Why We’re Moving Into Our Parents’ Condo

Photo credit: abdallahh, CC BY 2.0.

My partner, Damien, has lived in China, Wales, England, and West Africa. On one of our first dates, he told me that nowhere has ever felt like home the way Vancouver does.

I grew up in B.C. and never really planned to leave. A brief stint in London and Oxford for school, a few long trips to the East Coast, and I knew: I was a B.C. baby through and through. The mountains, the water, the rain — I love it all, and it was clear that Damien was as smitten with the city as I was.  

Not long after that date, we became just as certain of our shared future together. I sponsored Damien’s residency application. We got engaged, we adopted a puppy, we found careers within a few blocks of each other. (I’m a copywriter, and Damien runs the CrossFit program at a boutique gym.) We found a dog-friendly apartment just a fifteen-minute walk away from those careers, with a rent that allowed us to put away a little bit of money for unexpected costs — or for a future.

Sounds good, right? It is. It honestly is. Before we go on, though, here are a few fun facts about Vancouver:

But, the mountains. And the water. And the many French bulldogs frolicking on the seawall. What’s a Millennial to do?

Contrary to popular belief, copywriters and personal trainers aren’t rolling in the Robert Bordens. To build a life amongst the idyllic views and near-constant raindrops, we’d have to hustle — and we were okay with that. Damien works long days and Saturdays. I routinely take on freelance projects to bring in extra cash.

What we didn’t anticipate was our quality of life. On paper, living within walking distance of work is the frugal person’s dream. It allows us to save on transit and car payments. It allows us to get to and from work quickly, a huge benefit when you’re working 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., as Damien often does.

But we live in one of the oldest buildings in Vancouver, in around 650 square feet. Amenities aren’t a thing; we don’t have a washer or dryer, or a gym, or an elevator, or even covered garbage bins. If we did have a car, we’d have to park it on the street.

Because we don’t have a car, our weekend activities are limited. We can’t take traditional transit options, as we have a young dog — I want to bring her to the mountains! I want her little Thai nose to sniff the Canadian trees! That means renting a car or a car-share to get to the hikes, and car-shares are expensive.

I’d also like to spend more time with my parents and my brother, who live in the suburbs. They’re about a 45-minute drive or a 2-hour transit trip, and asking my father to come pick us up (since we can’t take our puppy on the skytrain) gets a little old. Renting a Car2Go for multiple hours every weekend isn’t in the budget.

Right now, we save enough to contribute to retirement, eat one or two meals out per week, and go on one or two big trips a year. There’s not much wiggle room — we buy in bulk and I meal prep all our food, we rarely buy new clothes, we shop the sales. It works. But there’s nothing left over to expand our quality of life, or dip a toe into the notorious Vancouver housing market.

We want to build a life here. But, despite living in the center of the city, we feel like we’re on the outside looking in.

So we’re making a change.

My parents recently invested in a condo in the Vancouver suburbs, and they suggested we become their tenants. (I’m pretty sure they’ve been scared that I might move to the U.K. ever since I first brought home a Welshman, so they’re excited that Damien and I want to build our future here instead.) We’re going to be essentially paying into their mortgage: my parents are the listed owners and ponied up the significant down payment, and we’re renting from them with the hopes that we can buy it from them one day. We’re also going to take care of some of the general costs while we’re renting, like redoing the floors in the next year or two.

This is a huge part of our decision to move, and a huge privilege. My parents get some help with their condo, and we get help doing what we’re having a hard time doing on our own: growing roots in (near) a city that bleeds Millennials.

We also get to live in a building with a pool and a gym and a hot tub. It has a dog park across the street. It has a parking garage. Inside that parking garage, we have a spot, and in the spot, we’ll have a car.

I know that after the payment, insurance, gas, and maintenance, the monthly cost of the car is going to outstrip the financial benefit of cheaper rent. But we’ll have mobility. We’ll have the freedom to fall in love with our province all over again.

Here’s a breakdown of our budget now:

  • Rent: $1,825
  • Groceries: $800 (Damien and I both compete in CrossFit, and we eat a lot of food)  
  • Restaurants: $150–$200
  • Utilities: $80
  • Laundry: $60
  • Car2Go/Evo: $150
  • Internet: $75
  • MSP (aka public health insurance): $150

Here’s our estimated budget after the move:

  • Rent: $1,500
  • Groceries: $700 (there’s a better-priced grocery store close to our new house)
  • Transit costs when I have to take the train to work: $100.
  • Restaurants: $150–$200
  • Internet: $75
  • Utilities: $150 (accounting for laundry costs)
  • Car costs: $434
  • MSP: $150  

Our annual rental insurance costs will remain similar, but we’ll be adding an annual car insurance payment of around $2,500.

This means our monthly budget will remain roughly the same: $3,200–$3,300 in both scenarios, depending on our utility bills in the new place, as well as how much our insurance and groceries actually end up costing us.

However, we still have to spend a big chunk of money on the car purchase. While I wanted to buy an older, reliable car in cash, Damien wanted to lease or finance a brand-new car (he argued that since neither of us knew anything about cars, the warranty and peace of mind would pay off). We compromised: we found a gently-used ex-lease 2016 Mazda 3 with about 18,000 km, and managed to bring the overall price down to around $18,000.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs associated with the new car:

  • Down payment: $10,000 (this came out of our savings)
  • Registration fee, storage insurance, and daily insurance to drive the car to my parents’, where it’s staying until we move: $98
  • Monthly payment: $294 (at 1.99 percent interest for 36 months)
  • Car insurance: $2,500 per year
  • Gas: $140 per month (estimated)

We’re also giving up about 90 minutes per day that we’ll now spend commuting, but I’m excited to have a car again. I’m looking forward to long mountain hikes with the dog, and zipping ten minutes down the street to see my brother instead of riding a skytrain for two hours. I’m not looking forward to the commute, but all we do is work and sleep during the week anyway. I’m a homebody by nature, and that’s exacerbated by the fact that we wake up at 4:45 a.m. to get to work. Any extra time we have in the evening is spent exhausted, catching up on each other’s days, cooking and eating, and going to bed. Maybe it won’t make a big difference.

What do you think, Billfold readers? Are we foolish for moving farther away from our jobs in order to move just a little bit closer to our long-term goals? Or is this the type of move people make when they’re ready to put down roots and build their future?

Kimberley Hunter is a copywriter and writer-writer from Vancouver, B.C. She feels strongly about em-dashes and healthy living, and spends most of her time gazing at her pet dingo, Angelina.

This story is part of The Billfold’s Moving Series.


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