Throughout the summer, The Globe and Mail will feature buyers hunting for homes in the Lower Mainland at different price ranges and the challenges faced at each rung of the ladder. Today, a buyer discusses the tricky task of finding something in the $300,000 range.
When Kyle Boyes set out to buy his own place on the North Shore last summer, he knew two things for sure: He had roughly $300,000 to spend and, after the close, he planned to boost the real estate value with renovations of his own.
What the 25-year-old first-time home buyer didn't anticipate was that most of the condominiums listed for less than $400,000 in North Vancouver weren't worth the do-it-yourself upgrades – or purchasing at all.
"I was really disappointed with what $300,000 to $350,000 had to offer," he said.
Realtor Gregg Logan echoed Mr. Boyes's experience navigating the city's condo market.
"$[300,000] on the north shore is a one-bedroom, older condo in a [bad] location, hanging over a bus stop," he said.
Indeed, Mr. Logan had a warning for young buyers getting into the market at current prices: He expects condo values to take steep drops as soon as interest rates rise.
"A lot of young people are just looking at getting in [the market]," he said. "Save your money and be patient."
After touring more than a dozen condo listings and losing on a couple of offers, Mr. Boyes upped the amount of money he was willing to spend by $75,000.
He settled on a fully renovated, two-bedroom unit in an 18-year-old building at 3rd St. and Lonsdale Ave. with a mortgage nearly $25,000 more than he first budgeted.
The Globe and Mail spoke with the new homeowner about what his $374,000 condo is really worth in the market.
What were you looking for when you started searching for a place?
Condos were all that was available for my price point. I was looking for a place that I could do some renovations on myself and upgrade the value of the property. I wanted a two-bedroom that was larger than 700 square feet.
I looked mostly in the Lonsdale and Lynn Valley areas [of North Vancouver].
What did you find the market had to offer in your price range?
I was looking at around 20- to 30-year-old buildings. Most places I viewed in that price range were either rundown or the building needed too much work. The buildings were falling apart – a new roof was needed for some of those buildings, one of them the stucco needed upgrading, so that would have been about $10,000 out of pocket after purchasing the place. I don't think they would have held the value.
After a couple months of looking every weekend, you increased your price point to $425,000. What made you do that?
I found once you hit $400,000, you get a lot nicer of a place for just a little bit more money. I found that the renovations were already done and the buildings were a little newer. You pay a little bit more each month, but in the long run you're a lot happier with the place.
You bought a two-bedroom condo for $374,000. What did that get you?
It's 721 square feet with an open living-room kitchen floor plan, a renovated kitchen, hardwood floors and arched doorways to the bedrooms. A view of downtown. It's also a fully renovated place, so I didn't have to put any work into it. If I put any money into it [now] I think I would just be losing versus gaining anything out of it.
But when you originally started looking you were willing to put in some renovations?
Yes. I calculated the price to change carpet for hardwood and to renovate a kitchen would be about $50,000. But to get a renovated place that's pretty much in the same neighbourhood, it was about only $20,000 more.
Did you end up making any compromises?
At 721 square feet, it was a little on the smaller side of an apartment. I would have preferred more square footage, but it's a compromise. I was pretty happy with the location: I like all the trails the north shore has to offer and it's a centralized location. I do a lot of driving for work, so it's pretty close to a freeway, which was a plus. My girlfriend works downtown, so it's just a quick little Seabus across the water.
Did you ever consider looking in Vancouver proper?
No. My buddy bought at the same time in Vancouver and he had to pay quite a bit [more] to get less than what I got.
Is there anything you would do differently if you were buying again?
It was a fast-paced process once you find a place and decide you want to put an offer on it. I lost out on two places because people put in their offer maybe a day before me. I would put an offer in quicker. I thought about it too much.