moving | mindwi.seedit

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From 2016 to 2021, our life was a sequence of moves. From Montreal to Vancouver to North Vancouver to Kelowna to Montreal. And we are yet to find our sweet spot...

Here is a diary ascending by date.

Sept 2016: Long without writing anything on this blog, the time has come to come back to life and announce that what I have been preparing for so long is happening now. Indeed, now on the other side of the second largest country, having given up on a well-located house and two perfect jobs on both the working schedule and the conditions, I am discovering so many possibilities on the West Coast.

The first step is currently to find a roof to inhabit a pleasant space. From a 2000 square foot house, it is very likely that the apartment we will live in will be 500 square feet. More expensive than expected, smaller than expected, we fell in love with this space. Charming yes, because the location is ideal, the interior space is freshly renovated in a modern style and we have achieved what less is more was. The limited space leads us to rethink our possessions, those that we already thought minimal will have to be more!

Thus, it will therefore be necessary to purify the kitchen equipment by selling superfluous accessories, rethink the storage space dedicated to this purpose in order to make it usable daily (and not a tote) and avoid buying additional furniture.

The silver lining is seeing the challenge of this change and what it will bring: time for recreation.

On the budget side, wages will undoubtedly be higher here given the lower tax rate and expenses will be more fixed (no unexpected housing expenses). I estimate that previously we had 27% of our free income after running expenses and savings. Now that will be around 49% (but savings will have to be increased to compensate for the fact that no capital is accumulated in a mortgage). To obtain savings similar to before, we will get 37% of our free income, which is already an improvement.

Aug 2017: By October 1, there is a possibility that we will move to a new apartment of a slightly more generous size, going from 453 square feet to 507. The big change will undoubtedly be the location which will be much more advantageous for one of us vis-à-vis the work.

Although our current apartment is well positioned between the two workplaces and vis-à-vis certain parks / beaches of interest, it appears after a year that the tranquility of the neighborhood is lacking. Thus, moving close to one of the two workplaces makes sense to save on transport for one of us, but also to provide peace and different comfort. We would also have access to a secure storage space in the underground garage in order to free up the interior space of the apartment. So getting an additional 50 square feet will appear more like 100-120 square feet since larger items that are used less often (sports, camping, or tools for example) will be in the easily accessible storage.

In addition, there is an exterior door at ground level with a water outlet and a 200 square foot deck, which suits us very well!

Financially, this will impact our budget on several levels:

In the end, we are talking about savings of $ 1,704 / year, plus one month's rent. To fully understand this, we must consider that the transport time will be about 25 minutes more per day for one of us, which is to be considered. This will undoubtedly affect the same person, but the possibility of additional leave at the rate of one day per 2 or 3 weeks compensates.

So we will have a confirmation within a few days if we get this apartment!

Update 2017-08-17: That's it, we have been chosen for the apartment! The contract will be signed within a few days. More details to come.

Nov 2017: After a month in our new apartment, let's assess whether it is financially efficient. We made the decision to use public transport instead of the car to get to work located 23 km from the house.

Moving costs

Savings made every month

Future savings per month

New costs

In the end, this will therefore be $ 113 in savings per month. Thus, in 3 months, we will recover the initial investment of $ 300 for the move. Over a rental period of 18 months, this therefore represents $ 1,695 ($ 113 / month * 15 months).

The current problem is rather at the level of food expenditure. Firstly valued at $ 720 / month, it will be necessary to check frequently that this is respected, without having any repercussions on the "restaurants" component. Spending almost $ 1000 a month to feed 2 adults seems excessive.

Oct 2018: Coming back to his native region brings to life several very different emotions. The strongest currently is undoubtedly the one where you don't feel in the right place, where the only reason that would keep me coming back permanently is the low cost of real estate. With one decision, we could come back easily, but our wish is to stay in British Columbia in order to live closer to our passions and our values.

On the East Coast, we both experience a strange form of unease about the great outdoors. Everything is so far from everything, the highways are vast, the residential areas are so low in density that not owning a car is absolute nonsense. This kind of spatial organization leaves us each a little perplexed as to how we were able to live there without ever realizing it. Being a prisoner in your car, spending time in it in order to get everywhere and nowhere doesn't make sense to us.

A form of inner void is created, mixed with uncertainty. Returning to a known place with most of your acquaintances and family should create a sense of well-being, but quite the opposite. The eagerness to return to our new home builds slowly over the course of our stay. Even if despite the small living spaces and the costs of real estate and renting do not make life easy, British Columbia now seems to be synonymous with home for us ... and our future offspring!

Our medium-term plan is therefore to find a larger condo while taking into account the current fluctuating real estate market and to stabilize in the same place in order to build a family and live by respecting our values ​​and allocating the time to this. we like it the most.

Nov 2018: We will take possession of our new condo a few steps from our current apartment.

Rented apartment:

Condominium purchased:

This new condo will therefore be a great improvement and we plan to reside there for the long term with the upcoming birth of a child. The space will be surprisingly ample, having been used for 2 years to live in very small apartments without much storage.

The sunk costs are almost similar (regardless of the interest rate on the mortgage and the remaining balance). The biggest change is managing the risk of a home in a city where speculation is mixed with the habit of seeing high prices.

Maintenance costs include heat, natural gas for the stove and water. The electricity costs to pay will therefore be less than what we are currently paying ($ 26 / month), probably around $ 20 / month. Home insurance will increase slightly from $ 20 to $ 26 / month. These two costs therefore cancel each other out.

Sept 2020: Our condo has been for sale for a long time now and no offer has been made to turn the page on this chapter of our adventure. Despite this, our plans begin to form, to define themselves in order to write an additional chapter.

We want to rent temporarily in order to give ourselves all the time necessary to find a condo that will do the job in the long term. Our desire to stay in British Columbia is growing every day, despite some negative sides.

An important aspect of our plan is to return to work part-time for my wife and to use daycare services 3 days a week to socialize and develop our child, who is already almost 18 months old!

Financially, the daycare is not cheap. We're talking about $ 960 / month for 3 days a week, which is tax deductible, so the net cost is estimated at around $ 650. Still high, this will allow my spouse to draw a net monthly income of about $ 2000, which has been totally non-existent since last April (at the end of maternity leave).

Our budget, which is very tight at the moment, will be relieved somewhat. Even if my personal income was higher than expected [during the first 6 months] (? Balance-of-mid-2020) of the year, the last 6 will have no bonus. This means that we are driving to the limit of the possible and the savings will be minimal.

All the same, we continue to save when possible by buying used goods, by reselling certain items at a profit (especially toys) and by limiting certain expenses. However, other expenses increase significantly. This is the case with condominium fees, home insurance costs and food (which we are trying to control).

Otherwise, we are still considering disposing of the car. Even though its value is low (less than $ 4000), its average monthly costs are around $ 300 to which we can add depreciation ($ 80 / month) and parking space that could be rented to others. ($ 75 / month). A strong reason not to sell it at the moment is the job held by my wife who is 25 km from the house. However, if she is able to work remotely, we could take action faster than expected. Or if she decides to change jobs by applying for a position close to home.

In short, the plan is ...

Oct 2020: Back a year ago, we suspended our project to move back to Quebec because it was not the right timing to do it and we weren't fully sure about the move. Fast forward to today, we are now more than confident about our intentions. Selling our current condo located in BC to seek for a somewhat larger, but most probably more private, quiet place is our main priority.

Since we are now working remotely, we have an opportunity to move without being tied to job restrictions. Even if our positions are held in BC, we will be able to transfer to different positions based out in QC when available.

Our goals are:

About the car

Currently barely using our 2004 Volkswagen Golf, we average monthly expenses of about $425 when including depreciation and parking "cost" (that we would be able to rent otherwise). We drive around 10,000 km a year.

Moving to QC, we decided to look for a new place near Quebec City, even if our family is mostly based around Montreal. This will force us to drive longer distance to visit them, but we are strict on our decision of not going back exactly where we were before our adventure on the west coast.

We can expect driving around 15,000 km a year, may be more if we do road trips. Right now, my idea is to get a newer car, but still frugal in gas and expenses. I might be looking to get a Mazda 3 (2014 to 2018) or a Volkswagen Golf Wagon (2014 to 2017). I'll finalize a budget to steer toward the car, but spending $13k on it is expected.

Our current monthly expenses on the Golf are:

Estimate of monthly expenses on a car purchased in QC:

Thus, we arrive at the same expenses, mostly because we won't have expensive ICBC insurance and we won't have parking value added. Both depreciation is calculated on a 5-year span. The Golf has been purchased at $6200, but the current value after 3.5 years is around $3000, thus about $80 each month. The potential car at $13k can worth about $5000 in 5 years, so about $130 each month.

About the house

Technically, we want a larger space to live, for less. That is the main goal to move back East. Not a McMansion, but a fairly-sized single house. By doing that, we want to make sure to keep our monthly expenses low regarding transportation, home insurance, city taxes, energy costs, etc.

Before of the remote jobs, we are still on the fence if we want a house on a large lot not close to the city or a regular house in a neighbour close to work, where biking is a viable/easy option and buses can be considered.

Our current expenses in North Vancouver:

Potential expenses on a $350k house purchased in QC with 20% down on a 20-year term:

That being said, we will be more flexible since the housing expenses will be lowered. Per example, we are thinking about reducing our working hours, taking a year off or retiring early by paying off the mortgage fully faster and living on interest gains. We are still not there yet, but having less expenses will allow us to build a larger portfolio.

About us

Everything in life isn't about drywalls, wheels and money. It is about happiness and family too. In fact, we stopped running the race. We use money as a tool, not as an end.

We are super grateful about our 4 years in British Columbia and I personally wish we can stay longer. But the fact is our balance isn't reached fully because of housing and because we want our larger family to enjoy our moments.

We will be returning in our homeland with a different vision, different priorities and a lifestyle changed forever. We will be applying the same basic receipe we applied in BC, but in Quebec. This includes a closer relationship with nature, a tight control of expenses, a broader view of human in general and a slow life that we dreamt of.

Feb 2021: We are one step closer to complete the sale of our place. That is the only thing that really matter right now. We don't need to perfectly align jobs. All we want is to get rid of it so we can proceed on our project to move back East, in a lower cost of living.

Between now and next month, we will vacate our place, sold or not, to temporary relocate for work. It is going to be a 6-month assignment, housing fully paid, where my wife won't have to work, instead focusing on her and our son. Last months were crazies as hell, trying to balance personal life with work at home and the daycare we are running. Indeed, our son doesn't go to daycare, so he is with us full time, no matter if we work or not.

Anyhow, we hope to clear our head with the sale of our property soon. This will be a big one. And then, we will be able to think about the future.

Aug 2021: The plan to move back East reached another milestone. I drove from BC to QC in 5 days. The 6th day was a bike ride of 180 km since I had a friend to drive the car up to the end.

Day 1: Kelowna, BC to Field, BC (5 hrs, 398 km). Slept at Kicking Horse River Crown land

Day 2: Fields, BC to Riverhurst Ferry Crossing, SK (8 hrs 30 min, 780 km). Slept at Riverhurst Ferry Rest Area

Day 3: Riverhurst Ferry Crossing, SK to Whitemouth, MB (9 hrs, 881 km). Slept at Whitemouth Lions Park

Day 4: Whitemouth, MB to Kama Bay Lookout, ON (8 hrs, 736 km). Slept at Kama Bay Lookout

Day 5: Nipigon, ON to Mont-Laurier, QC (13 hrs, 1238 km). Slept at Mont-Laurier RV stop.

Day 6: Biked Mont-Laurier, QC to Ste-Adele, QC (6 hrs 45 min, 176 km calculated, elevation: +633 m / -520 m)

Sept 2021: Right now, I'm kind of lost. Returning to your home city feels weird. You get back into your old habits, old points of interest, old relationships, old things that make you feel bad. You know everything that you used to know, and yet, you don’t really know how to deal with that.

I got back in car commuting lifestyle, which I hate the most of it all probably. I see no solution for that. All I can do is to find another job closer to home.

We will look further out in different cities on the long term to establish our family. We want to feel home, not back home.

Oct 2021: Our new life on the east coast isn't really going as planned. First, we decided not to purchase any house because of the risky market. Then, we settled far from work (about 50 km away), but close to better outdoor activities, parents and a subsidized day care. It means long driving distances, terrible trafic congestion I now participate in, fewer active commuting (walking or biking), less accessibility to services by foot and an overall so-so happiness.

To be honest, we want to go back around Vancouver sooner or later. We just don't know when. It could be in a year. Or two. But it will probably happen at one point.

Being prisoner of a broken life style implying suburbs, car culture, car dependency, wasted time driving, general isolation from others is far from our ideal. We gave up on the single-family house on a big lot because we strongly think it is against human nature, against common sense of living as a human opposed to living as a consumer.

Anyhow, we will rebounce, adapt and transition to something better. Our main goal is to be happy daily and plan for the future so we don't get stuck in our own jail.

Going back to where home really is

Jan 2022: Finally, we are planning to go back to North Vancouver. After a full year of reconsideration and multiple moves, we decided that city life is a better lifestyle for us and the west coast is our forever home, even if it means to live poorer than the great suburbs of the east coast.

We will first rent a 500 square foot condo. Space will be tight at first, but it is only a temporary solution so we can be on-site to spot condos to rent or buy for the long term. We are thrilled to go back, it feels like we are going to born again. To be fully honest, since last September, we are dead inside, no goals, no projects, just trying to make it through each day.

Obviously, expecting a second child will be a massive change in our life. But settling for good in North Vancouver will bring us joy, I'm sure. It won't be easy at first, but finding the right condo will be a major step toward a better everyday. We realized that the 2-bed+den 860 square foot condo we owned for 2 years was close to what we wanted in life, minus few major points. Noise coming from the street and upstairs was a big problem, but also generating noise for our neighbors downstairs was making our life miserable.

We are now looking for a somewhat larger 2-bedroom condo. Something around 950 square feet or more, conveniently located, below 850k. A big chunk of money, but we expect to continue living frugally, with one car (may be selling it in a near future), no luxury purchases and focused on what's really important: family, time and health.

Back home

Mar 2022: After a week of driving, we arrived in North Vancouver. After a series of unfortunate errors in the last year, we are back home. We decided to rent a 540-sf condo for now. It will be quite small for a family of four, but we are fully minded to live smaller than ever.

Even if we have 2 full Uboxes coming our way, we didn't have the choice because moving back was quite a last minute decision, but a fully heart-supported one. We will eventually sell a good chuck of the content: a refrigerator, a washer, a dryer (all because people sell/rent condos with them here), a desk, a set of tires, we are going to clean our stuff again to make sure we are meaningful on what we keep.

A storage space in the building will be available for us to keep mostly unused stuff (old kid clothing) sport gear (bikes, snowboards) and camping gear. The rest needs to be in the condo to be used, otherwise it is gone.

Feeling the urge to move once again

We like North Vancouver, but we feel like North Van doesn't like us. Housing market is tough, worse than last year in fact. And we think that buying a $800k+ 2-bed condo isn't a long-term answer for us. We could max it out already as we used to own a similar sized condo and we had no room to spare.

Our plan is to move in a smaller city in BC within the next year and wait for the prices to come down a bit so we can buy a 3-bed townhouse around the $500k mark, which is way better for us financially and also space-wise.

Moving to Calgary?

We are fed up with the housing prices here in Vancouver. Plus, we don't want to give up the lifestyle of being able to walk to most places by moving way out there in the 3rd suburbs of Vancouver (Langley?) and having to drive to everywhere and to work on long hours. We decided to look elsewhere. Calgary might be an option. Having looked at the housing market, it seems like a 3-bed house around $500k is not difficult to achieve. And we will be able to transfer both jobs there.

Our current expenses in North Vancouver:

Potential expenses on a $500k house purchased in Calgary with 40% down on a 25-year term:

If we had a plan to buy the same house around Vancouver, the expenses would explode because of the mortgage payment involved. For us, it seems like a no-brainer right now because we have a growing family and we need: space, quietness and room for expansion. Currently sharing a 800sf condo with a roommate without any real possibilities to find something larger, we struggle on a daily basis and it gets to our mood.

By buying a $500k house, we secure more space on the long term and also if we inherit one day, it is gonna be easier to pay it in full, unlike any $1,000,000+ 3-bed condo around Vancouver.

Jan 12

About to take off to Calgary for a house visit. We are almost set to move there in less than two months. Another big move, hopefully the last big one for a while. We made an offer on a house and it got accepted. From the Vancouver area, it seems cheap as hell, but it actually went over busget because we think it is a better fit for long term.

Initially, we started to focus mainly on semi-detached house around 550k. Good sized, but locations were always in a cookie cutter neighborhood and somewhat too far from work. We found a larger detached house for 685k, but there is no neighbors on 3 faces and it is a quiet street, close to work (12 km) instead of 15-20 km.

We might have to do some maintenance and renovation (mostly flooring), but it won’t break the bank most likely. My wife will remain on a maternity leave for another year. Even if it cuts us from income, we will adjust accordingly and will use extra income when the time comes.

Mortgage payment will be somewhat low at $1740 because of a generous down payment. On top of that, obligations will be $340 for city taxes, $250 for utilities and $120 for insurance. It brings a total of $2450/month. Way better than the forecasted rent of $3300 for a small 2-bedroom condo around Vancouver (when realistically, we need 3 bedrooms), not including $40 for insurance, $50 for storage and $75 for underground parking.

We will be living out of a $4300 monthly income plus Canada Child Benefit of around $820. Our housing costs are below 50% now. And we will do our best to manage other expenses wisely.

Another good thing is I was able to secure a job transfer in the same role as in Vancouver, so expenses/per diem when traveling will apply, counting as additional tax-free income.

My wishes for a new home

Since we will move pretty soon, I feel it is time for me to think about how I want to make my life better aligned with my values.

March 2023

So we moved in early this month to our new-to-us house in Calgary. It is such a big change, we have work to do to make it ours, but we feel the potential to live a better, quieter life around here. Nothing is perfect, nothing will ever be, but we think this move was more than needed to make our family grow and to keep our mental wellbeing.

And let's face it: we moved from Montreal to Vancouver in 2016, then to North Vancouver in 2017, then temporary to Kelowna in 2021, then back to Montreal at the end of summer in 2021, then back to North Vancouver in 2022, moved between 2 units in the same building during the year 2022, then we landed in Calgary in 2023. That is a lot of mileage, especially with kids. We need to rest.