Home search: Vancouver couple decides best option is to move across the water

Couple makes the “easy decision” to cash out of the heated local market and relocate to Victoria

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      Jessica Hartley has left Vancouver for her perfect house.

      “I’m 32, and I think I’ve bought my dream home already,” Hartley told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Last month, she and her husband, Sean, moved into their brand-new residence in Victoria. It’s a detached house with four bedrooms, three baths, and a big garden.

      According to her, it happened because of two things. One is that they bought a Vancouver property five years ago. Two, her husband got a nice job offer.

      Their story goes back to when the couple were about to get married. They had been renting together for two years at that time.

      “We wanted a home, and we’d been renting and we just felt we just didn’t want to put our money into renting anymore,” Hartley said.

      In 2012, they bought a two-bedroom apartment on Main Street, where they had planned to stay for a few years while they had their first child.

      Her husband was born and raised in Vancouver, and he never wanted to leave. Staying in the city would have meant the couple could only hope to buy a townhouse if they were to have more kids and move up the property ladder later.

      But then an offer came for her husband to work in Victoria; according to Hartley, their Vancouver condo at that time had appreciated by 80 percent.

      “It was a pretty easy decision,” she said. They sold their apartment and used the money to buy a single-family house in Victoria.

      Her husband started his new job on April 1, and Hartley, who was then working on contract with UBC, followed soon after.

      “I moved without getting a job, but it was just too good of an opportunity,” she said.

      Hartley recalled that although she and her husband took a risk with a mortgage on their first home in Vancouver, they’re glad they did.

      “We would have been paying more for a townhouse [in Vancouver] than what we’re paying right now,” she said.

      Compared to Vancouver, homes are more affordable in Victoria.

      Based on a report by the Victoria Real Estate Board, the benchmark price for a detached property in the Greater Victoria area was $663,500 as of April this year. The price for similar properties in the city of Victoria proper was higher, $805,100.

      In areas covered by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, which stretch from Maple Ridge to Whistler, the benchmark price for a detached house was $1.5 million for the same period. On the west side of Vancouver, it was $3.4 million.

      According to a report issued on April 26 this year by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the housing market in Vancouver continues to “show strong evidence of problematic conditions”.

      The agency defines “problematic conditions” as imbalances in the housing market that happen when “overbuilding, overvaluation, overheating and price acceleration—or combinations thereof—depart significantly from historical averages”.

      However, an economic analysis released on May 3 by the Vancouver-based Central 1 Credit Union noted that housing markets in B.C. have “proven more resilient than expected”.

      Although the median resale price in the province is expected to decrease by 2.2 percent in 2017, the paper projects increases of 5.5 percent and 3.1 percent for 2018 and 2019, respectively.

      “Housing price momentum will remain positive through the forecast period due in large part to a collapse in inventory over the past year, with expected gains driven by the Vancouver Island and Kelowna regions this year, before being led again by Metro Vancouver thereafter,” according to Credit 1’s housing outlook for 2017–2019.

      Hartley and her husband have no kids yet, but she feels more secure now, saying they have a good place to raise a family.

      “I feel pretty safe with what we’ve got,” she said.

      Citing her own experience, Hartley suggested that it’s always a good move for prospective home purchasers to invest in Vancouver.

      “It’s harder now, obviously, because of higher prices,” she said. “But…if you could get into the Vancouver market, I think you can have a huge leg up if you ever move out.”