The Business Case
The problem and its constraints
Both partners are in reasonably good health for our age, so we felt that given sufficient time we could handle the bulk of the work, except for heavy lifting. As it happens, we had already come to an arrangement with our neighbor across the back lane to look after digging over our garden and similar chores when needed. And he was very willing to help with the odd moving of furniture and take away stuff that could be useful to him but no longer to us.
So, starting with 2200 square feet well cluttered with furniture and stuff from past generations happily passed on, plus a well-equipped woodworking workshop, this could clearly not all be taken into an apartment. Moreover, apartments and condominiums in the city generally range from around 500 to 1000 square feet so evidently we needed to dispose of at least half of our belongings. We enjoy a number of in-home activities such as supporting the Wideman Education Foundation through the Internet, maintaining a small business, sewing and the like, as well as being able to customize and fix things. So, intuitively, we felt that it would be difficult for the two of us to squeeze into less than 1000 square feet and still feel active and useful. Even so, this would require reducing our belongings to less than half with the obvious problem - which half? That would need very careful planning.
Around Vancouver there are a number of organizations managing facilities catering to senior citizens. Upon examination, as might be expected, the offerings vary in size, services and price. As to size, these generally range from around 450 square feet for an all-in-one one studio room to around 750 square feet suite containing two bedrooms, living room or den and kitchenette. Services generally include weekly housekeeping, a resident's dining room, sitting area and library and typically telephone, TV and Internet services. Meals range from 20 meals per month included in the rental (beyond that you are on your own), to full board. And prices range accordingly from quite expensive to very expensive.
At this point, you might ask what about just moving into a condominium complex? In fact, some time ago we investigated moving into one in our area, one that included housekeeping, up to 20 meals a month in a fine dining restaurant, a nurse on staff and so on. However, we found that not only would that mean having less space and no yard, but we would still be responsible for most of our own meals and it would actually turn out to be significantly more expensive.
The project required a careful balancing act. It would also require a considerable
amount of up-front preparation for the actual move. We set the general financial
constraint such that the investment from the sale of our house would be sufficient
to pay the monthly rental fee without drawing down on the capital. However, the
answer obviously depended on the amount that would be raised from the house sale,
and that would not be known until the house was actually put on the market. The
housing market in Vancouver has always been very volatile veering from a 30% slump
in the early eighties to a steady run up culminating in a 20% increase in some
areas in the past year alone. In our area, house sales are very dependent upon
Chinese money and any change in the political or financial climate between Canada
and China could be devastating to the market. So, timing of the house sale would
However, we were also well aware that in spite of our best efforts, it would be difficult to make the correct "take-it"/"don't-take-it" decision on all the items of our belongings and wrong decisions would be matters of long-term regret. Therefore, we decided that we would not vacate our home until at least a couple of weeks after we had moved into the alternative accommodation. This would give us an opportunity to change our minds on items left behind, and vice versa.
This situation had two ramifications. We had originally projected that we would be "about ready" to make the life style change in "about a year's time". That would allow for a comfortable run up to such a move including getting used to the idea, making sure that we had the necessary long-term finances in place and selling off as much of our unneeded belongings as possible. However, the world economy, especially considering the Unites States economy and its effects on Canada in general and Vancouver in particular, made the housing market look decidedly dicey. We decided that if the move was to be financially successful we could not take the risk, and should reset our target to six months for a sale in the spring of 2011.
Nevertheless, if we still wanted to retain the house until after our move, we would have to make sure that we had enough cash-on-hand to pay deposits, moving expenses, and subsequent monthly payments until such time as the return on our investments started to flow. All of this meant careful scheduling of activities to optimize the outcome. The impact meant that we would be finally "down-sizing", moving furniture, holding open house several times to attract a buyer, and settling into our new home all at the same time.