Three creative ways to buy into the BC housing market5/5/2023
The BC housing market is expensive and tough for first-time buyers to crack. However, there are some creative ways to get your foot in the door. Here are three alternative ways to get on the BC housing ladder.
Strategy 1: Co-buy a home
Teaming up to buy property with family or friends can be an opportunistic way to enter a competitive housing market. Shared ownership means you’ll all divide the costs and burdens of the down payment, mortgage payments, hydro, gas, maintenance and insurance.
- Together, you’ll have significant purchasing power, which can boost your chances of being approved for a larger mortgage
- Access to a larger pool of potential properties
- It’s fun! You and your friends could be like the besties who pooled their savings to buy a mansion
- You need to make sure you all have the same expectations for how to use the property. Will you all live there or rent it out?
- What happens if a co-buyer changes their mind (or their marital/parental status) and wants out of the arrangement? Before entering into a co-buying agreement, it's essential that you discuss everyone’s goals and expectations, and agree on how to divide everyone’s ownership percentages, costs and responsibilities.
- Draft a legal agreement that outlines the terms of your co-ownership, including a plan for dispute resolution.
Strategy 2: Rent-to-own
Similar to when you lease-to-own a car, rent-to-own means you rent a property for a set time period and then you can opt to buy it at the end of your lease.
- Gives you time to build equity, improve your credit score, and save money for a bigger down payment.
- The purchase price is usually agreed upon at the start of the lease, preventing it from skyrocketing later.
- The rent you pay only covers some of the home principal. Make sure the rent isn’t higher than comparable rentals and that you’re comfortable with the purchase price.
- What happens if you can’t keep up with the payment schedule? If you ever decide to walk away from the deal, you’ll have paid a fee and perhaps a premium on rent for years — with no home ownership to show for it.
- You’re buying a home that has aged along with you.
It's essential to fully understand the terms of your lease and option to purchase before you sign a rent-to-own agreement, so be sure to hire a real estate lawyer to vet it for you. Learn more about renting to own in British Columbia at Landlords & Tenants British Columbia and BC Housing.
Strategy 3: Explore alternative locations
If you try to compete for typical homes in high-demand areas (hello/goodbye Greater Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler and Kelowna), you may be priced out of the hunt. But have you considered areas or towns with more affordable property prices?
Many modern workplaces employ a hybrid or remote model. If you’re fortunate enough to have that flexibility, you may wish to go live where it’s cheaper and explore BC’s most affordable places to live.
A moving company has compiled housing data from The Canadian Real Estate Association, Statistics Canada, and Zumper apartment rentals—and they’ve compiled a list of the most affordable places to live and buy a home in BC.
Here are their five most affordable towns and cities in BC:
Located in BC’s Cariboo region in the heart of the Interior, Williams Lake houses cost on average a little under $300,000 (about one-fifth the price of similar detached houses in the Lower Mainland). For that low price, you can enjoy a lot of deep-dish pizzas at Red Tomato Pies, the most popular restaurant in town.
If you buy a house in Prince George (population 76,708) for about $400,000, you also get access to beautiful parks, a fruit winery, breweries, distilleries and fantastic trout fishing.
Located in BC’s mountainous Kootenays, Castlegar (population 8,338) is an underappreciated gem and The Sculpture Capital of Canada. Buy a house there for $427,450 and you’ll soon be enjoying mountain biking, golfing, skiing, a rich arts scene and their annual SculptureWalk, an incredible outdoor sculpture gallery.
Here’s another low-priced town in the Kootenays. You can buy a house in Cranbrook (population 20,499) for an average of $475,000. At that price, you can start buying outdoor toys to enjoy the area’s incredible camping, rock climbing and backcountry adventures. Check the local tourism site, Explore Cranbrook, for more.
This port city is on Kaien Island near the Alaska Panhandle, about two hours west of Terrace, BC. Houses cost about $485,000 in Prince Rupert (population 12,300), so you can afford to buy gear to enjoy fantastic local fishing, kayaking, hiking and adventure tours to see grizzly bears, wolves, orcas and humpback whales.
Get it insured
Depending on your strategy, your home could require specialized insurance so talk to your home insurance advisor and make sure you and your investment are protected.
There’s many ways to save on BCAA Home Insurance from BC’s Most Trusted Insurance Brand*. You can save 5% when you buy online. Plus, BCAA Members automatically save 10% on BCAA Home Insurance, and you’ll save an extra 1% (up to 10%) for every consecutive year you’ve had your home insurance with us†. Over a one-year period BCAA paid out 95% of claims related to fire, water, weather and theft**. Get started on a quote at bcaa.com/home.
Home Insurance is sold through B.C.A.A. Holdings Ltd. dba BCAA Insurance Agency, a licensed insurance agency, and underwritten by BCAA Insurance Corporation.
*BCAA, in association with CAA, was ranked the #1 Most Trusted Insurance Brand in Canada by the 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index.
**From 2019 to 2020, BCAA paid out on average 95% of home insurance claims related to fire, water, weather and theft. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Home Insurance is sold through B.C.A.A. Holdings Ltd. dba BCAA Insurance Agency, a licensed insurance agency, and underwritten by BCAA Insurance Corporation.