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The real cost of moving in Vancouver

This will be the 12th time I’ve moved in my adult life. Some moves were temporary, and some were longer-term, but they all cost money. It kind of makes me sick knowing that I’ve spent thousands of dollars in my lifetime just on moving, but it’s obviously unavoidable. And in Metro Vancouver, where rent is expensive (and the vacancy rate is less than 1%), the cost of a move could be the reason you don’t move at all.

When we bought our home back in April, we decided to hold back $10,000 of the money we had saved for our down payment so that we could pay for moving expenses, closing costs, a small renovation, and furniture. And with the way the timing worked out with our rental and our condo financing, we don’t actually pay rent or a mortgage payment in July, which gives us a bit more breathing room to pile up some cash in our joint account (our ‘buffer’ money) instead of dipping into our savings.

Now that we are finally nearing the end of paying for all of our moving expenses for what I anticipate is my last move until I retire, so I thought I’d break down everything that we’ve spent so far on our move. I’m going to leave out closing costs, the renovation, and furniture, because they’re not really “moving” costs, and I’ll talk about them in another post anyway. :)

Move-in Fees – $75 + $250 damage deposit

Our condo building requires a $75 payment for a 2-hour window of time to block off one of the elevators for a move. They also need a $250 cash damage deposit (which we will get back at the end of the move, provided we – or the movers – didn’t ding up the common property).

Movers – $450 (estimated)

We decided to hire movers to save us the headache of moving everything out of our tiny two-storey laneway house, and into a high rise condo. Sure, we could have done it ourselves, but it would take us at least twice the amount of time and just so much unnecessary headache. This is the first time either of us has ever hired movers, so I’m kind of excited to have this luxury. Their quote was for $360 (4 hours), plus a $90 one-way travel fee. It could be less if we’re finished within 4 hours – which I think we will be.

Cleaners – $164.64 (includes tip)

When I sold my townhouse in 2015, I paid for professional cleaners to come in before the new owner took possession. So I was pretty choked to see that the person who previously lived in our condo didn’t bother cleaning anything. I mean, they didn’t have anything behind, but the place was just dirty. Like they had never taken a sponge to a single surface of the home, ever. There was a thick layer of dirt over all the windows (and the blinds were filthy), make-up smudges all over the bathroom, cat hair everywhere, and random dried food splashes on the doors and some of the walls. I started to clean the place myself, but it took me 6 hours to clean just the living room windows, and I still had the kitchen and both bedrooms to tackle … we just ran out of time.

Paint & Supplies – $210.71

We wanted to buy a condo that needed no updating except for painting … little did we know that painting was kind of a huge chore to tackle when we’re already tight on time. But it needed to be done, otherwise we’d be living in Taupe City.

After getting quotes from 4 different painters (ranging in price from $800 to $1,800), RD decided that since we were paying for movers and cleaners, he wanted to try to save money and tackle the painting himself since he had 2 days off work. Neither of us had ever painted a home before, but RD is pretty good with a paintbrush, so he was stoked to take on the project. Except that it took us so, so, so much longer than we thought. By the time RD had to leave for another work trip, I still had one bedroom and a cement pillar to paint. And after it was all said and done, it took us about 4o man hours total to paint the entire place. For reference, we have a 2 bed/2 bath condo of about 825 sq.ft.

Household Items – $229.42

There were a bunch of things we needed to get that I just hadn’t thought of. For example, going from one bathroom to now having two, meant I had to buy a bathmat, soap dispenser, shower curtain, toilet scrubber, etc. I also bought cupboard liners, a splash mat for wet/muddy shoes, a step ladder, closet organizer, and a small succulent plant because I couldn’t help myself.

Restaurants – $300 (estimated)

Long days painting and moving meant there hasn’t been any time to cook meals at home. I do not feel healthy eating in restaurants or getting Subway all the time, so I can’t wait until this is all over and we can get back to our normal routine.

Gas – $90 (estimated)

RD is currently on another work trip, so I’ve been shuttling boxes to the new place, as well as whatever I can fit easily into my car. This is in part to make our time with the movers go faster, but also because I want to at least be partially moved in by the time RD gets back. The more I can get done now, means less stress on us the closer we get to our move-in date. I’ve spent $41 on one tank of gas so far, and I’ll have to fill up again before we actually move in.

Condo insurance – $412.08

We’ll be getting back a portion of our renter’s insurance for 2017, but I haven’t included it against our condo insurance because who knows when we’ll actually receive the refund.

TOTAL: $1,931.85

Before we started spending money on the move, I had hoped to keep our moving costs under $1,500 – but the added cost of hiring a professional cleaner, as well as paying for our condo insurance annually (when I had initially thought we’d pay monthly), put us over our budget. That leaves us with just over $8,000 left for closing costs, a small renovation project, and furniture. This should be doable, although I’m a bit concerned about how much the renovation project will cost. I have a few people coming over this week to give us quotes on the job, so fingers crossed!

How much did you spend on your last move?

6 things I’ve learned from watching home buying shows

Over the weekend I watched two full seasons of My First Home on Netflix. Yes, I said seasons.

I couldn’t help myself – I love home buying shows for so many different reasons. I love comparing Vancouver real estate to the rest of North America, and also other places in the world. I love learning about their budgets, expectations, style, and renovation reveals. And still, even to this day, I find it insane that a $200k house in a small town in the U.S. would be worth $3 million if it were located here in Vancouver. Sometimes when watching home shows, I get envious, sometimes I’m puzzled, confused, or irrationally angry … but I love them and I always come back for more.

Here are 6 take-aways I learned from binge watching My First Home on Netflix:

Men are obsessed with man caves

What is the deal with man caves? Why is this even a thing? It just seems really weird to me that men get a special space in the house that’s all their own to “get away” from their wife and children – where they can shut the door and drink beer and watch football and play video games with their friends. Where is that same space for women?! Look, I understand hobby rooms and places in the house dedicated to certain activities (RD wants an area in our condo so that he can set up an easel and paint, for example), but having a space in the house that’s so aggressively male – and only for males – just irks me I guess. And the fact that not having one can be a deal breaker to an otherwise perfect house? Come on.

Buyers believe what the banks tell them they can afford

I was constantly surprised that buyers would just take what the bank told them they can afford and that so many people spent to their maximum pre-approval. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’ve run your own numbers and can fit that mortgage payment (and all other associated housing costs) into your budget, but many of the buyers just said things like “the bank pre-approved us for $140k, so that’s our budget.” No. Please please please. If you’re thinking of buying a home, please run the numbers and consider all scenarios – what would happen if you (or your partner) lost your job? What happens if you have kids? Do you have an emergency fund? Are you saving enough for retirement? Did you leave room in your monthly budget for property tax, insurance, and strata fees? I’ll admit that perhaps my budgeting spreadsheet(s) are too detailed to be enjoyed by most people, but the minimum you should be doing is spending a few hours looking at your finances and seeing what you can actually afford, not what the bank says you can afford. Because the bank? They’re not looking out for your best interest. They’re looking to make as much money off you as possible.

Nobody had a 20% down payment

I think out of the entire two seasons I watched, only two buyers had a 20% down payment, and one was because he received an inheritance. As for the other buyers, some didn’t have down payments at all. But I was mostly surprised that many were going house hunting with such a small amount saved (even though they often had good salaries). It made me wonder if they even had any additional money set aside for an emergency fund or moving costs. Because if they say they’ve been able to save $4,000 for a down payment, that’s a small enough number that it makes me think that’s probably all of their savings, no?

Related: Why I don’t want to burn my mortgage

In some places, normal people with normal salaries can afford houses

The amount that RD and I paid for our condo was more than anyone paid for their house on the show in the 2 seasons I watched. It made me cry a little bit inside when one guy (who had no down payment, btw) signed the papers on a 3-bedroom house where his mortgage would be less than $500/month. Or another episode where a guy bought a 2,200 sq.ft. house for $200k. That same house would have easily cost $3 million if it were located in Vancouver!

I definitely got super envious at the housing prices – I’d love a house for $100k, thanks – but then I think about living in Rural Wherever and I’m okay with spending what we did to live in a big city. :) Lifestyle and demand and all that stuff mean that in big cities like Vancouver or Toronto or New York, normal people with normal salaries will never be able to afford houses.

Some people don’t have Realtors

Okay this one really did shock me. I didn’t realize people went house hunting on their own without representation. I’m not saying that in a snarky way, I really was surprised. I know that sometimes Realtors get a bad reputation, but not to have one at all to give you advice and protecting your best interests … I dunno, it feels like going to court without a lawyer.

In this one episode, a woman was looking to buy a house and had searching on her own for MONTHS without any luck. She was getting into multiple offer situations, often got outbid, and was extremely frustrated. Yet she kept commenting that there was no way a Realtor could do a better job than what she was already doing. Her friend reluctantly convinced her to use a Realtor, and she ended up finding her dream home with them. When you’re buying real estate, using a Realtor is free (you only have to pay commissions when you sell using a Realtor). I’ve only had very positive experiences using a Realtor, and can’t imagine ever navigating the property market without one. But of course that’s my own experience and my own opinion!

(Curious – has anyone been successful in not using a realtor to buy?)

Buying a home with someone is a huge commitment

In some ways, buying a home with someone is more of a commitment than marriage, so you better be sure that person is the right one for you! There was one episode where a couple had been dating for 7 years, but when she realized that a mortgage meant they’d be committed for the next 30 years? She freaked out and they broke up. There was another episode where the woman wanted a huge house to fill it up with future children, and the guy looked so frightened and the Realtor looked like she wanted to die it was so awkward.

I personally think it’s important to figure out what you both want (now and in the future) before you start your home search. Think about where you want to live, if you want kids, if you plan on getting married – all of the big life decisions don’t have to be made immediately, but at least openly discussing them before committing to a home could potentially save a lot of arguing, and also money. From a financial perspective, I think it’s also important how you plan on combining financing, splitting mortgage and household payments, as well as who actually owns the house (or how it’ll be split). It was interesting to see the creative solutions the home buyers on the show came up with in terms of ownership rights, and payment to the mortgage, which goes to show that there’s not one right way of doing things.

Related: Combining our finances

Anyway part of me is really glad that we don’t have cable, otherwise I’d have access to all those other home buying/house flipping shows that I’m obsessed with. :) What are some of the things you’ve learned from watching shows like this?!

Why I don’t want to burn my mortgage

When I bought my first home in 2011, I had a very Independent Woman attitude about it all, and wanted to pay down my mortgage as fast as possible. Because I was self-reliant, and didn’t need a man to become debt-free and reach all my goals! Right? Well. 28-year-old-Krystal had a lot to learn about financial priorities. I eventually realized that putting every extra penny towards my mortgage wasn’t making me happy, and it wasn’t getting me any closer to my number one financial goal of early retirement. So by the time I sold that home in 2015, the only extras I was putting towards my mortgage was keeping to an accelerated bi-weekly schedule.

Related: Why I’m reducing my mortgage payments

Since RD and I are taking possession of our home in a few weeks, we’ve been discussing how we plan to pay down our mortgage. Based on our budget I showed you earlier this month, we’ll definitely be going with an accelerated bi-weekly payment plan, but aside from that? We have vague goals of putting down some sort of lump sum payment every year. Accelerated payments and small lump sums will be enough for us to reach our goal of eliminating our mortgage before we retire. But as a PF blogger, I just had to run the numbers to see how long it would take us to “burn” our mortgage, Sean Cooper style. :)

We’ve calculated that our joint expenses will be $3,600/month – which includes our base mortgage payment, strata, and property taxes, along with our fixed bills, groceries, household expenses, and a monthly buffer of $365 set aside for household repairs and emergencies. If we decided to trim down those expenses a little bit and put the rest of our income towards the mortgage (which means we’d live on a very strict budget), we could eliminate our mortgage in less than 5 years.

So yeah, it would be pretty damn cool to be mortgage-free before I’m 40 (especially in the Vancouver area!), but the lifestyle and sacrifice required to achieve that goal is not appealing. And at this point in our lives, it’s just not going to happen. 5 years is a really long time! Maybe our mindset will change in the future, but here’s why it’s not going to happen right now:

We have other (more important) financial goals

Yes, paying down the mortgage is a big financial priority, but early retirement and traveling every year is higher up on that list. It always has been.

Traveling multiple times a year is something we both agree is really important to us, and we want to do for as long as we are physically able to travel. It’s one thing to potentially lose our big trip each year (that seems manageable), but not be able to afford flights to visit our families, go to Tofino, or plan weekend getaways to the Sunshine Coast or Squamish? That sounds horrible. Living that kind of life for the next 5 years (which happen to be prime adventure travel/hiking years) to pay off our mortgage sooner? No thanks.

Related: When renting is better than home ownership

As for early retirement, saving for that goal has always been my top financial priority. And now that RD has figured out when he can retire from the government, it means my retirement age will be 54. :) Losing 5 key years of retirement savings stresses me out because if I keep saving at the rate that I’m saving right now, I will reach my goal easily.

No interest in working harder

Work more than my 9-5 job, and the small amount of freelance work I do on the side? Sorry, again, not interested. Maybe that’s a horrible attitude to have, but this is the reason why we chose to take on a small mortgage – so that we will never feel like we need to work harder than we already are, just to keep a roof over our heads.

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really important to work hard to achieve your goals. I worked three jobs to pay down my debt, and continued to hustle in order to save for my first down payment – often working 70-75 hours/week. But that lifestyle isn’t sustainable, and I burned out after 18 months. I’m glad I worked hard to put myself in the financial situation I am now, but I made a promise to myself after I moved back from Germany that I was never going back to working crazy hours again – even if it meant taking a pay cut. Living a balanced lifestyle is just so much more important to me now.

I want a little YOLO attitude in my life

We love our lifestyle right now. We’re frugal and we often say no to things when they come up, but we also don’t want to miss out on what we feel is important. I love being able to say ‘yes’ to a girls weekend in Seattle or Vegas, treating my sister to a spa day for her birthday, and buying that sorta pricey climbing gym membership with zero regrets. I want to continue being able to do all of these things without stressing or feeling guilty that I should be putting those dollars towards the mortgage instead.

You really do only live once, and the whole point of buying the condo that we bought was because we could afford to continue living exactly how we’re living now. I’ve worked so hard for the past 10 years to become as financially stable as I am right now, and the idea of having to sacrifice for 5 more years sounds exhausting. And, honestly, it seems joyless.

Our mortgage will be paid off before we retire

We both agree that we don’t want a mortgage in retirement, and that goal is easily attainable by making accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments, and small lump sum payments every year. Interest rates may change in the future, but for the next 5 years, we’re looking at a 2.59% rate. And I know we can get a better return for our money by investing it instead. Since we already have a sizeable down payment, the thought of putting more of our net worth into real estate isn’t something we are super comfortable with.

Related: My biggest home buying regret – not fully considering the future

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is our thinking right now, but it doesn’t mean we won’t change our minds in the future. Maybe we’ll come up with a happy middle ground where we are paying extra towards our mortgage to eliminate it in 10 or 12 years instead of aggressively going for 5 years. Or maybe we’ll just be happy with the 20 year plan that we have going for us.

Are you planning on aggressively paying down your mortgage?

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