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What to look for when buying a house in BC’s Lower Mainland region

What to look for when buying a house
The spirit of homeownership is alive and well in Canada, with the number of people owning their abode increasing from 63.9% to 68.55% over the last two decades.
And the good news is that there has never been a better time to purchase a house than today. Between the favorable mortgage interest rates and the mainstreaming of remote work, prospective buyers have a lot to look forward to.
Of course, a home is a huge financial investment, which is why you should carefully weigh not just where you buy but also what you buy. Luckily, British Columbia’s Lower Mainland region has an attractive location, a broad range of price points, and homes with excellent features. If you’re keen on relocating to the area, here’s what to look for when buying a house.


  • All about the Lower Mainland of BC
  • Properties available in the Lower Mainland area
    • Single-family homes
    • Semi-detached / Duplex
    • Townhouse
    • Apartment / Condominium
  • Types of ownership
    • Freehold
    • Strata title
    • Leasehold
  • What to look for when buying a house in BC’s Lower Mainland region
    • Large mudroom
    • Centralized heating
    • Grand master bedroom
    • Walk-in closet
    • Spa-inspired bathroom
    • Chef’s kitchen
    • Entertainment center
    • Home office
    • Private gym
    • Expansive yard
  • Other important considerations
    • Lifestyle
    • Budget
    • Lot size
    • Bedrooms and bathrooms
    • Age of the property
    • Market conditions
  • Tips for buying a house in the Lower Mainland area of BC
    • Have a sizable downpayment
    • Get your credit score up
    • Lower your outstanding debts
    • Get pre-approved
    • Check the neighborhood
    • Hire an inspector
    • Take advantage of benefits
    • Conclusion

All about the Lower Mainland of BC

The Lower Mainland is a region in southwestern British Columbia that measures around 5,000 square kilometers. While it’s one of the smallest areas in the province, this locale accounts for 60% of its total population.
This is hardly surprising, as the Lower Mainland is home to Vancouver, the third-most populous city in the country. In addition, the area also includes the Fraser Valley Regional District, the third most populous regional district in the province. All in all, over three million people reside in the Lower Mainland, whose population has grown 7.7% since the last census.
To live in this region is to enjoy the best of all worlds. Want a cosmopolitan lifestyle where urban conveniences are just a short walk or drive away? Or perhaps you want to live close to the outdoors so you can enjoy fishing, hiking, and camping? Whatever your preferences are, the Lower Mainland has you covered.

Properties available in the Lower Mainland area

The first thing would-be buyers should know are the options available to them. Luckily, there’s a range of property types to choose from, including:

  • Single-family homes — The quintessential abode, a single-family home is “detached,” meaning it does not share a common wall with neighboring properties. As such, it provides the ultimate in privacy and freedom. Single-family homes include everything from humble bungalows to lavish mansions and everything in between.
  • Semi-detached / Duplex — As the name suggests, such properties share a common wall with other houses. In most cases, the properties sit side-by-side; in the case of duplexes, however, they may also be placed one atop the other.
  • Townhouse — A townhouse is a multi-story home that shares at least one wall with adjacent properties, but has its own entrance. They can be found in both urban and suburban areas, and are often governed by homeowners’ associations (HOAs).
  • Apartment / Condominium — Sometimes referred to as multi-family properties, apartments and condos house several residential units in one building. Though individual units have their own entrances, residents share common hallways, lobbies, and amenities. Often found in urban centers, this property type is an ideal starter home due to its smaller size and asking price.

When you purchase a house, it’s also important to ask what type of ownership you will enjoy. By and large, ownership falls under these categories:

  • Freehold — Freehold ownership means you have complete authority to use and control land and any structure built on it. This is the traditional meaning of “homeownership.”
  • Strata title — When you have a strata title, it means you have exclusive ownership of a certain housing unit, plus the use of shared amenities like hallways, elevators, gardens, and swimming pools. You often find strata titles in duplexes, townhouses, and condominiums.
  • Leasehold — Leasehold is akin to a hybrid between freehold ownership and renting. More specifically, this arrangement allows you to have exclusive use of a property for an extended period of time (usually 99 years). Such contracts are often enforced when a property is built on city-owned land or on First Nation reservations.

What to look for when buying a house in BC’s Lower Mainland region

With the many wonders that the Lower Mainland has to offer, buying a house here is certainly an attractive idea. Given the sheer variety of homes on offer, however, settling on one property can be quite the challenge.
You can make the selection process easier, though, by focusing on the key features below when deciding what to look for when buying a house.

  • Large mudroom — Since the region receives quite a lot of rain and snow, it’s nice to have a mudroom where you can take off your jacket and boots, thereby keeping dirt at bay. Of course, that’s not the only reason to look for this feature when viewing listings. The area can also hold much-needed storage spaces or function as a mini-laundry area. And in the winter, having an anteroom such as a mudroom will help keep out the cold.
  • Centralized heating — Imagine walking into any room and feeling warm and cozy all the time. This is the convenience that centralized heating can offer. In contrast with heating a room individually, a central heater creates a more even temperature throughout the house. What’s more, since it’s powered by an HVAC system in the basement, it’s markedly quieter than other options.
  • Grand master bedroom — The master bedroom is more than just a place to sleep in — it’s your personal sanctuary. As such, it must have deluxe features befitting the king and queen of the house. For starters, there should be ample space to fit as large a bed as you and your spouse want. It should also have an elegant en suite bathroom with deluxe features like his and her vanities.
  • Walk-in closet — Space for clothing will be the least of your worries when your home has a walk-in closet. This feature makes it easy to store and select your wardrobe no matter how expansive it may be. Having an oversized closet not only provides added privacy but also makes getting dressed faster. Some high-end homes even have boutique-like display cases and lounge chairs that make the everyday task of dressing up an elegant experience.
  • Spa-inspired bathroom — Do you love the high-end bathrooms found in your favorite hotels? Why not purchase a home that has this coveted feature? Think heated marble tiles, natural-stone bathtubs, bronze fixtures, and rainfall showers. If you want an extra-deluxe bathroom, you could buy a house with a private sauna.
  • Chef’s kitchen — If cooking is your passion, having a kitchen fit for a chef is a must. Typically featuring an open floor plan, such kitchens offer ample space to both cook and entertain in. Among the top-notch features you’ll find are kitchen islands, high-BTU cooking ranges, multiple ovens, deep sinks, warming drawers, and sub-zero refrigerators. With a kitchen like this, who wouldn’t want to regularly host dinner parties?
  • Entertainment center — Who said you have to go to the movies to enjoy a cinematic experience? When you have a state-of-the-art home entertainment system, every night can be movie night. From expansive ultra-HD screens, to plush reclining chairs, to crisp sound systems, no expense is spared to recreate the theater ambiance at home. Some entertainment centers also have a home bar — the perfect venue to huddle around and share your thoughts after viewing a film.
  • Home office — The current pandemic has fundamentally changed the world, including the way people work. Now that you have the freedom to work anywhere, why not purchase a house that has its very own office? This way, you can do your job in a space that’s free of distractions, but you can also easily step out to reconnect with your family. Having the best of both worlds can only improve your productivity.
  • Private gym — After two years of the pandemic, you’re likely ready to get your fitness journey back on track. But why sign up for a gym membership when you can have your own fitness center at home? Indeed, there are listings that have private gyms which allow you to work out whenever you wish to. Say “goodbye” to peak gym hours and to sharing equipment with strangers!
  • Expansive yard — Is there anything more picturesque than a home with an immaculately maintained front yard? Luckily, there are listings in the Lower Mainland region that boast this sought-after feature. Some properties even have equally sizable backyards where you can host outdoor gatherings. Whether you’re planting flower beds or an organic garden, you’ll have all the space you need.

Other important considerations

While home features are a key component of what to look for when buying a home, they aren’t the only ones. The savvy house hunter also pays attention to factors that are beyond the property itself, including:

  • Lifestyle — More than a roof over your head, the home you purchase is also a gateway to the lifestyle you want. Do you like the bustle and convenience of urban centers? Then perhaps a condo in Vancouver will be a good fit for you. Is suburban bliss more your preference? Then a single-family home in a slower-paced locale might be a better match.
  • Budget — Aside from lifestyle, you also need to consider the cost of the property you’re purchasing. The good news is that the Lower Mainland area has price points for all buyers. For reference, houses in Vancouver typically fetch $1.4 million; if you’re buying in Chilliwack, which is just over an hour away from the metropolis, asking prices are a little more budget-friendly at $889,000.
  • Lot size — This is a factor that many people overlook, but it shouldn’t go under your radar. How big your lot is determines what you can do with the space. Would you like to have a bigger garage or perhaps a detached storage shed? Both are possible if you have a lot that’s spacious enough.
  • Bedrooms and bathrooms — In general, you want more bedrooms and bathrooms than you think you currently need. You may feel that two bedrooms is more than enough, but what if you decide to have another child in the future? Meanwhile, having only two bathrooms might mean waiting in line to take a shower. This is one instance where less certainly isn’t more.
  • Age of the property — Another factor you don’t want to ignore is the age of the property. In many ways, a home is a product of its time. If you purchase an older property, it won’t have the latest appliances and building materials, meaning sub-optimal energy efficiency. However, do note that many older homes listed on the market have been renovated and thus boast contemporary features. Just be sure to ask about a property’s age and what improvements have been done to it when house-hunting.
  • Market conditions — The real estate market, not unlike the seasons, goes through cycles. Negotiating power shifts from buyers to sellers periodically, so it pays to know who holds the trump card at the moment. Given the high housing demand, it’s fair to say that the Lower Mainland region is a seller’s market. Don’t despair, though, as mortgage interest rates remain fairly low — though that may change in the days and weeks ahead.

Tips for buying a house in BC’s Lower Mainland area

The home you’re about to buy will likely be the largest asset you’ll own. As such, it’s important to carefully plan your purchase so the transaction goes through without a hitch. The following tips will ensure that that’s the case:

  • Have a sizable downpayment — If you’re financing your home, you need to have your down payment ready. In a perfect world, that would be 20% of your desired property’s value. However, you can put down as little as 5% of the purchase price, though that means you’ll have to borrow a larger sum of money and consequently pay more interest over the years. Also note that if you put down less than 20%, you will need to get mortgage loan insurance — yet another expense.
  • Get your credit score up — Mortgage lending is all about minimizing risk. Luckily, consumers are assigned a three-digit credit score that makes it easier to determine their creditworthiness. The higher your credit score, the higher your chances of approval and the better the interest rate you get. There are many ways to boost your number, including paying down existing debt, not opening new credit lines, and continuing to pay all your bills on time. Try to get your score up to at least 650 to get preferential mortgage rates.
  • Lower your outstanding debts — Another crucial factor that mortgage lenders will look at is your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. The more loans you have, the riskier you seem to potential creditors. As a general rule, try to keep your total debt payments — including your current mortgage, car loans, and credit card balances — below 42% of your monthly income. Do note, however, that the required DTI may vary depending on the loan you’re applying for.
  • Get pre-approved — Given the current state of the market, you’re bound to face stiff competition when placing an offer on a house. One way to edge out other bidders is to be pre-approved by your mortgage lender. This means that your bank has reviewed your finances, and believes you can borrow a certain amount and pay it back. This piece of paper spares sellers the agony of dealing with an eager buyer whose financing may fall through at the last moment.
  • Check the neighborhood — Some buyers are so fixated on the house they’re buying that they fail to assess the community they’re moving into. It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees — a costly mistake, indeed. The last thing you want is to spend a lot of money on a house only to discover that you don’t like the area’s amenities, lifestyle, or neighbors. Buying a home means putting down your roots, so make sure you choose a place where your family can thrive.
  • Hire an inspector — Once you’ve agreed to purchase a home, you’re given the opportunity to have it professionally inspected. This is part of the escrow phase, where both parties conduct due diligence before finalizing the deal. Commissioning an inspection is crucial because there might be deal-breaking issues not immediately visible to the naked eye, such as problems with the house’s foundation or its electrical system. By having the property professionally assessed, you can have greater confidence about proceeding with the purchase.
  • Take advantage of benefits — Those purchasing a house for the first time will be glad to know that they can reduce or even waive their property transfer tax under British Columbia’s First Time Home Buyers’ Program. Likewise, the federal First-Time HomeBuyer Incentive can give you a grant worth 5% to 10% of a property’s value to make homeownership more affordable. Together, these two initiatives can save you thousands of dollars that you could use instead for relocation and other closing costs.

Few decisions will be as pivotal as which house you purchase, so be sure to choose it carefully. Fortunately, trusted real estate agent Don Munro has the skill and expertise you need to make your real estate goals come true. With over 35 years in the business and an annual sales volume in excess of $100,000,000, he is the ideal partner in your home-buying journey.
To learn more, just call 604.817.7338 or send an email to botsoldmunro(at)gmail(dotted)com. Don will be more than happy to help you navigate the Lower Mainland region’s exciting real estate market and assist you in identifying what to look for when buying a home.

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