Back in January, the picture of a modest house on West 14th Avenue in Vancouver, Canada, went viral. The tiny, run-down home on a 33-foot lot, with an asking price of CDN $2.4 million (USD $1.85 million), became a symbol of the city’s hot housing market, which some say has gotten out of control. At about the same time, Vancouver was named the world’s third most unaffordable city, behind Sydney, Australia, and Hong Kong. The unaffordability index compared incomes to housing prices in the city.
But, despite the overgrown lawn, moss-covered roof, and rotted back staircase, the West 14th Avenue property was not standing empty. In fact, it had been home to a university professor and his wife for more than 30 years. Ken Bryant, who taught in the Asian Studies Department of The University of British Columbia, told The Globeand Mail that the home was a teardown when they first bought it in 1983. But it was close to the university, where his wife also worked as a librarian.
“Location, location, location. It almost could have been a tent. It was clear that someone was going to come around with a bulldozer. The house looked then essentially as it does now.”
They purchased the house for $141,000. It sold earlier this year for CDN $2.48 million, which was CDN $82,000 above the asking price. Ken Bryant retired last year and the couple plans to relocate to their vacation property in the Southern Gulf Islands after his wife — who is not named in the Globe article — retires this summer.
Back in January, CTV News said the home was tailor-made for builders, as similar homes in the area had sold for CDN $4.5 million. Realtor Ian Tang, who was not associated with the home’s sale, told CTV that even if a builder spent CDN $1 million putting up a new structure, he or she would have saved about $1 million if it could then be resold for CDN $4.5 million.
Although the Globe did not talk to the new owners of the house, documents obtained by the paper listed their occupations as “business owners.”
— Brent Jang (@brentcjang) June 4, 2016
Vancouver realtor Bob Rennie told the Globe that the Bryants “won the lottery.” The paper’s reporter wrote that the large number of baby boomers who have benefited from high housing prices are the reason behind the provincial government’s reluctance to take measures to cool the market.
— Brent Jang (@brentcjang) June 3, 2016
While baby boomers are reaping huge rewards from selling property to which they have held title for decades, the next generation is facing a serious squeeze. A separate Globe and Mail report from last week stated that in 2014, only 15 percent of 3-bedroom properties within Metro Vancouver had an asking price of CDN $500,000 or less.
The story included a profile of one couple in their 30s trying to leverage their modest equity in a Surrey condo, more than an hour outside of Vancouver, where one half of the couple works full-time, to get a home large enough to start a family.
Meanwhile, Bryant is not bothered by the public perception that he may have let his home fall into disrepair. The Bryants raised two very successful sons in the home: one is a software entrepreneur and the other is a professor at a major U.S. university. Ken Bryant drives an older vehicle and often opts for public transit to get around.
“I have said goodbye to the house. There are many things in our life that are important to us. What our house looks like is not one of them. We have pride in our kids and how they do, and our grandkids.”
[Photo by Re/Max – The Kavanagh Group]