Is Your Daily Commute in Excess of 3 Hours? Why not Keep Driving?
It’s no secret that Vancouver’s housing market is one of the most expensive in the country, if not the world. The Economist ranked Vancouver as the most expensive city to live in North America and it was recently ranked as number 21 internationally in the annual EIU Worldwide Cost of Living Survey (in comparison, New York and Los Angeles tied for number 27).
And while this information doesn’t come as a surprise, a recent interactive post in the Vancouver Sun really put Vancouver’s affordability into perspective, especially for first time home buyers.
It starts by asking a simple question: what is your family’s average income? The default place holder in this interactive map is set at $80,000. Statistics Canada lists the average Vancouver income in 2012 at $71,140, so $80,000 seems reasonable for the metropolitan average 2 years later.
According to this exercise, if your household income is $80,000 you CANNOT afford to live in most areas of Richmond, Delta, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey, White Rock or Langley. Most neighborhoods within these areas are designated as unaffordable (your mortgage payments would eat up as much as 30%-50% of your income). And you might as well forget Vancouver, West Vancouver and North Vancouver entirely as they are labelled as very unaffordable.
So just where does that leave the ‘average’ family or young couple in the Metro Vancouver area? Some affordable housing can be found in Surrey, Maple Ridge, and various areas of Coquitlam and Langley.
Let’s take a closer look at one of those options: Maple Ridge. This suburb of Vancouver is located on the banks of the Fraser River and boasts an approximate population of 76,052 (Statistics Canada 2011). A simple Google Maps calculation puts it at 50 minutes from The Bentall Center – 4 office towers located at the intersection of Burrard Street and Dunsmuir Street- smack dab in the heart of downtown Vancouver’s business district. This estimated travel time does not of course, take into account Vancouver’s notorious rush hour traffic. Make allowance for this consideration and it isn’t unlikely that you could find yourself sitting in traffic for a minimum of 1.5 hours both to and from work for a grand total of 3 hours a day. What would you do with an extra 3 hours a day?
So just what sort of home could you buy in Maple Ridge? The median home value (in the affordable part of town) ranges from $400,252 and $435,000. Take note, this average price is not exclusive to detached homes, it also includes condos and townhomes. Consequently, even living 1.5 hours away from your place of work cannot guarantee you a house with a backyard. It’s also worth mentioning that the affordability of many of the homes in this range is dependent upon you producing a $50,000 down payment.
So what’s the take away from this whole situation? We say, if your daily commute is already 3 hours – why not keep driving?
To more affordable housing options, much shorter commutes, and just maybe a less stressful way of life. The Okanagan Valley, and Kelowna in particular, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board continues to report month over month of increased sales activity (recently recording the strongest September unit sales in 9 years) and OMREB President, Darcy Griffiths reports, “the price of single family homes is fairly stable in most areas, and mortgage rates remain at historic lows, so there are great opportunities for buyers and sellers to get into the market”. The strong Real Estate market coupled with an increase in employment opportunities (our Professional, Scientific and Technical Services sectors were up 95.2% between 2008 and 2012. Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission) make Kelowna the perfect place settle in and create a life – AND the 2000 hours of annual sunshine doesn’t hurt either.