Follow local house hunters as they experience the highs and lows of trying to buy a house in Vancouver's intense real estate market. Elaine L. is the first to share her search with us. We check in with her every couple of weeks to see how it's going.
With Vancouver house sales below their 10-year average, she is part of a smaller group of buyers in the market right now. And with around 450 active listings for detached houses in East Vancouver and Burnaby, she can take her pick. But even so, she's having trouble finding the house that meets her expectations.
Last time we talked to her, Elaine had tackled that problem by changing her expectations. She decided that she was willing to buy a house with a rental suite on the main floor-a layout she had rejected in the early days of the search. She's now willing to wait and let a rental suite help her save up for her ultimate home. But though she's relaxed her standards, she still hasn't found a house to buy.
"I feel a little defeated right now," she says. "It's just not coming together as fast as I thought. Whatever I've seen that I've loved is always gone by the time I get to it."
A drop in new listings during the summer hampered her search. "I get email alerts for new listings, and I would get five or six a day during June and July. Then in August it was only about one a day. That's been part of the problem."
Listings always drop off in summer when people are taking it easy. But Vancouver real estate market pundits also believe that people who don't have a strong motivation to sell are simply keeping their homes off the market during the current sales slump. As a result, new listings in August were below the 12-year average for the month. Sellers did come back in September though, to the point that there were 4.5 per cent more homes for sale than in August.
But the summer lull made Elaine move the goalposts again. She went back to her banker and got approved for another $100,000 in financing. She can now buy a house priced at up to $1.2 million. That jump will open her up to more Vancouver listings, including many that have been on the market for a while but were out of her price range before.
And who knows? Low sales, a healthy number of listings and increasing time on the market (12.5 months for detached homes in Greater Vancouver) might result in lowered house prices.
Elaine is the first to admit that she's picky. "We don't go out and wander around neighbourhoods looking at open houses or anything like that. In fact, physically we only go to see about one house a week. The Internet is so accessible and every-body's helping us look-even friends are sending listings. In our case, three people look at every downloaded listing before anything is accepted or rejected. Mom, my sister and I all have a say in whether we think enough of a house to go and see it. Mom and my sister sent one yesterday, but it had a bus stop in front of it, so I wasn't OK with that. That means it's off the list. We're a team."
Elaine is typical of the new kind of buyer for whom the Internet is a second home. With savvy home searchers like this, the realtor's job is to provide value over and above finding potential properties. Sites like REW.ca make detailed searches easy and allow buyers to save searches and receive alerts about new listings that match their criteria. Meanwhile, the realtor offers specific selling and negotiating skills, hyper-local knowledge and in-depth market statistics, along with the insight that comes from experience.
The realtor is another member of the team.
Follow along as Elaine and her mom chronicle their house-hunting adventures. Visit rew.ca for earlier install-ments of the House Hunter Chronicles series.
REW.ca is a local real estate search website for Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
ELAINE L. BIO
. Family size: Two-a single woman and her mother.
. Current residence: Owns a condo.
. Budget $800,000 to $ 1.1 million.
. Desired neighbourhoods: Collingwood, Fraserview, Renfrew, Renfrew Heights, Killarney.
. Looking for 2,000 to 2,500 sq. ft. newer detached house with rental suite downstairs, move-in condition.