Local real estate lingo can be somewhat bewildering; each city/country seems to have its own set of terms peculiar to that part of the world. House-hunting can be made easier by becoming familiar with the locally-used terminology.
In Vancouver, apartments are usually referred to as condominiums, as most apartment buildings are controlled by a strata council, which administers the care-taking of the building.
Condos are available for rent, both furnished and unfurnished. Unfurnished condos will have major kitchen appliances, window coverings, and sometimes, a washer and dryer. Furnished condos will offer all this plus basic furniture. Sometimes you can find furnished condos that offer everything you need to set up housekeeping, including linens and towels, but this is an exception to the rule, and would usually cost substantially more than just your basic furnished place.
Condos are also available for purchase. When browsing the local listings, you might come across terminology such as “en-suite,” “insuite,” “bachelor,” “flex-space,” “den,” and “washroom.” En-suite denotes a bathroom connected to a bedroom, such as in the master suite (master bedroom). Insuite usually refers to a washer/dryer right in the condo or suite. A bachelor condo is the same thing as a studio apartment; everything is in one room, and there is no separate bedroom. Flex-space is a small nook in some condos that can be whatever you want it to be—a study or small office space, reading corner, etc. A den is very nearly the same thing as a flex-space, but is usually somewhat bigger, with room for a more complete office, and is sometimes big enough to be a second bedroom. A den can typically be closed off from the living space. A washroom is simply a bathroom/lavatory.
Houses are available both for rent and for purchase, but it can be hard to find a whole-house rental. More often, houses are either divided up into a group of suites (apartments), or split into duplexes and re-categorized as townhomes. Some private homes offer “basement suites” for rent, where the lower level of the house is rented out as a separate unit. It is also possible to find single rooms for rent in private homes. In searching for a house to rent or buy, you will likely come across the “Vancouver Special.” This is a hastily-built, two-story, flat-fronted house put up between 1950 and 1970 (or so). The intended purpose was for extended families to be able to live together under one roof, and each floor is typically a self-contained unit. There are rather a lot of them in Eastside Vancouver, unfortunately, since these houses are rather dismally unattractive.
When looking for a home with a certain number of rooms, keep in mind that local listings will usually tell you how many bedrooms there are, and what the square footage is, but usually not the total number of rooms. A typical one-bedroom condo in Vancouver will be between 450 – 600 square feet. A two-bedroom condo or suite will be between 700-1000 square feet, but more commonly right around 800 square feet. Houses are usually no more than 2500 square feet, and that is on the larger size. Vancouverites have learned to make do with less space, particularly because most people spend the greater portion of their leisure time out of doors.
Some typical abbreviations that you’ll find in newspaper classifieds include:
- N/S = no smoking
- N/P = no pets
- W/D = washer/dryer
- U/G = underground (as in, parking)
- F/P = fireplace
- H/W = hardwood (as in, floors)
- D/W = dishwasher
- reno = renovated/renovations
- hydro = BC Hydro, electric company for British Columbia.