Is It Expensive In Nanaimo?

Calling Nanaimo expensive isn’t accurate. Yes, there are cheaper places nearby, like Campbell River, places up north like Sointula and where I grew up, Port Alberni. Places are expensive or cheap for a reason. (Summarized by supply and demand.) Sure, the local government’s policies affect both sides of the equation but their policies are deeply influenced by what the market is doing in terms of supply and demand. Ultimately real estate is never worth more or less than what people are willing and able to pay for it.

Here are some regional stats if you’re not convinced:

National average sale price according the Canadian Real Estate Association: Just shy of $350,000.

So, nationally, our prices are bang on national average. On the Island, (not including Victoria) we’re about average if a little higher than that. If we do include Victoria it skews things quite a bit because their average sale price is basically our price plus 50%. (They’re currently at $574,750 as their average.) Then there’s Vancouver which last I checked was double our average sale price. They changed how they measure things last year though so now it’s like comparing apples to Volvos. I suspect they did it to make their prices seem less expensive. Regardless, when I look at listings there and compare them to the most similar thing here it’s about double.

So, how are people able to pay for their homes here? Well, like I implied earlier, people aren’t moving here for the money so much as they are for the lifestyle. Retirees are a big part of the market on the island because of our mild winters and pretty location. They bring their money with them. So are younger people from well to do families in other parts of the world and/or people who have made money in other parts of the world. Lots of people these days have jobs that allow them to telecommute via internet as well. These groups of people in addition to local professionals like Doctors and successful business owners etc. are the ones who own the big pretty homes. A few people in the right position at the university do pretty well too. You don’t have to work in my industry to see this pattern though. Just go for a drive around town and ask yourself which local employers are paying for all these nice places.

The mid range (usually homes between 275k and 375k) are mostly young professionals, people who are renting out a suite for the mortgage helper, and regular people who have worked hard and saved for a long time. Lots of these homes out there and lots of people in this demographic.

Of course, you could get a deeper look from going through the most recent census data and comparing it to the latest real estate association data but I trust my own life/work experience more than what I can learn from that as it is much more detailed, up to date and well… real.

Looking at stats won’t tell you the following for example: You can buy a modest but comfortable condo or townhome in Nanaimo for a total of about $1,100-1,200/mo right now. That’s including taxes, strata fee and mortgage. Such places are abundant as they are the bread and butter of the condo market here. Usually two beds but sometimes three. There are cheaper places too, but in my eyes this is what your average first time buyer is comfortable living in when considering a condo.

Ryan Coffey