Thursday, April 09, 2009

House Hunting

"Things only have the value that we give them" - Moliere.

And so we enter the Vancouver housing market.  We have been looking to buy on the north shore for several months now; sifting through hundreds of lonline listings and touring many open houses; only recently has it dawned on us that there is often a considerable gap between market value of a property and some other more personally constructed value.  We have seen more than a few ancient little rat nests sell quickly in a flurry of bidding (for 1/2 a million $) that I would not let our cat live in, let alone a raise a family in. I think previously owning a house in PG (where $150 K got you something livable) has spoiled me for buying in this area, where the same dollars wouldn't even get you a 30 yr old 700 sq ft apartment with a shag rug. North Van in particular seems to be at the mercy of supply and demand economics. Unlike PG, where new subdivisons can be created at the stroke of the pen (and chainsaw), North Van isn't adding tracts of  new houses onto the market. So, many buyers are chasing few homes and the prices go up, or stay up. Things are better for condos given that they have built so many of them and that they are (relatively) more affordable, but who wants to live in an apartment forever? And who can save for a real home when they're still paying $300,000 for a shoebox? And how do you rationalize this when renting is still cheaper, considerably, than owning?

These questions would be hard enough to answer at the best of times, but given the current economic situation  (do we call it a depression yet?) it makes it almost impossible.  If you're barely comfortable buying now how will you feel in 2 yrs or 5 yrs when rates are double or triple? Or if you can't sell at a profit in 5 yrs or 10 yrs to get onto a patch of dirt to call your own?

Maybe living in a treehouse wouldn't be so bad, but only if it came with a view...

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