These long-time Torontonians were retirement ready. So they bought a $475,000 home in Belleville
Who: Rob Lamb, 58, retired building operations supervisor for the City of Toronto; and Cain Knoechel, 53, landscaper, baker and drop-in companion to seniors
The history: Rob grew up in St. John’s and moved to Toronto as a teenager for work. Cain, originally from St. Catharines, left home at 17 and moved around the country, before eventually settling in Toronto. In 2000, Rob and Cain met at Acorn’s bar in Flemingdon Park, where Cain worked as a bartender. She served Rob a drink and eventually they started a relationship. In 2005, they purchased a 900-square-foot two-bed, one-bath home in East York for $247,000. Over the years, Rob used his carpentry skills to upgrade the place, building a garage and rear deck, along with replacing the carpet and linoleum flooring with hardwood.
Rob and Cain were fixtures in the Woodbine Heights community. They were regulars at nearby Monarch Park, where they went for walks or swam in the pool. Rob helped the neighbours with small repairs, like fixing bicycles or hooking up appliances, while Cain, an avid gardener, often held tomato growing contests with people on their street.
But in 2019, after working as a city employee for 30 years, Rob became eligible for his pension, so the couple started thinking about the next stage in their lives. Knowing how much real estate prices had increased in their neighbourhood over the past 15 years, the couple planned to sell their home, set money aside for retirement and move outside of Toronto, where they could enjoy a more laid back lifestyle and a bigger property. Based on comparables in East York, the couple figured they could fetch about $800,000 for their property.
Originally, Rob wanted to work until he turned 60, in 2022, but the pandemic sped up that timeline. Rob’s work slowed down because of Covid-19. Then, in the summer of 2020, the city offered him an enticing retirement package. The timing felt right, so Rob accepted. With a budget of about $500,000, which allowed the couple to set aside a considerable nest egg, Rob and Cain started house-hunting outside of the city.
The hunt: The couple explored a few options. They considered going back to Cain’s hometown of St. Catharines. Also on the list: Trenton, Peterborough, Kingston. They even toyed with leaving for St. John’s, where Rob grew up. But none of those ideas worked out. Then, while doing some research, Cain came across Belleville, a city of 50,000 located about two hours east of Toronto on the 401.
Rob and Cain loved downtown Belleville, with its historic look, narrow tree-lined streets and the pretty river that flows through it. They were also excited by the city’s lively arts scene, imagining themselves going to plays and concerts once lockdown restrictions were loosened. It had great medical services, too, which the couple needed to consider for when they get older. All of that—combined with the city’s proximity to Prince Edward County, where the couple used to go camping in Sandbanks Provincial Park—convinced Rob and Cain to focus their search in Belleville.
The couple had a relatively short must-have list. It included a move-in ready property, to avoid the fuss of making upgrades; a garage to store Rob’s 1967 Volkswagen van; more square footage to comfortably entertain family and friends (once it’s allowed again, of course); plus a large backyard where Cain could grow vegetable and flower gardens.
In mid-August, Rob and Cain drove out to Belleville to visit a couple of properties. One of them, a 2,200-square-foot detached listed for $499,000, piqued their interest immediately. Located on a quiet street in the East Hill neighbourhood, just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Belleville, the home had a charming brick facade, stately white columns and a wrap-around porch. Inside, on the main floor, there was a gas fireplace and two stairwells—one at the entrance, one at the back of the kitchen—which both led upstairs. And the interior got an abundance of natural light, which spilled through large windows in the front room and dining area.
The house also ticked a lot of Rob and Cain’s boxes. The square footage was a big-time upgrade from their 900-square-foot East York home, it had a one-car garage with enough room for Rob’s VW and there was a spacious backyard for Cain’s future garden. Overall, it seemed like the perfect fit.
The next day, on August 15, Rob and Cain made an offer of $30,000 under asking, based on comparables in the neighbourhood. But they were willing to compromise. The seller asked if they could do any better, so the couple increased their offer by $5,000, to $475,000, with a closing date of November 2. The seller accepted.
That gave Rob and Cain three months to sell their East York home, in order to secure financing for the new place. In early September, they listed for $850,000, with an offer date set a week later. There were 15 viewings over that time period, but only one offer, which came in at $920,000. Just like the seller over in Belleville, Rob and Cain asked if the buyers could offer anything more. The buyer came back with $930,000, which the couple happily accepted, knowing they would have more than enough to afford their new home and pad their retirement savings.
The outcome: After officially moving into their Belleville home in early November, Rob and Cain are still in the process of unpacking. Several neighbours have stopped by to welcome them since their arrival. Cain brought over 250 plants with her—including peonies, hostas and roses—to start working on her gardens. Once they’re settled, Cain hopes to find work in community or social services, while Rob will spend his time pursuing his hobbies, whether it’s creating stained glass or working on his Volkswagen.
Although they’ve only spent a few weeks in Belleville, Rob and Cain are already enjoying the slower pace of living. Rob is pleased with the quiet surroundings, especially compared to East York, where he was often bombarded by the sound of passing police sirens and fire trucks. And they both feel reassured heading into their retirement years, with their finances comfortably secured.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Sandbanks Provincial Park. Sorry about that.