In the past year I have gone from home owner to renter. This occurred as part of a 4,000 kilometre move. I loved the home I owned in Ontario. With the basement it was about 2,700 square feet. The apartment in BC is about 1,000 square feet, plus storage locker.  This move has given me more perspective on the changes in living accommodations that are considered by new retirees and seniors experiencing health issues or loss of a partner.   Some choose to renovate an existing home and stay in their familiar neighbourhood.  Others choose to move to a new location.  The move may mean that renting will be considered. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past year about moving from home owner to tenant.  I realize that younger people built equity through home ownership.  These comments are from the perspective of a longer term home owner with 100% equity in their home.   This is the financial situation of most older home owners.

1. Price increases. Make sure you understand the rent controls rules in your area. These vary by location as well as age and type of building. Rent controls will help with expense planning.

2. Landlord. I chose an apartment building with a top notch management company. This was the most important factor in selecting an apartment. I had been a careful home owner, staying on top of needed maintenance and building up gardens.  I wanted a rental that was also cared for. A high quality property management company looks after their properties and ensures tenants follows the rules.  This creates a living environment that is pleasant and secure for everyone.

3. Location location location. Rental choices may offer a better location than home ownership.  In my case it is much less expensive to rent in the area I live than to purchase a house.

4. Facilities. One of the nice things about selecting rental accommodations is that many of them come with various facilities such as pools, hot tubs, saunas, party rooms, exercise rooms or theatres. Choosing a rental that includes access to facilities that suit your lifestyle can save you money. The fees you might pay to access these facilities are included in your rent and the cost of transportation and parking at a recreation centre are also saved. I also enjoy the convenience of taking the two minute elevator trip to our apartment facilities.

5. Paperwork. Home ownership involves lots of bills for maintenance, utilities and upgrades. Rentals involve almost no added paperwork, except maybe your internet provider. This has made life much more manageable.

6. Saving money. I don’t visit the local hardware store, paint store or nursery. Sure, I don’t have control over the colour of the walls or the flowers in the gardens. But it’s worth it to me to have more free time and to save a lot of money. I also save money on insurance since I have tenant insurance only.

7. Downsizing the stuff. It was inevitable that I would need to downsize since the floor space is significantly less in the apartment. It was difficult. I did most of it in Ontario but I was still downsizing in B.C. I did not expect it to be so hard.  It feels great to now own less. I am baffled at how I accumulated so much stuff and why I thought I needed it. This is a money saver because I have great resistance to buying stuff now. There’s no room for it!

8.  Investing money from the sale of my home.  This has been the hardest part of the move.   Because I thought I would be purchasing a home within the first year of living in BC I did not worry about investing this money.  Even in this low interest rate climate I was satisfied with high interest rate savings accounts.  I wanted to keep my money liquid and protect it from any short term downturn in the market.  Now that I’ve made the decision to be a longer term renter the money needs to be considered within my overall investment plan.  This will mean moving much of it into equities.  I want that money working for me.

Renting has been a pleasant surprise and a lot less expensive than home ownership.  I’m in the minority in Canada since about 70% of us are homeowners.  It was a bit of an emotional shift but my family and I are feeling very settled and this is definitely home to us.  I realize that some locations do not have enough rentals for this type of move to take place.  However, if you are making a change I highly recommend that you consider renting for awhile if it is possible in your location.  It will give you perspective on a new area, a new size of home and a different layout (we went from a 2-story to a 1-story).  Sure this might mean two moves but it can save you a lot of grief because the expense of selling real estate is high if you make a wrong decision.  Make sure you select a quality moving company (check references, review comments on the internet).  I had a terrific moving company and this also reduced a lot of the stress of this major move.

Good luck with your housing decisions and keep an open mind to new possibilities.