British Columbia

Here's what kind of home $508K gets you in the Lower Mainland

Take a look at what you can get in Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, and Port Coquitlam.

The average house price in Canada reached $508,097 in April

If approved, the housing mix policy would mandate more units for families in new strata and rental developments (Canadian Press)

Half a million dollars and change.

OK, $508,097 to be precise. That's what the Canadian Real Estate Association says the average house will cost you in Canada after crunching their April 2016 numbers.

British Columbia saw the highest increases in house prices over the past year — a whopping 17.5 per cent.

So, what can the average house price get you in the Lower Mainland?


This 518 square foot 1 bedroom condo recently sold for $525,000 in downtown Vancouver. (Royal LePage)
  • Asking price: $469,900 | Sale price: $525,000.
  • 518 square foot condo, one bedroom, one bathroom.

In Vancouver — the ground zero of upwardly swinging real estate prices — you won't be able to find a detached house or even a fixer-upper at Canada's average home price.

In fact, if you have your heart set on downtown Vancouver, you'll have to make do with this junior one bedroom with 518 square feet of living space.

It was listed at $469,900, but sold for $525,000.

After one day.

And multiple offers.

Vancouver realtor Gary Serra says that's typical, saying "the average price per square foot downtown is about $1,000 per square foot — and that's not luxury, that's just average."

Serra recently sold a one-bedroom condo for $626,000 — original list price: $525,000 — to an overseas buyer, but says that most of his buyers are local, young professional couples or singles.

In a market where there's so much demand and not a lot of inventory, Serra says fear is a huge factor for buyers.

"They're afraid if they don't buy something now, they're going to get priced out of the market," he said.

Port Coquitlam

This 2,224 sq foot Port Coquitlam townhouse has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. (Coldwell Banker Tri-Tel Realty)
  • Asking price: $519,900 | Sale price: -
  • 2,224 square foot townhouse, three bedroom, two bathroom.

Port Coquitlam used to be a popular suburb for middle-class families looking for affordable housing close to downtown Vancouver.

But with asking prices topping $1 million for detached houses, this is a new PoCo.

Port Coquitlam city councillor Brad West has been a passionate advocate for more affordable housing in the suburb.

"It's a really special community," he says. "And what I have seen over the last year and especially, it seems, over the last six months is that we're losing that ... The prices are out of sight. We're seeing more and more marketing of Port Coquitlam homes to wealthy, offshore buyers."

I think the trajectory we're on is just not sustainable.- Port Coquitlam councillor Brad West

Port Coquitlam realtor Rod Hayes agrees, saying the market has "changed 100 per cent. It's not affordable in our opinion."

Hayes says much of the demand is centred around location — Port Coquitlam is the furthest east you can go from Vancouver before having to cross a bridge.

"Even [though] the Pitt Meadows bridge isn't tolled, you still have to cross a bridge. So people kind of draw the line, 'OK Port Coquitlam — I don't have to cross a bridge, so that's where I'm going.'"

As Coun. West puts it: "I think the trajectory we're on is just not sustainable. What kind of future [are we] going to have in Port Coquitlam and Metro Vancouver if housing is something only the very, very wealthy can afford?"


This 1,375 square foot ranch style house in Surrey has a huge 8,000 square foot backyard. (Royal LePage Brent Roberts)
  • Asking price: $449,000 | Sale price: $511,000.
  • 1,375 square foot detached home, three bedroom, two bathroom.

For those willing to venture over the bridge to south of the Fraser River, Surrey remains popular with families and first-time homebuyers.

But almost too popular — the suburban metropolis is booming.

Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman says that nearly 1,200 people move to Surrey every month.

"Surrey has always been a city of families. A third of our residents are under the age of 19 and people do look to Surrey and the south Fraser region as alternative housing markets," she says.

Huberman says Surrey's biggest challenge is accommodating this rush of people and maintaining the livability of the city, adding that the city "has put in measures in their official community plan to really focus on green spaces, livability, parks, bike access routes, festivals, community events, parks and recreation centres."

But basic services are being stretched.

Surrey has faced chronic overcrowding in its school system and the city uses over 270 portable classrooms to accommodate all of its students.

While the city recently received a provincial commitment for additional funding for 2,700 new spaces for students, it will take until 2017 before these seats materialize.


This three bedroom, two bathroom detached house sold for $507,500 in Abbotsford. (Royal LePage Brent Roberts)
  • Asking price: $509,000 | Sale price: $507,500.
  • 1,802 square foot detached home, three bedroom, two bathroom.

Abbotsford is on the outer perimeter of the Metro Vancouver region, and the predominantly agricultural city is known for its large lots and spacious subdivisions. 

But that could change if the city adopts an ambitious community plan in June.

That plan recommends creating a more dense city centre space with high-rise and high-density spaces, and subdivide big city lots into smaller parcels.

People can get rid of their mortgage if they had one, put a considerable amount of money in their pocket and live in a new house — what's wrong with that?- Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun

It's partly in response to the eastward trek of buyers from Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby.

Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun says the the city is expecting another 60,000 people to come to the city, and this densification plan is a bid to create more affordable housing.

"Theoretically you can go from one family living on one lot today to six," he says, "if they each had a coach house, a house and a secondary suite [on the halved lot]."

Braun says he's not surprised that people are coming to Abbotsford after selling their home elsewhere in Metro Vancouver.

"People can get rid of their mortgage if they had one, put a considerable amount of money in their pocket and live in a new house — what's wrong with that?" he says.


This 'fixer-upper' is in Victoria's Saanich neighbourhood. (MLS)
  • Asking price: $519,900 | Sale price: -
  • 1,242 square foot detached home, three bedroom, one bathroom.

For those looking to escape the red-hot Metro Vancouver real estate game, Vancouver Island has traditionally offered respite.

I remember doing the hour commute when I bought my first home.- Victoria realtor Mike Nugent

However, even in Victoria, which has also seen a recent uptick in house prices, you have to look in the neighbouring suburb of Saanich to get a detached house within the average house price range.

"Certainly I've had a lot of people from Vancouver come over," says Victoria realtor Mike Nugent. "They've retired out of the Vancouver market, or they've sought out opportunities here just for a more calm lifestyle."

He then added a sentiment many realtors repeated.

"Most of us will recall that when we bought our first home, we couldn't buy it right in the core of a prime neighbourhood. I remember doing the hour commute when I bought my first home. And in those kind of subdivisions that are farther out, that opportunity is still available," he said.

But for many looking for a detached house in the Lower Mainland, that opportunity is a lot further than ever before.