I survived buying a house in Squamish

It’s not as crazy as buying a house in Whistler, and it’s definitely not as crazy as buying a house in Vancouver — but buying a house in Squamish is still kind of a zany experience.

Stories of the wild real estate market in Metro Vancouver and the Sea to Sky continue to dominate the headlines. I just read an article in the local Squamish paper featuring families that have been priced out of the Squamish market and forced to move.

Here are some personal musings about my experiencing entering the Squamish home ownership world.

Why Squamish

We were perfectly settled in Whistler and loved almost* everything about the lifestyle, and we could have lived happily ever after there as renters — but we chose not to.

Despite the fact that we had a stellar suite in Alpine with incredible landlords, the impermanence of renting in Whistler always had me a little paranoid. As a renter, nothing is forever, and I’d heard too many stories of landlords moving (or kicking our long-term renters for a little AirBnB action, but that’s another story for another time). Plus, home ownership has always been a priority for me. It’s not for everyone, but it’s for me.

We looked to Pemberton, which offered considerable bang for our buck and lots of potential for outdoor fun. While my boyfriend was Team Pemberton, the isolation and lack of certain amenities made me think that it wasn’t the right place for us.

Squamish was the next option we looked at. More expensive than Pemberton but cheaper than Whistler, we thought we’d have decent luck finding something in our price range. The variety of outdoor activities was enticing, as was the location smack between Whistler and Vancouver — prime for commuting to both Whistler and the city. Neither of us work in Vancouver, but it’s nice to know that it’s always an option with a reasonable(ish) commute. Plus, I’m bullish on the Squamish real estate market in the long run.

*Things I loathe about Whistler: the Nesters parking lot and any parking lot on a Saturday.

Timing the Market… or Not

Once we’d decided on Squamish, I unofficially interviewed anyone and everyone I knew who lived there. One person told us we’d missed the market — the $400K-ish fixer upper he’d picked up in Valleycliffe had jumped a couple hundred thousand since he’d bought it a year and a bit ago.

We started casually looking late last fall and noted that there were a number of places that fit our budget, but our Realtor warned us that most of them were being picked up — fast.

We were finally ready to make a move in late winter. Guess what? The market had already changed. And it changed again between when we had an accepted offer and when we actually moved in. And it’s changed again in the few months since then.

So did we miss the market, or did we get in right in time? Who knows. I’d love to make money on our property one day, but that’s a secondary goal for me. My primary goal is to have a comfortable place to call home in a place I love with a mortgage payment I can afford. Check, check, and check.

The Price Was Right…Ish

Like good little house hunters, we’d met with our mortgage broker ahead of time to know how much money we would be comfortable spending. As is often the case, it wasn’t enough to tackle everything on our “wants” list, but we made sacrifices. For instance, we don’t have the garage we always dreamed of, but we do love the location. We made some concessions, but we also got a few perks we weren’t expecting.

We’d lost out on one previous offer, but were still bold enough to try negotiating on the place we ended up getting. We knocked a tiny bit of fthe housing price, but to be honest, I’m not sure we’d be able to achieve that in today’s market — just six months later.And one aside: yes, I wept when I found out what my friend paid for his nice house in Calgary. And I wept harder when I found out what my other friend paid for his nice house in Saskatoon. But I weep tears of joy when I see the Chief every day from my window… and when I think what my Vancouver friends are having to pay for a studio. Silver linings.

I’d Like to Thank…

Two first time home buyers with unconventional job situations in a super hot market, as you can imagine, does not necessarily make for a simple transaction. Luckily, we had a stellar team on our side. Our real estate agent, Dave Wiebe, was as honest and hardworking as they get — and I know that because I used to work with him. I trusted our wizard of a mortgage broker, Shanna Smith, like a sister — of course, it helps that she was my sorority sister. Our home inspector, House Sound Home Inspections (love the name), and our lawyer at Goluboff & Mazzei, were referrals that certainly did not disappoint. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of these service providers.

And that’s the story of how we became homeowners in Squamish!

 

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