It’s no small secret that the Vancouver housing market is a tough one to break into. Among millennials and young families alike, the idea of buying property within the city limits is a daunting one. However, for would-be homebuyers in the Lower Mainland, there are a few simple tricks that can make the market a lot friendlier.
1. Look outside Vancouver proper
You know what they say: location, location, location! The attractiveness of the area you buy in contributes to a fair chunk of a home’s asking price. Rather than look at popular areas in the city that are going to come with higher costs, consider your options outside of Vancouver proper. While the median sale price in downtown Vancouver in the first half of 2017 was $749,500 (and all but one of those attached units), in Coquitlam it was $675,750 (mostly attached), in New Westminster it was $502,000 (also mostly attached). In Surrey North and Central, the median sale price was only $551,000, with more than 40% of those detached homes. It’s clear that for those who can set up house outside of the city, there are huge savings to be had.
2. Buy in a walkable, up-and-coming location
Consider buying a home in an up-and-coming neighbourhood and avoid excessive listing prices. With projects in walkable neighbourhoods such as Brentwood, Metrotown, Surrey Central and Port Moody, these areas could yield real estate gems. And with so many amenities at your fingertips, you’ll save on things like transit, vehicle costs and more.
3. Give up the parking spot
Another way to keep your costs low is to search out places without designated parking. Houses, townhouses and apartments without parking spots will nearly always have lower listing prices than their counterparts with driveways or underground spaces, which can easily cost an extra $50K. To keep things convenient, look for listings in walkable areas and that are close to transit corridors and handy car-sharing options.
4. Buy smaller
Forgoing a little space can save you a lot. Think carefully about how much room your family really needs before you commit to a larger home with a higher price tag. For instance, while you always imagined yourself in a fully detached home, you may find that a large townhouse fits the bill. And if you’re a first-time buyer entering the market, try a small one-bedroom or even a studio to get your foot on the property ladder. Assess your needs carefully before committing to square footage.
5. Buy larger and share – or become a landlord
On the opposite end of the size spectrum, look for places that would allow you to create additional suites to subsidize your mortgage. Having tenants does come with additional responsibilities, but multiple families living in a home makes it more affordable for all parties. Alternatively, you may want to apply for a Vancity Mixer mortgage and share your first purchase with family members or friends.This mortgage offers competitive rates plus the legal and insurance support you need to protect everyone’s best interests.
6. Purchase a fixer-upper
An oldie but a goodie, this nugget of wisdom still holds true. Buying a home with a few more cracks will help you save huge on asking price, whether you plan to renovate through contractors or put in the elbow grease yourself to build up that “sweat equity.”
7. Put gifts towards a down payment
Saving for a down payment is tough. One way to create savings is to put monetary gifts towards your down payment. With that goal in mind, ask friends and relatives for cash gifts if possible. Many couples even ask for cash wedding presents rather than items from a registry, with the intention of putting the proceeds towards a new home.
8. Take advantage of available resources
When you’re actively looking to buy a home, knowledge is power. Look to available resources like Vancity’s first time home buyer’s hub, which has tools to help you build your down payment, calculate how large of a mortgage you can afford and explore mortgage options. Planning ahead with expert advice will save you plenty of headaches down the road.
Breaking into the housing market is difficult, but it’s far from impossible. With careful planning and allowances for location and size where they can be made, home buyers on a budget can find the perfect place to call their own.