1. Areas covered by the Association of Interior REALTORS® Market Statistics include: Central/North Okanagan,…
By Anthony Riglietti Personal Real Estate Corporation licensed with Pacesetter Marketing
What it’s like to live on the North Shore
It’s pretty awesome. I was born and raised in Burnaby and moved to the North Shore in 1994. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s one of the best communities out there in terms of everything you need in a nice little area.
It’s safe with good schools. You don’t need to go anywhere because everything you need is there, and on weekends, everyone comes to the North Shore. Traffic can be an issue, but it’s just really nice to live there. If you’re any sort of outdoor person, it’s for you. Even for dining and going out at night, you have easy access to downtown: it takes only about 20 minutes to drive or take the Seabus.
Unique things about the North Shore
When we are discussing the North Shore we are referring to North Vancouver and West Vancouver. The outdoor activities, predominantly, are really unique. We have three local mountains you can access in minutes for skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, and you just don’t get that anywhere else.
The seawall across the North Shore is awesome, but it’s kind of underrated. You can walk across most of the North Shore and there are great trails with downtown views along the water. We also have beaches that many municipalities don’t. These things really make it special.
Recommended areas of the North Shore for buyers
There are a lot of different pockets depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re downsizing, the Lonsdale corridor is great with nice sized condos and amenities, shops, and services, with easy access to downtown for dining, shows, and the arts. This area is a great starting point for couples and young families. We see many coming from downtown to Lower Lonsdale because they can grow into a townhouse or bigger condo for the same price as a smaller one-bedroom condo downtown.
If your family grows and you’d like a single-family home later, there are tons of pockets depending on the lifestyle you choose. You can’t go wrong. There’s something for everyone, from larger townhomes, to medium-sized bungalows, to huge estates. Of course, budget is the hardest aspect of the North Shore, but you can literally find exactly what you want in any area if your budget allows — there is no bad community to be in.
Challenges residents experience with living on the North Shore
Price is definitely the biggest barrier to entry on the North Shore. A starting price for a decent house that you’d need to put renovations into is about $1.4-1.5 million. However, compared to East Vancouver you get more space and better value: this price would get you about a 7,000 square-foot lot on the North Shore or a 3,000-4,000 square-foot lot in East Van. That said, you can get a nice three-bedroom townhouse in Lynnmore for $900,000, but you need to change your expectations for housing if you want to come to the North Shore. Many people compromise because they just want to be there.
Salaries and cost of living on the North Shore
The fact is, most people earning an average Canadian income in Vancouver and North Vancouver can’t afford a house. People making a mid to high income can afford condos, but it’s challenging. The demand is there but not the supply. North Vancouver’s cost of living is very close to that of Vancouver, which is dramatically more expensive than other Canadian markets (though Toronto is close). We are consistently ranked in the top 10 or 5 cities for housing unaffordability. On top of this, income levels aren’t as high as those in Seattle, Toronto or Calgary, so people moving to Vancouver or North Vancouver often take a pay cut. Lower incomes combined with higher housing prices are a challenge there.
There is no economic hub on the North Shore. Although the Shipyards is probably the biggest employer there, it’s just a small portion of the area. The rest is banking and the hospital, and there are not many independent job sources. About 50-60% of residents work away from the North Shore, but you definitely need a decent job to live there!
Ideal North Shore areas to live for:
- Singles and couples without kids – Lower Lonsdale is probably the best with good condos, restaurants, and the big brewery district that rivals East Van’s. It’s the best area to get out and not have to go downtown.
- A growing family – Depending on what you’re looking for, whether it’s a townhouse, rowhome, or duplex, anywhere in the Lonsdale corridor is excellent for young families. When you’re a new parent and at home with your kids, having that walkability to get a coffee or other services is huge. When my wife was on maternity leave, she would walk to a coffee shop nearby just to get out of the house. However, some places are beautiful to live but are without any places to go and meet people. You can get out and walk, but it’s just for the sake of walking. On the Lonsdale or Marine Drive corridors, you have tons around you and can’t go wrong.
- A larger family – If you want a bigger place, depending on where you want to be, there’s Queens, Calverhall, and Central Lonsdale. Price points are really going to guide you on the area. If you want a larger home and don’t mind driving to shops and services, Blueridge is good too with its mid-1980s builds, big homes, good schools, and nice properties. There’s no commercial accessibility by foot, though. On the other hand, if you want to be near a hub, Edgemont Village is awesome because you have really big, brand new estate homes — but they’re $3,000,000-4,000,000. If you’re just starting out in a house, the Calverhall area is excellent with good schools. Deep Cove is good, too. There are many options depending on the lifestyle you want.
- Empty nesters – There is a new community called Lions Gate Village that’s great for empty nesters. They’re building it up now and it should be completed in three or four years. There are a lot of amenities geared towards aging in place: you have starter homes, townhomes for families, and big condos with views for downsizers. There’s a nice commercial hub, and you can walk to Park Royal mall. In ten years from now, once it’s settled, I think Lions Gate Village will be an excellent place. You’ll have everything you need in a flat, walkable community with beach access, which is always nice.
Tips for investors considering the North Shore
At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong investing in certain hubs along the SeaBus and Marine Drive. I think the Marine Drive corridor is probably the best value right now. A North Shore buyer who plans to live there doesn’t really like the Marine Drive corridor because it’s so busy. However, for renters, it’s solid because you’ve got just one bus downtown or one bus to the Seabus, or you can bike directly downtown or to the Seabus relatively quickly.
An untapped area for investors is Harbourside and Mosquito Creek, which is a nice little, quiet pocket. Just like Lions Gate Village, nobody’s really settled into the area, but you’re getting a brand new community that hasn’t established itself quite yet. If it does take off and become quite popular, you’ll see appreciation there. You also can’t go wrong with Lonsdale. Central Lonsdale is a good option — prices haven’t gone up as much as they have in Lower Lonsdale, yet rents are very similar.
The Central Lonsdale and Marine Drive areas are probably your best bets. Same with Lower Lonsdale, it’s just at a higher price point.
It really is awesome on the North Shore, and I truly can’t imagine living elsewhere. My wife and I talked about moving to Port Moody, but we just can’t do it. We’ll stay and settle more on the North Shore. You may get more for your money further away, but this area offers so much and people just really like being there. It really makes you appreciate what you have.
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