Yeah, lame, I know. The headline of today’s blog – did it get ya, even for a second?
I was just in that mood.
I called a colleague on Sunday night, who had submitted an offer on one of my properties, and said, “Sorry Dee.” She sighed, but I quickly interjected with, “…is what I would have said, if we didn’t accept your offer.”
“That’s lame,” she said. “It’s like, a dad-joke.”
Well, if the shoe fits…
While I’m fairly certain that I will never be moving out of the city of Toronto, given my occupation is geographic in nature, I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had so far in 2020 that have called or emailed me with some form of, “I’m moving out of the city!”
This is a popular topic right now, for several reasons.
First, I would suggest that the exodus from Toronto has been ongoing for years now. I’ve written about this in the past, and I believe that I labelled it one of my “top stories” in a year-end blog in 2018 or 2019.
Second, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that many people work, and thus a lot of individuals, couples, and families are figuring they can have a better lifestyle in a different city or town.
And last but not least, the topic has been written about very recently, with articles seriously “trending.”
This weekend, the following appeared in the Toronto Star:
I saw this article on my Instagram feed from a few different sources, but it also appeared on my Apple News feed as well as the “Top Stories” on my iPhone, whatever the heck that’s called…
Then add to the fact that two clients asked me about it, as well as my wife, and I think it’s fair to say that the story got noticed!
The crucial element to a story like this is the “colour,” ie. names, faces, and life details.
Here’s the excerpt:
Before COVID-19, Ana Stephenson seldom took a break during the work day. Now, she steps away from her computer for a swim and picnic lunch on a boat with her husband and daughter.
Stephenson was already working from her 2,200-sq.-ft. Oakville home 70 per cent of the time before her tech company employer closed its offices.
But with daughter Addison, 9, missing her activities and playmates and husband, Rob, now also free of the office, the family moved to the Haliburton cottage they bought last September.
Now Rob is looking for a job in the area and, if there’s no school in the fall, they expect to winterize their cottage plumbing and downsize to the 550-sq.-ft. lakefront home permanently.
“It’s not that I’m up here looking for a way to not work. Even if I won the lottery I would want to work. That’s how much I love my job,” said Stephenson.
“It’s having that balance. I’m still able to enjoy this part of my life and have this downtime.”
So this got me thinking: stories like this have legs when the people described are real. Reading about them – their ages, occupations, places of residence, and in this case – photos, are what gives the topic longevity. And given how many of my own clients this year have moved, or will be moving, out of the city, I figured I would provide some colour of my own.
I can’t use my clients’ real names, or addresses. That goes without saying. But here’s an idea of what I’ve experienced through eight months in 2020 so far…
1) R & P
R & P first approached me about three or four years ago to purchase a larger home in Toronto. They had been in a 3-bed, 3-bath, semi-detached for five years, and were outgrowing it. The search stalled when the market went up and down in 2017, and they shelved their plans.
Fast-forward to the end of 2019, and they called on me once again, but this time it was with a different plan in mind: to move out of the city.
With family in Burlington who could help with the kids (don’t we all know how important this is??), a lower cost of real estate, a completely different lifestyle, and working in two fields that would allow them to work anywhere, the decision was made.
We planned to sell the house in the spring of 2020, and they would look for a house thereafter.
The pandemic threw a wrench into our plans, but ultimately we sold the house a couple of months later than originally expected, and for a lot more money! Having sold first, they were armed with a better understanding of their personal finances, and were able to be more aggressive with offers. They’ve now purchased a house and will be moved in for the start of the school year!
2) M & N
M & N were long-time blog readers, long-time Torontonians, but will now be new-Burlingtonites.
Geez. Is everybody moving to Burlington?
M & N were like oh-so-many late-30’somethings who moved to Toronto for work, bought condos, then bought houses and started families.
Sounds familiar, right?
I have a lot of clients who fit this description.
Sidebar here, but I have one client to whom I leased her first condo back in 2007 when she finished school, then to whom I sold a condo in 2009, and finally sold she and her fiancee a home in 2011. Nine years later, and they’re currently looking for their “forever home.”
A lot of people in their late-30’s or early 40’s can currently relate, and M & N are no different.
Growing up in Mississauga, and now having careers that make them extremely mobile, they decided that rather than “buy-up” in Toronto, which would probably get a few hundred more square feet, they decided to buy a small castle in Burlington.
They bought first, and decided to sell second.
They sold their east-end home in June, and as is becoming the theme here, got way more than initially expected. They went from planning on a small mortgage to having virtually no mortgage, in what can only be described as a dream scenario. They too will be in the new home for the upcoming school year.
3) D & A
I’ve known D & A for many years. In fact, I used to play touch football with D back in the day. Exceptional quarterback, let me tell ya…
Toronto born-and-raised, they’re now semi-retiring to Stratford, Ontario, and not because they are huge Justin Bieber fans, but because this is where they want to raise their children, and this is the lifestyle they desire.
They came of age in a small, 1-bedroom condo in the midtown area, then spread their wings a little bit in a larger 2-bed, 2-bath condo for a few years.
For the last six years, they’ve been in a large, detached, 4-bedroom house in the midtown area. Great school district, steps to the main drag, TTC accessible, and a safe, family-oriented community.
What’s not to love?
Well, that isn’t quite the point.
Every person moving out of the city has his or her reasons, and they could very well be the complete opposite as another person’s reason for moving into the city. Or the very same.
There’s no “right or wrong,” but rather what’s right for that individual, or couple, or family.
This is where the conversation about moving out of the city becomes downright fascinating!
4) C & P
C &P were living in a really cool, funky hard-loft that is the envy of many would-be real estate buyers.
They had more square footage than they “needed,” as the place is deceivingly large. Three different levels and a layout that just about gets you lost.
What was a bit of a “fixer-upper” when they bought three years ago is now literally magazine-worthy, since it was, in fact, featured in a magazine.
But with the pandemic rendering C’s job work-from-home forever, there was absolutely nothing tying her down to the city anymore. P can work from anywhere as well, given his line of work, and thus a decision was made to move to…………..wait for it…………Collingwood!
A dream? Yes, for many.
But for C & P, this is a reality.
They lost in multiple offers on a house last month, which was oh-so-fitting, considering how many people move to Collingwood and other areas out of the city to get away from the red-hot Toronto real estate market, with all it’s “offer nights” and such. But the second time was the charm, as they just purchased a massive, beautiful home, on acreage, for the same price as a Leslieville 4-bedroom would sell for here in the city.
They’re going to spruce up the loft and head to market next month, then pack up the car and move to paradise in mid-September.
5) L & P
I sold L & P a west-end soft-loft six years ago, and they’ve been living all that King West has to offer since then.
A couple of months ago, L emailed me to say that they’d found their dream home – in a small town I had never heard of.
Actually, I had read her email as, “We’re moving out of the country,” so when I Googled the place they were moving to, it showed up in Africa. THAT would really take “moving out of the city” to another level!
But she had actually written, “We’re moving out to the country.”
That made more sense…
They went and visited their “dream home” only to find that it was a ramshack with a scary basement. This is quite common in rural areas of Southern Ontario: a seemingly-perfect dream-home, on paper, in photos, turns out to be a haunted house in person.
They ended up making an offer on another property, which was a true dream-home, only to lose in competition to a bid for far less money, because the very religious owners of the home wanted to sell to the other buyers. Now that is something you don’t expect to see in Toronto!
Looking out in the country, L & P have been forced to learn a whole new world of real estate norms. Searching for listings that are sold conditionally, and then waiting for those sales to fall through, is very common out there! Actually targeting a listing that’s sold conditional on the sale of the buyer’s property is a strategy among many.
L & P, as you can imagine from the theme in these stories, are also in jobs that will allow them to work from home, and thus live anywhere.
If they find a place in the country, great. They’ll sell the condo and move out of the city. If the inventory doesn’t pick up out there, and they don’t find what they want, then maybe they’ll stay. Who knows! Maybe not even L & P themselves! They’re easy-going, in no rush, and happy to take what comes to them.
I have another client just starting the process right now, but their plans aren’t quite complete yet, so we’ll save that for another day.
In previous years, I would write about how two or three clients moved out of the city, that year. In 2020, I’ve already got SIX, and we’re only in July.
And that’s just me, folks. What about other agents out there? What about all the other stories that remain untold?
The irony is: if too many people have the same idea and look to move to a place where the real estate is cheap, then that only pushes up the price!
Case in point, this article from three weeks ago:
I’ve heard this first-hand from a family member who says, “Honey Harbour has never been hotter.”
Of course, net migration in Toronto is still showing more people moving into the city than moving out, but maybe now that it’s happening to people we know, or in my case, clients I’ve had for a decade or more, it seems all the more real.
What does this mean for prices in Toronto?
And what does the “work from home” movement mean for where we’re all going to live, and what that will do to various real estate markets in the Golden Horseshoe?
Ah – look at the time! Maybe those are topics for another day…