Housing in Vancouver–Part 1 (Intermediate)

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In this podcast you will hear the first part of a conversation between Steve and Jill in which they talk about the affordability of housing in Vancouver.

Steve: Hi, Jill.

Jill: Hello, again.

Steve: Yeah Jill, you know, obviously, you just got married so you are a different generation from me.

I have a house which I bought a long, long time ago, but what’s it like for a young family starting up here in Vancouver? Obviously, people like to have a nice home of their own. Even if it’s an apartment they want to have their own home. How affordable is housing?

How is the cost of living versus people’s income both for you and Chris now that you’re starting up or your friends?

Jill: Well, I think Vancouver is quite expensive. Certainly, it’s the most expensive city in Canada. It used to be Toronto and Vancouver has surpassed Toronto. Different areas of Vancouver, West Vancouver which is where we are located, The Linguist Office, is very expensive and then also some areas right in Vancouver quite close to where I live. We have a condo there but we could never afford a house.

Steve: Now, why don’t you begin by explaining what a condo is?

Jill: A condo is a condominium, so basically, an apartment. I think here we probably refer to apartment more when you are renting, maybe.

Steve: Well, I think condominium suggests that it’s joint ownership.

Jill: Right.

Steve: The whole apartment block or building is owned by the people who live

Jill: … in the building.

Steve: So, they don’t just own their own…as I understand it they don’t just own their own little apartment, they own a share in the whole building. Is that how it works? I know they can buy and sell their own apartment, but aren’t there sort of strata title and committees that you sit on governing common, you know, facilities and stuff like that?

Jill: Right.

I mean, there are certain areas that are common like if you have a courtyard, you know, things like that.

So, maybe they need to clean it up or decorate it with flowers or whatever so everybody pays a strata fee and when things need to be done, they take the money that’s been paid and use it. If a new roof needs to be put on the building, you know, everybody pays but you pay based on how large your place is per square footage. So, if you have a smaller place you pay less.

Steve: But it was my understanding, you know, whereas if I own an apartment and I rent apartments out, then I own the building.

I understood that in these condominiums you have a form of ownership that is called a “strata title” so that you own a percentage of the building and that is why you get involved in talking about what you are going to do in the common areas and so forth. Jill: That might be true; I’m not sure. I don’t really have a lot to do with that.

Steve: Right.

Jill: Chris bought it 11 years ago and I just moved there two years ago, so he pretty much deals with all of that and I don’t know a lot about it.

Steve: Okay.

Jill: I know we specifically own the part that we own but you could be right about the common areas.

And so, yeah, I mean we live in a condo that is actually a good size condo compared to a lot.

Steve: Okay, what’s a good size? How big is it?

Jill: Ours is about 850 square feet.

Steve: Which is 85 square meters roughly for people who

Jill: And it’s only a one bedroom so it’s quite a big one bedroom. There are a lot of new condos being built nowadays; a lot that are one bedroom that are only 600 square feet or even smaller. I’ve been looking around at different condos recently just to see what’s out there, how much things cost and, actually, most condos that are 850 square feet like ours is a two bedroom and some are even three bedrooms, so it means the rooms are very, very tiny.

So, ours is quite open; there’s a lot of open space and we have a big deck that looks over the ocean and at the mountains so it’s really beautiful. But, to be able to afford a house with land, you know, a lot of land, with property in the area that we live is really not feasible. It’s probably not going to happen unless we were able to buy a place with friends or with my brother and sort of have a duplex or something.

Steve: Is that something you’ve considered?

Jill: Yeah, yeah, we are considering that. If we do that though we will probably move back to North Vancouver, a different area, which is where I grew up because that’s where my brother and sister-in-law want to live.

Steve: Now, let me just get this straight here. You would buy a house together with your brother and sister-in-law and you would divide it into two homes.

Jill: Right.

Steve: And you think that’s going to work fine? Chris gets along with your brother and sister-in-law?

Jill: Oh yeah, it would be completely fine. My brother and I have always been really, really close. Like we never disagree; we hang out together. My sister-in-law is an exceptional person; everybody loves her and gets along with her and Chris just goes with the flow. He just…I mean, it wouldn’t be a problem. I know for some people it wouldn’t work, but for us it definitely wouldn’t be a problem.

Steve: Oh, so that’s interesting. Now, let’s talk a little about numbers because A: it’s interesting and B: numbers are often difficult for people when they learn another language.

Jill: That’s true.

Steve: Because it seems that the numbers in your own language are so hardwired in your brain that it’s very difficult to get onto numbers in another language. Do you mind telling us how much, not necessarily yours, but how much is a little condo, 850 or 600 square feet which is 60 square meters, in downtown Vancouver in the fashionable area where you live amongst all the fancy coffee shops and sushi restaurants and so forth?

Jill: Well, ours is worth about between $400,000 and $430,000 and it’s 20 years old so it’s not a new building.

I mean 20 years is not really old, but not new and it is only 850 square feet. Many places in Canada you can buy a nice large home for that amount of money.

Steve: Right.

Jill: So, that’s kind of what ours is selling for or would be listed for.

Steve: Right.

Jill: When I have been looking at the condos, the newer ones that have maybe three bedrooms but really aren’t a lot bigger, maybe 100 square feet bigger, are close to $550 or $600,000 which is a lot of money for not having a yard. And I know, I think we are spoiled here in Canada. We’re very used to having big houses and big yards and so that’s what we expect and that’s we think we should have and we need.

But I realize, you know, having been to different places in the world now, it’s very uncommon in other parts of the world for people to have big homes with just one family living in 3,000 square feet or 2,000 square feet.

Steve: Right.

Again, just for our listeners, whenever we have thousands of square feet or hundreds of square feet, we just divide by 10 and we get roughly the square meterage.

Jill: Right.

Steve: So, you’re saying that your apartment, which is a condo a condominium, is about 850 square feet or 85 square meters and it would sell for $400,000 to $430,000. The newer ones would cost probably as much or more for a smaller unit.

Jill: Exactly.

Steve: And while it’s nice to be downtown because there’s nice restaurants and it’s very lively and so forth, at some point, people do aspire to move into a house because I think the Canadian dream is to have a home with a garden and maybe a dog and the kids can run off and play on the street and so forth and so on. I was going to make one other point by the way, the reason of course…no, and you made the point that for $400,000 in smaller towns in Canada you can buy a very nice house, 3,000 square feet you said, again, 300 square meters, with nice trees and a nice garden and so forth. But, of course, downtown Vancouver is the place to be.

Jill: Right.

Steve: There is a saying in the real estate business, because we are talking about real estate, real estate which is the term for the buying and selling of land and houses and so forth, in the real estate business, realtors, people who deal in real estate, they say that everything depends on three factors: location, location and location.

Jill: That’s right!

Steve: Okay, so the cost of land and therefore of housing, depends on three important considerations: location, location, location.

Jill: It’s all about location, in other words.

Steve: It’s all about location.

Now, you’re saying that you and Chris would like to move into a house, have a little more room and so you are considering moving into, it’s not a suburb but it’s an area of Vancouver that’s not right downtown, North Vancouver, which is across the ridge.

Jill: Right, which is also very expensive and one of the nicer areas in the Vancouver area the Vancouver region.

Steve: But why

Jill: No, go ahead.

Steve: No, I was going to say why is it so expensive?

Jill: Well, it’s beautiful. I mean, this part over here, North Vancouver and West Vancouver, is right at the mountains.

I grew up in a house where I could just walk into trails and go hiking or bike riding or running; quick drive to one of three local ski hills, plus some homes have a view of the ocean and downtown and even if you can’t walk to the ocean from certain places, it’s certainly not a long drive right down to the ocean and then it’s also very close to downtown.

Steve: I mean this is the thing; again, you talk about location.

Jill: Yes.

Steve: It’s a desirable location because you’re 20 minutes really

Jill: …from downtown.

Steve: Unless you hit the peak rush hour and then it might be 35 minutes but a lot of the time you’re 20 minutes from downtown.

Jill: That’s right.

Steve: From North Vancouver we say North Van, West Van, North Vancouver, West Vancouver you can take a ferry across, the sea bus as it’s called and yet the lots are very sort of natural and it’s not the same kind of grid-like setup that you have in other parts of Vancouver. There are large trees so it’s really very, very pleasant.

Jill: Right, and the yards, the lots, are much bigger. Even homes we’ve looked at over in the area that we live, of course it’s much more densely populated where we live, all of the homes are on much, much smaller lots.

Unless, I mean, there are big mansions over there that are on huge lots, but the average home is on a lot a third of the size of the average lot over here and more expensive.

Steve: You know, Jill, maybe we’ll stop it there. Next time we can pick up the same subject and talk a little bit about how we live in these homes and so forth. But, I think we should remind people here that this is EnglishlingQ.com where we have these conversations and we also transcribe them and the transcripts are available at EnglishlingQ.com.

We do this in order to help people learn English but, in particular, we hope that people will import this content or come and join thelinguist.com where they can access this content in the library and use a lot of our very effective learning methodology so that they can learn words and phrases because to learn a word you have to see it and hear it many, many times. In our system every time someone saves a word they not only get the meaning, we create many examples from their listening and so people gradually increase their word power and, of course, in language learning we here believe that vocabulary growth, word power, is the most important consideration, much more important than grammar. If people can increase their vocabulary by listening to and reading enjoyable content then they can enjoy themselves and increase their vocabulary.

And, of course, it’s our hope that our conversation is of interest to some people. Everyone has to live somewhere so hearing about how we live here is of interest and, of course, one day we might want to hear about how people live elsewhere and maybe hear that in their language. But at any rate, EnglishlingQ.com here is the Website. Thank you for listening and we’ll pick this up the next time we meet.

Jill: Alright, see you next time.

Steve: Okay, bye, bye.

Jill: Bye, bye.

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