I should have known. There’s a forum for everything after all. Before I had kids it was Mark Susol’s Ultimate Dressage discussion board. I was fervently active in a couple of forums there for years. Then pregnancy hit, riding went on the back shelf, and now it’s Mothering Magazine’s MotheringDotCommune board, mostly the Canada Tribe forum these days. Today I discovered the Real Estate Talks board, which has a BC Real Estate forum. I’ve started reading it and, interestingly, discovered a few posters who regularly comment on the Van-Housing blog I wrote about earlier. What’s nice is there are also those who are much more optimistic about the local housing market, and I feel it’s good to hear the arguments on their side of the debate.
The initial scare I felt after reading Van-Housing’s blog has settled down to serious contemplation for now. His collection of data seems to strongly support the hypothesis that a bubble burst is imminent. OTOH, there are other ways of viewing today’s market. I myself wasn’t so surprised by it when I returned to Canada a couple of years ago. The talk on the street was all about real estate and how “ridiculous” the prices were. I didn’t find it so ridiculous havin just come from Boston. I referred to a little something I call the “Cleveland Factor”.
Being born and raised in beautiful (liberal!) Vancouver, going to Cleveland was a shock on many levels. Don’t get me wrong, people in Ohio are nice folks and the job I had was killer, for a boss I would fall on my sword for any day. But compared to Vancouver the place is a pit. The only natural beauty are some large-acreage deciduous forests that can’t hold a candle to our Pacific Northwest rain forests; no mountains, no lovely ocean (sadly, miles of lakeshore have been overlooked by developers and planners and remain more of an eyesore than anything else). People there seemed very proud of the fact that you could buy a home in a nice neighbourhood for under $100k. In fact, in my lab alone there were four young men under 30 who had recently married and immediately bought houses. It’s easy to do there, even when your combined family income is only about $50k per year. My take on the “excellent housing prices” in Cleveland was yeah, it’s easy to buy a big house…but then you actually have to LIVE there. No thank you.
Then I moved to Boston. Incredible city, huge history, wonderful architecture, great restaurants, awesome lifestyle (okay, winter was a bitch…) – I absolutely loved it. Housing prices there were very high. To buy places there was extremely costly compared to Cleveland, but then you get to live in Boston! Try finding a restaurant in all of Cleveland that compares to any tiny, family-owned shack/deli in the North End. Won’t happen.
Vancouver has recently become a “global city”. Having left a tired, worn town in 2000 to persue my fortunes in the USA, I returned here to find a booming economy and many signs that the city had reached it’s “coming of age”. In terms of natural beauty, climate, lifestyle, restaurants, etc. it is truly one of the best places on Earth. So it makes sense to me that lots of people want to live here, and that prices are going to reflect that. Hearing people complain about housing costs here after living in Boston seemed to me like they had blinders on. They did not seem to appreciate that “you get what you pay for”. Want a house for $100,000? They’re selling lots of the them in Cleveland. Want a house in Vancouver? Take a number, pal, and hope you can outbid them.