Like Trying to buy Property in Manhattan

by torontogirlwest on September 30, 2010

Considering buying a first home is exciting but it’s also a tad bit nerve wracking.

Sure, we’re looking forward to this next stage in life but we are also a bit worried about finding a place that is perfect for the two of us and Daisy. Especially, given the very high property prices in Vancouver.

Without going into too much detail, our budget is generous enough that in pretty well every other city in North America it would buy us a very large home in a well established area. But in Vancouver, where property prices are similar to those in Manhattan, our money does not go quite as far.

Don’t believe me? Try the online game “Crack Shack or Mansion;” the brain child of a Vancouver couple that grew frustrated at their inability to buy into the market. To show the insanity of the situation, they created an online game that shows players a picture of a home and then invites them to choose whether it is a crack shack or a property recently listed for over a million dollars in Vancouver.

I dare you to play it! You’ll be shocked.

Still, we would like to move to Vancouver primarily for the lifestyle. And we’re willing to pay a premium to live close to Stanley Park, in a walking friendly neighbourhood, full of wonderful amenities.

Bracing ourselves for a reality check, we met our real estate broker and were off.

The first place had a fantastic location but the interior wasn’t doing it for us. Thankfully, things got increasingly better from there.



IMG_2648 IMG_2649

Culminating with our absolute favourite!!! heart







The finishes were amazing. In fact, I have to confess I fell in love with the stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, bright space, huge kitchen island, and spa like bathroom.

And all in our ideal location!

Truth be told, if we knew our transfers were complete we would have already made an offer. Our current hope is that when we are ready to purchase there will be another similar unit for sale in the same building.

On the whole, we were fairly impressed with what our money could buy in Vancouver. 

If I could give any prospective home buyers some advice, it would be the research the market before even looking at properties. That way you will ensure that your expectations are consistent with what your budget can purchase.


What are property prices like in your city? Is yours an easy market to get into? If you’ve already bought your first place, were you shocked or pleasantly surprised by how far your money went?

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Marianne October 1, 2010 at 12:36 am

Having two incomes really helps you have more options for a home in Vancouver. In my perpetual singledom, I know my hopes of affording anything even near downtown are almost nil. Which is awesome! Not. Yet despite the crazy housing market here, I have no desire to leave.

Oh, and obviously, you should get the place with the wicked awesome kitchen. And reserve a small corner where I can crash ;)
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Toronto Girl West October 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

I agree – it would be pretty hard to buy a place downtown with a single income. Unless, of course you were willing to consider very small bachelor apartments.

There’s no way I could look at any of these places all by myself.
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Andrea October 1, 2010 at 5:25 am

I’m in Toronto and last year the husband and I decided to buy property. We gave up on houses after looking at too many that would need to be completly redone and were quite far from major transit lines (and about 300K). We also gave up on downtown condos after seeing what our budget would get us (500 square feet) and decided on an older condo in north york which is huge by condo standard(1100 square feet).
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Toronto Girl West October 1, 2010 at 11:14 am

I think one of the big bonuses about Toronto is the fact that you can still find a great condo lifestyle even when outside of downtown. In fact, when compared to cities like Vancouver, Toronto’s downtown area is not as liveable.

If I were ever to move back I would consider buying along the Yonge Street Subway corridor.

Congrats on your huge new place!!! :)
Toronto Girl West recently posted..Like Trying to buy Property in Manhattan


Andrea (Off Her Cork) October 1, 2010 at 7:53 am

I love house hunting! I love being able to look at all the different kinds of houses and checking out new areas. :D

We are pretty easy to please and at the same time very picky. Ha! We live in places where we know our money will take us far in terms of being able to purchase a home. We are not city folk at all so that right there takes care of small spaces for lots of money issue. We’d really love to live in the country but at this point it’s not in the foreseeable future. Booo. Our current home is our second one. :)
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Toronto Girl West October 1, 2010 at 11:15 am

Isn’t that funny – you guys long to live in the country and we’re desperate to get out! lol :P

It just goes to show you – it’s all about individual tastes!
Toronto Girl West recently posted..Like Trying to buy Property in Manhattan


EER October 1, 2010 at 8:43 am

I don’t know how people can afford to buy in this city (they must either be independently wealthy or severely over-leveraged). We are DINKs in Van and can’t bring ourselves to purchase, given the poor overall value in the d/t area, stagnant market, and the inevitable rise in interest rates. We hunkered down and did the rent vs buy calculations, which for us, suggested that we’d inevitably be paying more in interest than rent. I qualify this by saying that we had to make a number of assumptions about this market (which is often difficult to predict!). Ah, to each his own. If owning airspace is a priority for you, I say go for it! ;p


Toronto Girl West October 1, 2010 at 11:20 am

I know what you’re saying . . . I guess I just don’t know that we’re that comfortable continuing to pay rent. Especially, since if we were to move to Vancouver and rent we would still like to live in a really nice place (hence more $$$).

But buying property is always a gamble. I guess our gamble is that property prices can either still maintain themselves or go higher still; particularly in areas that are pretty well built out.

I think we’re both looking forward to owning our own place. We’re that kind of people. :)
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Nancy October 1, 2010 at 6:25 pm

In general prices go with income. Montreal is less expensive than Toronto or Vancouver but salaries are a lot lower. As well, a lot of people refuse to sacrifice anything. I know plenty of people that want to continue to live in a trendy area and complain that they can’t afford a condo or a house but refuse to look anywhere else. It’s all about priorities.


Toronto Girl West October 1, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I agree. It really is about compromise and figuring out where your priorities lie.

Thankfully, I think we have that one straightened out! :)
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AndreaClaire October 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I’m in Victoria so it’s not as expensive as Vancouver but it’s still overpriced. Like Marianne, I’m not even bothering to think about buying as a single person. Good luck on finding a place. I’m not totally sure, but it looks like one of your pictures might be looking out of my brother’s old building.


torontogirlwest October 2, 2010 at 5:25 pm

You’re right – Victoria isn’t that far behind on the affordability rankings!

Have you looked at something in Langford? Is that still affordable?


AndreaClaire October 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Langford has also gone up in price thanks to developements like Bear Mountain. It’s not as expensive but it’s not the deal it would have been 10 to 15 years ago. Plus, thanks to all the developements out there, the commute is getting ridiculous!


Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday October 2, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Hahaha. I love that crack shack or mansion site!! Too funny.

I’m lucky enough to be living in Windsor — home to some of the cheapest houses in the country. It kinda rocks. My mortgage is less than half of what my rent in TO used to be.
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torontogirlwest October 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Oh wow! lol I can only imagine!!!! :P


David Pylyp October 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Its a fabulous blog when you have so many positive and interactive responses.

The Vanc Pictures are gorgeous!

An earlier response said correctly there are so many OLDER style buildings in Toronto and Etobicoke that have higher maintenance fee than [NEW] locations but they lack the razzle dazzle and sizzle that builders / developers promote with their health clubs and recreation centers /terraces on the roof top.

There are many wonderful choices for all shoppers when they take the time to look around.

David Pylyp
Living in Toronto
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Toronto Girl West October 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thank-you. I’m positively thrilled at the exchange of ideas on this blog! :)

I was unaware that Toronto had that issue. I’m of the personal opinion that if I’m going to pay high condo fees I’d like them to be going towards something evident. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a pool or a gym but the grounds and public areas better be fantastic.

The place that we absolutely loved had condo fees of about $250 but no amenities. Still the building was so nice it was clear that the extra expense was being put towards something.
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Barry Wilson August 5, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Great article – thank you for sharing. It’s so good to see someone else writing about this specially those who have plans on buying a property in Manhattan, as it can be quite hard to find authoritative, real advice out there.


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