The media says that the real estate market in Vancouver hasn't been doing well since early 2008. In other words, prices haven't increased twenty-five percent, or some ridiculous figure, month over month, like they have for the past number of years, making everything, including Smithrites, completely unaffordable for the average citizen. But the downturn in the market sure hasn't resulted in a reduction of prices to the point where buying a house no longer requires a wheelbarrow filled with cash.
What Chris and I saw on the websites was like something from the "Addams Family." And what's even more mortifying is that real, honest-to-goodness people live in these places. I'm not talking the nicer houses, those in the $750,000 and up range, where anyone could live if they had a rich uncle or had just won the lottery. I'm talking modestly priced, detached, freehold houses, in average neighborhoods--in other words, where the vast majority of Canadians live.
Between what Chris and I got for our townhouse in Victoria, and what we can afford to top that off with in a mortgage, we have about $450,000 to spend--no small amount of change.
But what do you suppose you can buy in Metro Vancouver for that amount? Nothing that's livable anywhere near downtown Vancouver, where Chris's job will be. So, unless we open ourselves to the possibility of living in a ratty townhouse or in an even rattier condo, that strikes all of Vancouver, Burnaby, West and North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, and __________ (where my sister Debbie lives in her own 197? townhouse) off our list. It leaves the further reaches of the region, including Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt River, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Langley, Delta, Ladner, and the like, on the list, if we're very, VERY lucky.
Chris likes the Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam area, because they seem like communities, where people live and work, near attractive amenities, and you're not isolated in the sticks there like you would be in _____________. And Chris would prefer to commute to downtown Vancouver on the West Coast Express, which classier business-types use to get to work, not the Skytrain, which the unwashed masses of the world use.
Sitting in front of the computer the other night, Chris and I looked at house after nasty looking house for sale in the areas we'd prefer to live in. Something was wrong with virtually all of them. In most cases, they were old, really old, and in dire need of demolition, or more renovations than we can afford or that I want to put any energy into.
Believe me, I know what renovation work looks like. When I renovated our Vancouver condo before we sold it in August 2007, I spent three weeks, mostly by myself, in reno fucking HELL. Chris came in from Victoria every weekend to give me a hand, but I did most of the work myself, sleeping on a air mattress on the floor for three weeks in stifling late summer heat, rarely seeing another human being to talk to, doing things I'd never imagined I would do.
Late one evening, two weeks in, after I'd arrived back at the condo from driving Chris to the ferry again so he could return to Victoria for work the next day, I walked in the door of the condo and saw the utter mess in front of me. And I lost it. I called my mother in Kelowna on my cell phone and asked her to call me back so I wouldn't be charged for using the phone. She called me back, and I had a complete meltdown. I yelled and screamed and bawled and had a mental breakdown like I'd never had before. This went on for an hour or more, while I let out all of my frustration and anxiety and dissatisfaction toward the situation I was in. (I couldn't say anything to Chris about how unhappy I was because what could he do? I was the one who had left his job, who had the time to get the condo ready to be sold. I had accepted the deal. I just hadn't known the deal would be so awful.) After I finally got off the phone just before 11:00 pm, and, knowing I couldn't go to bed until certain tasks were done, I got busy again and continued working until past 1:00 am. The work still had to get done.
Needless to say, I have no mind to renovate anything we buy this time in Metro Vancouver. I'm not even sure I have the inclination to lift a paint brush, although that's pretty much guaranteed. Unless we buy something brand new, move-in ready, which is my complete preference.
Look, I'm nearly fifty years old, and I have a sense of style and class and taste (I'm gay, for crissakes; what do you expect?). I deserve to live in a beautiful new house. After all, I'm leaving our beautiful little townhouse in Victoria, the one we bought brand new in 2002, a blank canvas, and that we painted and tiled and hardwood floored and crown moulded and decorated into what many others have called a showpiece--the kind of house you'd find in a home decorating magazine.
And I'm going to leave that to move into a 1986 rancher on a flood plane, painted bright blue outside, with kitchen cabinetry that looks like it belongs in a 1970s travel trailer, and cramped rooms poorly laid out painted hideous colors, and old appliances, and filthy carpets, and outdoor landscaping that looks like an unkempt farm. Are you kidding me with this?
The more houses Chris and I looked at on the Internet, the more despair I fell into, and the more snarky my comments became. Chris got quieter, and I got more insulting, until, finally, he turned to me, his face to my left, mere inches from me. He looked me in the eye and said, "You're a spoiled brat." He's never called me that before. He's never uttered those words in my direction, although, over the years, I've given him plenty of reason to.
I laughed at first, thinking he was kidding. But I kept looking at him, and he wasn't laughing, and his expression didn't change. He really meant it this time.
I was pissed, but I understood from his perspective why he'd called me that. I'm reminded of Goldie Hawn in "Private Benjamin," when she finds herself in the army, and she's the biggest prima donna, and Eileen Brennan, her disciplined and no-nonsense training officer, calls her "Precious." Yes, I suppose the word applies to me too, in the case of my reaction to the only houses we seem to be able to afford in Metro Vancouver.
But I deserve better. At least I think so. Hell, I've read "Architectural Digest" since October 1980 (I still have every issue since then). I know what I like, and I know what I don't like. Moving into one of those 1986 shit holes would amount to a prison sentence. You can't put a gay man with class and style and taste in one of those. He'll go MAD.
Afterward, I realized what a handful I'd been for Chris as we'd tried to make a serious attempt to find a house we could afford. I felt really bad, like I have many times, when Chris shows me up with his patience, humility, and maturity. He is a constant example to me of what I should be more like. Sometimes, I don't think I deserve him. Sometimes, I know I'm the luckiest man on earth to have him. Sometimes, relationships, gay or otherwise, aren't perfect. I wouldn't have it any other way.