I traded my Leslieville condo for a $645,000 cottage near the beach in Grand Bend. I love it here
If I could ask my younger self where I’d be at this point in my life, I would have guessed I’d be a working mom, living away from downtown, maybe in the suburbs or Leaside or Lawrence Park. But that’s not where life has taken me. In 2015, I bought my condo in Leslieville for $780,000, a quintessential loft space with two bedrooms and amazing views of the Toronto skyline. I was single with a very active social life. I went to concerts and Leafs, Jays and Raptors games. I was proud of my lifestyle—posting about the cool new restaurants and bars on Facebook, showing off my amazing view on Instagram. Vibrant is the word that comes to mind when I think about the city at the time. I’m not sure exactly when that started to change. Last summer, a couple of my friends moved from downtown Toronto to Collingwood. They talked about how it was so peaceful, so idyllic. That definitely sparked something. It got me thinking, What if I left the city for a similarly laid-back lifestyle? At the time it was just a fantasy, but I’m someone who likes to play around on MLS, so I started researching properties online—Caledon, Collingwood, the Eastern Townships in Quebec.
I worked as a senior vice-president of customer success for a US-based tech start-up, and my job involved travelling to the States several times a month. I got laid off shortly before the city went into lockdown. It sucked, obviously, but with the future being uncertain, I suddenly had a bit of control over what I wanted mine to look like. I started to think that maybe it was a good time to sell my condo, which had appreciated a lot in the last five years. I worried that the market could crash and I wanted to protect my money. Plus, during quarantine, I felt like I was living in a fishbowl—literally.
I had a circular unit, in a building between two other condos. If I pulled my blinds down for privacy, I felt claustrophobic. But with everyone stuck at home, when I opened them up, I felt like people in the adjacent condos were staring at me. And then, as the city started to open up again, things that I had formerly ignored gave me anxiety: the noise, traffic, the construction, the crowds of people. Being insulated for so long suddenly made me highly sensitive to the chaos of urban living. Any time I left my home I came back feeling like I needed a vacation.
In June, I went to visit friends in Grand Bend. I was enjoying a glass of wine in their quiet backyard, when I had the impulse to turn my dream of suburban living into a reality. I spent the rest of the weekend checking out properties. The last time I’d been in Grand Bend I was a university student looking to party with my friends, but now I was seeing it through the eyes of a 40-something. Instead of scoping out the best bars, I was more concerned with finding the closest Sobey’s. I found a property listed for $675,000 on MLS, and drove by just to check it out. I loved it so much that I called the listing agent from the driveway. The place is absolutely amazing, surrounded by giant trees in a preserved oak savannah forest, a five minute walk from a private beach. It’s an 80’s ranch bungalow cottage on the outside, modern and recently renovated on the inside. Which suits me just fine. I love the great outdoors and all, but I definitely appreciate a gas fireplace, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances. I met the listing agent there the next day and put in an offer the following week. After some back-and-forth, we landed at $645,000, on the condition that I sell my Leslieville condo. Shortly after, I sold my condo for $1,150,000—slightly under asking—to the second buyer that saw it.
I’m not sure what gave me the confidence to make such a massive life decision. In part, I knew I would have an easier time working remotely, since the world is moving toward virtual work. I’m a little nervous—or at least curious—about what it will be like in the winter. The way I see it, it’s only two-and-a-half hours from Toronto. I can always stay with friends or family when I want to visit the city. I’m looking forward to getting to know the people in my neighbourhood. My mom came to see the new place before I moved in, and we went to celebrate with a drink on the patio at Dave’s Pub & Grill at Oakwood Resort. The couple sitting at the table next to us to happened to live in my new community. They gave me the lowdown on where you go when you’re not a twenty-something looking to party. My friends pointed out that I’m looking at a significantly smaller dating pool. That’s true, but it’s not like Toronto has produced great results in that department, either. For a long time, I made decisions based on my career or past relationships. This was a decision I made for myself. And for my dog Malone. He’s a three-year-old terrier mix rescue and he’s so important to me. I can’t wait to see him loving all of this space. I have twice the square footage of my old place for half the price, on a half-acre of land.
Selling my condo for $1,150,000, as well as the reduced expenses of living in Grand Bend compared to Toronto, has given me some flexibility in terms of income. It’s possible I’ll continue working as a freelance consultant, but maybe I’ll get a job at a bookstore. That sounds like the beginning of a rom-com. Or maybe a comedy about a big city girl who moves to the country and realizes that she has no idea how to rough it. I honestly don’t know what the future holds, but I’m excited to find out. And to finally get a good night’s sleep. It really is quiet out here. It’s exactly what I wanted.