Selling a home can be a stressful, emotional event. 

It is undoubtedly one of the largest financial transactions you’ll ever make, and with the vagaries of the market, it’s near impossible to predict. Decisions are best made with as little emotion as possible, but that’s a tall order for sellers who’ve lived in the same home for decades. 

(And it’s even tougher for their kids.)

My parents made the decision to move in the fall of this past year. They’d been living in the same home, the home in which I grew up, since 1972. But it was proving tough to maintain, with the garden growing tall and snow piling up on the driveway.

Family homeThe author's former family home. ROYAL LEPAGE/J & D DIVISION, BROKERAGE

(I used to get paid a dollar to shovel that driveway.)  

The upkeep was too difficult for my parents, both well into their seventies. And the idea of a condominium, with its amenities package and maintenance care, was alluring. My father was ready for it, my mother a little daunted by starting anew. 

READ: How to Cope With Downsizing and Selling Your Beloved Possessions 

“I had everything so organized in the house,” my mother recalled. “I knew where everything was in the pantries and the closets.”

(I did too. I fondly recall sneaking cookies from the pantry and eating them in the closet.) 

My parents went to a number of open houses at condos around the city. Many of the newer builds were appealing, with one at Avenue and St. Clair of particular interest. 

“The view was phenomenal,” says my father. “And so many of our friends had already moved into that neighbourhood.”

But the price to buy was greater than what my parents could afford. So they sat down with their real estate agent and their financial advisor in turn to discuss the possibility of renting. It’s a path that many seniors are taking, as it allows them to bank the equity from their home sale and use it for other purposes -- travel, entertainment, health care, alongside traditional investment.

For my father, the idea of ceding home ownership was a sensitive one. He and my mother had worked hard through the years to pay off their mortgage, and they were proud of that accomplishment. But my father was able to keep his emotions at bay, and not allow pride to cloud the right financial planning.

By December they had signed a rental agreement for a stunning two-bedroom unit, with only slightly less space than the house we called home. It meant downsizing, in some measure, and the task of getting rid of things, both cherished and not, seemed insurmountable to my mother.

“I had kept every yearbook and report card, stuffed animal and travel souvenir,” my mother explained. “And we must’ve had a thousand photographs hidden away in boxes. But we made our way through it, discarding what we could live without, and doing our best to not give in to sentimentality.”

(For the record, I can’t believe my parents threw out Mousy. Mousy had been my stuffed animal from the age of five onward. And was Mousy really going to take up that much room at the condo? I think not.)

When it came time to list their home, my parents consulted with their agent and tried to set a sale price consistent with similar homes sold in the area. 

(But there are no similar homes in the area. No bedroom as cozy… No backyard so full of adventure. And certainly, no family room as warm and welcoming and witness to love. Surely the value of a home should be based on more than just walls and square footage?)

Thankfully my parents were able to stave off the emotion that clearly had me in its grip. The house was listed at a fair market price and managed to attract a bidding war, selling for well over asking. 

And now my parents are settled in their new condo, availing themselves of the local conveniences and relishing their expansive view of the city. Last night, they hosted their first family dinner at the new digs. 

Family home viewThe author's parents' new condo offers sweeping views of the Toronto skyline.

“We haven’t thought much of the old house,” confesses my mother. “We’re just so focused on the exciting chapter to come.”

(Family dinner was a hoot, and my kids were quick to find the cookie pantry and the best closets to sneak a bite. I can’t help but be emotional.)