Monday, June 21, 2010

Same distance, but world's apart

Pictured above, for faithful readers not from the Village on the Edge of the Rainforest, is a map of the Greater Vancouver area (click on the image to enlarge).

To the far left you can see the City of Vancouver proper. To the right, straddling the US border, are the bedroom communities of Abbotsford and Chillwack.

And while real estate is cheaper in the suburbs, Greater Vancouver is firmly locked in the absurd housing bubble that will wreak havoc on our Province when it pops.

Below these communities lies the 49th parallel - the US border. And on the American side, so close to the greatest bubble real estate market in North America, lies Watcom County in Washington State.

And how is real estate doing less than half the distance immediately south from Vancouver than if you were to travel east to Chilliwack?

It's a completely different world.

While real estate boomed in the lower mainland, the recently released 32nd edition of the Whatcom County Real Estate Research Report tells us that the bedroom community to Vancouver just over the border was well into the "bust" phase of the housing cycle at the end of 2009, with single-family sales down 50% from the peak and single-family permits down 75% from the peak.

And while longer term the county's housing market "will likely benefit from the locational advantages of the region, including an abundance of recreational amenities and its position as a lower-cost alternative to Vancouver and Seattle", right now it is sucking wind.

The number of Whatcom County homes sold last year (2,204) was the lowest annual total since 1995. The peak year was 2004, when 4,454 homes were sold. The median price last year was $259,900, the lowest since 2005. Last year, 186 homes sold for under $150,000, a 31% increase from 2008.

Meanwhile a few kilometres to the north lies the land of the million dollar single family homes.

Quite the contrast, isn't it?

Yet so many remain in denial about the perilous situation we are sitting in.



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  1. Toronto is the same as Vancouver. It can't happen to me mentality has taken over. No one wants to listen.

  2. I've only been to Vancouver once (as a child) so I'm not that familiar with the "lay of the land".

    Do people actually commute from Washington State into Vancouver for work? Is that at all feasible?

    And how far (in km or driving distance) is the closest mid-size US town (say 100k people or more) from Vancouver?

  3. As a Seattle transplant at a Canadian University, I've been shocked by the housing price differences in Seattle versus Vancouver and Victoria.

  4. Jordan. There are a lot of people commute from Washington State to Vancouver to work, particularly from a small community known Point Roberts (which is a bizzare, orphaned penninsula cut off from the Vancouver suburb of Tsawwassen by the 49th parallel).

    The largest city in Whatcom county is Bellingham (12th largest city in Washington State) with about 76,000 residents. It is about 45 minutes south of Vancouver and is a popular shopping destination for people from Greater Vancouver.

    You don't really need to go that far south. The Vancouver suburb of Surrey stradles the US border. Surrey has more people than Vancouver proper. Policed by the RCMP, it is the mounties largest detachment in Canada. It is so large that the detachment is led by an Assistant Commissioner.

    You can live in a border town (Blaine) and literally walk across a road (called mile zero) and be in Surrey. No fences, no wall... you can see backyards from Blaine houses and paths going across the field to their Canadian friends houses.

    The border is really just a formality, but the difference in real estate is profound.

    Now Blaine is faring better than Bellingham because of this proximity, but the difference is still signigicant with Canada.

    I am not sure of the tax implications of working in Canada and living in the US, however, and I suspect that there is an impediment there.

    But, as the comment from transplant says, the housing price differences are shocking.

  5. There may be other reasons why metro Vancouver home prices are high.

    In Canada, financing can be provided up to 65% if a home buyer can provide the down payment required and satisfied some basic requirements by the bank. This is not the case for Canadians wanting to buy real estates in the US.

    The housing market in Vancouver is also supported by some rich immigrants and investors as can be seen from today's news here.

  6. "Yet so many remain in denial about the perilous situation we are sitting in."

    You mean the "perilous situation" of million dollar homes? LOL

  7. Wonder if the hot sales at Richmond by Chinese are a hedge against inflation in fear of what was happening with strikes prior to the unpegging of the Yuan against the USD

  8. Bellingham is nice but the rest of Whatcom County is eeeesshhh. Plus those sadists working at US Customs --even if you have Nexus, just thought of driving through that depressing border crossing every day. Nah, I'll keep renting in Vancouver, thanks.