mortgage.

solipsist said...

foo - this thing is weird, and I added to it by messing up the link above. Sorry - try this. It's not a blogger account - that was my bad link. I've had a few problems with blogger too - telling me that I am using wrong password, etc.

Thanks for the incisive post anon. 10:19 - that kind of slipped by me. It is true that compromises have probably always been made, but I don't remember them seeming massive as a kid in the 1960's.

It wasn't long ago that rent and mortgage payments weren't much different either way in Van. All one needed was a downpayment and some financing. That has not been the case for the last few years. Now you need 3 or 4 incomes.

anon. 11:22 - I can understand your points. If I had come here recently, I might not have stayed either. I'm just kind of entrenched. I really can't take long, cold, grey and brown winters either. At least it's green here.

Anonymous said...

"Nonsense, nonsense. Back in the 50's and 60's Joe Lunchbucket could buy a SFH anywhere in Canada on one salary. Once two salaries became the norm, you needed two salaries". An OK opinion, I guess.
First of all, I pack my lunch. Does that make me Joe lunch bucket? I gross 132k per year and carried about $3m in real estate. I did it through prioritization, sacrifice,self reno, and the ability to shmooze bankers back when credit was hard to come by. My dad was an engineer in the 50's and he had to watch his pennies to buy his first hous in 1955 in East Van for $2600.00 (sic).I like this blog becuase it is populated by realists, many of whom have a plan. Like me.

Winston said...

I would have left a long time ago except for my wife. She grew up here and simply can't contemplate living anywhere else.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love Vancouver...but clearly not as much as it loves itself.

And anon 8:12
The median price of a home is now 10 times local median income. I don't belive that was the case 27 years ago. Nor do I think that the "real" price (i.e. adjusted for inflation) was anywhere near what it is now.

I'll buy when a 25% downpayment results in rental that would cashflow.

OT: I can't log into this blog with my blogger account. Only with my google account. Solipsist, you may wish to look into this

Filip said...

So if real estate crashes you guys are all coming back ? Or do you just hate the city period ? Maybe you guys should start a new hate Vancouver cause it rains blog.

solipsist said...

OT: I can't log into this blog with my blogger account. Only with my google account. Solipsist, you may wish to look into this

I'm not sure about how to fix that, but I found the following in blogger/help.

Users who have switched to Blogger in beta will not be able to login to comment on blogs that have not switched. Commenting using the “anonymous” or “other” options will still work. Update (9/12): We have started working on making this possible, however the change is substantial and will take a little while before it is ready. Update (9/19): This has been fixed. You can use the “Sign in with your Google Account” link on the Blogger comment form to log in with your Blogger in beta account. — latest update on Tuesday, September 19, 2006

solipsist said...

Maybe you guys should start a new hate Vancouver cause it rains blog.

You could always start a "I hate bloggers that hate Vancouver" blog too.

I think that Winston was close to a lot of people's sentiments with this - I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love Vancouver...but clearly not as much as it loves itself.

Vancouver is a city like any other city. There is nothing special about it. It has a milder climate, and some nice geographical features, but it is not Nirvana.

The pumpers remind me of Leafs fans. The Leafs haven't won the Stanley Cup for about 3,000 years, but their fans still think they are the best team in the league. To each his own.

Babybull40 said...

Solipsist: I too have had troubles with signing in with Blogger.. but to no avail.. So I have now got a brand new blog.. still called Live Life Love Life(part2).....http://babybull41.blogspot.com/So I have started from Scratch..

the pope said...

Great topic solipsist.

So if real estate crashes you guys are all coming back ? Or do you just hate the city period ?

I've never seen a city I hated, they all have their pro and cons. Any move away from where you are living is a pretty major endeavor, and you generally don't do it unless there's a good reason (family, economics, etc.)

This works two ways: People squeezed by the cost of living here might decide its not worth it, but it could take years for them to actually make the move. Once they're gone the same inertia would likely prevent them from moving back here quickly, even if the economics started to change.

This is particularly true if they find that they have a better lifestyle wherever they move to.

solipsist said...

Thanks Your Eminence. You nailed it with your comment too.

Hating a city is pretty futile. Most have said that they love Vancouver, they just don't like where it has gone.

I think that it will be back soon though. All this hate talk will make it re-think it's position, I'm sure. No city will put up with being hated for long before it changes it's ways.

Anonymous said...

Vancouver will never go back to where it was in the 60's and 70's - either in liveability or affordability of housing.

Sorry, but having a Starbucks and a sushi bar on every street corner does not come close to compensating for the myriad of downsides that have afflicted the city in the last few decades. IMHO of course.

And what bugs me, like other posters, about the city is not that it has problems - every city does. It's that a lot of people claim that it's worth the ridiculous prices. Not worth a penny more than Toronto - a city that has a lot more good paying jobs BTW.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the 'rich' - I only say this cause it is the rock star life - no idea of the finances there (but he is renting....) are perhaps seeing the fallacy in RE... interesting the comments on the Koret loft... not as nice as they may seem.

I would leave a comment on his flicker page to let him know there are many blogs (ie, this one and VHB) that are way ahead of him but couldn't... perhaps someone else can?

Check it out...


solipsist said...

Thanks for that anon.1:14.

Here is a clickable link to that post.

I liked his comment about the construction being so shoddy that it seemed as if a 12 year old had done it.

I smell a post from this one. I invited Matthew Good to write a guest blog on it. We'll see if he does. He is a (popular) musician, is he not?

Anonymous said...

I think Vancouver has only improved for the better. Keep the sushi and coffee bars coming. The only thing I would complain about is the homeless problem. Get rid of them now.

Anonymous said...

You can add us to the list of young couples joining the exodus. My wife and I both did all our schooling in Vancouver and want very much to settle here, but we're realizing more and more how little it makes sense to spend the bulk of our income on a dismal and depressing fixer-upper in the nether-regions of the east side. I'd like to stay and contribute with my skills as a family doctor - I know we're needed badly here in Vancouver, as in most places right now - but it seems we've been priced out by the insanity of the past few years!