North Vancouver has always seemed like a sanctuary for those fed up with Vancouver’s preoccupation with newer, bigger, more expensive housing.
While Vancouver seems to be on a mission to tear itself down and start over again, North Vancouver, with its ranchers and split levels, has always felt like a trip back in time. It’s the place where you can live in a small house on a big lot and not lose sleep over the size of your mortgage. And it’s within walking distance of some of the best schools, ski hills and mountain biking trails.
Of course, it was a matter of time before the lust for big new houses reached the north shore, and judging from the numbers, that time is now. The median price of a single family home in North Vancouver shot up to $1,042,600 by the end of last year. That’s almost a 10-per-cent increase in one year and a 21-per-cent increase in five years, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. And it may be January, but buyers are out in full force, looking to snap up deals priced under that amount.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” says Shelley Williams, who’s been a real estate agent on the North Shore for 14 years. “Houses are going quickly. If it is in your price range and your area, you’d better get in there because it’s all moving so quickly.
The hot spot is Lynn Valley, where old houses on big lots are being snapped up over asking. This month, a house at 3035 Chaucer Ave. was listed for $975,000 and sold for $1.06-million. The 47-year-old, 2,100-square-foot house with a gazebo, mature trees and mountain view sits on a 57-by-167-foot lot. A house at 1836 Burrill Ave. was listed at $788,000 and sold this week for $850,000. The 2,030-square-foot house sits in a quiet cul-de-sac on a 33-by-120-foot lot.
Ms. Williams has a client who has been trying to get into the market for three years. But when they arrived for the first viewing at the Burrill house, the competition was already fierce.
“You could barely get in the door because of all the shoes,” Ms. Wiliams says.
As it turned out, the floor plan wouldn’t have worked for the client anyway. But with a budget less than $800,000, she couldn’t have competed if it had been the perfect house.
“I think that what’s happened [is] there are more bidding wars because there’s a lot less at the low end of the market,” says client Laurie, who preferred not to give her last name.
Laurie is a single mom with a small daughter and a dog. She’s lived in North Vancouver for many years. When she and her husband separated three years ago, the market worked to their advantage because they sold their Lynn Valley home above asking. Now that she’s looking to buy back into the market, she’s feeling shut out. She wants to live in a house because she is a capable renovator and she could use part of the house as a revenue stream. She’s on the search for an old fixer-upper with two bedrooms up, something that has been lovingly maintained by an older couple that is looking to downsize. But those sweet old houses are now demolition bait for young families looking to upsize.
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