(Note: This post was written by Laurel Regan (pen name Dawn Storey) and originally published in Windsor Square on January 10, 2012.)
When we landed in Victoria after our week-long house-hunting trip in Windsor last September, my parents greeted us at the airport with a clipping from Maclean’s Magazine. The article they’d saved for us – “The Most Livable City?” – was about real estate in Vancouver, BC and had just been published that week. In addition to the text of the article currently featured online, the print copy included photographs of five of the only six detached homes listed for sale on MLS in the city of Vancouver for under $600,000 at that time. The most “affordable” homes in the photos boasted list prices of $525,000 and $539,000 (this one is featured with the online article), the highest was $599,000, and two properties fell somewhere in between at $588,000 each.
The article was about Vancouver, but a hop over to Vancouver Island shows that with the average price of a single-family home in Victoria sitting at $592,582, we didn’t have it a whole lot better in our own city.
We picked up our luggage and drove home with my parents, where I proceeded to fire up my laptop and show them photos of the 2.75 storey, 4+ bedroom single-family detached home we’d just bought in Windsor for approximately 20% of the price of those featured Vancouver properties, and less than half of the price of the small townhouse we’d just sold in Victoria. With such a stunning comparison in front of us, we all agreed that my husband and I had managed to get a great deal of house for our money, and I was even more excited to pack our things and get back on a plane bound for our new home.
Unlike many of my friends and acquaintances back in Victoria, I was fortunate enough to get into the property market fairly early via the purchase of a small one-bedroom condo bought before Greater Victoria real estate prices went through the roof and sold when they were at a peak. Still, despite the equity we’d managed to build over the years, mortgage payments on the small townhouse we subsequently moved into were crippling. This, among other important factors in our lives, prompted us to start investigating the possibility of relocating to a more affordable and accessible location, and the end result is that we are now happily ensconced in Windsor, where in 2011 the average home price was $162,798.
By selling our home in Victoria and purchasing one in Windsor, we were able to move towards our financial goals much more quickly that we ever could have dreamed of doing had we stayed put in our previous situation. Admittedly, I was fortunate enough to have had extremely understanding employers who agreed to let me work from home after my move, so finding a job in what we knew was a depressed market wasn’t an immediate concern for me; that said, our much-shrunken mortgage meant that I was able to reduce my hours and salary and enjoy more time for myself with no negative financial impact.
In my mind, there is something seriously wrong when a system is set up so that it’s very nearly impossible for anyone not making a six-figure income or coming into an inheritance to own their own home. This is a big reason why we left Victoria, and one of the main reasons we landed in Windsor… and why we haven’t looked back.