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Canada is full of great cities.  But even though you’re likely to be safe and healthy in almost any one of them, not all cities are alike. Lately, I’ve heard a lot of people saying that they just can’t live in Vancouver any longer. They say it’s too expensive and too crowded for them to feel like they’re getting ahead. It used to fit the bill – or they really, really wanted it to – but it doesn’t any more.

Don’t get me wrong, Vancouver is an amazing and beautiful city. However, if you’re looking for somewhere else to live, let me suggest a great city that often gets overlooked: Edmonton. No, we don’t have mild, coastal weather, but compared to Vancouver, Edmonton has three very key things going for it.

Traffic

Time spent in traffic is time wasted.

2.3 million people live in the Vancouver metropolitan area, and even though the weather is great for cycling or walking, many of those people still have cars, and those cars are often on Vancouver streets. If you’ve driven in Vancouver lately and were left feeling like the traffic is the worst ever, you’re not far off: Vancouver was named the worst city in Canada for traffic congestion by TomTom, a company that makes GPS systems. And get this: It was also named the second-worst in all of North America, second only to Los Angeles.

Almost 1.2 million people live in metropolitan Edmonton – a million less than Vancouver and in a much larger space. You can expect to see many of these people using Edmonton’s roads on an almost daily basis, so there are a lot of people out there. Even so, Edmonton traffic still flows pretty smoothly. We have a dectn freeway system serving the west and south sides, as well as a ring road (almost complete), which has allowed most of the transport truck traffic to completely bypass city roads. Are there traffic jams? Sure. But the bottom line is that traffic in Edmonton isn’t too bad. In fact, it’s pretty darn good considering how many people are on the roads every day.

We all know that time spent in traffic is time wasted. The Transportation Authority for Vancouver, TransLink may claim that all this bad traffic makes Vancouver a more livable city because you have more space for houses, but I’ll tell you what makes a city more livable: Being able to get around in a timely manner.

(Check out these Google traffic maps for a direct comparison between Vancouver traffic and Edmonton traffic.)

Space

In Edmonton, we get a little carried away about our space. The fact of the matter is that we have a lot of it. Likely more than we’ll ever need. So, whereas Vancouver hasn’t got anywhere to go but up, we have the luxury of going out. What does this mean for a person who wants to relocate from Vancouver to Edmonton? Well, the obvious answer is that you’re going to have a lot more space. Now, I’m not going to claim that urban sprawl is always a good thing, but when you want a house and a yard and a garage, a sprawling city starts to look quite tempting. And with that larger home comes much more parking space, a larger buffer between you and your neighbours and more parkland than anywhere in North America. And did I mention that it all costs a lot less than it would in Vancouver?

Price

The average Vancouver family cannot afford the average Vancouver home.

Edmonton has the least expensive real estate of all the large cities in Canada when you take income into account. In fact, you get more bang for your buck in Edmonton than in any other major city. You can work here, live here and own your own piece of land here – and it won’t cost you a million dollars.

So let’s take a look at the price differences between the two cities:

 

• The average house selling price in Edmonton at the time of writing is $340,000.

• The average house selling price in Greater Vancouver at the moment is $950,000.

 

Don’t tell me that’s not tempting! You may never own a house in Vancouver – few ever will – but in Edmonton, it’s achievable for a large number of people. And the story is much the same for condominiums as well.

 

• The average condo price in Edmonton at the time of writing is about $240,000

• The average condo price (attached properties) in Greater Vancouver at this time is almost $470,000!

 

So even if you want to compare condominium prices, the price in Edmonton is nearly 50 percent less. And it’s not likely that you’ll earn twice as much in Vancouver either. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, the median household income in 2010 was almost 25 percent less in Vancouver than it was in Edmonton – a difference of about $20,000. So, how is it you can expect to buy a home for twice as much, when you make even less? I can’t imagine being able to get ahead at that rate. The bottom line is that the average Vancouver family cannot afford the average Vancouver home. Something is wrong with this picture.

The Weather

And once you’ve gotten used to the weather, it’s not bad at all.

If there’s one thing I have to address about moving to Edmonton from Vancouver, it’s the weather. But isn’t it really cold in Edmonton? Yep, it really is, but if you’re Canadian, you can handle it. (And if you aren’t, you can get used to it!) There must be something in the maple syrup

You’re going to need some good winter clothes, but with all the money you’re saving on a house, that should be easy. A friend of mine once said that you have to have lots of winter coats because during an Edmonton winter, your coat is your outfit. She’s right, so invest in a good one, because winters can hit -35C. That isn’t pleasant, but bear in mind that even if you live in a temperate coastal climate, most of us don’t actually spend all that much time outside. It tends to be quite sunny and cheerful during the day. And at night, well, you’ll be snug and warm in your house. Plus, Edmontonians really embrace the winter; there isn’t a single day that isn’t so cold you won’t find a few hearty skiers, joggers and cyclists out in the parks. In Edmonton, we see the weather as an adventure! It isn’t for everyone, but it also isn’t as doom and gloom as many people make it out to be.

The Last Word

I’m not going to try to tell you that Edmonton has nicer people, or better schools or is any safer than Vancouver. Even if I could find some obscure statistics to that effect, it sort of misses the point. Because Vancouver truly is a fantastic city. At the same time, I think it’s also an unfair city. People who work hard cannot afford to live comfortably and must contend with cramped living quarters and transportation issues. Edmonton has its warts too, but it also has a heck of a lot to offer.

Moving to Edmonton may mean moving away from a city you really enjoy being in. But if you live in Edmonton, you can always use the money you’re saving to travel to Vancouver – just for a visit – and come right back home when you’re done.

Thinking of relocating to Edmonton? Please contact me if you have any interest in learning more about Edmonton and its real estate market. I would be happy to help.

And Edmonton is great for real estate investors too! Please let me know if you would like information on investing in the Edmonton real estate market.


by +Alan F Macdonald REALTOR® | Copyright © – gimme-shelter.com

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Alan F Macdonald

Author Alan F Macdonald

Alan F Macdonald is a real estate agent with Maxwell Challenge Realty in Edmonton, Alberta.

More posts by Alan F Macdonald

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • shahreyar says:

    Hi There, I liked reading through your article. Currently I’m planning moving to canada from australia mainly for studies and then job in chemical engg. I have two options, vancourver and edmonton. My sister already lives in Vancouver and I ve already been there for a few times – really liked vancouver. I reckon issue with vancouver is job opportunities otherwise weather is great there unlike mid to east coast of canada. My only concern about edmonton is weather in edmonton. As Im from australia and we are not used to such harsh weather.

    How do you see job opportunities in edmonton if I do my masters degree from uni of alberta in chemical engg by research in oil sands?

    Second rental prices close to uni of alberta and my kids tuition fee for year 1 and 3 as they’ll be international students?

    Look forward to hear from u.

    Regards.

  • Tommy says:

    Hej!

    I saw your post, and i like it. I plan to relocate myself from Croatia to Edmonton.

    Please, can you tell me is hard to find good well paid job? How much cost rent a little apartment?

    Thanks!!

    Tommy

  • Sean says:

    The only thing edmonton has going for it is the cost of real estate. Other than that its a sprawling ugly frozen hole with nothing to do for 8 months of the year.

    If you have the dough Vancouver is unbeatable.

    • Alan F Macdonald says:

      Hi Sean,

      I can see that a lot of people wouldn’t like the weather in Edmonton. I can totally see your point. It is cold, and it does sprawl too much. I wouldn’t say there’s nothing to do for 8 months, but what you do is definitely different based on the weather.

  • Sunny says:

    Is Edmonton a friendly city? I want to move out of Vancouver.

    • Alan F Macdonald says:

      Hi Sunny,

      I think so. In general people seem to be quite friendly. I think that is the case for most of Canada, of course.

  • Myra Miks says:

    Hey my husband and I are thinking of moving to Edmonton in the next year or two. We love the idea of space and maybe a fixer upper. The thought of being able to buy an actual house is tantalizing. What neighborhoods would you recommend? Is it worth it looking outside of the city with a little more space? Is it hard to get something near the river? which neighborhoods are most walk able? we would prefer something detached with a decent size yard.

    thanks!
    Myra

    • Alan F Macdonald says:

      Hi Myra,

      Those are excellent questions, but it’s pretty complicated. I don’t recommend any neighbourhoods specifically because they all have their benefits and drawbacks. Looking outside the city is also complicated because it depends on where you work and what you want to do with your time. It is not hard to get a home near the river if you can afford it. Much like it isn’t hard to get a home with an ocean view if you can afford it! Walk-ability has changed over the years – older neighbourhoods are generally walkable and very new neighbourhoods are too. In the middle, neighbourhoods are not as good, but it also depends on if there is anywhere to walk to. That is very different depending on where you live.

      -Alan

  • Heather Butler says:

    Alan,
    Thanks for the insight!
    My husband and I are looking to relocate to Calgary or Edmonton.
    I currently live in the US and my husband is in Montreal, and with the spousal sponsorship, we’re hoping to be together finally in the coming months.
    Are there any neighborhoods you could recommend for new, active families? I’m fairly active and live in Boise where my life is very convenient and this is attractive to me in finding a new home.
    Thanks again,

    Heather

    • Alan F Macdonald says:

      Hi Heather,

      I think you can be active in any part of Edmonton – it all depends on what you want to do and how close you want to be to your amenities.

  • Alisdair Archibald says:

    Nice post. I grew Up in Edmonton and then moved to Vancouver. I lived there for 17 years however it’s expensive and busy. So I moved back and used the money I had in property in Vancouver and bought a house in Edmonton with cash. I would never move back. If Skiing very regularly in the mountains, kayaking or mountain climbing Is your thing and you have an abundance of money, then Vancouver is for you. If friendly people, way more cultural events, and affordable living is your thing then Edmonton is for you.

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