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Whalley is the new Yaletown: Canada's smallest condos are in Surrey

Is a look at Canada's tiniest condos also a peek at Vancouver's future: small spaces in the suburbs?

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This is not to suggest that you have to move into a genie's lamp. Price-wise, comparables in Whalley aren't even comparable: some are more than twice the size of what you'd find at Balance for the same price. If the neighbourhood is really turning into Yaletown-on-the-Fraser, those older properties will appreciate in value as well.

Hot an' fresh out the kitchen/living room/sleeping area

Balance consists of 56 units over four floors. The indoor amenity room is the same size as one of the smaller units, so get there early.  My reservations are clearly not shared by everyone: as you can see below, Tien Sher is claiming that nearly half of the units have pending deals. One of the sales staff confided that, were I interested in a unit that was red-dotted, there was still a chance that the deal on it would fall through. This made me ponder how serious an offer had to be in order to warrant a red dot. Also, there was no way for me to know how many were from investors and how many were from first-time home buyers.

Balance presales

A room of one's own

Leaving aside whether or not a $130,000 shoebox in Whalley is a sound investment, its very existence suggests one thing to the Lower Mainland's would-be first-time homeowners: "You missed the boat on Vancouver".

I wish I could argue more vehemently against that, I really do. The Fraser River may well be the new frontier: just around the river's bend you'll find River District, another single-developer stab at predicting the next great Vancouverite migration. Soon the idea of owning in Vancouver's inner suburbs might just seem silly: that's already the case for many in the working class anyway.

If you're shopping for a condo in, say, San Francisco, you wouldn't even consider the Marina or North Beach or Pacific Heights if you were a first-timer; unless you were really bad at math. Nah, you'd look at the East Bay.

University students looking to get out of the rental market will come of age having never seen a downtown apartment as a possibility. So, yeah, Surrey, why not?

Is this really the future? Tiny apartments in the 'burbs and a 45-minute SkyTrain commute to the city?

Surrey (and Whalley in particular) must first overcome the aforementioned stigma, as is evidenced in this Reddit thread:

"Who the f*ck would want to live in Whalley?"

Remember, people said the same thing about most of Brooklyn. The question is how long will Vancouver's outer suburbs take to appreciate?

King of the tiny spaces

Balance may boast Canada’s smallest condos, but these are not Canada’s smallest apartments overall. That title goes to the micro lofts found in the Burns Block, which top out at 290 square feet: all rental units. So, slightly smaller, but with a far better location.

What could you do with such a small space? Hong Kong architect Gary Chang can give you a few pointers. To be fair, Chang's high-rise tenement apartment is 330 square feet, huge compared to those found in Balance or the Burns Block, but just look at what he did with it.

It's fascinating, exciting, and (perhaps most of all) depressing that the future of our living spaces involves furniture with hinges.

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