Skip to main content

Julie Ewuk and husband Randy at their new home in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver, B.C., on August 9, 2015. The couple purchased the home for around $1-million.Jimmy Jeong/ Globe and Mail

Throughout the summer, The Globe's B.C. bureau is taking an in-depth look at housing in the Vancouver region, where skyrocketing prices are limiting who can afford to buy a home in Canada's third-largest city and what those homes look like. We're examining trends in the Lower Mainland's housing market, as well as following buyers who are trying to navigate it.

When Randy Ewuk and his wife, Julie, were finally ready to buy a larger house that could better accommodate their growing children, there was just one catch: They had to stay in the same neighbourhood.

Moving out of Lynn Valley and forcing their teenager and preteen to change schools was one compromise the Ewuks were unwilling to make.

"We didn't want to change schools," Mr. Ewuk said. "That was the important part."

But house hunting based on school district meant slim pickings for listings in their $1-million price range, not to mention some heated competition.

After a few months of searching, Mr. and Mrs. Ewuk managed to find a five-bedroom, two-bathroom house that had a basement suite for slightly more than $1-million – and they only had to move seven blocks.

The Globe and Mail spoke with Mr. Ewuk about the challenges of finding a house close to home.

What did you find in your $1-million price range when you started looking?

We had to stay in the same school catchment, which meant staying in Lynn Valley, which meant we couldn't look anywhere else outside a very small community. So at that time, that gave us an option of about four homes to choose from that were on the market.

What was the competition like?

We started going to realtor openings because anything that came on the market that was in our price range [and] somewhat interesting – it was gone. They'd have a realtor open on Wednesday, an open house on Saturday and Sunday, take offers Monday and it's gone Tuesday.

We pretty much had to be prepared in many ways. Our realtor told us we had to have our inspection done before the open house, because if they're taking offers on Monday you have to have all your ducks in a row. You have to do your background work ahead of time.

Is that how it went with the house you bought?

My wife went to an open house on Wednesday, we arranged to have another viewing of the house on Wednesday night, we had the inspection done on a Friday, put the offer in on Monday, accepted that night.

Was there a bidding war?

There were only three other competing offers and we were actually expecting more of them, but at the end of the day I think we didn't get into a bidding battle because, since our first offer was going to be our only offer, I think we overbid by about $30,000.

But the reality of the situation was – with the current interest rates – the difference between $30,000 amortized over a 25-year mortgage was about $10 a payment. So if it was so hard to get the home that you wanted and needed to stay in that area, it's kind of worth it.

Did you make any offers on houses before that?

No, however, there were many that we wanted to bid on. Right when we started working with our realtor, there was a house on our street that was brand new, and I thought,'Let's bid on this one.' But the very next day when we checked, it was already sold.

There was another house that's coincidentally across the street from where we bought, that just went on the market and was scheduled to have a realtor's opening on the Wednesday. On Tuesday, our realtor phoned and said it had sold before it even made it to the realtor's open. That was one of our first experiences with getting excited about a home and thinking it could be something that might work for us, and then it was gone.

There were also a couple homes that we looked at that already had offers, and were waiting on inspections, and we knew we missed the boat. For example, there was a home near the high school – it was an older home but it was fully renovated and had a suite, and had everything on our checklist – but when we spoke to the realtor, they said there was already an offer.

We started going to the realtor's openings [before the weekend open house] to get ahead of the game on the Wednesday.

So does the house you did end up buying meet the checklist?

Yes. We probably did compromise a bit on the lot itself – it's so high up on Mountain Highway, it's not the flattest of lots and it gets early shade compared to the rest of the area.

But other than that, the house has everything we need. The only thing we have to renovate would be the laundry room – I'll do most of that myself and save that money.