Vancouver named the most expensive city in North America


According to the latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit, Vancouver is the most expensive city to inhabit in North America ahead of Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.  I wasn’t surprised to see Vancouver on this list, but didn’t expect it to come up ahead of these major U.S. cities.

According to the survey, there are 20 cities worldwide that are more expensive to live in than Vancouver.  I thought it would be interesting to know what a million dollars would buy you in the top five most expensive cities…as we know in YVR it gets us a crack shack on a tiny pile of dirt.

5. Melbourne, Australia

Just over a million dollars will get you this charming half-duplex in sunny Melbourne:


4. Oslo, Norway

In Oslo, Norway, you won’t get a house for a million dollars.  You can, however purchase a modern 1000 square foot apartment on the outskirts of the city:


3. Sydney, Australia 

In Sydney, a million dollars can get you a small condo in the city or a three bedroom townhouse like this one in popular (and noisy) Kings Cross:


2. Osaka, Japan

Not feeling too bad about the crack shacks here after seeing what a million dollars will buy you in Osaka…one of these apartments (looks more like a storage locker!):


1. Tokyo, Japan

In Tokyo, the best you can do for a million dollars is a three bedroom apartment like this one:




Suddenly, our Vancouver crack shacks aren’t looking so bad…guess it could be worse!

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  1. I can’t speak for Australia or Japan, but I can tell you that in Norway the salaries are MUCH higher. So a million dollars in Norway is not nearly as much as it is here. There was that study (can’t remember where it came from) that placed Vancouver as the second most expensive city in the world after Hong Kong, when comparing average salaries to average house prices. That is a more reasonable way to measure whether something is expensive or not.

  2. You are absolutely right Alexandra, affordability is a relative measure. Although I have to say your samples are interesting and yeah, the Vancouver million dollar shacks don’t look so bad now. In terms of affordability we should be really looking at how much of your income on average do you spend on housing. But It’s not only income and housing price ratios, other necessities matter as well. For instance, what is the public transportation system like? If you live in transit hubs or dense mixed use areas, you may not require a car which leaves you vastly more disposable income. This is something that really needs to be looked at more carefully since some of these necessities that come with a so-called affordable home in the outskirts or suburbs may not be so after you pay for transportation in both money and time.

    • I agree with Auli that it’s not just income. We’re an example of a family that doesn’t need to own a car, because cycling, walking, transit & car-sharing actually are viable alternatives. This is part of the reason we managed to squeeze into the housing market in the city of Vancouver.

      Cost of childcare is a huge factor in affordability for families too–if BC had a subsidy like Quebec thousands of families would have a lot more disposable income. Not sure how much this impacts the average though, since people using childcare aren’t the majority of the population at any given time.

  3. Is it just me or does the Osaka listing include ALL the apartments for that price? I see in the listing that they mention a 12% yield so that could make a big difference. Not that I want to be a slum landlord, just curious.

    • When I searched, I looked for individual apartments, not buildings. This was listed under single apartment…but, it’s plausible something was lost in translation.

  4. Vancouver’s inaffordability isn’t just the cost of buying real estate. What also makes it the most unaffordable city in North America is the cost of rentals, the cost of transit (worst transit system I have ever experienced and the most expense). It’s the cost of restaurants, parking, entertainment, etc. Having lived in Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles and other major cities around the world, Vancouver truly is the most expensive and generally the most over-rated.

  5. I think Vic has the best take on it. He has real life experience in other major cities. Housing to buy and rent are very expensive. Salaries have not kept up at all in the last 20 years and have remained largely the same yet the city has had one steep upward curve in costs on EVEYTHING. Nobody speaks of the costs of Groceries. Not having a car is not a substitute for these increased costs. Believe me you need one if you expect to get around in a timely manner. I have lived there to know. I’m glad I don’t live there anymore. You’re trapped in this super expensive bowl backed onto pretty mountains with almost nothing to do. Yes it’s pretty, clean and very pleasant but not worth the price of admission.

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