Renovate or relocate? How about neither…

I wrote this post about how we’re managing our expectations about our retirement lifestyle based on what we can afford to save (no, I won’t be the lady on the sailboat!) – now, we’re managing our expectations about what our house can and should do for us.

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Our house isn’t perfect – it’s something we realize every day. There are a host of things we’d love (and probably need) to change – the bathroom tiles are like something out of a Flintstones nightmare, the kitchen is hard to navigate, and we could use way more storage space. At the same time, we would love to move – we’re in a small row house right now and a bigger house would make life a lot easier with two small kids.  

The fact is, we can’t afford to do either – so, in light of that, our place is just fine as it is. 
I wrote this post about how we’re managing our expectations about our retirement lifestyle based on what we can afford to save (no, I won’t be the lady on the sailboat!) – now, we’re managing our expectations about what our house can and should do for us. 
Of course, you don’t see a lot of shows on HGTV about managing expectations – instead, we’re bombarded with shows about people moving up the property ladder or pursuing the perfect bedroom…or both. These days, granite countertops seem to be a right of homeownership – along with perfect hardwood floors and a luxury bathroom. I mean, when’s the last time you heard of someone simply moving into a house without ripping it apart first?  
For us it’s all about managing expectations — especially now, in light of some dire warnings about consumer debt levels in Canada from a few difference sources. Even former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge thinks a housing bubble could be looming, as more of us pump money into our home or borrow against our home equity to perfect them through costly renovations. Household debt in Canada stands at a whopping 148% of our disposable income – that’s higher than it was in the US pre-crisis. 
Our house already eats up a large part of our income and energy – and as we work to pay off our mortgage on the early side, you regular readers know that my husband and I have slashed spending on everything from heat to groceries to luxuries like facials, pedicures and dining out. That’s money we don’t put back into the local economy. It’s money we don’t spend on travel. It’s money we don’t spend on other things that could enrich our lives beyond the walls of our living space. 
Look, I’m not saying people shouldn’t want to have a beautiful home – and that we shouldn’t try to improve our spaces to make them work better. It’s just that we need to be reasonable – and make sure we can afford it. After all, housing bubbles in Vancouver and Toronto in the past saw prices drop 35% at the worst point – in the face of this, we all need to ask ourselves at what point does it all become a bad investment?