Professional women go it alone to buy their first Lower Mainland home
Andrea Visscher is on a mission. The 27-year-old Vancouver resident is shopping for her own home, which is no easy feat for anyone in Canada’s most expensive housing market. But despite the obvious challenges, Visscher is determined to go it alone.
“I’ve been looking for about two months but considering this for a long time,” Visscher says. “I really want to purchase a home on my own without assistance from a partner or my parents.
“Finding something I like in a price point I’m able to afford is my biggest obstacle,” she adds. “I don’t want to leave things too long, though, because I think the earlier in my life I can get into home ownership the better it will be in the long run.”
Visscher represents one of the latest trends in real estate: professional, single women becoming independent homeowners.
According to a recent TD Canada Trust national poll that surveyed female first-time home buyers between the ages of 20 and 45, 82 percent were single women. (That figure includes people like Visscher, who have a partner but are buying on their own.) The average age was 29, and almost half had obtained a university degree.
When asked to describe the best thing about home ownership, 34 percent of Canadian women surveyed said it was having a place of their own. Other factors were being able to decorate or renovate the way they wanted (34 percent) and having a backyard or garden (32 percent).
Eugen Klein, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, says that although no hard numbers exist, single women have outpaced single men in home purchases recently.
“It does change from month to month, but if you look over the last 12- or 24-month period, by a few percentage points, single women have bought slightly more properties than single men,” he says.
Local real-estate marketer Bob Rennie has seen the trend play out in Vancouver. At Marine Gateway, a development on Marine Drive at south Cambie Street that sold out on opening day and offered more than 200 units under $270,000, 50 percent of buyers were female—a big jump from past projects.
“Although we didn’t track demographics as diligently 10 years ago, I think that a safe estimate would be that the dial has moved from the 35-percent range to where it is today,” Rennie says.
The main concern among female buyers is security, with many women opting for units above ground level and for buildings that require a pass card to access individual floors.
“Of course, safety and convenience are factors,” Rennie says.
Naturally, so is price. With a maximum purchase price of $200,000 in mind, Visscher is focusing on condos in Surrey. She’s seen some units in Vancouver at about that amount, but they’re too tiny for her liking.
Making the move to the suburbs will be a big change for the media-relations specialist who has lived in a large, funky, sunny West End studio for eight years. She pays $775 a month, including parking.
“I want to be near transit so I can get rid of my car,” Visscher says. “I don’t want to pay more for a mortgage than what I’m paying in rent. I don’t want to sacrifice my lifestyle and be a slave to an incredibly high mortgage payment.”
Although she says she’s fortunate to have found a real-estate agent she trusts, Visscher admits she finds the process overwhelming. It doesn’t help when well-meaning relatives and friends share their two cents’ worth: everyone seems to have a different opinion on where she should be looking or if she should be contemplating home ownership at all.
“My father is very pro get-into-the-market-whenever-you-can; my mother thinks it’s not a good time, that I shouldn’t be investing in a home when my rental is working for me,” she says. “I’m also the first one of my friends to look into home ownership, so none of them are really able to give me insights I’m looking for.
“Some friends and coworkers are telling me to look in White Rock; other people are telling me it doesn’t matter where I look but just don’t be on the other side of a bridge. I just have to try and trust my best judgment.
“Although I have fantastic rent and an amazing landlord, I’m just ready to start investing in myself, and investing in a home is a large part of that,” she adds. “As opposed to putting in rent for a really cool space, I just want to get something that’s more my own.”