My grandparents emigrated from the UK in the early 20th century and neither my grandmother or grandfather had a high school education. However, by 1934 they owned a two-bedroom house on east Pender.  The 1930’s property prices in Vancouver were not what they are now, but affordability was still an issue. What enabled my grandparents to buy property was not what they made in their salaries but how they went about it. Almost all of us in Vancouver are immigrants or descendants of immigrants and, from my own experience with friends and clients,there are lessons to be learned or at least remembered when it comes to buying property. Agreed, there are some immigrants coming with significant financial means, however, the principals they operate under are often the same.

  1. The Value of Property:  There is a high value on property as the primary investment almost to the exclusion of every other investment avenue.  Property is highly valued because it is tangible and over the long term keeps its value. Other investment options, such as stocks and bonds are not seen as a dependable an asset or an asset that provides practicality and stability for the family. There is an intangible value in having a family home. As a result, immigrants will make property their primary goal for saving and refrain from investing in other financial assets.

  2. It’s a Family Affair: Pooling money across generations is often the norm when it comes to purchasing a house. There may well be savings from four or five salaries and two or three generations that are being put towards the downpayment. The property will also serve as a home to three generations. The expectation is that the generations are one unit and operate financially as one unit. In my view, immigrants have mastered co-ownership.

  3. Livability over Esthetics:  The other assumption that is often employed is that the property must be livable but does not need to be perfect. This sometimes means compromising on location and sometimes on the house.  Ultimately it just needs to work on a basic level. Improvements are usually made over the long term or there will be trade up the property ladder when the timing makes sense. What is important and the priority is getting into the market. There are always exceptions to this rule, however, the generalization often holds true.

What is there to learn?  Well, make property investment the priority, do it as a family, and focus on needs not wants.