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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Shaw

Ruminations in isolation

Our personal definitions of what a ‘home’ encapsulates have been inextricably altered by our recent COVID world. What used to simply be a place to lay our heads, feed our families, and work through bad hair days has become all those things and so very many more.

We have been forced inside our internal worlds in order to stay safe and do our part as this non-partisan virus rages around us. Collectively, we are digging deep, going slightly stir crazy, and ruminating over how our own homes are serving us during this time. It goes without saying that such deliberations inevitably force change, and I’m pretty sure that our post-COVID world will introduce some congruous housing considerations which will propel us into action.

For me, my home has always been my safe haven. A place to hunker down and heal post-divorce, a place to cry and laugh and entertain, a place from which to guide my boys onward into the world. This hasn’t changed. I still hold my home as one of my most prized and personal possessions, yet my feelings for it have deepened. Never have I ever been so grateful for my small slice of Centre Wellington, my own yard, my stone walls, my perfectly imperfect reflection of all I hold dear.

I had been considering trading my century home for a slick new condo within a few years. It seemed to be the natural progression of a maturing life as my boys transitioned to more permanent homes elsewhere. However, after spending the past several weeks isolated alone, being free to sing, dance, work-out, read, redecorate, drink wine and hang out in elastic pants……..well, I’m pretty sure that I’m exactly where I need to be.

I feel so incredibly fortunate, as I know that many of you do. But perhaps given a nudge, there is something that you would like to change about where and how you live in your home within the constraints of this new world.

Maybe you are renting, and this time spent in a basement apartment or condo has not been ideal. Perhaps having no individual outdoor space has you craving a yard of your own no matter what size. Maybe the noise from surrounding units has you disturbed, frustrated, and unappreciative of your neighbours.

High-density living is now perceived as the landlubber cousin of cruise ships, with communal areas such as elevators, laundry and entry doors being fertile ground for contagion. How exactly will this contemporary bias impact design changes regarding multi-unit properties? Will there emerge an emphasis upon private balconies and individual access, larger units, spacious outdoor areas, and the introduction of hands-free technology? Shall we expect careful future planning around manageable human distancing, or will nothing change?

What about those someday dreams of rural living, of having acreage and a solid buffer between you and the rest of the world? Does that appeal even more urgently now than during pre-COVID times? Perhaps that move-up property, or forever home, has become more compelling and you’ve already been window shopping or finding yourself lost on country roads searching for vacant lots. 

Maybe your ideal is a home located in a walkable area, with accessible trails and sidewalks so that you can get outside more easily. My son lives in Toronto where being outside is frequently a toss-up between healthy desire and the anxiety of being awkwardly close to other people.

By contrast, the sidewalks and roads in small towns such as Fergus and Elora are far less fraught and provide the ability to chat with neighbours from a safe distance. This accessibility fosters valuable feelings of community while lessening the loneliness of this obligatory lockdown. Smaller towns also provide easier access into essential stores with little to no queues, friendly curbside pick-up, and grateful delivery from familiar local shops.

Some homeowners had been planning basement renovations to accommodate rental units before the world shut down. Now, after being given the opportunity to press pause, those renovations have switched direction in order to add a family rec room, a home-schooling area, or a suite for an elderly parent. These families are choosing personal comfort and functionality over living in close proximity with strangers, regardless of the potential income advantage. Conversely, other homeowners have opted to build an income suite in their homes to provide a buffer against market slowdowns and job loss.

The only common factor in how you move forward is that your route centers around what is best for your family and how you aspire to live together. And while this may be a big decision, it’s certainly not a permanent one. The beauty of real estate is that there is always something bigger, smaller, newer, or older, something to suit wherever you are right now, and where you will be in 10 or 20 years. 

We will all take something away from this time. The manner in which we are living right at this moment has the ability to provide reassurance and security, or shades of discomfort. Maybe this is exactly what we need to set some new goals around homeownership and timelines. Perhaps now more than ever before, these fabulously low-interest rates will force action, and you’ll be on the front lines of helping to invigorate the economy.

So, pour yourself that coffee, and find a quiet corner in which to sit and think deeply about how your home is serving you during these pandemic days of isolation and abnormality. If you ever want to chat, I’m only a phone call away.

Heck, we can even Zoom that call.


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