A new Landcor Data Corp. study
Condos are the entry point into the real estate market, and across the Lower Mainland we see more and more of them. Canada Mortgage and Housing estimates that from 2009 through 2012, over 34,500 new condos were built or started throughout the Metro Vancouver region.
For first-time home buyers, condos are the most affordable option, offering the chance to live where they want, but that often at a sacrifice of living space. Condo prices tend to reflect the desirability of the neighbourhood rather than the finished floor space of the apartment.
Overwhelmingly, younger buyers say their major desire is for a vibrant, walkable community. Urban planners agree. It’s the new ideal for how cities, municipalities and neighbourhoods should work.
All over the Lower Mainland municipalities and developers are paying heed. Where cars used to reign, new, dense, walkable neighbourhoods are going in. And in neglected city quarters, new condos are adding people to the mix, encouraging new stores and cafes to pop up.
REW.ca asked Landcor Data Corporation to find out where in the Lower Mainland you get a 2-bedroom condo with the most living space for the least money and where buyers will pay more money for less room.
Landcor based its findings on all 2-bedroom condo sales—new and MLS® resale— in the Lower Mainland from January 1 to October 23 of 2012 (that’s 11,213 if you’re counting).
For overall size, the leader is West Vancouver, where the average 2-bedroom condo is 1,329 square feet, with 68 per cent in the 1,000 to 2,000 sq ft range and 20 per cent over 1600 sq ft. West Van condos are built with the wealthy in mind, often older couples downsizing from large West Van houses. The age of the buildings also accounts for the roomy condos: 72 per cent of all the West Van sales in this study were built before 2000.
Suburban and agricultural municipalities, originally made up of big houses on big lots, have the next-roomiest condos. Delta, South Surrey, Chilliwack/Langley/Mission and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows offer inexpensive land to build on. So 2-bedroom condos in these areas are big, and ideal for local seniors who want to stay in the community, and for young couples and families looking for a bit of elbow room at an affordable price.
Vancouver City holds some surprises. Downtown Vancouver condos are surprisingly large —larger than those in Vancouver West or Vancouver East, where there would seem to be more room to build. But Downtown Vancouver is almost all condos, and there’s a huge range of sizes to cater to a variety of buyers. Only 2.5 per cent of the sales were under 700 sq ft. The bulk of 2-bedroom condos that were sold—70 per cent—were from 800 to 1,200 sq ft. There are also some enormous condos downtown: 7 per cent of the sales were over 1,600 square feet.
Vancouver East condos are the smallest in the Lower Mainland on average, with 79 per cent of them in the 700 to 900-sq ft range. Vancouver East doesn’t have the spacious, high-end product found in the more expensive parts of the city. In fact, only 8 per cent of the sales in this study were condos from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet, and only 1 per cent were over 1,600.
Price per Square Foot
But let’s look at the Average Price per Square Foot chart: East Van is definitely the place to stretch your condo-buying dollar in Vancouver. And big translates into affordable in the Fraser Valley.
It’s no wonder that Chilliwack is currently the leading real estate market in the Lower Mainland. With an average price of $199,000, a big 2-bedroom condo in Chilliwack, Langley or Mission costs just $191 per finished square foot.
In Downtown Vancouver you’ll find a similar average size—1080 sq ft compared to Chilliwack’s 1040—but it’ll cost you $743 per sq ft, 74 per cent more than that Chilliwack place. The average 2-bedroom condo in Downtown Vancouver sold for $803,000 in the first 10 months of 2012.
If city life is the lure, Burnaby and Richmond offer middle-of-the-road prices per square foot, in the low $400s. They’ve been increasing density around transit and commercial hubs and creating the kinds of vibrant, walkable neighbourhoods that attract young buyers.
Tri-Cities—Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody—are already building and densifying in anticipation of the Evergreen Line, and at $323 per sq ft they offer huge value, plus the bonus of being smack in the geographical centre of the Lower Mainland. And as the mayor of Coquitlam points out, there are no bridges or tunnels between his city and Vancouver.
New Westminster is already a walkable city, and with prices of $324 per finished sq ft for a roomy 2-bedroom, it’s being discovered by a new generation.
North Vancouver and Vancouver East are comparably priced at $465 and $500 per sq ft. Both places have great neighbourhoods and a nice small-city feeling, as well as being the closest you can get to Downtown Vancouver while still spending an average of under $460,000 for a 2-bedroom condo. In Vancouver West you’re looking at $658,000 and downtown it’ll cost an average of $803,000.
Average Unit Price
See this chart for average 2-bedroom condo prices (x 1000) for condos sold in the Lower Mainland between January and October, 2012.