Okay.  I’ve gone back and forth on this for close to a year now and I’ve finally made a decision.  I’ve decided that I have to decide one way or the other.

I’ve tried to apply logic, then emotion, then allowed fate to make the decision for me.  No luck.  Neither logic nor emotion arrived at a satisfactory conclusion and fate was evidently too busy to get involved. And so, I find myself turning to the only logical option available to me: a blog reader vote.

So what do you level-headed types think?  Should I sell the house or not?

Wait!  Don’t answer yet!  Let me lay out the arguments for both sides before you weigh in…


As much as I love my home, there’s no denying the fact that I only make active use of maybe a third of the living space.  Three of the four upstairs bedrooms go unused, as do the main floor office and sitting room.  And, as much as I love the downstairs theater room, the only time I’m ever really in there is when the guys are over for Football Sundays.  Realistically, I use the master bedroom, the kitchen and adjoining sitting area, and the downstairs workout room.  The rest is either dead space or gorgeous storage area.

Akemi has been dying to move to the downtown area for quite some time.  The house, while beautiful, is a little out of the way, meaning she either takes the bus or relies on me to drive her wherever she needs to go.  A more central location would allow her more freedom.  It would also, as we learned in Toronto, open up more social opportunities as we’d get to know many more neighbors.

Vancouver has been ranked as North America’s priciest city (Vancouver ranked North America’s priciest city), beating out both Los Angeles and New York!  While the local condo market has done nicely, home prices have fared even better and my house, which I purchased for what I thought was a ridiculous sum many years ago, is worth considerably more now.  If I were ever thinking of selling, now would be the time as the local real estate market is finally showing signs of softening.  I sell the house, downsize to a comfy, modestly-priced condo, clear all existing debts and bank the rest.


Given my European background, the ultimate goal of owning a home is as engrained in me as my love of pasta and fancy ties.  Where I am now, I don’t have to worry about noisy neighbors or parking or strata regulations.  In the summer, I can sit out in my back yard and let the dogs run loose, something I couldn’t do in a condo.  If the dogs need to go out, I don’t have to ride down an elevator to a green area.  All I can have to do is open the back door and let them out.  I can work out as early or as late as I like, while watching whatever I like, without having to wait for equipment or having to share with sweaty others.  I can host Football Sunday on the big screen.  And, most importantly, I don’t have to move and/or find storage space for all the (valuable) crap I’m amassed over the years!

So that’s what it comes down to.  Basically.  Either I keep the house or move into a condo.  And, no, there is no compromise solution in which I happen to find a beautiful albeit smaller house that also happens to be centrally located.

IF I we do decide to sell the house, then this gives rise to another question: rent or buy?


When I told a friend’s wife that I was weighing whether to buy or rent, she looked at me as if I was crazy.  “If you cash out,”she told me, “you’ll never be able to buy back in.”  Maybe and, then again, maybe not, but it’s certain that had I sold my house at any point in time between when I bought it and early last year, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to buy it back for a ballpark price.  There’s simply no way to outguess the market.  My writing partner, Paul, admonished me for even considering it.  In his mind, you sell to buy – that way, you remain on even footing.  Yes, ideally, it would be great if you sold at a point when the market was softening, banked the cash from the sale, then waited a few years to buy back in when the market was down. But what if the market doesn’t go down?  What if the market actually goes up?  Maybe Paul is right.  Don’t try to outguess the market.  And, for what it’s worth, in my experience, real estate has proven itself the safest of investments.


Are you kidding?  The local real estate market has softened for the first time in a decade and signs are pointing to a continuing downward trend.  As I already mentioned, while home sales are feeling the pinch, condos are feeling it even more as construction continues unabated.

So, what’s it going to be?  Let’s wrap this up.  I’ve got a bunch more life-altering issues to sort out!

78 thoughts on “February 10, 2013: Let’s all pitch in and help me plan my life!

  1. “And, no, there is no compromise solution in which I happen to find a beautiful albeit smaller house that also happens to be centrally located.”

    I have to admit that was my first thought as I was reading. Is that a practical issue in that just no such thing exists, or you’ve decided either/or? It’s clear that your time with the dogs is very important to you so that factor probably weighs quite a bit. In your memory of your time in Toronto (at least as far as the condo goes) did you find it an experience that you could get used to or even prefer? Ultimately, do whatever makes you guys the happiest.

    Not much help, I know!

  2. In my opinion, you have heavily made your case for keeping the house. Most importantly being the convenience of a backyard for your dogs versus having to ride up and down the elevator multiple times a day to take your dogs out, I would assume they don’t all time their bathroom breaks for the same time.

  3. I vote for keep the house. Mostly because well, there won’t be enough space for the dogs and all your accumulated treasure… and also because I’m of the slight bend where having your own house with a garden is close to being at the top of the world. I’ve had it with cramped living, even if it comes at an inconvenience regarding public transport.

    But if you still decide to sell, I say buy a condo rather than rent OR rent out the house and buy a condo, using accumulated rent fees pay off the price of the condo. On the other hand, you did say that there was no compromise. When it comes to gambling, I tend to be conservative.

    Now that I’ve read your pros and cons again, I can’t decide either. Pro house, pro condo? What you need is to be able to uproot the entire property including house and garden and plonk it in place of your choice in the city. Or hide the house and garden within the condo so that on fine weather days, the various sections of the house/garden you want to use will pop out or unfold.

    Maybe you just need a big old sackful of spare cash to get all you want without having to sell. Where’s the latest rainbow? Maybe a leprechaun hunter needs to be employed.

    Ultimately up to you.
    Sorry. I’m no help.

  4. i really have no advice other than to make a list of the pros & cons for keeping the house, then (if you decided to sell) ones for buying or renting a condo and then go from there.

  5. Consulting the blog for your future plans is like consulting the magic 8 ball, Joe.

    That said, I would never, ever buy a condo. Ever. Lots of condos around here and I have yet to hear one good story about their management. Condo associations are like Nazis, and if for some reason someone on the board ends up not liking you, you’re doomed to a life of misery and harrassment. Also, where’s the benefit? You really don’t ‘own’ the condo, but instead have to pay the purchase cost, and ever-rising condo fees that can nearly equal a rent or mortgage. Condos are fine as second, getaway homes, but I would never invest in one as a primary residence.

    If you can afford it I would keep the house, the quite back yard, the parking space. But that’s just me. I can understand Akemi wanting to get into town a bit easier, but I can’t see that the trade-off would be worth it. Let’s say, for instance, you are both in bed with the flu. Which one is going to walk the dogs? At the house you can just let them out to do their business without taking your slippers off. And let’s say you get a really BAD neighbor in that condo. The party guy? The prying, meddlesome old fart? The control freak? The animal hater who complains every time one of your dogs sneeze? The 25 immigrants living in one unit? Worse yet, what if they’re a tramp, or a teamster? What do you do then with your ‘investment’? Think long and hard about trading your space and your freedom for a concentrat…I mean, a condo.

    If the house is too big could you sell it and move into a smaller house, with a yard for the pups and parking and all neighbors kept at least at an arm’s length? Perhaps one that is more conveniently located, but still affording you the freedom of having all four walls to yourself.

    Also, you need a hobby or something because without even thinking I can find a use for all those extra rooms of yours. One room for cats, that’s for sure. I really wish I had a ‘cat room’, some place to isolate a sick or new kitty – I just don’t have anything like that. I could use one room for arts and crafts and my hobbies (I had to give up stained glass because it was getting a bit risky cutting glass and using lead soldering in the kitchen 😛 ). And one for a real library – would love to have a place for all my books instead of shoving them in the attic when my bookcases start to overflow.

    Come to think of it Joey, you don’t deserve a house that big if you can’t find a use for all those rooms. Downsize, but think very long and hard before going the condo route. A smaller house may be the better choice.


  6. Buy a condo with a large balcony or patio, get some outdoor doggie grass for those emergency middle of the night potty breaks.

  7. My cousin has a fantastic townhouse/condo near gas town and it’s has a large green space on one of the levels. Would a condo with a fairly decent green space be an option?

  8. Can you still get specialty ice cream deliveries in the city?

    My impression is you have the means to get the lifestyle part of this exactly how you want it and don’t have to stress over making the perfect financial decision. Make good financial decisions, yes, but that can mean recognizing you can afford some risks to get exactly what you want. Save the stress for your scripts.

    Selling the house is an easy decision if you’re not using all of it. That you’re only considering one option for where to move to, not considering downsizing in your current area, tells me you’re almost 100% ready to sell.

    I say move right this moment to a rented condo. That puts you in the city and makes you more aware of what your needs are for a purchased condo. It also makes deciding on what stuff you need to get rid of easier – it’s whatever you don’t feel the need to take with you. Okay, fine, if house-showing season doesn’t start until nicer weather…you’d have to know how that goes in your area, but the lifestyle improvements might still make a few months of rent worth it.

    This also puts your house on the market and gives you a chance to have it show-ready 100% of the time. If you change your mind about selling the house, you’ll still have a one-year change of pace under your belt so if you do go back to your house you’ll at least do it not wondering what could have been. You’ll already know.

    I say move, rent, sell the house, buy a condo, not necessarily in that order.

  9. You can’t sell the house…we grew up here! Seriously I think you’d regret it. Buy Akemi a car and stay where you are. Maybe you could have murder mystery weekends, people pay good money for those or so I hear,

  10. Okay, now that I have given you my sage advice 😉 , lemme tell you about my morning…

    Hubby and I were on our way to Sunday services. We turned off of our street and onto the main road, and just a block down the road we pass a house with the lawn on fire. I tell hubby to stop, the lawn is on fire. Hubby says they’re probably burning leaves. I said no way, since burning leaves is illegal here, and besides, they wouldn’t be doing it right next to the sidewalk and an old creosote-coated utility pole. Duh. So we turn around and stop in front of the house. I jump out, run to the door, and ring the bell and knock. A couple comes to the door, and right away I recognize the man as a guy who’s worked at the local liquor store for like, forever. NOT that I go there a lot…but, ya know…it is a small town and stuff where everyone knows everyone else, so it’s just a given that I’d know the liquor store guy. Right? Right. *shifty eyes*

    ANYhoo, I tell him his lawn is on fire. They call 911. He runs out to the front yard, runs back to the house, and comes out with a bucket of water (ironically, he was wearing a fire company sweatshirt). The problem is that the fire seems to have started at the utility pole, so they were afraid to dump the water in case there was an electrical line down, or something. Just then the fire chief pulls up. By now the fire is approaching the house so we had to do something. Their hose was shut off for the winter, so bucket brigade it was! Hubby, in his Sunday go to meeting suit, me in heels and a skirt, the homeowners (a couple in their 60s), and the fire chief, all running buckets of water from the house to the fire. We put it out just as the fire truck pulled up. The fire house is just three blocks away so this all happened pretty fast, less than ten minutes. I was amazed at how fast the fire spread in such a short time.

    I noticed a dead squirrel at the curb, right near the telephone pole. I pointed it out to the chief (since I was feeling all Sherlockian and stuff 😛 ). The couple said they had heard a loud bang, and the chief was actually on his way – not to this fire – but to the firehouse because there had been a power outage. Most likely the squirrel got zapped by the transformer on the pole, and it sent sparks flying that ignited the very dry, straw-like zoysia grass that covered their yard. When we got home later we noticed that our power had been out too, though it was on when we left that morning. So I’m guessing that the fire started between the time we left our house and the time we drove by the fire – a time frame of about one minute, give or take 30 seconds. I totally understand now how a small grass fire can turn into a major disaster in just a few minutes. If you see one, don’t just assume it’s nothing. Best to call 911 when it’s small than to be calling in hundreds of fireman when it’s out of control.

    Needless to say, I was a bit hyper all morning. This is the most excitement I’ve had in ages! (Also, I am easily entertained – so just set your lawn on fire and I’m good! 😀 )


  11. Change is sometimes good. I like Jovanna’s idea of renting your house and buying a condo. That way if you aren’t happy with condo living you can always move back in the house. Although the car is a good idea, you won’t meet new people that way. What about a row house or first floor condo with a garden area for the dogs?

  12. now that i think about it, the biggest things in favor of keeping the house are the storage space, the yard for the dogs, hosting football sunday on the big screen & the gym space. plus you need to consider if you do move are you closer or further away from any place where you might be working in the future.

  13. Two things…

    Closer to town, less money you’ll keep in your bank account. I know this from my own experience. When I get snowed in or if I’m sick and can’t get out, I save all sorts of money, but I can blow an entire paycheck and then some in just one afternoon ‘in town’. Ugh.

    Secondly, aren’t you the guy who claimed to be a bit anti-social, at least when it comes to wanting your alone time? Or have things changed for you over the last couple of years? You have a fairly active social life as it is, I can’t imagine needing more. (Of course, if I attend one social gathering I’m good for months while Mr. Das, on the other hand, would love to be doing something with friends every weekend…something I just can’t do without burning out within a month…so don’t mind me. 😛 )


  14. Totally depends on if you plan on adding members of the family, either furry, out-of-town relatives, or-dare I say it- babies

  15. Joe, can’t you rent out the house, say for a year, and rent a condo for a year?
    Then you can try it out and see if it works.

    After reading your blog for a time it looks to me like your a city kind of guy. With the right condo you can do almost everything you do now. And as for the dogs, I’m sure you can find a close park to take them if you need a little green. Just try to get a corner Condo on the top floor. Then introduce yourself as a mobster to the people who live under and beside you. Tell them you like it nice and quiet.

    You could always sell your house in Vancouver, buy a condo in Vancouver, and still have enough money to buy a townhouse, condo or house in Victoria or a suburb called Langford ten minutes outside Victoria. Lots of parks, walking trails. It’s safe, lots of restaurants. Langford used to be the ‘dogpatch’ but is doing very well these days with a big mix of business and residential and low taxes. Or Arizona, Florida, pick your favourite state.

    I’ve been trying to talk my wife into selling our house and move further up island where houses are cheaper and pocket the rest. But she loves living here.

    I don’t agree with people who say that if you sell now and change your mind you won’t be able to buy back in. Not true. I don’t know you, but you don’t look poor, and you can always invest the extra money you make and pay off debts, which allows you to put more money away.

    If you get a big enough condo you can put a six foot by six foot square of grass in a box in a room for the dogs. I’ve seen them advertized somewhere. I’m not sure how you cut the lawn, maybe you can get a goat or something…

    OR, you can sell the house and buy a house in Saskatchewan for about a 100k, put the rest in investments and spend the rest of your life traveling around the world. Heck, you might be able to do that with a condo in Langford. Except the condo would cost about $350K to $450 for a Condo or townhouse of a decent size.

  16. Look at Garth Turner’s blog greater fool. He would suggest sell, invest for income and rent. A rental would give you the freedom to move to where work is etc. If the present real estate market follows a normal boom bust cycle things will be less expensive in the future. Georgie on the wet coast of Canada

  17. What happened Joe, did you dream you found another refrigerator in the house with leftover party food in it again?

    “I sell the house, downsize to a comfy, modestly-priced condo, clear all existing debts and bank the rest.”

    You said it, not me. Sell the house. While nice, it is too big. Probably always has been. Time to downsize. Take the money you make and find something smaller in a downtown area you and Akemi like. Your dogs are like children. They will be happy anywhere with you.

    Wherever you go, buy it. Cash if you can. That will satisfy your European backgroud of ownership. All your friends can still come over. Maybe you can find something with a nice masterchef style kitchen. Builders know the importance of a kitchen now-a-days. Your dogs can run on the beach.

    But no matter what, like Deni says, time to teach Akemi to drive.

  18. Stay put. You’ll never find a condo with the type of kitchen you want, plus Paul is right, you won’t be able to get back in if you ever want to.

  19. Hi Joe:
    I agree with Deni – If your only reason to move is so Akemi can be closer to downtown and to access more neighbors, you should just get another vehicle. You don’t sound like you are ready for a condo.

    According to my research, the reason that the Vancouver real estate market is soft is because 85% of home purchase and sales in Vancouver are done by Asians – and those buyers are not buying because the economy in China has slowed. It has slowed because the major purchasers of goods from the Chinese are by Americans who are suffering because of the debt crisis.Thus,, if you want the Vancouver market to increase down the road, the Americans have to get back on their feet financially. So, there you go. Employ 30 million Americans, and your house will increase in value. Simple, no? By the way, if you find a way to employ that many people, I’ll vote for you for Prime Minister. Our guy in Canada sucks.

  20. My advice? Stay in the house. Storage space is not to be sneezed at, guest rooms and space for visitors to hang out in is not to be found in most condos, and the conviencence for the dogs cannot be overated.
    If you do sell, is there a neighborhood with smaller houses and yards that would be more central to the areas you want, without shoving you into a multistory building and leaving you at the mercies of the good behavior of those around you? It’s worth checking out, if you have not already done so.
    Really, really stay away from condos. Renting is flushing money down the drain. buying a condo is almost as bad, and they are the first properties to lose value. I just don’t see you enjoying life in a condo.
    that said, good luck with the decision. I hope whatever choice you make leaves you, Akemi, and the dogs happy.

  21. I think it depends on where your spend most of your time; you guys love the restaurants and events in the city, so that would make that condo seem better, but my bro just moved from a house to an apartment closer to his kid’s excellent new school and I gotta say, they gripe about the noise from upstairs and the weird neighbors downstairs.

    It might be cool to buy a small mixed used building with a business below and apartments above; you’d have rent coming in from the business and can remodel the apartments above into one big apartment. That would merge your European need to own with a cool living space.

  22. Keep the house, Joe. And teach Akemi to drive.

    If my 16 year old can manage it…she can!


  23. If you’re happy where you are Joe stay where you are. Or go where the money is, as in if you get a job on a show that’s a distance away and you need to move, initially rent a place and if the show is long term, move there.

  24. Given the stark choices you present, where the condo would be too small for a workout room, I would say keep the house. I don’t think you’ll like the trade-offs! I guess you need to think back to your Toronto place — did the inconveniences bother you a lot?

    There’s a lot to be said about getting out of the market as it starts to crash. I know only one person here in the San Francisco area who timed it right — sold at a peak, rented for 5 yrs, then got back in, well ahead of the game. But he’s the only one I know of! So I’m with Paul on that one!

    I’ve lived in a condo for many years due houses here costing $1M+, and I don’t have a doggie as a result. No doggie door, no yard, means I couldn’t be gone for more than 4-5 hrs at a time, which just won’t work. Will that apply to you guys?

    How about a smaller house on a more convenient transit route for Akemi? Or is that cheating? 🙂

  25. If you ask me, which you sort of do, I’d keep the house as long as you have the dogs. Have you looked at prices for downtown condos that are new-ish and nice-ish? It aint cheap to get something decent, and I don’t think you’d ever get that money back. In a house you’re responsible for upkeep, etc in a condo you have little influence. You own just a small slice. Personally I’d never buy a condo, and certainly not at these prices.

    So I’d keep the house as long as the dogs are around and if the day comes you find yourself without them you may be up for an adventure, like living in Japan, and you don’t want to lose a lot of $$ on a relatively short term investment.

  26. And condo kitchens suck for the most part. Not enough counter or cupboard space for people like you who cook regularly and fancily. 😉
    I think what you should do is go and look at a few condos in the price range you’re willing to spend and see if you could live there.

  27. Did I heard about house boats somewhere close to downtown? You could try renting one for a year.

    And although I already gave some advice, I’ll stick my neck out again and suggest that you decide what’s most important to you. If that winds up being Akemi, then find out whats most important to Akemi.

    And go with that. But try to rent a place first if that’s the way you go.

    No matter which way you go I hope it works out for you both. You two look happy together, you seem to have a lot of fun and I’d like you both to have long happy lives together.

  28. “And, for what it’s worth, in my experience, real estate has proven itself the safest of investments.”

    Ha! That’s what everyone in LA thought. My friends who could afford homes here are all underwater in their mortgages.

    I think you need to consider if you plan to stay in Vancouver for the next several years. Being debt free is a huge incentive, and as you get older you probably don’t need all that room. But if you do move and buy a condo, you’d be locked in.

    The real estate market in Van is much like it was in LA before the bottom dropped out. Prices are so high they are not sustainable for the long term.

    If you think that you might be moving to Japan at some point in time, then renting might be a good option.

    Personally, I’d love to have the freedom a house and a backyard offers, plus a whole a passel of pups. And I don’t know anyone who feels like they really own their condo. Too many rules. Also, I wouldn’t live in downtown Van. There’s no escape in a quake.

    Remnants was fabulous. I think I remember you saying it was one of those “You can’t do that!” scripts. But I’m glad you did. Sheppard’s story was a nail biter, and gave some breathe into his character. All the story lines were intriguing and had that touch of humor I love. Good stuff!

  29. If it’s more than halfway paid for, KEEP the house! With all that empty space, start a B&B for TV/FILM People! Hell, why not just rent part of it out to Film Companies as a “Location”..?

    OR, move MOM & SIS on over? I’m sure they’d both enjoy the weather! And, that way you’d have FREE “sitters” that you can trust whilst traveling..? Or, need to stay DOWNTOWN for a night or 2 to “escape”…

  30. Keep the house! The dogs need a proper garden to have a play in and in the summer I’m sure you’d miss your garden. Can’t Akemi learn to drive in Canada, or would she have to learn in Japan first?

  31. I have a good memory of your time in Toronto and while you enjoyed certain things, overall you have the consistent desire to “get back home”. I think overallo, for the most important things, your house serves you well. The things you list as reasons to stay are so very important. Having plenty of room to host is a luxury many people don’t have; plenty of room to mill around and do all the things you like to do; that is a true pleasure. I say KEEP THE HOUSE!

    i would address the two issues you brought up: Get a small car for Akeimi to drive and she will feel more freedom. Take some classes (like cooking) and get out more. Host some dinner parties and invite friends over more often.

    Peace and quiet in a house is sooooo very valuable. don’t take that for granted that you will get that same environment in a condo.

  32. @paloosa is right about real state market. If the bubble in VA start to soften is a good moment to deleveraging & make cash.

    Dont worry about all the (valuable) crap here r volunteers to take some (even paying the postage) ;D

    Deni idea about Akemi driving a car can provide us winth unforgettable moments.

  33. Not having read all the comments have gone before, this may have already been suggested.

    Rent out your house and rent a condo – surely you would get more money for the house…….you can then invest the difference!

  34. I have to say Joe, with your dogs you are in the best spot now. You move into a condo and you will not have a moments piece with having to take them out and in and out and in and have pathetic neighbors who don’t mind their own buisiness, who will complain about your dogs. You seem like someone who cannot live without them, so i’d think about that. I agree with others get Akemi a car or something. You know, all that space might not be so bad later on. If you ever want to have kids or something, You could always get some type of hobby etc and use a room or two for that. You could use them for top-secret projects and have plenty of space in each room for each of them. That way you could go in, close the door, and get emerced in your project. Then later on when your ready you can reveal it to the world. lol Just ideas. Honestly, I think you will be less happy with a condo. I guess i’d figure out whats more important to me and etc. Privacy seems like nothing till you lose it and then you’d give anything just to have it back! lol

  35. Hello there,
    in your situation, it seems logical to sell the house, buy a condo even if it will be more difficult to sell later than a house.
    (hihihi very funny of you to let us think that we can manage for you this tough decision!!, I hope that you really don’t care what we think about it !)

  36. Hmmm…. I’d say a townhouse with a small “yard”. Is that even in option in your city? I have no idea if there are any in decent locations, but if so, seems like a good compromise.

    Do condos have balconies? You could make a portable doggie yard… get the faux grass mats with drain pans so the dogs can have a quickie piddle place when a walky will not do.

    But I agree, condos come with intimate neighbors and owners associations, neither of which is much fun.

    Rent the house? That’s a nightmare in itself. Ugh.

    I completely understand Akemi’s desire to live within walking distance of downtown. I’m betting she never planned on learning to drive, I know I never got the hang of it, although I once had a learner permit … from the Navy, in Japan. That was interesting, and much like a fish with a bicycle. Completely useless. Even in our smallish town, I have to hike to the bus stops, never fun in the snow.

    @das… funny, I have a cat room, and a craft room, and the tiny living room on the main floor is mostly library. My real living room is in the basement, where the fireplace is. That room is as long as the whole house, so we have workout gear down there too.

  37. I am also in favour of keeping the house. Akemi getting a car isn’t a bad idea. Either that, or sell the house and buy a another house closer to the downtown area. If you’d like, I have a friend who is a real estate agent, and he’d be happy to help you guys out

  38. Keep the house. It is the ultimate freedom. You dont have to share any amenities with your neighbors and again the ability to open the door and let the dogs run in your yard. If you feel your house is too big, the re-purpose the rooms. Remodel. Do something creative with the space. You and Akemi seem to be fairly creative so i imagine you can come up with some interesting or even crazy ideas with what to do.

  39. I keep wondering why you thought asking us was a GOOD choice. I think opinions are based on personal experience. Maybe that is what you wanted or need…to hear how our decisions have faired.

    I can tell you that having six children required moving…but my husband wanted to move to make money with the market and we always did need more space. We finally settled in a 7000 sq. foot home. We built our dream house up on the mountain. It cost us $196,000 to build and is now worth well over a million.

    Nope…I bailed…I got full custody of the kids…he got the house. I once again was forced to move again and again to keep up with the needs of the kids. I raised them in Burbank California which I SHOULD have purchased. BIG mistake…I needed to stay in the market. It was moving so fast…my money would never be enough to get back in.

    I have NEVER seen a place where four dogs are allowed in a condo. Sorry but associations control that. PLUS if you downsize to a condo…good luck with a kitchen. Of course you are probably looking at floor plans…but it is difficult to find appropriate sized rooms. Well…maybe Vancouver has magic in downtown condos…but you will HATE having neighbors so close.

    If you have kids or pets…you NEED a backyard. Also…the problem in making a decision in a relationship…it always leads to compromise. YOU will either do what is best for Akemi…because you love her…or the dogs because you love them…but DON’T make the decision as such a compromise that you SETTLE. When no one gets what they want everyone suffers down the road. The bigger QUESTION is….do you and Akemi want the same thing? Or is there COMPROMISE in your future?

    A professor once told me that doing what is in your heart is the most important. He said that if you were buying a bike…and you alway wanted a red one…but the blue one is half the price…later you would not remember the money you spent…you would still long for the red bike. Okay…so I said that poorly…but I think you have the idea…if there is some small chance you are even still READING this. Hahaha….WOW you are desperate!

    Question: Can all six of you love the same thing? THAT is what you should be deciding.

    Renting…you lose decision making POWER you now have…THIS would be a huge change.

    My CHOICE…I loved building my dream home. Divorce set me on a new path…my money was well spent on weddings and college fees. I now rent a beautiful unit…in the red desert of Utah.

  40. Keep the house. Everyone knows how expensive houses are in Van, and even though the market is softening, I doubt if prices will plunge so low that you can buy back in as easily as you did when you first bought the house. The housing market is softening across Canada, but considering the stable economy, we won’t see the type of real estate crises that we’ve seen outside of Canada. Plus, you need a lot of space for the dogs.

    Another consideration is this — Do you and Akemi plan to have kids? If yes, then a house is better for a family than a condo. Trust me, kids need space, and a condo just doesn’t cut it.

    As others have mentioned, either:
    1. Rent the house and get a condo. Try renting for a year, then buying if you truly love living downtown in a condo.

    2. Teach Akemi to drive, if she doesn’t know how to already, then buy her a car when she’s allowed to drive on her own (I don’t know how it works in B.C., but in Ontario, we have a graduated licensing system, so learners must drive with a licensed driver for a while before they can strike out on their own).

  41. Plenty of good suggestions from the other posters. One thing I didn’t see any mention of was the capital gains tax. Do you have that in Canada? A co-worker of my hubby moved here (Olive Branch, MS) from Atlanta. He said he made so much money from his Atlanta house that he either had to buy a bigass house here (house prices are lower here) or pay a capital gains tax. I don’t understand all the tax laws, so that may not apply to you but it’s something to ask your tax guy about.

    I’d stay in the house because of the dogs. Or you could look for another house and downsize. I liked Deni’s suggestion of driving lessons for Akemi, if she is interested that is. If you want to stay friendly, don’t teach her yourself. 😉

    gforce: Wishing you good health!

    Das: Loved the story!

    Interesting weekend here. Hubby & son were eagerly awaiting the Surface pro but the launch was badly bungled. Surface Pro’s are in very short supply. Through sheer luck they managed to order two Surface’s. Hubby wanted a work tablet and son has been saving his money for two years for the Surface pro. This is big news for me because I get to use my iPad now! We are such geeks.

  42. I say keep looking for a house if you want to move closer to downtown, though I have no idea how far you actually are from downtown. Maybe look for a place in Kits or Yaletown. And, yes, Vancouver housing prices are ridiculous.

    As for a condo, there is no way I would ever advise someone to buy one. Renting one is even worse – if the place is even permitted to be rented under the Strata Bylaws. You also would have to check out the issue of whether or not pets are permitted, how many, and what sort of conditions are associated with having pets in the building. Review the Strata Bylaws and any amendments very carefully.

    There are simply too many headaches associated with condos and you’re at the mercy of the neighbors. Strata Councils are little tinpot dictatorships, and who wants someone else telling them what they can and cannot do with their own home. Same goes for any place with a building scheme. If you’re looking at a property that has one, make sure you review it carefully. Some of them are very restrictive.

    If you do decide to buy another home, whether it be a house or a condo, make sure you have the title reviewed thoroughly. Have the encumbrances that will remain on title checked out for acceptability before making a binding contract and watch out for Legal Notations on the title as they can cause all sorts of headaches down the road, especially if they relate to Building Permit issues.

    Doesn’t Akemi drive? If not, why haven’t you taught her yet? Huh? That would give her some independence to get herself where she needs to go. Although that, of course, would then bring up the headache of Vancouver traffic and the even bigger one of Vancouver parking – or lack thereof – not to mention the joys of having to insure and maintain another vehicle and dealing with ICBC if there’s an accident.

    Anyway, that’s my nickel’s worth (no more pennies from the Mint, so I can’t give you my 2 cents).

  43. Large kitchens aren’t the end all be all of cooking. I once lived in a type of Kentucky house that had a bigger kitchen than you can imagine. It’s very social to be able to do communal activities like food preserving and old-style laundry in one room, but that’s antiquated lifestyle.

    More activities get moved into a less comfortable room with larger kitchens. Eventually, you’re practically living in there so at least the lack of ergonomics means less when you spend so much time in there. I much prefer occasionally setting up an excess activity in a more comfortable room.

    I have a large galley kitchen now. I made it shorter in favor of ergonomics, but the counters are still too far apart. All that carrying stuff around instead of just reaching it over to where it should go is inefficient.

    Ergonomics pays off so much more efficiency-wise than having more within easy reach and more work space. You don’t need more workspace when you can just use something and put it away without having to set it down. Less used items stored in a different room is no big deal in comparison. If you have enough room for two friendly people to shift around and the most important workstations positioned just right, that’s the nirvana of kitchen size.

  44. Keep the house for the dogs since it has a nice yard and so you are not under some crazy condo association regime that might be pet unfriendly. At least with your own home, your the boss. Quality of life is more important unless you really need the money to pay off debts.

  45. oh and for Akemi’s mobility… get her a small car so that she can drive herself where needed.

  46. A smaller kitchen can also be helped by turning a walk in closet or storage room into a pantry. Or actually having a real pantry. My kitchen is very small, I turned a small storage room into a pantry. I made one wall narrow shelves for cans and such, floor to ceiling. The other side is four shelves from ceiling to four feet off the floor which wrap around the far wall. Also on the far wall is a desk type shelf, 25 inches deep, wall to wall. It’s for filling spice jars, doing things I’d rather not do in the kitchen. I keep a bread mixer on the desk and other kitchen appliances under the desk along with a large fire safe hidden by food containers.
    Under the shelves I store things like cat food, dog food, rabbit food in square plastic containers. Oil, etc. Flour, sugar. Boxes of home made jams, jellies, tomatoes, etc. They are sitting on wooden slats. The wood slats are butted up against rubber mats, the square ones from Costco or Home depot, fairly thick in case I drop something, hopefully it won’t break.

    There is no heat in the room. It’s the coolest room in the house, so I keep large stocks of potatoes and onions in there as well as extra fruit that I don’t want to ripen too quickly. It has a triple screened vent to outside that I can close during very cold weather. I also keep twenty 2L pop bottles filled with water for emergencies.

    The door has a padlock. This was just so my children wouldn’t leave it open when they were young, I had a problem with mice for a while and I didn’t want them in my pantry. I also put a sweep on the door bottom so there was a good seal to keep out insects and rodents.

    Anyways, all this gives me a lot more room in my otherwise small kitchen.

  47. Without reading too many previous responses to sway my thinking…..

    I say keep the house. If you were to sell it now and buy a condo downtown, when the market does re-set itself and prices come down, the first prices to plummet are those of the non-traditional homes(read: condos). This is due to the fact that a lot of people buy condos simply because they can’t afford a home. When those numbers falter again, a home falls into a larger portion of the public’s affordability range again and they move out there.

    This is where you’d get screwed, equity-wise. While your home might be at it’s height for value now, so are the condos. It’s all tied together. I have some friends that did a very similar thing. They sold their house at the height of the market back in ’07(’round these parts, anyway) and bought a nice ’20’s craftsman style house right near downtown of a smaller city-center. Very nice house, very quaint, large lot, great location(walking distance to the weekly summer farmer’s market we go to every year). But, now that the market has readjusted itself from the stupid numbers from back then, their house is worth half what they paid for it. Now, they’re on the hook for over $100k of equity they’ll never see again.

    The only viable option for them now if they ever wanted a bigger house is to build a bigger one on the lot they have now. Otherwise they’d kiss a ton of cash good-bye. It’s actually quite doable since building costs are so low compared to buying outright around here, especially since he’s already got a woodworking shop in his separated garage.

    As for all the extra room in your house, as the saying goes, I’d rather have the space and not need it……

    Your points about the dogs can’t be ignored either. These are huge for me. I currently don’t have a dog right now because the minuscule backyard I have at my current house is downright cruel for a Beagle(or any other breed, really). But since I am in the market for a new house now, on the top of my list of requirements is a good size backyard with good fencing, for a dog(or dogs).

    Food for thought.

    -Mike A.

  48. plenty of advice already given, but I feel strangely compelled to add my opinion anyway. Whatever you do, don’t buy a condo. They are hard to sell, especially if the market is softening.

  49. Hi, that’s a tough one.Though this may sound a bit naive, I would say: in your decision-making, the most important thing is how you want to live, not what the market is like now or how it may develop in the future. I think you should consider this first and don’t let yourself be pressurized into a decision by the market. Consider a driving license, or even allow yourself the luxury of renting a place downtown for three weeks or so to try out what it feels like. I think you need a place where there is distance to or top notch sound isolation from neighbours or dogs will drive neighbours crazy, and you will hear their sounds of daily life and may wake up when they walk on your ceiling, hear them watch TV for hours etc. I don’t know what it is like in Canada, whether renting out the house to someone else is possible. Having own property is the best way to protect against financial risks later in life. I live in a rented flat and wish I had a small house, but I would not strictly advise you on any option because you are a different person 🙂

  50. The Heritage Vancouver Society has some cool places on their web page; do they have anything like the Watergate in Vancouver? It has hotel rooms, condos and ton of business on the lower floor. You guys might like a hotel that also offers condos, so you get the bennies of the hotel while living downtown. You could be like Eloise or Zach and Cody.

  51. Okay…I have another solution to this problem. Get Akemi driving lessons and buy her a car! Oh…you want me to be serious? Right then, the answer has to be what you both want.

    You say that you don’t use half the rooms, but did you ever? You’ve liked the house for years for all the reasons you stated before, so what has changed – apart from meeting Akemi? Speaking of which…and your private life is just that…but maybe you two might have a purpose for those rooms in the future? A house is better for kids…and dogs. Also, there is the matter of what you’re comfortable with. Would you really be happy in a noisier place where you have to consider the neighbours?

    On the other hand a smaller place would free up money, and a more central local would be more sociable. Be honest with yourself Joe. What do you need to make you happy.

  52. Well what about renting out the house our and using the income to continue to pay down the mortgage on the current house and then rent out a in the centre of town. Of cause I know nothing about finance or Canadian law to even know if this is possible or not.

    or how about buying some driving lessons for Akemi and a car when she passes, unless you think she will always be to dangerous to let loose on unsuspecting public no matter the amount of training she get.

  53. “Deni: Get Akemi a car, keep the house!”
    Yep, what Deni said.

    “Three of the four upstairs bedrooms go unused”

    Definitely a great reason for you and Akemi to start having some kids = human kids I mean, not only “dog kids”, to use the empty rooms. You already have a great house with lots of space. The entertainment room will become a video game room. Just think of when little Joey & Akemi have Show and Tell at school; they can bring in some of those tasty morsels you eat for the other kids in class to try. “Now this dish is called “Foi Gras”, anyone want to guess what it is?” And on Bring Your Parent To School Day, you can come in and introduce the kids to your Jaffa Pain Stick. Not to mention all the cute outfits Akemi will make for your human kids. 🙂

  54. Well now, my answer will probably be buried somewhere amongst the others here, but I’ve been thinking about this all day, believe it or not… (I have other things that I’d rather not think about today, so thanks for this mission of yours…)

    RES CONDO: I remember your complaints (whining) about your living arrangements in TO…. you didn’t seem to like it. However, I think that if you look around for a suitable condo – they come in different sizes, shapes and areas – you might be able to find one that would give you some of what you get in the house. But I don’t think that you will ever get from a condo the worth of what a house will give you. I just think that they are very much overrated.

    HOUSE: I come from a European background so I know what you mean by home ownership. I don’t know which. direction the housing prices are going towards in Vancouver. I do know that the prices are outrageous and if you sell, as your friends tell you, you will never be able to get what you already have.

    1-Renting the house out to pay for mortgage/taxes/upkeep and/or part of the condo fee/rent for a year or two
    2-Renting a condo in an area that you would like if you’re in a hurry – you can always move to another one if you don’t like it. If you aren’t in a hurry, stay where you are for the immediate future and look around at *all* condos. You might find one in an area that you like with all the amenities that you want, minus others that aren’t as important to you. In any case, I would rent before buying (but I do think that condos in any place are overpriced and Vancouver must be outrageously so…

    Make under separate headers of HOUSE and CONDO next to sub headers of needs and extras. That might make things a little clearer.

    Ultimately, you’ll have to do whatever make the most sense to you and Akemi. It’s only money and you can’t take it with you.

    This was fun!

  55. It might be a good idea to invest in driving lessons for Akemi. And another car would be miles cheaper than selling, buying and moving…

  56. Furthermore, as Das says, condo associations are petty and ruthless sometimes. You will abhor being under one’s thumb.

  57. Hey Joe, I had another idea.

    Instead of selling the house, you could find a “live in” dog sitter / light duty housekeeper who drives. In trade for room and board she (I’m thinking matronly looking woman with face warts so there is no jealousy issues) does a little light house work, watches the house and dogs during vacations, drives Akemi when needs arise.

    I don’t know the layout of your house, perhaps it’s possible to setup a inlaw suite so she could have a mini kitchen, bathroom, so you don’t see each other all the time.

    Considering the cost of rent in Vancouver these days this might be a real lifesaver for someone, and an opportunity for yourself. Of course if your secretly a serial killer that uses his unholy army of Pugs as an unstoppable killing machine, this might pose a problem, introducing a possible witness to the unspeakable acts of Pug dress up.

    Just a suggestion.

  58. NEVER EVER would I live in a condo. It is apartment living. PERIOD. Except you can’t get out of your lease if you don’t like your neighbors because you own that puppy. The only time a condo would make sense is if you were elderly (and you are not). Or maybe a single person with no pets. I’ve lived in apartments most of my childhood and early adult life. Although our home now is a modest 1500 square feet, we are here until we can’t be here anymore. And we’ve been “here” for 20-1/2 years.

    I don’t understand why you couldn’t move to a smaller house closer to the city? You’ll have to elaborate why that is an “off the table” thing.

    If you really can only do “house where you live now” or “condo”, I vote stay where you are and find a way to make Akemi happy, too, by getting her a car of her own. If she can’t drive for some reason, then you should pay to have a car and driver available to her whenever she wants.

    The dogs are happy there. The dogs might be miserable in a condo, and although Akemi might be happy, I have a feeling, just from your Toronto experience, you’ll be miserable, and even 1 person in a couple who is miserable–then both suffer.

    If you do decide to move, BamBam’s wife is a real estate agent, and so is Craig Veroni, and I bet you they could find the exact perfect place for you that is NOT A CONDO. It might take awhile, but I know they would bend over backwards to go out of their way to help you.

  59. Joe, I’m with PBMom…why is a smaller house in a better location off the table? That just seems like the perfect solution, outside of getting Akemi that car. 😉


  60. I assume (you know what they say about assuming) that Akemi doesn’t want to drive in Vancouver. I’ve been to Vancouver, I don’t like to drive in Vancouver. It takes hours to get anywhere, people drive like lunatics, it rains half the time, the other half of the time it’s dark and raining. And did I mention people drive like lunatics? Speed crazy lunatics?

    Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but I still hate driving in Vancouver. I always find it very stressful, It’s like spending time in the dentist chair waiting to start a root canal.

    I assume if Akemi wanted to drive, she would be driving. After all, a car is not that big a deal. If that is the case, then maybe a condo downtown is the best thing. Of course, I’m just guessing here.

    When I’ve gone to Vancouver I stayed in the Blue Horizon hotel on Robson street. It was always a lot of fun, lots of stuff going on night and day, all sorts of interesting people on the street all the time. Hookers, gangs, drugs dealers, probably muggers and murderers. If I recall there was a guy who liked to juggle in his underwear for a couple of hours first thing in the morning across the street from the restaurant. And you had to watch out not to slip on all the used condoms and hypodermic needles littering the nearby streets sidewalks, but other then that, a nice place to visit.

    Vancouver is still a pretty big place even down town, but I suppose it does make it a lot easier to take the buses when your already closer to where you want to be. You don’t have to take three transfers and spend half the day on buses. I wonder if there are any townhouses closer to down town? There is still Langford. I’ve never seen anyone juggling in their underwear first thing in the morning on the street. I live very close to:

    Yeah, I know. Your not going to move to Langford. Don’t worry, I try to talk everyone into moving here. It’s not personal. I’m just trying to drive up housing prices.

    I imagine the pugs are going to be happy no matter where you move, or if you decide to stay put.

  61. I’m baaack! Look at me and my shiny new speedy speedy Internet service! Wheeeee!

    I wouldn’t let go of the house. Either stay in it and figure out easier ways for Akemi to get around or rent it out and go to a smaller place. And does it really have to be a condo? Too many other people have control over how you live in a condo for my liking.

  62. By the way when I said:
    “…there was a guy who liked to juggle in his underwear for a couple of hours…”

    I should have said “He juggles for several hours while wearing only his underwear”.

  63. I just also wanted to say, (besides sell! and pay cash for whatever you and Akemi like! (and I am soooo outnumbered on that (but nobody ever listens to anything I have to say)) that pugs require little exercise and do very well in apartments or smaller places. They just want to be around you.

  64. Bit of a late comer to the conversation but I agree with some of the other suggestions of rent your current home, and then rent a condo/townhouse yourself. You could find an agency to take care of the rental of your current home so you don’t have to worry about it. Renting a Condo/Townhouse will give you the time you need to find out if downsizing is really what you want to do. There must be a Condo/Townhouse in the city that has a small back yard attached. As for noise issue, if you look at newer or recently remolded Condo/Townhouse you should be ok. My co-worker owns a Townhouse in my housing development with neighbors on each side and never hears either of them. Sound proofing has greatly improved.

  65. Joe, if you take the advice of renting your house, make sure the tenant knows:
    1) no growing marijuana, even if they have permission/license from the federal government.
    2) You, or your representative is allowed to inspect the premises on 24 hours notice every few months.

    I imagine you know this, but the downside of renting out your property can be steep if you get bad tenants.

  66. Fix the entire problem by buying Akemi a very nice SUV. I suggest a Honda CR-V, that’s what I bought my girlfriend when she want to move. Has worked so far….Don’t limit your options to one solution. Think inside the box…..

  67. There are other downsides to living in an apartment. While having more neighbors MAY be a great thing, you know for sure what you are getting in a house- no one below or above you. No loud music, creaky floors, kids that like to bounce balls in the house, loud arguments, crying babies, barking dogs, neighbors that leave the water running or a teenage son that likes to smoke pot in the bathroom (I can’t use my toilet for parts of the day because I would fail a drug test afterwards!)

    Rules also change in condos. One day you may find that they have added a limit to the number of dogs you can have… Or that you can’t have a dog at all! (This has happened here in many states in the US, I don’t know what condo laws look like in Vancouver)

    I WISH I could sell my apartment and buy a house. It is my dream and one day I hope to realize it. I recommend that you get Akemi driving lessons and buy her a nice, used car. Then again, by what I read on your blog, you really enjoy going out with her during the day. So see it as an opportunity for more quality time…


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