Home search: Young couple pours in a lot of sweat equity for future dream home

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      Millennials face formidable odds of ever owning the proverbial house with a white picket fence.

      By 2020, people in 82 of the 88 top in-demand jobs in Metro Vancouver will no longer be able to afford a single-family home, according to a 2015 report by Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity, for short).

      By 2030, all detached residences in the region will be out of the reach of average households, Vancity predicted.

      The prospects may be challenging, but Alyssa Lee and her partner, Luke Cunningham, are not giving up.

      “The end goal is to try and, you know, have a detached house one day,” Lee told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      They want to have kids and raise them in a home with a yard.

      “Hopefully, one day, we want to make enough money to justify that and have enough space for them,” Lee said.

      Lee and Cunningham have come up with a plan to give themselves a chance.

      In December 2015, they bought and moved into their first property, an old condo unit near a Canada Line station in Vancouver.

      The couple renovated the place and, a few weeks before the interview, they were able to sell the condo.

      “My partner is a carpenter and general contractor, so it was cheaper for us—than, I guess, for most people—to do the work with the knowledge and the stuff he already had,” Lee said.

      The sale will be completed by either the end of May or early June, so now they’re looking for another property to purchase, live in, modernize, and sell.

      “Every renovation that we do, hopefully, we make a little bit more each time and make steps towards that [purchasing a single-family home], as long as the market…doesn’t increase more than what we’re making,” Lee said.

      As of March 2017, a typical detached home in the areas covered by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) was about $1.5 million.

      According to the real-estate board, prices of single-family homes, as well as condos and townhouses, increased compared to February this year because of strong demand.

      Based on figures by the REBGV, the value of an average detached house in Greater Vancouver has risen by 110 percent during the past 10 years.

      According to Lee, she and her partner may try a condo in West Vancouver this time.

      “We’re hoping to gain a leg up on the city of Vancouver, so I think West Vancouver might be a good bet, because it’s desirable,” Lee said.

      Lee and Cunningham have lived together since 2012. They rented a laneway house in East Vancouver, and three years later they decided to buy their first property.

      Lee recalled that they didn’t want to rent anymore because rents were high.

      “It made sense for the long term,” she said. “And in order to…get ahead of the market, we thought it would be good to, you know, buy in the low end and then do our own renovations.”

      Refurbishing their first condo took a lot of time and effort, according to Lee, who works as an events and programs coordinator at UBC.

      “My contribution is usually in the form of food and coffee and management of the project,” Lee said with a laugh.

      In March 2015, Vancity released a report titled Downsizing the Canadian Dream: Homeownership Realities for Millennials and Beyond, which noted that condos will be the most affordable and viable option for young families.

      The Vancity report also stated that even with condos, millennials may have to look in cities far from Vancouver, like Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey, and Langley.

      Lee and Cunningham both turned 30 last year. While they will try to work toward buying a stand-alone home one day, they’ll be happy with whatever they can get.

      “Our goal is always to buy something that we wouldn’t mind staying in if perchance it doesn’t sell,” Lee said.

      If they don’t make it, Lee said that it will not be the end of the world for her and Cunningham.

      Lee said: “I mean, just owning a place in Vancouver is great in itself.”