I live in the city, and honestly, I’m kind of over it. Well, I am and I’m not. It’s kind of like marriage: what you thought it was going to be like is not at all like it is, and though you may very well be ultimately happy you did it, the tax on your nervous system was wholly unforeseen and sorely non-recoupable.
In other words, urban hopefuls (above), if you think you can get around the compromises; you can’t.
So before you walk bright-eyed and bushy tailed into a charming hovel, this is my urban reality:
NOTE: I live in Toronto, so some of this is unique to the teeming, overpriced-L.A.-without-the-sunshine I call home, but still, I feel there is value in my sharing.
- Garage: None; Private Lane: None; Parking: Curbside. We pay good money for a permit and most of the time a ‘visitor’ — read: someone who works in the area — is taking up two and a half spaces on our street because they probably have parking where they live and don’t understand street parking (permit kicks in after 12 am). Winter — OMG — is a snow-mountain-in-my-parking-spot circus.
- Value: Is all in our heads. We overpaid for an old house that though is detached and has a sizable backyard for the city, is old and needs a truckload of renovations which we cannot (ever) afford. If we ever do embark on reno’ing, we’ll have to withdraw all the equity to do so and can never ever — ever — move in order to possibly call this house an ‘investment’.
- Gift with Purchase: Mice. Can’t get rid of them. Old neighbourhood, old houses close together with lots of garbage in close proximity — there must be a vermin city of Troy under all our collective basements in which resides a fat, sated mouse king.
- WHAT???: Someone stole the compost garbage out of our compost bin. I know it was a human because there was no waste strewn around the empty bin. Racoons, which we now live with like family, do not wait to get home before they open your garbage gift. The bin was clean empty; the lid neatly propped open.
- Local Park: Is basically a Where’s Waldo scene on the weekends. The playground looks like a soviet bread line, with the equally angry faces of parents who’ll cut you down if you go over your five-minute limit on the swings.
- Walking-distance Amenities: Cost 30% more. You name it, it’s more expensive. But hey, we save on gas…
- Restaurants: Can’t get in. People sitting on the rafters from 4:30 to 11pm.
- Property Taxes: UGLY.
- Road work: Seriously, never ending: gas line, water main, pot holes, sink holes…NEVER. ENDING.
- Nice Old Trees: Liability. At least two cars get a branch in the hood every time a storm hits — street parking! — and thus begins the viscous cycle of insurance versus staying mum and not losing the nice old tree, because as soon as you claim the damage, they come and take away the tree and there goes that ‘charm’ you overpaid for in the first place.
Now. Just like marriage, we’ve invested way too much time and energy into self-hypnosis to rescind it all now, and just as in marriage, are over the five-year bump and are now comfortably at peace with all of the above.
But I will tell you this urban hopefuls, if I had to do it all over again, I would have a much more open attitude and carefully consider all available options. In fact, I would even go as far as older, pre-suburban communities, and buy a heritage home in a charming old farming town and commute. But maybe that’s just me being as ignorant of that reality as the urban hopeful… To live is to learn.
By the way, if you want to learn more about Urban/Suburban Investment Strategy, urban champion Philip DuMoulin will be speaking at Vancouver’s Investor Forum, on November 12th and 13th, 2011, at The Vancouver Convention Centre. Philip’s session will focus on multi-family investing in Canada, helpful do’s and don’ts, and will also explore investing in the US.