Housing prices pushing millennials into suburbs

Mount Pleasant couple among wave of younger people heading east

Megan and Keith Pottinger said they didn’t want to move to Surrey, but they are making peace with the affordability it brings | Chung Chow

Megan Pottinger didn’t want to move to Surrey, but she is making peace with the decision.

“For me, it was a huge thing,” the Mount Pleasant resident said when asked how she initially felt about the possibility of moving from Vancouver to South Surrey to accommodate a potentially growing family.

Pottinger, 29, who works in life insurance sales, and her husband, Keith, 31, a mechanical engineer, have a two-year-old boy, and the couple’s parents visit often from out of town. They live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse and plan on having more kids – but staying where they are and upgrading is not financially viable.

“It’s super discouraging, for sure,” Pottinger said. “My husband grew up in Kerrisdale, so when they talk about house prices here now, we would never be able to own a house here.”

Their Mount Pleasant home is 1,010 square feet, a tight fit given they want to have a live-in nanny as well as host their parents when they’re in town.

“For one more bedroom we realized we were going to have to spend an extra $500,000,” she said. “Seems a little bit ridiculous.”

The Pottingers bought their place in Mount Pleasant in 2014 and have since sold it for a substantial profit. They have purchased a 1,900-square-foot South Surrey home, with four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a two-car garage and two living rooms and are scheduled to move in October 1. The home is at the Adera South Ridge Club development, which also has an outdoor pool, patio, clubhouse and gym. The $730,000 price tag included all the upgrades and GST.

Homes in Mount Pleasant comparable with what they bought in South Surrey are selling for more than $3 million.

While Pottinger initially struggled with the idea of moving, her husband, who works in South Surrey, said it was easier for him to get used to because it will mean less time spent in his car.

“It will drop my commute from 45 minutes each way to 10 minutes each way, which will save me over an hour a day in commuting and allow me to spend more time with my family,” he said.

Megan Pottinger said a few of her friends are following suit, moving from areas like Trout Lake to South Surrey, where they can live – and expand their families – in single-family homes instead of smaller townhouses or condos.

“For us it was a very realistic, black-and-white [decision],” she said. “We just can’t afford to stay here. … We were also able to sell our place for a profit, and if we would have bought [another] place [in Mount Pleasant], we would have been [cash]-poor. And there would have been no vacations and no new cars, so in the beginning it was definitely really hard psychologically, and now we see it as a huge perk.”

According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, March home sales set an all-time record, eclipsing the 5,000-sales mark for the first time ever on record, and the benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver was up 23.2% compared with March 2015.

Eric Andreasen from Adera Development, which is building the South Surrey South Ridge Club development, said the Pottingers are one of many couples from various enclaves around the city moving to South Surrey for financial reasons.

“It’s like when you throw a stone in the water, and the waves ripple out,” he said, referring to home price increases in Vancouver pushing younger couples east.

Andreasen acknowledged that moving from Vancouver to Surrey has been a psychological adjustment for some people, but added that it is something people are learning to adjust to, and eventually love, over time.

“Let’s be honest – certain people become accustomed to certain stigmas … around this town. But I can absolutely say all you have to do is drive to South Surrey and take a look at what’s going on here.”