When it comes to housing in Vancouver, many believe that affordability has long left the building.
So if that’s the case, why even bother talking about it?
As realtor Adam Major explains in a phone interview with the Straight, it’s because people require homes, no matter what.
“Individuals need to look at what is affordable for them and decide what they want to do,” Major said.
They can either buy or rent, and that’s entirely up to them.
“It’s okay to be a renter,” noted Major, who is a managing broker with Holywell Properties.
Now for those looking to buy, there are neighbourhoods in and around Vancouver that may be considered as pockets of affordability.
The Straight asked Major to identify some of these areas because of his access to granular data.
In addition to his title of managing broker, he is also the cofounder and CEO of Holywell Properties’ real-estate information site, Zealty.ca.
To digress a bit, Zealty started in 2006 as a virtual map of homes for sale on the Sunshine Coast, where the brokerage is based.
Major’s colleague, Gary Little, wrote the computer program. Little is also a realtor and he previously worked in Silicon Valley. He cofounded Zealty with Major, and serves as its chief technology officer.
The map has since grown into a rich online resource, which includes listings and sold properties, as well as fine-grained data like price per square foot, days on the market, and so on.
Zealty uses data from the real estate boards of Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and the Chilliwack district. The site is updated several times a day.
To zero in on these pockets of housing affordability, Major used median price or the middle point for prices as main parameter.
“Median price gives you the broadest sense of what’s happening in that neighbourhood and what can you buy in that neighbourhood,” he explained in the phone interview.
He also separated detached homes from condos or apartments, because if one combines these two types of properties, this will make a big difference in overall median price.
For the search, Major looked at all sales from January to September 2021.
And so, the area with the lowest median price is where buyers may want to look into, if affordability is what they are after.
For the West Side of Vancouver, Major said that the most affordable neighbourhood for condos or apartments is Marpole. It has a median price of $653,000 as of September 2021.
Major suggested that the best value for money is Downtown and the West End because of their location. The median apartment prices are $690,000 and $692,750, respectively.
However, he observed that condo units in these two places are generally smaller, which does not work for families.
For detached homes, the cheapest neighbourhood in the West Side of Vancouver is also Marpole, where the median price is $2,445,000.
On the East Side of Vancouver, apartments or condos are most affordable in Hastings-Sunrise, with a median price of $521,500.
Major noted that neighbourhoods in East Vancouver like Victoria, Killarney, Grandview, Fraserview, and Collingwood have apartments averaging less than $600,000.
“Main Street is now $885,000—thank the hipsters,” Major said.
For detached homes in East Vancouver, Collingwood is the most affordable place, with a median price of $1,570,000.
“Strathcona, which used to be an island of affordability, has gone full gentrification and is now almost $2 million for a detached home,” Major noted.
Burnaby and New West
Past Boundary Road and into Burnaby, the Zealty CEO noted that the best deal for apartments is in the Cariboo neighbourhood near the Lougheed Town Centre. The median price is $425,000.
One can also look along East Hastings Street in the Capitol Hill area, where the median price is $512,000 as of September 2021.
“A lot of the new buildings near Brentwood and Metrotown have the effect of pushing up the median price in those neighbourhoods,” Major noted.
In Brentwood, the median price for condos is $717,000. In Metrotown, it’s $673,400.
For detached homes in Burnaby, Major said that the most affordable neighbourhood is Greentree Village near BCIT. The median price is $1,398,900.
Farther east, Major described New Westminster as a “good place to find an affordable home”.
“It is a smaller municipality, but there are several neighbourhoods where the median price is around $450,000,” he noted.
The cheapest apartments can be found in the city’s West End neighbourhood, where the median price is $380,000.
Meanwhile, New Westminster’s Uptown is the best for detached homes. The median price is $1,105,000.
North Shore and Richmond
The Straight also asked for Zealty data about the North Shore, which is North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, and West Vancouver.
Major noted that the best deal for apartments or condos is in the Cedardale area of West Vancouver. The median price is $572,500.
“For detached, nothing on the North Shore is cheap, but West Lynn is likely the best bang for your buck,” the Holywell Properties executive noted.
The median price in West Lynn is $1,695,000, or $135,000 cheaper than neighbouring Lynn Valley. “And you can still ride your bike to Fromme,” Major said, referring to one of the North Shore mountains and a popular destination for hiking and biking.
Richmond lies to the south of Vancouver.
In Richmond’s Granville neighbourhood, Major said that the median price for an apartment is a “surprisingly affordable” $280,000.
“Pro tip: if you buy an apartment on the second floor or above, you don’t have to worry about global warming,” Major joked.
For detached homes, the most affordable neighbourhood in Richmond is East Cambie. The median price is $1,543,500 in this area.
Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody make up the Tri-Cities.
“For apartments, Central Coquitlam, along Austin Avenue, is the best deal,” Major said. The median price is $402,500.
For detached homes, Major noted that the neighbourhood of Meadowbrook is cheaper than the median price for the rest of Coquitlam.
“Just up the Lougheed Highway, to the right of the old Riverview Hospital, the median detached price in Meadowbrook is $1,030,000,” he said. The realtor explained that it is significantly below the overall median price for Coquitlam of $1,535,000.
Going to Surrey and Delta, Major stated that Annieville could be the best place to look for an apartment or condo. The median price is $405,000.
“Older neighbourhoods, which were known for cheaper housing, like Whalley, have seen so much development that they have actually pushed the median price up,” he noted.
In Surrey’s Whalley area, the median price is $428,000.
For detached, the neighbourhood to go to is Bridgeview, which is near the Patullo Bridge. The median price is $1,050,000.
“There are some very expensive neighbourhoods in White Rock and South Surrey, where the median price is well over $2 million,” Major noted.
To the east in the Langley area, the Zealty executive noted that the median price in the city of Langley for an apartment is $433,000.
For detached homes, Major said that nothing is under $1 million. The city of Langley and Aldergrove offer the most affordable, with a median price of $1,160,000 and $1,021,750, respectively.
For homebuyers who do not mind driving a lot if they work in or near Vancouver, Major said Chilliwack offers the “cheapest housing in the Lower Mainland”.
The median price for an apartment in downtown Chilliwack is $265,000.
For detached homes, $825,000 is the median price in all of Chilliwack.
“To get below $800,000, you have to go all the way to Hope, where the median price is $623,750,” Major said.
Now for the big picture, the Zealty cofounder shares a basic formula on how home prices increase as one gets closer to Vancouver from the suburbs.
“There is about a 20 percent increase in median detached prices as you drive along the Trans-Canada Highway, and go from town to town,” Major said.
Let’s start from Chilliwack, where the overall median price for a single-family home is $825,000.
Major pointed out that the price increases by 20 percent in Abbotsford ($1,092,000), then another 20 percent in Langley ($1,395,000), and only slightly in Surrey ($1.4 million).
By the time one gets to Burnaby, it’s $1,765,000.
When a homebuyer reaches Main Street in Vancouver, the median price is $2,150,000. In Shaughnessy, the median price hits $5,850,000.
Major noted that things level off a bit as one heads further west. Median prices of detached homes in Kerrisdale and Kitsilano are $3,105,000 and $2,816,500, respectively.
The same thing happens with apartments or condos. However, Major stated that the rate of increase is lower at 15 percent as homebuyers drive from town to town.
To illustrate, Major noted that one can start with the median price for an apartment in Chilliwack at $299,950, and then get to $750,000 when one arrives on the West Side of Vancouver.
Again speaking about the big picture, Major noted that the median price of a detached home for all of Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and Chilliwack is $1.5 million.
For apartments or condos, it’s $590,000.
And for all types of houses in these three real-estate markets, including townhomes, the median price as of September 2021 is $851,000.
In the phone interview, Major told the Straight that there are several reasons why homes have become very expensive.
“The causes for the affordability crisis are many, but I think these can be boiled down to a collective failure at all levels of government for the last couple of decades,” he said.
There’s one prospect that frightens Major, who has been with Holywell Properties since 2006.
“All markets, whether they be housing, the stock market, et cetera, eventually revert back to the mean, and often overcorrect in the opposite direction,” he said.
Major continued: “The housing bubble in Vancouver has gotten so big and gone on for so long, it’s scary to think what a correction could look like.”