Monday, July 11, 2011

Retirement Strategies

I'm not particularly close to retirement age, but I've been thinking about what kind of real estate strategy makes sense. So far, my ideas have gone over with my wife like a lead balloon.

I'm pretty sure I don't want to live in my current house after retiring. It's great for a family. I've got a big pool, big deck, lots of rooms, and lots of grass to mow. It's great right now, but I doubt it will make me happy in 10 or 20 years.

My first thought was to sell the house at some point, reduce the amount of stuff I own as much as possible and go rent somewhere for a while. Whenever it suits us we could move on and rent somewhere else.

By moving around we could get an idea of how we want to spend each year. Maybe we'd spend 6 months in Canada, 4 months in the warmer part of the U.S., and another 2 winter months somewhere else that's nice and warm.

My wife is definitely not sold on this idea. She sees impracticality in owning little enough to make moving so frequently possible. I think she also doesn't like the idea of not having a permanent place to call home.

For my part, I definitely don't want to own more than one place. It's hard enough to maintain one home and I don't like worrying about my house when I travel. Having two places would mean that I'd be worrying all the time.

My wife's concerns are legitimate, but I think mine are as well. I'd be interested in other thoughts on this subject.


  1. As a young retiree with the last kid heading out to University in August, we have been examining our house options. Zoning and urban rules make it difficult -- it is either own a big single family house or get a condo. Where are the condo-sized homes on small lots so we can still have a garden? Existing small homes are all priced too high as they are being used as lots for expensive infills. I see a need for a zoning category that allows a developer to take out one or two SFD's and insert six or so retirement cottages of 800-1000 sq ft in a courtyard arrangement. Once downsized (and down PRICED) we free up house capital for travel via house swapping set up on the net.

  2. @Eric: I wish you luck with your search. A smaller place with some space to garden sounds ideal for many people.

    @CC: Something apartment-like might be a good idea. Thanks for the suggestion.

    1. The second reply above is to Canadian Capitalist's comment:

      One option would be to purchase an apartment in the location where you'd spend the most time. That way you'd own a home, worry much less about it when you are traveling and most of the maintenance is taken care of.

  3. We're going through the same thing ourselves, Michael. We love our house in the Okanagan but want to travel more and leaving the house unoccupied for long periods just doesn't appeal - especially over winter when things are more likely to go wrong.

    As to the suggestion of buying an apartment, this obviously means condos and dealing with stratas and our friends tell us nothing but horror stories about what they've gone through in these set-ups.

    It's a dilemma and one where there doesn't seem to be an easy or obvious solution at least in our case.

  4. Mike:
    Could a compromise solution be to join some house exchange associations? You and your wife get to keep the family house as a home base and you both get to sample living in other locations (including overseas). Awhile back I looked into location-independant careers and was rather surprised how extensive house sharing was. Several websites facilitate these kinds of exchanges.

  5. @Mark: It sounds like you're facing the same dilemma I'm anticipating.

    @Larry: I've heard of people swapping houses before but I wasn't aware that there are organized groups doing it. I wonder how popular a house in Canada in January would be.

  6. I guess you could work it out in a time-share way: by swapping homes with somebody who might want to spend the winter in Canada and the summer in Arizona. :)))

  7. That sounds like a big change.

    You might have to do it in stages. Maybe start travelling more in retirement - a month here, a month there and then try to convince your wife that downsizing the house and losing the pool will help with the travel (assuming both of you like it).

    It's a tough step to not have some sort of permanent residence, even if it is a rental.

    Good luck!

  8. Mike
    You might be surprised by the interest to reside in Canada during winter. Some people may have a work assignment in Canada, location-independent career or interest in winter sports like skating on the canal or skiing.

  9. Own your main house - be it in Canada or elsewhere, and do seasonal rentals for others.

    Many snowbirds have homes they rent for the winter in the States and return to yearly. I imagine it can't be that hard to find someone who would be willing to rent to you during the same period (say, October-March) year after year if you settle on a place you like. Or two places even, 4 months in California/Florida, 2 months in Whistler, 6 months in the home you own.

  10. My wife and I are at least 20 years away from retiring, mid-50s would be great but might be pushing it.

    We have talked about owning/keeping our current home and taking a few months each year to travel. Our plan is to use dividend income or other income to rent wherever we want, when we want. That way, we're not tied to any more properties than need be. If we don't want the (existing) home space, we downsize.

    Then again, there is always the "forever cruising" idea. Pick a variety of cruise ships with various world destinations and never get off the boats. :)

  11. @Mark: It's funny that you mention the perpetual cruise idea because my boss came back from a cruise recently having met a woman who has been doing this for a decade after her husband died. All the workers on the cruises know her and treat her well. I like to hear about people who figure out what makes them happy and go for it.

  12. Don't you have a moochy kid who could live rent free in your house while you're off travelling? Most families have one.

    Alternatively, you could take on a workaholic renter who is just home to sleep. Both options are pretty poor.

  13. @Gene: By the time I hit retirement age, my sons will be in their late 30s. It's possible that one will still be a mooch, but I'm hoping not.

  14. Consider buying an apartment in a city center, and rent to a commuter from out of town who wants to avoid long, nasty winter driving during the week!

    We live in Barrie, and our neighbour rented an apartment last winter in Toronto. He drives down Sunday evening or Monday morning, and comes home Friday night (or his wife joins him in Toronto for the weekend). The arrangement worked perfectly for them, and they are planning to do the same this winter, for an even longer period (November to March).

  15. @Shazmataz: That's a very interesting idea. I can definitely see there being some demand in winter for a shorter commute.

  16. Why don't you just buy a motorhome and you wouldn't have to rent at all. You could go where you want when you want to. You would always have your stuff with you and not have to move it. There are a lot of people that do this. Florida in the winter, Colorado in the summer. You can be at the beach or the mountains. An ideal lifestyle!

  17. @Judy: I don't think the motorhome idea fits my plans, but I can see that it would appeal to many. You certainly have freedom that way.