milestone 2: home ownership

This is part two of my re-capping of the last year or so.

2016 was all-around a year of horrors. It is known. Somewhere in the middle of it, Husband and I found out that the apartment we were renting in New Westminster was being sold. This was the second time that had happened to us in less than two years.

This is hardly the worst story anyone who is a renter in the Greater Vancouver area had, but it’s probably about par for the course. In a nutshell, the housing situation in Vancouver has always been terrible for everyone for anyone below upper middle class.*

But in the last few years, housing prices have been swooping upwards at an alarming rate, just like those line graphs of how fucked we are by climate change. And, inversely, rental vacancies have plummeted, just like those line graphs of how likely we are to survive climate change.

Husband and I had been diligently saving for our down-payment for a few years now and, while this was a little ahead of our planned schedule, we thought that rather than just rent another place only to get reno-evicted in a few months, we might as well look to buy.

Our plan had been to first buy a condo in New West, similar to what we’d been renting. We love New West and it really feels like home. We like the small-scale urban feel, as well as the sense of community we have from all our familiar haunts.

The plan was to eventually upgrade to a townhouse somewhere in several years, maybe five. You know, when we were ready to hit the suburbs. But with the way prices were going, we realized that if we didn’t buy a townhouse now, we were likely never going to be able to afford one.

So we started looking at townhouses in Surrey, south of the river and another ‘sphere of influence’ removed from Vancouver. Thus goes the pattern of suburban drift. The four years we spent in New West, we watched it gentrify. We were even at the forefront of that. We are not blameless. It just feels like it all happened overnight.

IMG_3397
Cat shown for scale.

Trying to buy anything was a nightmare. Each place would go on the market, have one open house, and then start taking offers even as early as that night. And forget the listing price. So many offers were coming in, you needed to go sometimes as high as $60,000 or $70,000 higher than listing on your initial offer. There was no negotiating. No saying maybe we should get an inspection first? 

For us, with our typical mortgage and financing, we were competing against cash offers. Mostly boomers who just sold their detached house for over a million (God knows how little they paid for it in the 1980s or 1990s.) and were now looking to downsize. It was a shitty time to be a first-time home-buyer.

But, hey: we are the lucky ones. 

I know this. I keep telling myself this. We are insanely lucky. But so it goes: you always look up but never down. You see those even luckier people who bought a few years ago or who have their parents bankrolling them but never those who will likely be renting the rest of their lives or who will be waiting for a government sea change in order to even have a roof over their heads.

The place we ended up snagging is a bit out of the way and a bit of a fixer-upper. But it’s ours. So now it’s time to learn some DIY.


*If you live in the Greater Vancouver area and have had nothing but blue skies in your housing situation (and if you have actually *gasp* MADE money in the last little housing bubble), then fuck you. I don’t wanna hear it. The rest of us are livid.

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