The Move: From a postage-stamp-sized lot in London to greener pastures in Moncton – Macleans.ca

A man and a woman standing and holding hands with a black dog at their feet, standing in front of a white house

(Photo by Crystalia Pucciarelli)

The buyers:

Hayley Burrell, a 39-year-old real estate agent; and Mike Dalgleish, a 39-year-old lawn care entrepreneur.

Budget:

$300,000

The backstory:

Like many millennials, Hayley Burrell wanted to own a home by the time she turned 30 (she was 28 at the time of this disclosure). She earned a portion of her earnings from her job as a security guard at a hospital in London, Ontario. and she referred them to an RRSP, hoping to take advantage of Canada’s first-time homebuyer incentive. In 2013, just after her 29th birthday, she managed to save enough money to buy a newly renovated three-bedroom townhouse in London, Ontario for $158,000. She met Mike on Tinder the following year.

By December 2015, the couple had moved into the house Hayley bought, joining Rory, a Giant Schnauzer, two years later. Hayley and Mike liked that the property was within walking distance of their jobs; the downside was that it maxed out at 900 square feet. “Our backyard was the size of a postage stamp,” says Hayley. It wasn’t big enough for Rory, who quickly grew to 110 pounds.

The city around them was beginning to feel crowded as well. More and more big shops and apartment buildings seemed to appear in London with each passing year. The expansion wasn’t just a figment of his imagination: In 2019, 60,000 people left Toronto and the Peel region, many of them ending up in London. As a result, the traffic was getting worse. The 10-kilometer drive to Hayley’s parents’ house in the far northeast of the city increased from 30 minutes to a full hour.

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The big squeeze made Hayley and Mike think of Hayley’s brother, who moved to Prince Edward Island in 2015. The couple agreed they felt more at home in the family cabins than in the city, but they found that kind of calm (and affordable real estate) close to London was not a possibility. It was in PEI. Unfortunately, there was the little matter of Hayley’s job, which she came with a pension and benefits. Barring unforeseen circumstances, she planned to remain in that position until her retirement.

In October 2019, after 15 years working at the hospital, Hayley lost her job. She was devastated, but it opened up the possibility of a big move. Fortunately, Mike’s job at Canada Post allowed him to move almost anywhere in the country. His mutual desire to “get out of London,” as she puts it, was clear. The only question was where, exactly, they would end up.

A woman kissing her black dog while sitting on the steps of her house and her partner watching them.

The hunt:

A few weeks after Hayley was fired, she told her former London-based real estate agent that she and Mike were ready to sell. Mike filed transfer paperwork at Canada Post’s warehouses in New Brunswick, where real estate costs were more reasonable, and received an approval for Moncton. In February 2020, the couple left their keys with their real estate agent for showings and made the trek east to property hunt, Rory in tow.

Hayley and Mike viewed over 17 houses in two days. One of them was a farmhouse on 100 acres of land in the small New Brunswick town of Memramcook. It had potential: Hayley grew up riding horses and always dreamed of owning a small farm with a few horses. Mike had always wanted an ATV that he could ride on the nearby trails. But the property needed a lot of work. It had a narrow floor plan and the couple preferred an open concept layout. The property itself was also heavily wooded. Neither Hayley nor Mike were convinced to cut down all those trees.

After putting a pin in the cottage, the couple stumbled upon a three-bedroom, two-bathroom mini-manufactured home in Cap-Pelé that was listed at $259,000, their latest showing of the trip. It had an attached garage, a workshop, and a sunroom. The current owners had built a roaring fire for the display, adding to the already cozy feel of the house. His daughter had also left her hockey equipment at the house, which helped Mike and Hayley envision raising their own children in the space. Unlike the farm, this house didn’t need much work and the nearby town was quintessential Atlantic seaboard, with just a grocery store, post office, lobster plant, and a few restaurants.

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Torn between the cottage and the Cap-Pelé prefab, Hayley and Mike returned to their hotel room and drew up a list of pros and cons for each and called the family for advice. The next morning, they made an offer of $252,000 for Cap-Pelé’s house, $7,000 on request. The sellers made a counter offer of $256,000. Looking back, Hayley thinks they could have come back with $253,000, but they were afraid of offending and eager to close the deal. The sellers agreed on a Tuesday, and Hayley and Mike’s London home went on the market the next day. It was sold before the weekend.

It was early March when Hayley and Mike returned to London. Days later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. New Brunswick has banned all non-essential travel and closed its borders, establishing checkpoints at the crossings to Quebec, Nova Scotia and PEI. Hayley and Mike were left struggling to figure out if they could travel to their new home.

They canceled the move and the cleaners they had booked and loaded up a U-Haul themselves. They also learned that upon arrival in New Brunswick, they would have to quarantine for two weeks; grocery delivery was not available. The day before they left Ontario, the couple bought three large coolers that they loaded with food from Costco. (Rory got his own little cooler.) Hayley and Mike prepared a file with all their real estate documents in case they ran into trouble at the border, but they got through with no administrative issues. Not even a blizzard or a flat tire three hours outside of Moncton could stop them. They pulled up in front of their new home after midnight, threw the mattress on the floor, and went to sleep in their winter coats, utterly exhausted.

Hayley and Mike spent most of their two weeks of quarantine unpacking. The COVID restrictions made it especially difficult to meet new people at first. All non-essential businesses were closed and local restaurants could only offer takeout. Hayley made the unconventional decision to create a Tinder profile for herself and Mike, stipulating that they were only looking for friendship. They quickly became friends with a local couple who introduced Hayley and Mike to everyone they knew.

Three years later, Hayley says that she and Mike are thriving in Cap-Pelé. The view of her from her back door in London included terraced houses and a dumpster; In Cap-Pelé, her backyard is practically a forest. In addition to Rory, they have also become parents to a mixed flock of ducks and chickens, which once numbered over 40 birds. At night, they let Rory chase seagulls on the beach at L’aboiteau, which is a few miles from her house.

Hayley and Mike’s money also reaches more in New Brunswick than in Ontario. Most of his acquaintances in the area are self-employed, and Mike recently started his own lawn care business. Hayley has also made a career change: She now works in real estate with the Moncton realtor who sold her house. Encouraged by her daughter, Hayley’s parents also recently moved to Moncton. “We appreciate where we grew up, but this was definitely the right move for us,” says Hayley. “No regrets!”


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