November 26, 2013 12:23 am
Updated: November 26, 2013 5:01 pm

Ditching a Vancouver condo for a Coquitlam townhouse

Lien Truong paints the wall of the Coquitlam townhouse she bought with fiancé Jesse Schmidt.

Courtesy of Lien Truong

TORONTO – Lien Truong and fiancé Jesse Schmidt took possession of their foreclosed Coquitlam  townhouse on Nov. 16, ending an emotional six-month search.

But it was a bumpy ride: Schmidt’s condo—where the couple lived for the past two years—was listed last May and only just sold on Friday –for almost $30,000 lower than the original asking price.

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The couple got engaged in April and wanted more space: They plan to get a dog and start having children in the next year or so. They focused on the Port Moody/Coquitlam area to get the best value for their money, and to be close to nature and reputable schools.

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Truong said they’d had some bites on Schmidt’s condo soon after listing. The couple put in two offers on properties, both subject to the sale of their place. But that sale fell through and, with it, the new purchase.

“It was disappointing, because we were all ready to move out and everything was going to be done,”  Truong said. Two weeks ago, she was worried that six months had passed with no offers, and it felt like the market had slowed even more.

The view from the couple’s Vancouver condo, which sold last week.

Royal Bank of Canada’s Rachel Wihby agrees that the market around Vancouver is slower thanks to sky-high prices.

“Vancouver is definitely one … where because of the prices of housing, first-time buyers are a bit more challenged there than in other parts of the country.”

Schmidt listed the 746-square-foot one-bedroom unit at $264,900 and has lowered it three times since. It sold at $235,000 – quite a drop, but more than the $217,000 he paid for it six years ago.

Their realtor told the couple 30 per cent of the calls that had been coming in were investors wanting to rent it out, which the building won’t allow. Other barriers were the “no pets” rule and a strict allowance of two people (no children unless buyers obtain special permission).

READ MORE: Vancouver housing prices are on another planet. A very, very wealthy planet

Truong said the building is old, but in a great location on the border of Vancouver and Burnaby. Her commute downtown via Sky Train is half an hour door-to-door. Despite this, she thinks many people were holding out for new buildings—five now under construction in the area.

They’d refused lowball offers in the past. And because they got a deal on their foreclosure, they’re not as nervous about having sold the condo for less than they’d initially hoped.

“We just want to move on,” she said. “It’s not about making such a big profit, it’s just about getting rid of it and moving forward.”

The Coquitlam townhouse sits on top of the Westwood Plateau. Truong loves the location because of the view, the proximity to Bunsen Lake and the hiking and biking trails the area offers.

Their new home, built in the 1990s, is in the fairly secluded cul-de-sac of a gated community. At 2,000 square feet, it’s larger than most modern homes. The couple had looked at properties in the complex before, which were typically listed in the high $400,000-$500,000 range.

The view from the couple’s new Coquitlam townhouse.

This foreclosure was listed at $426,000 and they offered $415,000. It was accepted by the banks, and a court date was set for two weeks later. That’s when the real gamble started: In B.C., other potential buyers could see their offer and show up on the court date to outbid them. In their case, there were two other bids, but Truong and Schmidt didn’t know what they were.

“We bid $440,330. So 40 is Jesse’s age, 33 is my age—I guess it’s a superstition thing, and it worked,” said Truong. “[The judge] announced our names and I gave a little cheer in court … and that was the end of it.”

Schmidt is a rail traffic controller for Southern Railway of B.C., and Truong has been a financial officer for the Office of the Public Guardian and Trust. She said their combined income is well over the national average of $47,200 per person, and they’re also debt-free.

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Truong says the mortgage payment for the townhouse will be 30 per cent of their income, which means they’ll be able to buy the “extras” they want, like a new countertop in the kitchen.

“We’ve been working on [the house] all week…painting and putting some crown mouldings and baseboards,” she said.

An inspector suggested replacing the shower in the master bedroom and redoing some electrical work that wasn’t fully completed by the previous owners. He placed the renovation costs between $10,000-$20,000.

“It’s a good deal over all,” Truong said. “Just hopefully nothing comes up during renos.”

While they risked the stress of a second mortgage in buying before the condo sold, they felt the foreclosed townhouse was a deal worth taking. And it turned out to be a stress they’ve managed to avoid.

Better still, their condo closes Dec. 15, so they’ll have enough time to work on the townhouse and still move in before Christmas celebrations, which Schmidt is already planning.

“Jesse’s big thing is Christmas…he wants to change the room downstairs to be Santa’s room for the kids,” said Truong, of the couple’s nieces and nephews.

“At the end of day, we have our home that we’re going to grow into, and it’s just in time for the holidays, which is perfect.”

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Editor’s note: Changed Nov. 26 at 4 p.m. ET to reflect accurate listing and mortgage figures. Global News was initially given incorrect information.

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