I’d like to take this opportunity to wish someone special a very happy 100th birthday – our house. OK, our house is not actually a person, but after living with each other through many ups and downs for 30 years, it just feels like this stack of brick and wood is a cherished member of the family.
Just as our family has grown and evolved, our house has changed a lot over the years, but it is essentially the same character as when we moved in on a sweltering June day. We were lucky to find the house, having a rushed amount of time in the dead of winter to hunt down a place to live in a city we barely knew.
When moving day came, we were surprised by the size of the backyard, with lilacs in full bloom. When the realtor got us a hurried visit, we had paid little attention to the patch of snow in the back of the house.
A small grove of those lilacs soon got dug up to make way for a patio, during the excavation of which we unearthed pieces of some old foundation. Those chunks of ancient cement were a bit of a portal to the history of the house, which, for example, old maps indicate is situated on the northern extremity of General Wolfe’s thin red line for the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. We joked that we had discovered Wolfe’s latrine. Down the lane, a neighbour found a cannonball in his garden.
We learned that the dip in the property line with our neighbours at the back was for the turnabout of the old horse-drawn tramway line, and, incredibly, the stables are still there on the other lane, now converted into a swanky garage.
Our front entrance is actually on the side of the house, which confirms that when the house was built, the surroundings were pretty much suburban countryside and when you opened the front door you saw a field. Now you see an apartment building.
The city is still such a village that we are friends with the nephew of the gentleman who built the house. He happened to be a cement contractor, so the foundation is like a fortress. He also erected towers of concrete to block the windows of the apartment block next door. They were demolished on our watch. Long story.
So we celebrate and reflect upon the house that has been our home sweet home for so long at a time when, paradoxically, it seems home ownership has never been more accessible for many Canadians, nor more unattainable for so many others.
Here’s a stunning fact from the number crunchers at real estate giant Royal Lepage: As of February this year, 48 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 35 said they own their own home. Of those, 25 per cent bought their digs – house, condo, hut, whatever – during the pandemic.
Of those in that demographic who do not yet own (read, make mortgage payments on) their own home, 84 per cent say it is their goal, and of those, 68 per cent say they plan to do so in the next five years.
Royal Lepage boss Phil Soper had a simple explanation for the buying spree: “Mortgage rates fell to historically low levels and competition for entry-level housing lessened. Many investors sought to divest of property as traditional renter groups such as foreign students, new immigrants and short-term renters disappeared behind closed borders.”
Contrast that bouncy viewpoint with some less rosy facts. For example, the Canadian Real Estate Association reports that as of March of this year, the average sale price of a house in Canada has soared 32 per cent over last year.
That reality, though it’s bound to readjust in time, has led to a certain sense of surrender among wannabe homeowners, with an RBC survey finding fully one-third of folks between 18 and 40 believing they’ll never have a home of their own.
So, we count ourselves fortunate to have lived so long with our friend, our house, as expensive and demanding as home ownership can be, now, then or in the future.