Andrea, your story has made us think twice about our tentative plan to end up in Vancouver someday. Are prices as high elsewhere in coastal BC, such as Victoria? My girlfriend is from coastal France, and she fell in love with Vancouver when we were there last summer; the climate is similar to what she's used to, many of the plants are the same, and she felt very much at home. But we'd probably want to be further out, maybe on Vancouver Island, which is why I'm curious about Victoria.
Well, if you don't mind a long commute, you could get a nice house in Langley (1-1.5hrs from Van in rush hour) for $400k+. In Victoria, it looks like you can buy in Saanich for $550k-$600k and have a nice home, although I don't know about commutes. Colwood and Langford (a bit further) seem to be $350k-$450k for starters.
If you go up Island, say to Nanaimo (where I grew up), you can buy an executive home with waterviews for under $500k.
But here's what you get for $900k in Vancouver if you don't want to live on a major road or on the east side: http://www.mls.ca/PropertyDetails.aspx?vd=&SearchURL=%3fPage%3d4%26Mode%3d0%26vs%3d1%26rlt%3d%26cp%3d%26pt%3d1%26mp%3d0-0-0%26mrt%3d-1-0-0%26Beds%3d3-0%26Baths%3d0-0%26f%3d%26ft%3dall%26o%3dA%26of%3d1%26ps%3d10%26ptgid%3d1%26aid%3d6577%26MapURL%3d%253fAreaID%253d6577&Mode=0&PropertyID=5606859