Searching For My Own Teardown

My husband and I sold our house in Vancouver on May 31, 2011.  We are currently still living in it.  The house is a lovely, large, bright, 1953 International Style, flat-roofed house on a busy corridor, in the very heart of Vancouver.  It is close to the subway and surrounded by parks.  We have a nice retail mall close by. We have great schools for our kids.  Because we are right in the centre of Vancouver we can drive anywhere in the city in  fifteen minutes or less.  We can take the subway direct to the airport, or direct to the heart of downtown Vancouver in twelve minutes, each way.  So, why would we want to sell our home?

Our corridor is slated for high density condo development, as part of Vancouver’s eco-densification plan. The city’s new underground transit, the Canada Line, runs underneath our street.  As soon as the Canada Line opened we started getting realtors knocking on our door, asking if we wanted to sell our property.  They were knocking on our neighbor’s doors, too. So, we got together with nine of our neighbors, and after many meetings, which mostly involved interviewing and selecting the realtor who could best represent our unique position in the Vancouver real estate market, we listed our houses  for sale as a land assembly.  We had ten properties all in a line.

At the time of our listing, the Vancouver housing market was going crazy, due to the purchasing power of Hot Asian Money.  We held our presentation of offers at the high plateau of the market, just before the downturn.  We received several offers on  the presentation day; from local developers, and from investors with foreign money.  Of course, we accepted the highest bid, which also came with the best terms.  We were all very happy.  We got a very good price for our properties, which were each sold  ‘as it is, where it is.’  We had no subjects, and a quick closing date.  We also got to continue living in our homes for a year from the closing date.  I am still here in the same house, with my family, on March 16, 2012.  At some point in the future our house, and all the houses in the assembly, will  be torn down to build an extensive four to six story condo development.

My husband and I are looking for a new house.  At first I thought we could buy a mansion with the change of land use profit that came with the sale of our house. I was wrong.  Mansions in Vancouver cost more than I thought. Even though we have quite a lot of money, compared to the average person looking to buy in Vancouver, it seems like it still isn’t enough to purchase more than the frame of our dream home.

Every day, for the last year, we have searched every new listing of detached houses in all areas of Vancouver’s west side.    We have  strict criteria because we are worried about a future downturn in the market due to the current extremely high prices.  We want either the largest lot with a livable house, that we can afford, that is not on a major corridor; or we want a view lot with a either a liveable house or a  tear down house; or we want a builder’s lot that has an attribute that will make the lot hold its value in the future, such as large lot size, or desirable location. Basically, we want to buy a house and a property, or just a property, that is a good deal by Vancouver standards.  We want relative value for money.  So far, in one year, we have only found six properties that meet our criteria, and our budget.  We haven’t managed to buy any yet.

At first, we wanted to buy a nice, old house.  But, after looking at many, many old houses we have discovered that ‘old,’ in houses, is not that great.  One third, or more, of the square footage of an old house is usually in the basement, and most old houses have low-ceiling, dark basements.  Old houses don’t have enough bathrooms, and their kitchens are outdated.  Usually they could do with an addition.  Sometimes the addition is already there, but it is not well conceived.

We discovered that there is quite a lot to like about new houses.   They have beautiful, functional basements with high ceilings, and wonderful  bathrooms and kitchens. The basements are so fabulous that one could almost live in the basement alone, and rent out the main floor. The tile work and lighting in the bathrooms…gorgeous!  The kitchen counters and cupboards…wow!

Unfortunately, of course, a large part of the purchase price of a new house  is in the developer’s, or builder’s, profit.  Its cheaper to buy a lot, teardown the house, hire an architect, designer, and builder, and build one’s own house.   Building a house of one’s own allows  a person to choose the design and layout, as well as the lot, and location, that suits them best.  And in Vancouver, location is the critical factor to value!

So, after months and months of looking for an old house to live in, we’ve switched to looking for a property to build a new house on.  We’re now in the market for a Vancouver Teardown!