Monday morning at the high school where I work, Nadia stepped with glee into the photocopy room about 15 minutes before the 9:00 bell. “Ruth, you’re going to be SO proud of me!” A drama teacher, Nadia is someone I have written about before. She’s the “Ms. G.” featured in a post I wrote in October of 2015 – “The (Not So) Great Escape Via Debt” – about her decision to travel on credit. A self-proclaimed sitter-on-the-fence when it comes to personal finances, she has talked with me a few times over the months as she and her husband Jason have been on the lookout for a larger home for their young family. This past weekend, they made their decision, and after Nadia gave me the details, I WAS proud of her. “You should write a post about it!” she said. So I am.
How long have you been living in your current home?
We have been at our current home for nearly 10 years. It’s a semi-detached bungalow duplex located centrally in the south-east of the city.
Why do you want to move out of it?
It has two living spaces (two apartments, top and bottom) both fully finished and furnished. We bought this thinking initially that it would be the best move financially because I was pregnant (without a full-time contract) and my husband was and remains self-employed. Yikes!!! So, having a renter in the basement was a big help to cover the mortgage early on. But once our first daughter grew older and we had our second child, our family needs grew until we made use of both living spaces. But we still felt cramped, and our desire to host extended family gatherings was never going to be feasible with the floor layouts. It was time to move on.
For how long have you been thinking of moving?
We’ve been thinking of moving for a while. However, it wasn’t until I got my full-time contract that we could even entertain the possibility. So in all honesty, it’s been 3 years! We didn’t rush because where we currently live we have made such fantastic friends. It’s a community close to work, and as such there is a strong sense of community here. It’s been fabulous for our kids growing up. The community centre holds weekly BBQs that include a kids sports program. I get emotional just thinking of leaving now. But we need the space where all of our family action doesn’t feel so confined.
Nadia, when you originally thought of moving, you had a strong scripting that said you should buy a single family home. Elaborate on that vision. Where do you think it came from? Describe the stress that it added to your home search.
Yes, absolutely! I placed a high standard on buying a single family home as it was my long held mental image. (Ruth you know me well and could clearly observe this). I don’t know where this idea came from really. Was it anxiety? Worry? Not enjoying the present? Or was it the activation of the ‘nesting’ need to provide for the family? All said, I am most likely influenced by my own suburbia upbringing in a single family home.
It goes without saying, financial stress is commonplace when trying to determine a budget and affordability. The search and selection process is an emotional stressor because you are constantly assessing your family priorities against each new home considered. We even occasionally found it physically stressful to do home tours if it involved porting along tired and cranky kids, or trying to find a babysitter on short notice. Our stress became more manageable after we had taken in several home visits, and we began to truly understand our family needs and wants to be able to compare them to the reality of what the housing market had to offer.
Jason, did you think differently from Nadia as you considered buying a larger home? Explain how. Were you also subjected to a powerful “scripting” of the kind of house you should buy?
My desire was to move to a single family home in a small community outside of the city, but then our whole family life would be uprooted. Plus, there would be long commutes which we have never had to contend with as downtowners. My thinking was very rational and based on a list of priorities that needed to be met 8 out of 10. Considerations like proximity to work and schools, price, room size, # of baths, garage, green space . . . – it took a few home tours to truly know what our “Wish List” was. That being said, I was not overly influenced by other “scripting’ other than listening to what others suggested as a safe and suitable neighbourhood. For me, it was just a matter of sifting through home listings and looking for the best fit.
Describe your thought processes as you viewed single family homes to potentially buy?
We definitely had to ‘rationalize the upsize’ and go with a feasible plan that met our needs now and for the next few years. It was always our plan to retain our current home as an income property for a future retirement nest egg. This choice limited the extent of our budget affordability.
We initially focused our home search to our current area, but we were dismayed by the average age of the homes (50+ years) and one of two scenarios:
- they required renovations and/or a number of maintenance fixes
- they were already renovated and out of our budget range.
It just seemed like an endless list of work and hassle. There was always a sacrifice to be made or a risk to assume which led us to look a little further afield for something much newer.
When you saw the end unit town-home that you have chosen, what about it appealed to you?
I do admit, the fact that we’re not making the next step to a single family home weighs at the back of my mind, but that will subside knowing we made a responsible decision financially. I’m really proud of myself and my husband and how we came to our decision. Now we get the best of everything. In purchasing this new large end unit townhome, we have :
MORE SPACE (need)
FOREST AS OUR BACKYARD (nature, freedom)
ENSUITE IN THE MASTER (comfort, peace)
GIRLS HAVE THEIR OWN ROOMS (independence – our girls shared a room/bond but are now growing up.)
SMALL INCREASE IN OUR MONTHLY EXPENSES (affordable)
NO MORE RENO PROJECTS! (time and cash flow saving)
And because we are not selling our current property, we will revert it back to an income property and rent it out as a duplex – which was Jason’s plan from the start. It will provide a nest egg for our future retirement. For us, real estate is the right choice to balance our incomes, as it is the ultimate forced savings program that appreciates over time.
Nadia, what factors do you think impacted your shift from wanting a single family home to wanting the semi-detached?
Well – if I could get a single family in the exact location with the same price I would have jumped! But one of my goals is to be more astute financially. I had a pretty privileged upbringing. Result? I wasn’t the best with money. Rather, I spend. But one thing I’m proud of is I like a great deal. And this home provides that. Our property taxes are lower, we have an investment in our current property, and we get the space our family needs.
The other thing that is important to note is that I wasn’t willing to move far. If the kids had been younger and I wasn’t established at the school where I work (and I still count myself so incredibly lucky to work at a place that I love every single minute!) I could have moved farther. But I didn’t want to uproot my life and the social scene my kids are part of. Yes we could have bought a single family in the city, but we would have been house poor. Literally, we would have sat in a beautiful empty big house and travelled nowhere. I didn’t want that. So we came across this gem. The girls don’t have to change schools, and we get our new and improved space.
Jason, would you say you were relieved when Nadia made this shift?
Yes, I was relieved. Although I am the reno type, I had no interest or bandwidth to take on a fixer-upper. This ready-to-live-in house will let me focus on building my businesses instead of dropping money into renos or repairs on an older home.
How do you see your decision positively impacting your next several years?
We purposely bought less than we can afford so we can have some lifestyle flexibility, like annual travel trips. But ultimately, we don’t want our personal finances to be our top decision-making variable.
Have you ever experienced the competing priorities involved in buying a home? Can you relate to Nadia and Jason’s story? Your comments are welcome : )
*Image courtesy of Flickr