1926, Maurice Vlaminck, lithograph; acquired at auction and now in our bedroom
By Caitlin Kelly
Blame it on journalism, an insecure business that lays people off every day and pays poorly.
Blame it on my insistence on living close to a major city, which spikes real estate prices; I lived for 18 months, (albeit pre-Internet and pretty broke), in a small rural town in 1988. It was a very poor fit, making me wary of being so far out again.
Blame it on a lifelong love for travel, blowing bucks on a trip to Paris instead of scrimping for a larger down-payment.
And, I admit, my aesthetic preferences for homes 100+ years old and my lack of carpentry/electrical skills also in play…
But I’ve never owned a house.
I re-arranged the artwork in our bedroom recently and noticed a subconscious pattern — a French lithograph from the 1920s; an anonymous oil found at a flea market and a watercolor bought at an antiques fair.
Each shows a house, surrounded by forest or land or near a river.
Not in a suburb.
Not in a city.
But a discrete dwelling with no immediate neighbors or nearby visual impediments.
A few other factors have made home ownership feel difficult-to-impossible — working freelance with a variable income makes mortgage lenders jumpy.
The serious responsibility of costly repairs — like a roof or boiler — is intimidating.
And, with no children, no real justifiable need for extra space, like multiple bedrooms or bathrooms.
There’s also no “Canadian dream” of home ownership and — unlike the U.S. whose policies make mortgage interest a tax deduction, making home ownership more appealing — Canadian banks usually insist upon a 30 percent down payment, not the 1 percent “liar loans” that got so many American home-buyers into terrible trouble in 2008.
And houses aren’t cheap!
The ones that are would require so much time, energy and renovation my heart sinks at the prospect — and we go off on vacation instead.
I lived in a house at 19, at home with my father and his girlfriend, later wife. It was white brick, two story, probably built in the 1920s or 30s, on a busy Toronto corner and facing a park.
I lived in a house in downtown Toronto, the top floor of a narrow Victorian home, then in a sorority house for a summer and then, my last Toronto home, rented the top two floors of a small house even as I lived alone.
But since then, I’ve shared hallways and a laundry room and adjacent walls — through which I can hear our neighbors’ laughter and conversations — in a six-story co-op (owned) apartment building in a suburb of New York City.
I like our life here — there’s a pool and Hudson River views and nice landscaping and I don’t have to shovel snow or clear gutters or mow a lawn.
But I long, deeply, for a private place where I can crank up my music really loud.
Where there isn’t a long tedious list of “house rules” and restrictions on everything from bird-feeders (verboten) to grilling outdoors.
Where we could easily host multiple friends, finally able to reciprocate their house-owning hospitality to us.
Which we could rent out and leave if we want to.
We’re thinking of a road trip to Nova Scotia — and found this, a 3 bedroom with 2 acres and ocean view, built in 1815.
And went a little mad with desire until I read that it’s the rainiest place in Canada except for the very rainy B.C. coast.
My father has owned many houses — including a great Georgian pile near Galway City in Ireland, built in 1789; a massive Victorian in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia and an elegant early Victorian in a small town in Ontario.
He just bought his latest, built in 1810, in another small Ontario town.
Do you live in a house?
Do you own it?
What’s it like?