I should have known better than to ask a Vancouver realtor how much half a million could get you in Lotusland these days.
“It’s pretty easy,” laughed MacDonald Realty broker Dan Scarrow. “It’s a one-bedroom condo. That’s what you can get for $500,000.”
To find a detached home at that price point, he said, a buyer would likely be driving an hour or more outside the city.
Scarrow, who ran a MacDonald Realty office in Shanghai for a while, said that although prices seem expensive to locals — especially since salaries have not gone up in pace with real estate prices — the reality is that Vancouver is no longer a “local” market; it is international.
“Real estate in global, more international cities, until about 10 to 15 years ago, was locally driven. Since then it has become a more global market, with people around the world comparing cities to other cities,” Scarrow said. “Locals always look at it in terms of the previous year’s pricing and they can’t make heads or tails of where these prices are coming from.”
The influx of cash from outside Canada has buoyed prices in Vancouver and Toronto beyond what many locals can afford, he said, yet international buyers keep coming because they have been to places that are much more expensive, he said.
To Scarrow, it looks like it may be Montreal’s turn now.
Scarrow’s office is now repping Montreal condo projects like Victoria-sur-le-Parc, YUL and One Square Phillips to buyers in Vancouver and Toronto as well as Shanghai. Real estate agents who work closely with condo investors have been flocking to Vancouver launch parties for Montreal condo projects like these, he said. The buyers they’re working with include both foreigners with property in Vancouver as well as bargain-hunting locals.
“We have a pretty mature investor clientele in Vancouver that are used to investing in presale condos, and I guess that market is just sort of starting in Montreal right now,” he said.
Although property here may seem like a screaming deal when seen through Vancouver eyes, half a million doesn’t go as far as it used to in Montreal. A Centris search reveals the options: lots of two-bedroom condos near downtown, a handyman special in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, plexes in the Sud-Ouest, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve or Ahuntsic.
Side note: did you know, for $65,000 you could be the proud owner of a parking spot in Golden Square Mile’s YUL condo building?
Homeowners have the option to take advantage of real estate gains by cashing out and moving to a less-expensive neighbourhood — and there are still many affordable suburban areas around here. But for first-time buyers, seeing prices rise so quickly can be scary. I asked Scarrow how first-time buyers in Vancouver have coped. The answer? They simply learn to live with less.
“People are willing to live in a condo or townhouse for longer than they would in other markets. It’s a lifestyle choice,” Scarrow said. “In Vancouver you’re close to a lot of amenities, so you don’t go on vacation as much. You see more lifestyle spending in more expensive markets.”
And if all else fails, you can do what I did: move. I hear Nova Scotia real estate is cheap…