Do you dream of leaving the city in your retirement or semi-retirement? Here, when an urban condo is just not your thing.
When you’re no longer trekking to the office daily, there may be nothing left to tie you to an urban setting. In a small town or rural area, you can connect with nature, enjoy recreational opportunities and take advantage of lower real estate prices and taxes.
“You get so much more for your money out of the city,” says Caroline Baile, a broker with Royal LePage Your Community Realty in Aurora, Ont.
There are other perks, too: “It’s a slower pace of life. You don’t have that rush-hour congestion. And there’s more interaction with your neighbours, more of a community feel.” Baile, who has her Accredited Senior Agent (ASA) designation—Canadian real estate agents with the ASA designation have received special training on serving seniors; search for one in your area at asamembers.com/Find-an-ASA—adds that feeling safer and less isolated is important to people this age.
We tend to associate a late-in-life move with a transition to a smaller space. Not true for today’s seniors, however.
In a Royal LePage survey of baby boomers who were planning to make a move, more than 40 per cent sought someplace just as large as—or larger than—their current home. These men and women have wealth to spend and stuff to store. They may also have boomerang kids.
“‘Downsizing’ is used a lot, but I like the word ‘smartsizing’ because you smartsize to what you can afford and what you need,” says Jane Dewing of Changing Places, a company in Victoria that provides moving services to seniors. “If you’re still very active with cooking and entertaining, you’re smartsizing to a bigger place.”
If you’re with a partner, a smartsized house might allow for separation, whether it’s at night (two bedrooms because of snoring or late-in-life hot flashes) or in the daytime.
“You need enough space that you can be in different parts of the house, feeling quite content, with your office or sound system or two TVs in two different places,” says Dewing. Notes Baile: “I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is going too small and realizing they feel claustrophobic or the house doesn’t meet their needs or their lifestyle.”
Small-town housing prices, as attractive as they are, are not usually what drive baby boomers here, says Baile. “They’re doing it more by choice than circumstance.” Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon for finances to take a hit after retirement or even unexpected illness or widowhood. A modest home outside the city can make all the difference in making ends meet.
But moving too far from city life can sometimes reduce your access to medical and support services, and that can put your well-being at risk.
“You want to have good health facilities nearby,” says Dewing. Check with your realtor or the municipality’s website about the proximity of hospitals and medical offices. “You might not need them right away,” says Baile, “but if this is going to be your last move, you need to think of what requirements you’ll have in the near and distant future.”
Next: The best spots to relocate
If you’re looking to make a move from Toronto, small communities in Ontario that are trending for seniors include Ballantrae, a bungalow-rich community in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., targeted to retirees who enjoy a good old-fashioned golf and country club but want to stay close to the city.
Bradford also pops up on the radar screen, as it’s got plenty of amenities, includes a pleasingly mixed demographic and even hosts a not-to-be-missed annual carrot festival.
Wellington in Prince Edward County is a picturesque getaway that bills itself as a farming and beach community (Sandbanks Provincial Park is in the County). But it also has a thriving seniors community and, perhaps in a related matter, a growing wine industry with vintages that are getting worldwide recognition.
Next: What kind of house is most likely to meet your needs now – and down the road?
The 20-year checklist
What kind of house is most likely to meet your needs now and down the road? These physical features will boost your odds of aging in place.
A large main-floor plan, rather than a two-storey or split-level home. (Moving to a vertical townhouse is charming only until you need that knee replacement.)
Three-piece bathroom on the main level or a two-piece with room for a reno to add a shower .
Wide hallways and doorways to accommodate a walker or wheelchair.
Level walkway and front entrance. “It completely defeats the purpose of a bungalow if it’s a raised bungalow, and you have to go up stairs to get inside,” says real estate broker Caroline Baile.
Garage. You won’t ever have to chip ice off your windshield again, plus you’ll have room for all your sports equipment.
Short driveway. The longer the driveway, the more effort it will take to clear snow.
An old-fashioned front porch. Stay connected with your community even after mobility is reduced.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2016 issue with the headline, “How to Move Out of the City.”
What are your favourite smaller communities? Let us know in the comments!