Most pricey properties here (Vancouver) and i...

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  Most pricey properties here (Vancouver) and in Toronto
B.C.´s booming economy and low interest rates combine to keep prices escalating

Fiona Anderson
Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A booming economy and low interest rates keep pushing housing prices higher and higher in British Columbia.

But as $1-million price tags become more common, what that actually buys varies across the province, and across the country, according to a Century 21 Canada survey released Tuesday.

In Vancouver, a cool million can buy a 1,500-sq.-ft. two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse suite in Yaletown, or a three-bedroom, four-bathroom house on a corner lot in Dunbar, the survey -- which looked at 43 cities across Canada -- found.

The same amount of money can buy a 2,670-sq.-ft. condo on the water in Summerside, P.E.I., plus a 2,900-sq.-ft. home on four acres of land just outside town and still leave enough to buy a third home or to completely furnish the other two, the survey said.

The majority of Canada´s million-dollar properties are in the Lower Mainland and the Toronto area, said Don Lawby, president of Century 21 Canada.

"To me, that just says that those communities have large populations, and there are more people demanding more high-end properties, and therefore there are more high-end properties," Lawby said.

Bargains can still be found in places like Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island where populations are smaller, Lawby said.

The economy, consumer confidence and available land also have a lot to do with pricing across the country, he said

Outside Vancouver, where land is less scarce, $1 million does go a lot further.

Merritt real estate agent Tom McDonagh said that kind of money could buy 10 townhomes in his community, if there were that many for sale.

But even in Merritt, housing prices have gone up 20 per cent in each of the last two years, McDonagh said.

"But you can still find a very nice home for $250,000 in a decent location," McDonagh said.

David Baxter, executive director of the Urban Futures Institute, a non-profit society that researches changes affecting population, community growth and land use, finds the discussion of house values "amusing" as owners of million-dollar homes will never see the cash in their pockets.

If a person sells in this market, price is absolutely irrelevant because whether the house is $50,000 of $500,000, to replace it the person has to buy in the same market, Baxter said.

"The only way I can win is to go to Winnipeg," Baxter said.

"Most of us look at our houses and say ´Isn´t that great. I feel much more comfortable [because] if I ever need it, I can sell it´," Baxter said

"But we also know in the back of our minds if we sell it, to really get any benefit out of it we´d have to radically change our lifestyle."

"So for the vast majority, that [price] figure is irrelevant. It´s interesting, but it´s irrelevant."

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