July 14, 2024

Architectural Design Kingdom

Home is where the heart is

West Vancouver puts stop-work order on YouTuber’s DIY home renovation

5 min read

They are not the only first-time homebuyers in Vancouver who are finding ownership a gruelling financial undertaking

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The district of West Vancouver has halted renovations a YouTuber has been conducting on an abandoned house she purchased with her boyfriend eight months ago.

“We have severe bad news,” Jenna Phipps, 28, told her 1.5 million subscribers in a video she posted to the online platform last week.

“Probably the worst news to date,” her 27-year-old boyfriend, Nick Volkov, added.

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The couple, who bought a $2.1 million, 2,757-square-foot house on rocky bluffs overlooking Howe Sound in September, had hopes of transforming it into their forever home through DIY work.

But on May 17, the district issued a stop-work order for construction on the house. It granted an emergency permit for the removal of part of its roof six days later.

However, the rest of the house remains under legal notice.

“Before (the) commencement of construction, all necessary building and trade permits must be issued with requisite assurances from registered professionals of record,” the district of West Vancouver told Postmedia News Friday.

“The partial permit was granted based on the emergency status as verified through a structural engineer assessment submitted by the owners.”

jenna phipps
Jenna Pipps and Nick Volkov bought an abandoned home in West Vancouver Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10104211A

Phipps and Volkov, who said they applied for a permit in February, have expressed frustration over the length of time it has taken the district to process their application.

“We’ve been going back and forth for like three months with the city,” Phipps said in the video.

While waiting to hear back, the couple had bided their time by cleaning out furniture, stripping drywall and hardwood flooring, as well as performing landscape work on the property.

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“We’d just been doing stuff that does not affect the structure,” said Phipps.

“The thing is, it is not clear with our city how you can go about renovations. They did not tell us anything — they didn’t tell us what we’re allowed to do, they didn’t tell us what we weren’t allowed to do.”

The couple’s reasons for buying the fixer-upper in the first place were to be able to live in a single-family home in their desired neighbourhood.

They are not the only first-time homebuyers in Vancouver who are finding ownership a gruelling financial undertaking.

A report released last month from the Royal Bank of Canada found that by the end of 2023, 106.4 per cent of a median income was needed to cover ownership costs, meaning that only select high-income earners can afford to buy or put enough money down toward a purchase.

Because of the property’s condition, Volkov and Phipps opted to take a private two-year loan. They are counting on being allowed to renovate the home to be able to refinance it, securing a traditional mortgage.

But the work that needs to be done on their house will be no small feat.

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Empty for four years, it was so dilapidated that the couple’s realtor had them sign a waiver before first entering the house. It has a slanted roof, mould and high levels of moisture from water that has seeped in over the years.

Last week, after receiving an emergency permit to remove just a part of their roof, Phipps and Volkov got to work.

“Question: How do you take off a roof?” Phipps asked Volkov in her latest video.

“I don’t know,” the tech project manager replied.

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