Nikki Marion and Jaime Jarvis recently bought a townhouse in Walnut Grove. The engaged couple have a goal of one day purchasing a house.

Home ownership a challenge for 18- to 34-year-old crowd

Millennials are experiencing a paradigm shift in real estate expectations

A young Langley couple are building toward their dream of owning a house — a dream that, for many in their age group, vanished into the ether long ago.

Jaime Jarvis, 25, and his 26-year-old fiancee, Nikki Marion, recently bought a townhouse in Walnut Grove.

They’re in the process of renovating their new digs, but say it may not necessarily be their forever home.

A few years down the road, they have designs on purchasing a house.

“We’ll do it,” Jarvis said. “It might take us another five years or so, but it’ll be done.”

“I think it’s achievable,” Marion added. “It’s definitely hard right now because … houses are so expensive.”

If the couple one day buys a house, they’ll buck a trend among Metro Vancouver millennials — even with a recent real estate forecast by Royal LePage that predicts an 8.5 per cent drop in home prices in 2017 across Metro Vancouver.

In December, the benchmark (typical) price for a detached house in Langley in December was a hefty $833,300 — and a Vancity study conducted last May shows that in a typical Vancouver millennial household of two, aged 25-34, earned a combined $72,291, the second lowest rate in Canada.

This adds up to modest expectations in the market for younger homebuyers in Langley and across Metro Vancouver.

“For my parents and (Marion’s) parents, (a house is) what they got into first,” Jarvis said. “They didn’t get a townhouse or a condo, they just went right into a house and their mortgage payment was half of what the mortgage payment is for this place.

So yeah, it’s frustrating because everybody dreams of having the lawn and all that stuff.”

The Vancity study shows that if a typical millennial couple purchased a Vancouver property at average cost in 2016, they would go into debt  by $2,745 a year after paying for essential expenses including taxes, healthcare premiums, food, utilities, public transportation, clothing, and housing.

As well, growing families in Vancouver face a dramatically more challenging financial situation.

The average cost of childcare for one child in Vancouver is $14,580 annually.

For Jarvis and Marion, this time in their lives is about building equity.

Their townhouse is the second home they have bought together, after purchasing a condo in Langley three years ago.

“It was manageable,” Jarvis recalled, regarding the condo.

“The mortgage payment wasn’t much more than what we were paying in rent. It was getting the down payment, but once that was done, it was easy.”

Selling their condo and moving into a townhouse was a bit daunting, Jarvis admitted.

“We looked at the numbers and we both work in Walnut Grove so that made it easier,” Jarvis said. “We found a few ways we could cut costs.”

Marion agreed, noting that renting is a difficult pattern to break.

“You get stuck in this cycle of putting all your money towards rent and then you get nothing out of it in the end,” she said. “You have a roof over your head, but there’s no equity. It’s like saving without thinking about it when you have a mortgage.”

With the benchmark price of Langley condos jumping 28.7 per cent, and local townhouses 28.4 per cent pricier just over the past year, Jarvis said he and Marion found themselves in a “Catch-22” situation.

“We wouldn’t have made what we made on our condo if the market didn’t jump, but now getting into something else, it made it a little more of a challenge,” he said.

“People are saying the market is on its way down, which is frustrating as well, because we’re buying in at a high market, and who’s to say it isn’t going to drop 10, 20 per cent and we lose money, which is kind of frustrating.”