Vancouver is a breath of fresh air in a bustling world. Even with its status as a growing city in the Pacific Northwest, its active community maintains a relaxed atmosphere.
Vancouver is a nature lover’s paradise and there’s no such thing as an off-season here. Hikers will enjoy the nearby mountain trails or a trek over the unique Vancouver Land Bridge, anglers will love fishing in the clear rivers, and everyone will love their pick of the 191 parks where they can picnic, kayak, or walk the trails.
On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood from most spots in the city. And regardless of where you’re traveling through the city, you can skip the car commute: Vancouver is a walkable city with plenty of bike lanes.
Though Vancouver is a thriving city, it has stayed “green” in every sense of the word: The evergreen city has resisted becoming a concrete jungle, is home to many weed dispensaries, and Vancouverites take being eco-friendly very seriously.
“The Couve” is balanced on the precipice between big-city opportunity and small-town hospitality, and is consistently considered one of the best places to live in the U.S. Washington was named the best state in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 2019 for its environment, fiscal stability, and ample opportunities. Vancouver, in particular, is No. 37 out of 100 best places to live on Livability’s 2019 list.
Homebuyers looking to live in Vancouver are drawn in by the small-town feel within close proximity to Portland, Oregon, the phenomenal outdoor recreation opportunities enjoyed by its residents, and the comparatively affordable rates of housing. Since there’s a high demand for living in Vancouver, inventory is low, making the competition particularly intense.
If you want to buy a house in Vancouver, know that you’ll need to act fast and make your bids competitive if you want to stand out in a crowded market. Since this market is so competitive, you’ll need to know where to look and to work with an experienced real estate agent.
Given the competition, it can be challenging to secure your perfect home. So we spoke with experts in the Vancouver real estate market to get the inside scoop on where to look and how to edge out the competition.
Start with your budget in Vancouver
Top-tier real estate agent Kenneth Rosengren, who has sold more than 250 houses during his 15 years of working with homebuyers in Vancouver, calls Vancouver “the last affordable big city on the West Coast.” Vancouver homes, just a 30-minute drive over the Columbia River, carry a price tag about $50,000 cheaper than Portland, and Seattle, and many cities in California.
Costs to consider
If you want to buy a house in Vancouver doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, the median household income of Vancouverites is $61,714.
The price of your dream home isn’t the only one you should consider. While Vancouver is considered a safe city overall, its crime rate is 25% higher than the rest of the state, so it’s important to understand the area.
But on the plus side, you can save on your Netflix binges and remote work costs: electricity rates are nearly 23% less in Vancouver than the national average. Utility bills in Vancouver are also lower than nearby Washington cities.
When you’re crunching the numbers, remember this: The state of Washington doesn’t charge personal income tax, and nearby Oregon doesn’t have sales tax. In fact, many Vancouver residents will cross the state line to enjoy savings on high-ticket items.
And with more people working from home due to COVID-19 in early 2021, even Oregonians are looking for housing across the state line. That’s because the Oregon Department of Revenue only taxes citizens for money made in Oregon, so Washington residents working for Oregon companies can save money on income taxes.
Though Washington doesn’t have an income tax, the state charges a sales tax of 6.5%. But combined state and local sales taxes puts The Evergreen State at 9.3% — above the national average. The average property tax rate in this city is 1.02%, lower than the national average of 1.07%. That means you’ll pay $2,550 in yearly property taxes in Vancouver for a home valued at $250,000.
Plan out your budget
When determining your budget to buy a house in Vancouver, be realistic about what you want and what fits within your budget. No matter where you are looking to buy, start by calculating what you can afford.
Get approved for your maximum budget immediately so you don’t have to wait to be re-approved. Your real estate agent will be able to recommend a good loan officer to help with that process.
Always invest in a home inspection
All homebuyers should get a home inspection, and you should always check the inspector’s level of experience and credentials.
In Vancouver, some older homes still have galvanized pipes or cast iron pipes, both of which are prone to corrosion. The normal rainy Vancouver weather can cause wear and tear on the exterior of any home. You’ll want to make sure that gutters are working correctly and that wood siding isn’t warped or swollen.
There isn’t a standard price for home inspections, but the average national cost of a home inspection ranges from $279 to $399, according to HomeAdvisor. Though home inspections are an additional cost, they are a crucial step that should never be overlooked as they will likely save you money in the future.
For instance, one homeowner discovered siding issues and mold after buying their Vancouver home that led to an unavoidable expensive repair of $70,000 to remove and replace the siding and eradicate the mold. But if the homeowner had simply brought in a professional home inspector, they would have seen the mold spots popping up on the wall next to the fireplace.
Know the housing in Vancouver
In Vancouver, the sense of community is strong.
“We’re in a growing city community that is really about helping each other,” says Rosengren, who has sold 74% more single family homes than the average Vancouver agent.
“We’re passionate about a lot of things. We’re passionate about growth, and helping people, and making sure that our community is strong, and making sure that we have business owners that are prosperous.”
Vancouver’s proximity to Portland is a boon for flourishing job opportunities and event offerings throughout the region.
“It’s thriving right now. Even in a COVID environment, we’re still seeing business owners starting businesses and still being successful,” he said.
The housing market is very tight, with an estimated vacancy rate of nearly 1%, according to a 2018 comprehensive housing market analysis by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Vancouver is experiencing a housing shortage across all price points in early 2021, with less than a one-month supply available. With historically low inventory, low interest rates, and high demand, demand is outpacing supply. As a result, home prices are increasing and houses don’t stay on the market long.
“We’re growing right now. We’re growing exponentially,” Rosengren says.
In fact, in an effort to close the gap, new construction is skyrocketing. The Building Industry Association of Clark County reports that Vancouver’s 2020 housing construction permit activity will surpass 2019’s by more than 50%.
Other homeowners are opting to create open spaces in their existing homes, especially as COVID-19 has made houses double as schools and offices. Marco Tapia, owner of Mr. Tapia Maintenance and Remodeling, a company with an average 4.5-star rating on Yelp, says that at least “50% of buyers want open concept.”
Tapia added that in the past year his company has had “more jobs than every other year,” in part because of lifestyle changes related to the pandemic, like homeowners wanting to rent houses for extra money, and people moving to the area to take advantage of the low interest rates.
What to expect from Vancouver housing
In Vancouver, you can find a mix of historical homes and new construction.
These homes started popping up in Vancouver during the 19th-century “Arts and Crafts” movement to create a more handcrafted look. Craftsman homes are characterized by covered front porches and exposed columns. Since Craftsman homes were popular during the early 1900s, there’s quite a few of them in Vancouver. But since many of these homes were built 100 years ago, homeowners need to make sure that their exteriors are protected from the elements.
Tudor homes were built in Vancouver during the 1920s. Known for their recognizable romantic country manor style, Tudor homes are encapsulated with steeply pitched roofs, triangular accents, and arched doorways. One of the most famous Tudor style homes in Vancouver is the historic Propstra House, a former home to a family who created a local burger chain.
Traditional ranch-style homes are single-story homes with a low roof and open concept layout. Ranch style homes became popular in the 1940s throughout the U.S., including Vancouver.
Get the lay of the land in Vancouver
When you look to buy a house in Vancouver, consider that in addition to fine dining, entertainment options, and access to job opportunities in both Portland and Vancouver, Vancouver is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.
Vancouver offers an endless amount of outdoor recreation, including hiking trails and campsites near Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, as well as multiple waterfalls to discover in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. If you like skiing, there are several ski slopes to explore close by. And if surfing’s more your thing, the Pacific Ocean is only about a two-hour drive away.
“There are so many options to us here, from playing in the ocean, to playing in the snow, and all the sports that go along with all those things,” says Rosengren. “It’s just been a blessing to live here.”
From luxury homes to historic neighborhoods, Vancouver has something that works for everyone’s taste, budget, and lifestyle.
In East Vancouver lies one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. Situated just 15 minutes outside of downtown Vancouver, Cascade Highlands features apartment complexes, condos, and single-family homes. Residents can enjoy local fitness studios, restaurants, stores, and coffee shops. Plus, the neighborhood features Homestead Neighborhood Park, a 6.2-acre park with hiking paths, playground, and eating areas.
Historic homes and mature trees line the streets of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver: Arnada. Located in the northeast section of the city, Arnada brings the benefit of convenient access to downtown Vancouver and highway I-5 that connects commuters directly to Portland. Arnada is a rather small neighborhood — stretching across 55 square blocks — but its historic setting located near the business district makes it very popular.
Residents in this neighborhood have the option of taking multiple bicycle routes. They also enjoy a friendly atmosphere with lots of recreational opportunities, including easy access to Arnada Park.
Lake Shore is one of the most desired neighborhoods in Vancouver. Named for its proximity to Vancouver Lake, residents get a more rural feel in this serene lakeside community while being just 6.5 miles outside of downtown. Homes in this area range from luxurious near the shoreline to family homes located farther away from the shore. Schools in Lake Shore are considered above average.
Residents can enjoy the sprawling 190-acre Vancouver Lake Regional Park that stretches along the shoreline. The park is a popular destination for picnicking, windsurfing, sand volleyball, swimming, walking, and hiking. Vancouver Lake also hosts many rowing competitions throughout the year.
Fisher’s Landing East
Fisher’s Landing East has a mix of young professionals and families living in the quiet community. Commuting is a breeze here as major employers Nautilus, WaferTech, and Hewlett Packard are located a few minutes away. With four parks in the area, residents have multiple opportunities for outdoor recreation. The average sales price for a home in Fisher’s Landing East is $259,822.
Vancouver’s North Image neighborhood offers some of the city’s more affordable housing. The North Image neighborhood has slightly more affordable prices, with the average home valued at $221,948. North Image is a suburban neighborhood with lots of apartments and single family homes.
The neighborhood is also home to the Clark County YMCA and North Image Park. The eight public schools in North Image range from below average to good according to GreatSchools. Homes in North Image tend to stay on the market slightly longer than homes in Cascade Park and Fisher’s Landing East, so the neighborhood might be more apt for first-time homebuyers.
When to buy a house in Vancouver
The best time to buy a house in Vancouver is in April, so contact a real estate agent as soon as you’re ready to start the process.
“Just know that the market’s moving really fast,” Rosengren says. “When I got into real estate, you had a day or two to make a decision if you wanted to buy a home. Now, when you look at a home, you’ve got to make that decision that much faster.”
Home prices spike between June and August, dipping again when the weather cools off and kids are back in school.
With so much competition, it’s practically a guarantee that you’ll be competing against other offers. If possible, have a shorter inspection period. Rosengren says that only asking for structural or safety repairs, instead of nitpicking small items like a broken drawer or door handle, can speed up the buying process. Sellers are often willing to make repairs, and in some cases, pay the buyer’s closing costs. Real estate agents are critical for successful negotiations for homebuyers.
Since a lot of houses get multiple offers, make your best offer immediately. It’ll make your life easier because one of two things will happen: you’ll either celebrate a win, or look for another house knowing that you tried your best but it wasn’t meant to be.
Find a top buyer’s agent in Vancouver
Connecting with a real estate agent is a way to gain a competitive edge in Vancouver’s competitive market. Real estate agents can guide you through inspections, budgeting, neighborhoods, school districts, and more. There are 2,063 active real estate agents in Vancouver, but top buyer’s agents, on average, save their clients $30,564 on their new home.
If you’re ready to begin your search, we’ll connect you with an experienced, vetted local real estate agent to help you buy a house in Vancouver and make The Couve your home.
Header Image Source: (Brandon Arena / Unsplash)