This is part four of our five-part series about understanding money. We looked at our biggest expense and our greatest asset—our home to fund our new lifestyle. We’ve collaborated with our financial advisor, Matthew Lekushoff, to discuss why chose to sell our home and invest our resources. This topic and the other elements in this series led to our money management plan to live and work anywhere in the world.
When Troy and I first got excited about the idea of creating a new lifestyle, there was little deliberation about the future of our home—we were adamant that we would rent it for a year while we traveled.
We bought our home ten years earlier in a once undesirable neighborhood that quickly gentrified into a trendy area with vintage charm, excellent restaurants, cafés, and bars—all within walking distance to downtown Toronto. Throughout the years, we replaced the furnace, windows, re-insulated the walls, rebuilt the rooftop deck, added a bathroom, and renovated the other bathroom. It was a labor of love, but also a significant,costly commitment.
During the planning phase for our new lifestyle (from January 2014 to January 2015), we added “rent the house” to our detailed to-do list. It was at that time we met a friend for coffee, and she asked us a very pointed question,
Hmmm. We hadn’t thought of our home as something we might not need. This one question, along with the work on our values and goals, became the catalyst to re-examining our views on selling.
When we met with Matthew Lekushoff, the topic of our home was a big piece of the discussion. After evaluating all our options, and gaining insight into Matthew’s perspective, we changed our minds. We decided to sell our home and invest the proceeds of the sale, after paying off our mortgage and other debt. We would use these funds as an enabler for our new lifestyle. (We discuss this investment approach in detail in Part 5 of this series.)
It may seem downright crazy that we sold our home in a city and a neighborhood in a thriving real estate market, rather than wait another ten years or more. We didn’t take this decision lightly.
Not every housing market in the world is considered a good market these days, so we appreciate your real estate and financial situation may be different from ours, but here is why we sold our home to fund our new lifestyle.
Owning a home was no longer consistent with the new values and goals Troy and I established. Freedom was our ultimate aim. Freedom from house and utility payments, freedom from unforeseen, surprise home expenses. Take, for instance, expenses such as basement flooding repairs, roof repairs, appliance breakdowns—we wanted to stop the house outlay insanity! We wanted independence, to go where new job opportunities were, to travel more often, instead of feeling stagnant in the same place. Above all, we craved a different, more flexible, lifestyle.
Of course, we needed shelter, but did the idea of “home” need to be the same version of the houses we’d had before? From a young age, we were both programmed into thinking that buying a home was an aspirational goal in life, a symbol of success. Although home ownership had some joys, it definitely had more frustrations.
Rationally, we asked ourselves: “Will we come back to this home and live in it to enjoy it or will we become absentee owners for a rental property?” We had no family in Toronto, and neither of us wanted to retire in this home.
We realized we were holding onto the house for sentimental reasons, not practical. We feared setting ourselves free of the responsibility and security of owning a home, in case our new lifestyle didn’t work out. It was for comfort. It was an emotional response.
Plenty could have gone wrong in our home while we were away and we didn’t think we would have the patience or time to deal with them remotely. We would have to deal with tasks such as:
We decided to reject this approach, to free ourselves from this headache.
After talking to Matthew, we liked the idea of putting our money in flexible, diversified investments because:
If and when interest rates rise from these historic low rates, buying and keeping a mortgaged home could be problematic, forcing anyone to spend more than they originally intended. However, if you aren’t a big saver, a mortgage can be a forced savings mechanism where you have no option but to pay for the house.
We also realized that when selling our home, some of the improvements we made didn’t pay off. We had a Victorian Rowhouse with two neighbors attached on each side. An old character home meant old methods of drywall and insulation, thus creating a poor sound barrier. After spending thousands of dollars to fix the sound problem, it did nothing to increase the value of our home. Home repairs are not always planned, nor do they always create positive gains on your future home price.
Home ownership can create a cycle of unnecessary spending and overwhelming clutter. When it’s your home, you want to decorate it nicely and live comfortably with things you like—until you no longer use them and they end up in the basement or cupboards. Of course, this is true if you rent your home, but when it’s yours, there is a heightened sense of accumulating. We have been down this path of unnecessary spending and clutter, and we do not want to go there again. This system slowly devours your paycheck, where you could have spent that money investing in something that scientifically creates more happiness.
What are your views on selling your home or considering alternatives to home ownership? What decisions would you make to create your new lifestyle?
Coming next week: Part 5 of our Understanding Money Series – How we afford to travel long-term
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Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com