Some would-be buyers hitting 'pause' on Metro Vancouver's frenzied real estate market

Carson Farrell put an offer in on a townhouse his pregnant wife had never seen in person.

And about a week ago, he said goodbye to 12 years of renting and they officially moved into their first home.

“We’re still unpacking,” Farrell said. “There’s painters in as we speak.”

It wasn’t the couple’s first offer on a place. And it wasn’t an easy process to get to the point of becoming homeowners.

“A lot of the, I guess, nicer places, were out of our reach,” he said.

Farrell says he would have loved to stay in New Westminster or move closer to family in Surrey, but prices forced them farther out into the suburbs.

His predicament is not unique in Metro Vancouver.

A new study by the Angus Reid Institute found the average price of a home in B.C. is higher than anywhere else in the country. Couple that with bidding wars and escalating prices, and some realtors say buyers are opting to take a break.

“Now, they’re just sort of fatigued about the entire situation and are hitting pause and saying, ‘Well, we want to look when prices are more stabilized,” explained Shante Sidhu of Solon Real Estate Group.

She says it takes a lot out of potential buyers to be outbid repeatedly. She had one client who put in nine offers over asking price before finally getting an accepted offer the 10th try.

“It takes a lot to fall in love with a house. So you walk in, you fall in love, then you find out 30 other people are in love with it,” she said.

And, she says, with the Lower Mainland’s real estate frenzy, first-time homebuyers, aren’t necessarily who you might think they are.

“When we think first-time homebuyers, we think of people in their 20s, but actually many are in their 40s and are professionals with children and have started families in a rental situations and are now just beginning to save the type of money required for a down payment,” said Sidhu.

The Angus Reid study also found that 26 per cent of those surveyed in Vancouver would like to buy, but can’t afford it.

“About half of them say, ‘Look, I would love to own or buy a place, but I just cannot access the market,’” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.

“And then you have the other half who are saying things like … I’ve either voted myself off the real estate island and I have no intention or interest in buying or I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford to buy a home in my lifetime.”

The survey groups Canadians into different categories based on their relative comfort and expectation when it comes to housing.

So, while 13 per cent were happy about the increase in their property value, 24 per cent fell into the category labelled “The Miserable.”

Kurl describes those in that category as recent buyers struggling with the high cost of their mortgage, renters struggling with the cost of rent, and people feeling “a great deal of hopelessness about ever being able to enter the market.”

Farrell considers himself “lucky” because he and his wife bought last November, though they only took possession recently. Since that time, the market has become even harder to navigate.

“It blows my mind how much … things have gone up in the past few months,” he said.