What to look for in your 'forever home'
Finding the perfect “forever” home can take, well, forever. Not only will it likely involve several moves, but you'll have an ever-evolving vision of what “perfect” means to you as you change and grow.
Your ideal home today can quickly become a far-from-ideal situation when life throws you a curveball. Changing jobs, getting a new puppy, bringing home a baby or a having your mother-in-law move in are just a few life-altering events that can change the way you experience your home.
Just like our friends, interests and career paths, several homes will define us over the course of our lifetimes. A first home purchase will most likely be bound by finances and practicality, while houses that follow might be “right” because of their location, proximity to a reputable school, resale value or income potential from a rental suite.
Finding a home that brings you lifelong happiness is a formula that can seem elusive unless you do your homework (and don't change your answers). It's an investment, just like a university degree or a successful marriage.
My partner and I looked at 88 homes in one exhausting year from Tobermory to Perth, trying to determine our magic formula for a house that would provide lifelong happiness. Admittedly, we wavered a few times, but we refused to let go of our waterfront dream.
In the end, we upsized to 3,000-square-feet (despite having thoughts of joining the Tiny House Nation) and I unexpectedly wrote a book about it. Free to a Good Home: With Room For Improvement was cathartic to write and proved finding “home” is a universal theme. Sometimes “home” is a place. Sometimes it's a person. Sometimes, it's a thing of bricks and mortar. Hopefully, it's a beautiful combo of all three—a winning combination for lifelong happiness.
Whether you're upsizing or downsizing, ask yourself these three vital questions and decide what is paramount. That expression, “wherever you go, there you are,” is true. So, make sure you go to the right place!
What is the one thing you can't live without?
Maybe it's a western-facing home with front-row sunsets (it was for us!). Maybe you love entertaining and require space that can accommodate your extendable harvest table and extended family. Kitchens can always be renovated. Decks can be built. But, you can't buy quiet and if that's what you crave, don't crumble with house hunting fatigue. Whether your most important space is the backyard or a walk-in pantry, make sure you don't compromise on your primary goal. A lack of privacy and a too-small footprint are difficult to alter.
In your current home, what brings you the most happiness?
Often, this element doesn't change. You can simply love how bright a room is or the convenience of a mudroom. Maybe it's the ample storage space of an attic. Naturally, you can duplicate a paint colour or hardwood flooring in a new home, but, if your workshop is reduced to a crawl space or the house doesn't have a garage, this can be both costly to build and a rude awakening with the first snowfall.
Can you test-run the experience you think you want?
It's easy to be swept away by thoughts of pastoral life in a century-old farmhouse, complete with pygmy goats and a rhubarb patch. Or maybe you dream of a no-obligation condo that frees you from grass-cutting or snow shovelling for good. Before making the commitment, why not spend a few weeks in that scenario? Rent a farmhouse or condo as part of your next vacation or swap houses with friends who own a rural property or downtown pad to truly experience what it's like.