VFX Artist Aruna Inversin has a great post on Vancouver’s skyrocketing real estate prices:
Making a decision to move up north is not a small feat, especially in this rough and tumble world of the quick buck, cheap labor, and inadequate contracts. Here’s one reason to think twice.
Demographia, a property-affordability survey published by Illinois-based consultant Wendell Cox, estimates that median real-estate prices in Vancouver are 9.5 times median household income. Only Hong Kong and Sydney are less affordable by that measure. (New York comes in at 5.1.)
I’ve written a few posts on how Vancouver’s real estate market is the most unaffordable in the world.
However, even if real estate is affordable, I’ve written that VFX artists shouldn’t buy a home because the nature of the industry is project based. Even if you had gainful employment in Los Angeles, bouncing between Imageworks, Disney, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, and Rhythm & Hues are still long commutes from the suburbs. A mortgage is for 30 years, nobody had been at the same vfx company for that long… unless you’re George Lucas.
The Cost Of Living
Furthermore, even if you were just renting, you are subject to huge costs of living. There is a cost of living index taken every year by Mercer which helps companies measure the cost of living for employees about to make a move. It’s based off measuring housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. You can view the whole list here. I’ve listed cities where major VFX facilities reside below:
- 8 – Singapore
- 14 – Sydney
- 18 – London
- 65 – Vancouver
- 77 – Los Angeles
- 95 – Mumbai
- 106 – San Francisco
- 136 – Wellington
What’s crazy about this list is that Vancouver, Singapore, and London which are commonly known to pay lower rates than Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Wellington rank way up in the cost of living index. But there is one more huge burden we are forgetting when we choose to make the jump:
I’ll bet not many VFX artists based in the US know this but if you chose to go work in another country, you still have to pay taxes on foreign income, even if you paid foreign taxes. A co-worker recently asked his CPA about moving to Vancouver and basically gave him this advice:
You need to make sure to stay out of the US for 18 or more months to not pay any US or CA state taxes. You can deduct the taxes you pay in Canada but will still owe money to the US fed if you stay out less than a year. You will still be taxed as a CA resident unless you stay out of CA for more than 18 months.
Obviously I’m hearing this from one person so if you know differently please comment below.
I’m always intrigued by colleagues who are in London one project, then bounce to Vancouver for another project. How does anyone save money doing that? If you’re one of those people feel free to comment. What’s your savings percentage? Whats your total tax percentage after deductions?