Vancouver buyers are still spending millions for single-detached housing in the city.

This article was published originally by The Georgia Straight on May 6, 2015.

Vancouver's million-dollar housing statistics can mislead, says expert

BY Carlito Pablo, May 6th, 2015,

The price of a typical detached home in Metro Vancouver is now more than a million dollars. That’s $1,078,900, to be exact, as of April 2015, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

In a May 4 report, the REBGV noted that this represents a 12.5-percent increase from the benchmark price in the same month last year. In April 2014, a typical detached home in the Metro Vancouver area was more than $959,000.

It’s bad news for many who feel that a home is beyond reach, a sentiment expressed at #IDontHave1Million, an online awareness campaign that went viral last month.

But do you really have to have that million-dollar home?

It’s a question that will likely be asked Thursday (May 7) at“Your Home: Expectations, Needs and What’s Real”, an SFU Public Square lunchtime forum to be held at SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus (Room 1600, Harbour Centre).

Yazmin Hernandez, a planner with the Vancouver-based think tank Urban Futures, is one of the speakers at the one-hour City Conversations event, which starts at 12:30 p.m.

“It’s definitely good to have a conversation to make sure that we, as a younger generation, don’t feel like we’re being priced out of the single[-family] detached[-home] market,” Hernandez told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Because having the expectation of a single detached unit in a place that is so geographically constrained, it’s perhaps not realistic,” Hernandez continued. “Not even if the prices were lower somehow, miraculously.”

According to her, the prices usually reported in the media skew people’s perceptions.

“There is definitely a range and, no doubt, different markets will be affected by different aspects, like supply and demand, closeness to transit, and all sorts…[of things] that will influence, I guess, the pricing of all these units. But there’s definitely a lot, a wider range,” she said.

Not everything in the Lower Mainland sells for more than $1 million.

Citing data compiled by Urban Futures, Hernandez pointed out that people bought a total of 53,710 homes of all types—single, attached, and apartment units—in the region in 2014. The price of these homes averaged $719,570. Only 16 percent of the 53,710 homes sold last year were priced over $1 million.

Going deeper into the data, Hernandez said that by excluding the highest 20 percent of all residential sales, one comes up with an even lower dollar figure. According to her, the average sale price in 2014 for the bottom 80 percent of the Lower Mainland market, or 42,968 units, was $462,792.

“So it’s almost half [of $719,570]. Not quite, but it’s within a range that is definitely a contrast,” she said.

Hernandez also said that it’s the same pattern with condominium sales.

The planner pointed out that in 2014, the average price of a condo in the Lower Mainland was $435,000. But if the top 20 percent is taken out of the equation, the average price in the bottom 80 percent was $327,486.

That said, there’s no denying that in the City of Vancouver, many detached homes are way above the million-dollar mark.

According to Hernandez, the average sale price for the bottom 80 percent of the single detached houses sold in the City of Vancouver in 2014 was $1.36 million. She added that the highest sale price among these 2,986 units was $2.62 million.

The May 7 forum will also feature Eveline Xia, founder of the #IDontHave1Million campaign, as one of the speakers. Another is Adrian Crook, a video-game designer who lives in a high-rise rental condo in Vancouver with his five children and a partner. Crook doesn’t want to buy.

According to Hernandez, Crook’s case offers a different perspective on how people choose not to enter the market and still thrive. For others, Hernandez said, “having the expectation of a yard and a single detached unit…that will likely not be fulfilled”.

“It’s just not feasible, but there are other structure types and other price points for other types of units that are more reasonable,” Hernandez also said, “and that, hopefully, are affordable to a wider range of people.”

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo.