Selling our Townhouse: Mixed Emotions

Spring is here at last and we are in the midst of implementing our plan to transition to FTRV life! Winter felt extra-long with the anticipation of good things to come but still out of reach.  We enjoyed the fun of gradually telling our friends and family of our plans as we had opportunity to do so in person. For the past several years I have been downsizing our stuff but this winter I really ramped up selling unwanted items on kijiji as well as donations to Goodwill. Now we are on the cusp of putting our home on the market for sale and this, as it turns out, is the hardest part as it truly is the point of no return.

MagnottaMain (Medium)
Main floor kitchen with dining area and front living room.

A Beautiful Home that’s A Lot of Work
I’ve had a lot of time to think about our home over the winter: we’ve been here for almost 15 years, have decorated every room, some more than once, and have equipped this space to meet our needs as perfectly as possible. Features like the uber-powerful central vacuum system, the natural gas bbq, and the high-end elyptical machine have made this home convenient and enjoyable to live in. Quartz countertops, tumbled stone backsplash and under-cabinet lighting make a kitchen that is lovely to work in. My comfy sofa in front of the south facing picture window is a pleasant spot to read and the piano nearby an enjoyable distraction in my day.

Our bedroom furniture set is stylish and ample, walk-in closet organizer so convenient, soaker-tub in the master bathroom a favorite to soothe sore muscles.

MagnottaMasterBath (Medium)
Master ensuite bathrrom with 2 person soaker tub!

Our basement boasts a large recreation room with big screen tv, surround sound, high-end leather sofas, lovely end tables. We have a spacious office area for storing all our electronics and photography equipment. We enjoy on-site laundry with front-loading washing machine and gas dryer. It’s not difficult to list the many awesome features of this home that have made it a great place to live while building our financial foundation.

MagnottaBasement (Medium)
Built in home theatre in basement with leather sofas and big screen tv!

But the downsides are equally salient. The almost 2000 sqft of finished space seems to require constant effort tidying and cleaning. Being a corner end-unit townhouse, there is a large yard that needs to be weeded and mowed in spring and summer, 9 trees that drop leaves each fall, and a good size walkway and driveway to shovel in winter. As the house gets older, things keep breaking down. In the past year alone we have replaced the roof, repaired a foundation leak in the basement (yes, behind the drywall), dealt with a leaking furnace, dishwasher and washing machine, replaced the laundry tub and plumbing, repaired a leaking faucet and dealt with failed window seals on multiple windows. It only seems reasonable that more issues will continue to crop up the longer we stay.

Stuck in One Place
The location has been excellent for our work – an easy 10 kms drive south to James’ job (albeit through brutal rush-hour traffic) and within 20- 30 mins drive of our rental properties to the north. The house is also close to the major highway 404 for easy access to downtown Toronto (depending on traffic) and the rest of the GTA. However the micro-location leaves much to be desired. Our home is on the edge of the residential area facing a busier street, though thankfully not a bus route. There are a few small parks where I can walk my dog and several decent forest areas a short drive away (thankfully there are a few within 15 minutes drive).

However, we are tired of being in the same location endlessly: we want to go somewhere new. Two things hold us back: James obligation to his job and the house itself which cannot simply be abandoned for months at a time. These things are tied together: even mortgage-free, we cannot retire here without drawing down our savings, something that is imprudent to do in our 40s. However, FTRV life allows us to retire now and live on our income stream without touching the capital. Financially, our situation should be sustainable for the long-term.

Flashback to my stay at Schulze Winery with Harvest Hosts in May 2015.

Exchanging Convenience for Freedom
On the FTRV side, I feel I have a clear understanding of what we are signing up for. Over 2 months on the road last summer revealed the work involved in living in a 100 sqft box with finite resources. It is an interesting exchange: while most people are working to afford a convenient and comfortable home, we are looking to give up that convenience and comfort to escape working. Balancing the flow of water and electricity will be a constant juggling act that will require effort and sacrifice. But the reward is the ability to go wherever we desire, free from the obligations to James employment and to maintaining the house.

How long will we be happy with this new deal? Having studied the choices and experiences of FTRVers who have gone before us, a lot depends on the rig and the financial situation. Our rig is small but this is not necessarily a disadvantage. One would-be FTRV couple lasted just 5 months in their giant fifth wheel and dually truck, overwhelmed financially and limited significantly by the cost of gas and campgrounds. With our fuel efficient set-up and today’s cheap gas prices, long-distance travel is quite affordable. With our small size and boondock-ready trailer with no slides, we can stealth camp in parking lots and driveways as well as dry-camp free on public lands.

Resource Management
Our biggest problem with our small rig will be water management but we can expand our tank capacities with portable containers. Not needing to work means we will have the time to deal with water management: in one sense this will become our new work: filling fresh and drinking water containers, emptying the black tank between dumps into a portable container, finding places to shower outside or at community centres or truck stops, going to the laundromat and of course dumping and filling whenever possible. When we get tired of all this effort, we can buy ourselves a break by getting a campsite with full-hookups for a month or even a season at a time.

MagnottaStairs (Medium)
Gorgeous hardwood stairs with upgraded spindles to lead upstairs.

Coping with Anxiety
Truth is I have a fair bit of anxiety about selling our home and many of our things. However I believe I will experience this anxiety no matter when we sell. Further, much of my anxiety is mitigated by the fact that we have secure storage that we own and control and that costs us nothing at one of our rental properties. We don’t have to get rid of everything: we can keep our most loved furniture so we are ready to move back into a fixed location home without having to buy everything again. Further, we can retain personal items that we value and spare equipment and supplies that could be useful. Even more, we own and control housing. We neither have to buy nor rent a home in the future: we could move into one of our own apartments, having significant control over the cost of the home we choose.

MagnottaExteriorSide (Medium)
Corner end-unit townhouse has the advantage of the front entry door on the long side.

I have loved living in this house. It is beautiful and convenient, but much bigger than we require and located in a more expensive area than we need once James is no longer working. Now I feel like it is too big. The tiny house movement appeals to me: I like the idea of a smaller footprint, less stuff to be responsible for organizing and maintaining and lower personal overhead. I also really love the idea of travel: there are so many places I want to experience for myself.

So many people have said they are jealous, they wish they could come with us, if they could they would do the same thing! Are they just being polite? I suspect they are genuine but they don’t really understand the difficult trade-offs we are making to do this. Frankly, selling my house and downsizing my belongings to a bare minimum is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Yet I believe that if we do not go, we will regret it deeply. We have planned well and have the financial resources to do this as a retirement lifestyle. We are at a point in our lives where we need a change for our psychological well-being and physical health. The time is at hand and we are moving forward toward FTRV life!

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