As real estate prices in Vancouver’s neighbourhoods escalated out of reach, Vancouverites looking to own their home are heading east.
New Westminster Realtor James Garbutt says he’s seeing more and more buyers looking at the city as an affordable alternative to Vancouver, but without giving up the amenities of city life. While $1.2 million might get you a tear-down on a small lot in East Van, in New West it can put you in a beautifully-renovated Craftsman heritage home that’s centrally-located close to schools, parks, shopping and transit.
The city’s condo market offers similar value, says Garbutt. “Let’s take your typical 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo in a newer concrete high-rise. Currently in Yaletown or False Creek you’re looking at $1,100/sqft. In Burnaby’s Brentwood Park area you’re looking at $800/sqft , and in Downtown New West this figure goes down to $625/sqft.”
That value isn’t going unnoticed in Vancouver. In fact, says Garbutt, over the past year about 30 percent of visitors to open houses he’s conducted in New West are from Vancouver. For detached homes in particular the number is much higher.
Garbutt recently sold a beautiful Craftsman style home at 903 Henley St, New West. Roughly 75% of the open house visitors came from Vancouver. It achieved multiple offers, and the buyer was a young professional couple from Downtown Vancouver.
For detached, single-family homes in New Westminster sold in 2016, 51 per cent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver, suggesting their clients likely are as well, says Garbutt. For condos, 36 percent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver.
“In New West, our main sources of buyers are coming from more expensive markets, primarily Vancouver,” says Garbutt.
Who’s buying houses in New Westminster
Who’s buying condos in New Westminster
New Westminster is no longer a secret, says Garbutt. “It’s centrally located. There’s a great sense of community and local pride that many other suburbs lack. And, quite frankly, it’s the most affordable community to buy into that’s within 30 minutes of Downtown Vancouver.”
The city is undergoing a renaissance. After languishing through the 1990s as a marketplace for cheap street drugs peddled by Honduran dealers loitering around its SkyTrain stations, Downtown New West has come alive with new restaurants, with more on the way. At Eighth and Columbia Streets, the gleaming Anvil Centre has replaced a squalid block of cigar shops and temporary employment agencies. The western end of historic Front Street has been opened to the sky with the partial demolition of the old parkade. The waterfront has been enlivened by Pier Park and the River Market.
The historic Queen’s Park neighbourhood abounds with lovingly-restored family heritage homes along quiet, leafy streets, and the Sapperton area surrounding Royal Columbian Hospital is alive with young families attracted to its affordable, smaller detached houses and new condo developments.
Progressive businesses like Steel & Oak Brewing Co., Brick + Mortar, El Santo and 100 Braid St. Studios actively promote the city far and wide on social media using the hashtags #newwest or #theroyalcity, which have more than 130,000 posts on Instagram combined.
To preserve the city’s historic identity, City Hall is taking steps to implement historic design guidelines in neighbourhoods like Queen’s Park. The City works with developers to maintain historic building facades, like the Trapp & Holbrook and the Freemasons Hall, which is currently being transformed into a new residential development.
With the pressures of growth, New West is looking at finalizing a new Official Community Plan in June (check out the 25 year vision at: OUR CITY 2041), that will introduce higher density in certain neighbourhoods and laneway houses throughout the city.
The city is growing conservatively without losing its identity, says Garbutt. It’s being proactive about managing that growth. That’s attracting new businesses and new residents. Especially from Vancouver.