Welcome to our Living in Retirement blog, where a couple is writing about their real-life retirement journey.
Our search for a retirement home in the right community had taken us to towns both north and east of Toronto but so far, nothing had clicked. We were not worried as we knew we had time to find somewhere affordable to live.
We decided to look west of Toronto. During the summers Peter played in a number of Ontario golf tournaments in Sarnia and Windsor and we decided to explore these areas.
We travelled from Sarnia, north along Lake Huron, to Kincardine, Owen Sound and Collingwood. Sarnia was a pretty city but too industrial for us. Towns along Lake Huron were beautiful but winters there could be harsh. Collingwood was not retiree-friendly, at least at our level of affordability.
We then toured Essex County, exploring Amherstburg, Harrow, Kingsville and Leamington. The County had many things that we were looking for - an arts community, golf courses, proximity to hospitals and affordable housing. Peter had travelled to Kingsville in the past and while he knew the golf course, he was not that familiar with the area. We loved the small town atmosphere and felt it had much to offer.
Back in Toronto, we surfed our usual real estate website and sought out houses and prices in Essex County. We were surprised at how affordable they were. Houses with similar square footage to those we had seen in other parts of Ontario were $100,000 to $150,000 less expensive. Because our ability to stop working hinged on our buying a house within a set budget - ideally without a mortgage, this piqued our interest.
We contacted a real estate agent who worked in Kingsville and told him what type of house we were looking for and our price range. He set us up with automatic emails based on our criteria. We pored through the listings and gave our agent a list of seven houses we wanted to see. We also made a secondary list of houses we wanted to drive by, to see what the neighbourhoods were like.
We headed back to Essex County one weekend with appointments to view the seven houses we chose. We arrived early and drove by all of them. Among the things we looked at: How far were they from the lake? Were they within walking distance of the town? We did the same thing with our secondary list of houses.
Of the houses we had appointments to see, several looked interesting during the drive-by. Of the secondary list, none did. But after actually visiting the houses, we were disappointed. The prices was great but these houses weren’t for us. One house backed onto a farmer's field that was for sale. We could envision a housing development going up there - no thanks. Another house needed too much work and one of the most promising had a terrible layout.
We left our last viewing feeling dejected, and turned around to drive back to Toronto. But at a stop sign, we noticed a for sale sign down the street. We asked our agent to look into it. He saw it the next day and told us that we would like it - especially the garden. We returned to Kingsville that Wednesday and walked through the house. He was right - we loved both the house and the garden. It met our requirements by being affordable, a short walk to town, the lake and the golf course.
Best of all, it was in our price range which meant we would not need to take on even a small mortgage. This house was 3 ½ hours west of Toronto and 7 ½ hours west of Ottawa (where we have family). We didn’t know a soul here but we loved it. We could see ourselves living our retirement in Kingsville.
We sat in the car and discussed what to do. We looked at the numbers and decided that buying this house made sense and that if we moved here, we could afford to retire early. We made an offer on the house and it was accepted. Our retirement adventure had taken an unexpected but exciting turn.
In our next blog post, we go through how we sold our place in Toronto and went about retiring.