Living in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada - 5 Relocating to Victoria

posted on Oct 07

If you’re contemplating taking up residence in Victoria, perhaps buying a home here, or renting a house or an apartment, you would be wise to come out for a bit of an extended visit first, preferably during the winter months.

Many people come to Victoria in the summer, when the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the city is alive with tourists and festivals.  During the winter months, things are different, and if you’re averse to living where it’s rainy and wet for long stretches at a time, it’s better to “try before you buy”. So consider renting somewhere for a few weeks, or a month and see how you adjust to the weather.

The next question you may ask yourself is “what areas of Victoria should I consider if I move out there?” So here’s a quick run down of the various areas within the city of Victoria, but not including the surrounding “bedroom communities” which I will write about in a future blog.

Downtown Core  - here you will find many multi residential options. There are literally hundreds of condominiums scattered throughout the downtown area, many available to buy, or to rent.  There are also an increasing number of properties that are being “purpose-built” as “rental only” buildings.  You’ll also find a small handful of single-family dwellings, dotted here and there amid the high-rise and commercial buildings. Some of these are quite charming in nature; others tend to be less than desirable as they await the ultimate fate of the wrecker’s ball.  Rental prices for unfurnished apartments in downtown apartments will range from about $1,000 to $1,500 per month or more, depending upon the size, specific location and floor (in a high-rise building).  Selling prices will range from the mid $200K to $700K and more, again depending upon size, location and floor.

James Bay – a multi-faceted area, with a seaside flavor, James Bay grew from a residential area near the waterfront and the various harbours, to an area that almost lost its charm in the 60’s and 70’s when low rise and high rise apartment buildings replaced many of the gracious homes in the community.  Today it is a mix of houses, flats, condominiums and high-rise rental apartments, with a small village area that serves the local residents with a supermarket, small shops, cafes and bakeries.  James Bay offers easy access to downtown Victoria, the Victoria Clipper and MV Coho ferry terminals, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ogden Point cruise ship terminal, the Helijet port and the Canadian Coastguard base.  Rental prices are only slightly lower, on average, than downtown rentals, while selling prices in multi-unit residential buildings will be less.  Single-family dwellings will range in price from the mid $300k to $600-$700k range.

Fairfield – primarily a residential area, close to Beacon Hill park and not too far from downtown Victoria, this community is home to many young families who enjoy the tree-lined streets, the proximity to the Dallas Road waterfront area and the park, and the vibrant Cook Street Village area.  Some regard Fairfield as being “yuppie central” as locals sit and sip designer coffees on the terraces of the local Starbucks and other coffee shops, or shop in the local organic and health food stores.  Still, it is a friendly and welcoming community, which is much loved by its residents.  There are fewer multi-unit residential buildings in Fairfield and, those that are situated there, are mostly occupied by long-term senior residents.  Single-family dwellings are, for the most part, occupied by young homeowners who are intent on getting their start in life with a good solid dwelling that can be worked on and improved over time.  Rents in the Fairfield area, which would mostly be for suites-in-residences, will range from about $700-$1,000 per month.  Prices of single-family dwellings will range from the low $500K to $800k range.

Fernwood – “Funky Fernwood” is a community in transition, where lots of gentrification is taking place. It’s terrific location, close to downtown, close proximity to the Royal Jubilee Hospital and the Hillside Shopping Centre, makes it the ideal place for urban living.  Fernwood is one of Victoria’s most historic areas, and is comprised, primarily, of single-family dwellings. Fernwood has a powerful sense of community and is well served by two very active community organizations, which promote the well being of the area.  A vibrant village core, the cornerstone of which is the village square, the location of the renowned Belfry Theatre, housed in a beautifully renovated church, is also home to Stages, one of the very best café/wine bars in the city, and a bustling neighbourhood pub, The Fernwood Inn.  A small community grocery store that sells many local organic vegetables and fruits as well as a Caribbean restaurant and an Asian fusion restaurant are just a few of the other popular spots. Rents in the Fernwood area, which would mostly be for suites-in-residences, will range from about $700-$1,000 per month.  Prices of single-family dwellings will range from the low $400K to $800k range.

Vic West – located on the west shore of the Inner Harbour, the small community of Vic West is a mix of residential, commercial and industrial areas.  Getting to downtown Victoria is a little more challenging, given the stretch of inland waterway that separates it from other parts of the city.  Having said that, there are some charming, tree-lined side streets, pleasant parks and waterfront walkways that make this neighbourhood a charming, if somewhat isolated area of the city.  There are a couple of small shopping areas, where you’ll find a few coffee shops and convenience stores, and not too far away is the West Side Centre, home to a supermarket, Starbucks Coffee, McDonalds and a number of other familiar brand name stores.  Although, technically not a part of Vic West, it is neighbour to the Dockside Green area, which is a large-scale “green community” adjacent to the Point Hope Shipyard. Still under development, Dockside Green will, when it is fully built-out, be almost completely self-sufficient, with energy efficient multi-unit residential and commercial buildings, it’s own water treatment system and a network of walkways and bike paths running through it.  Rents in the Vic West area, mostly for suites-in-residences, will range from about $700-$1,000 per month.  Prices of single-family dwellings will range from the low $400K to $700k range.

Songhees – directly across the water from the Inner Harbour, on the west shore, the Songhees area was once a derelict industrial area, where old, disused oil tanks and pumping stations were located. It was/is a part of the original lands belonging to the Songhees Nation, a local aboriginal band,  30 years ago, the area was completely re-developed and is now a small community of residential condominium units, which line the waterfront overlooking the city and the eastern shore of the harbor.  Here you will find almost no options in terms of dwelling types, and very little sense of community.  Many local residents complain that this area is too “sterile”, with no shopping, restaurants or other community facilities.  But the Songhees area is undergoing some changes; with the construction of a number of new high rise developments now under construction. There is also a promised “community market” area, that has been proposed for the old railway roundhouse at the terminus of the now-defunct E&N railway line, that once offered train service from Victoria all the way up to Campbell River.  Also, just on the edge of the Songhees neighbourhood you’ll find a wonderful, and very popular local pub restaurant called Spinnakers, which overlooks the harbor and where they have their own in-house microbrewery.  Rents in the Songhees area, mostly for condominium type dwellings will range from approximately $1,000 to $2,500 per month.  Prices will be in the area of $350K to $900K.

I'd also like to recommend a local "Relocation Expert", Rachel LaRiviere at Rivers Relocation  Rachel is a helpful and knowledgeable person who will go the extra mile for you when you've decided to make the transition to your new life in Victoria.

So, think about a visit to Victoria, when you can stay for a few weeks or more in order for you to get a sense of our city and whether, or not, it will be the sort of place you could come to live in.  Of course, if you’re looking for a fully-furnished and well equipped downtown rental apartment, don’t forget to check our City Life Suites web site, where you can find information about our vacation and short-term rental apartments.

Next time around I’ll provide information about other communities surrounding the core City of Victoria and which comprise the area that is known as Greater Victoria and the Capital Regional District.  Areas such as Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, Langford, Colwood and Metchosin.