Let's face it, being a young professional couple just doesn't cut it any more if you want entry to Vancouver's west side, where virtually every home goes for over a million.

So who's buying?

The answer is anyone with one or more of the following: wealthy boomer parents, equity from previous real estate or extremely high double-income earnings.

But even with those prerequisites, many are stretching their limits.

"Everybody maxes," says Marty Pospischil, a realtor with Dexter Realty specializing in the west side.

The profile of a typical buyer of a $1.3-million, three-bed, two-bath west-side home is a couple between 35 and 45 years old with one or two young children. They are both professionals who have ascended the ranks -- think stockbroker, lawyer, doctor.

They will usually have a down payment of $400,000 to $500,000 -- derived from a combination of personal equity, inheritance or a substantial gift from a wealthy boomer parent, says Pospischil.

That means they're still borrowing between $800,000-$900,000.

To make ends meet, the couple will rent out the basement for $1,500 a month. The rest -- monthly mortgage payments of $3,500 to $4,000 -- must be covered by income. "These are hefty mortgages. So they're scraping for every penny that they can get," says Pospischil.

The story on the east side is similar.

Lisa MacIntosh, a realtor specializing in first-time buyers on the east side, says her clients fall into two categories.

One is the single buyer -- often female -- in their 30s purchasing a condo in those three-storey walk-ups from the 1970s.

MacIntosh's other buyer is the young professional couple in their 30s with one, possibly two kids, looking to buy a detached house for between $600,000 and $800,000.

Like their west-side counterparts, they are "trust-fund kids" who have received help from boomer parents. Some got in the condo market a few years ago and made a healthy profit.

"It is definitely a stretch," says MacIntosh. "Most of them, 90 per cent of the time, there's a need for a basement suite to help cover the mortgage costs."

Drug money is also making its way into B.C. real estate, police say.

"We do know some of that money is making its way into construction, land development and hence real estate in terms of housing," said Sgt. Shinder Kirk, spokesman for the Integrated Gang Task Force.

The extent to which drug money is being laundered into property is difficult to quantify. But Kirk says the most notable example occurred last December when police seized nine luxury homes worth $6 million in Vancouver under proceeds-of-crime legislation.

Vancouver's also a prime destination for off-shore buyers who will spend $2,000 per square foot for the right location, says Bob Rennie, one of the city's most influential realtors.

But Rudy Nielsen, president of Landcor, a real-estate analysis firm, says the number of absentee owners in B.C. is not high.

Last year, real-estate volume across B.C. reached 158,000 sales, with a total value of $62 billion. Data by Landcor show only six per cent (9,300 sales) were by buyers who live out of province. The majority of them are from Alberta (6,319 sales) followed by the U.S. (819 sales).

What $750,000 will buy across North America

A typical house in Greater Vancouver now costs $764,616, according to March figures released by the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board. Here's what that will get you in Vancouver and across North America:

Vancouver (Kitsilano): For an extra $20,000, you can buy a 1,700-square-foot, two-bedroom suite on the ground level of a fourplex.


A three-year-old, two- bath, three-bed house. It is 1,762 square feet, featuring a kitchen with "stainless steel appliances, granite counters and backsplash" and nine-foot ceilings.


This house contains a whopping five bedrooms and three bathrooms. It's close to a lake and has a private yard shaded by mature trees.


A spacious 3,817-square-foot home with four bedrooms and 31/2 baths on a quarter of an acre. It is described as "full of gleaming hardwood, granite, marble and ceramic [with] panoramic windows."


This four-bedroom, two-bath home is just over 3,500 square feet. It is "framed by English gardens" and features hardwood floors and a detached music studio/office space.

New York:

A one-bedroom-and-bath Manhattan apartment. This "pre-war gem" is just half a block from Lincoln Center and Central Park. The "perfect home for opera/ ballet/philharmonic/ Central Park Lovers!!!"

San Francisco:

Three-bedroom-and-one-bathroom house with double-paned windows, new wall-to-wall carpet and a double garage.