The Little Neighborhoods That Weren't.

For those of you who are familiar with my small obsession with real estate, it should come as no surprise that I continue to read various real estate blogs. I try to keep myself balanced by reading the wishy-washy "just will crash and we'll all get fantastic deals!" blogs, along with the "don't hold your breath, Victoria is going to be taken over by millions of rich Chinese immigrants and Albertan retirees and no one will be able to afford houses here ever again" blogs. For the purposes of maintaining my sanity and preventing heart palpitations, I do confess to reading more wishy washy blogs than doomsday ones. Also, I actually do believe that at some point soon, things will slow down out there. There's already a serious oversupply of condos and investments once hailed as being the next "big thing" that investors are now actually walking away from, since they can't rent them for enough money to pay the astronomical mortgage. Plus...does anyone realize that the job market in Victoria is not exactly a "happening" thing? And by that I sucks. At some point, there just simply aren't enough jobs paying the kind of salaries required for mortgage payments on a $500,000 home. And that's one of the cheap ones.

One of the things that I particularly enjoy about Victoria's real estate is the renaming of once-shitty parts of town to make them more attractive to potential investors. Here are my insights on some of my favorite examples of this renaming phenomenon, which is changing the beloved map of my hometown and adding a certain je ne sais quois to areas that certainly have none on their own. If I'm wrong on any of these points, I hope my Victoria-based readers will correct me. I have not lived in that city for over 5 years, though I do visit often and try my best to remain informed.

Here it goes:

Quadra Village: Build a village, they will come...right? Or not. Quadra Village, the area surrounding the Quadra/Hillside intersection, has notoriously been one of the worst areas of town to live in. Still, a few years ago they attempted a neighborhood revival by installing a few hopeful looking lampposts with hanging baskets and encouraging businesses to take up shop there, so to speak. I don't think that enough change has taken place to make this one of Victoria's most desirable neighborhoods, or desirable at all, for that matter. The stagnant memories of the Holiday Court are far too recent. I think this area peaked when it had Fuddrucker's and has never quite recovered from it's bankruptcy and subsequent closure. But that's just me.

"Victoria's Yaletown": Pardon? The first time I saw this reference in a real estate listing, I immediately wondered which area of town was the fortunate recipient of this nickname. My guess was the Fisgard/Capital Iron area. I was so wrong. It actually refers to the area surrounding the corner of Quadra and Bay. Yes...Quadra and Bay. Um...what? Yes, I am aware that there have been attempts to turn the former crackhouses into expensive condos, but come on. This is not a hot area, and certainly not an area you would walk alone in at night. $399,000 for half of a former crackhouse in a shit part of town? For reals?

LoJo: Love it. Victoria's run at urban chic. A beautiful part of downtown, no doubt, but here is nothing worse than a lame nickname for something that is cool enough all on its own. All this reference has done is further inflate prices of 350 square foot $400,000+ bachelor condos built into heritage buildings by developers who cite "peaceful" as one of the many attractive qualities people are paying for. The others would be the proximity to lululemon and bragging rights, obviously.

Bear Mountain: One word: Langford. The houses are beautifully designed, but I can not see any further appeal to living there. You can put a pig in a dress's still just a big hill in Langford.

The West Shore: One word: Langford. I remember the original attempt at bringing this name into place. I was working for the Federal Crown at the time and rumour has it that the name was quickly removed when it was obvious that certain gangs were using it to bolster their position in Victoria's impressive gang community. However, it's back and it looks like it's staying, but I can't bring myself to use it. It will always be Langford to me.

Now, before I get some irate Langfordite leaving me scathing comments about my personal opinions of their beloved community, I feel the need to point out that at this point, I would happily take a house just about anywhere in the general vicinity of Victoria. My parents did a great disservice to me, bringing me up in Oak Bay and then moving to Fairfield right at the point where Fairfield became the place to be. I'm spoiled, and I know it. Plus, they're both on some sort of a longevity kick, so now there's not even the faintest of hopes that I'll get their own beautiful house until I'm at least 80, unless some terrible accident messes with the ability of Dad's 3 HP blender, which he uses to produce their grass-and-vegetable smoothies.

The thought of my parents not being around is actually the saddest thing I can think of, just so you know. I was just hoping they'd be into downsizing to a nice waterfront condo at some point down the road and need someone to bequeath their house to. They're not. Apparently, they are leaving the house "feet first".

Perhaps it's the wisdom that comes from living outside the bubble of Oak Bay, but I do recognize other pockets of the city where life is beautiful, even if you can't walk to the ocean or smell the fairly-traded coffee and gluten-free vegan brownies wafting from the local trendy coffee spot. Maplewood and Cedar Hill fit into this category, as do areas of Gordon Head and Saanich East - perfect if not preferable spots to raise a family and take advantage of all that Victoria has to offer, and still closer to affordable than the trendier areas. I know this now, and I'm more than prepared and happy to look at opportunities in those areas as well as my more familiar ones, should we decide to return to Canada in the future. Because I should be able to afford a single family home in Oak Bay by approximately never.

Anyways, it's an interesting thing to keep an eye on. No one really has any idea of what's going to happen, but there certainly are some great blogs on it. Two that I recommend, from the glass-half-full side of the spectrum are: - a husband and wife duo, on the hunt for a home.

and - not as dire as it sounds.


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