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Leaving the city for the country may have never crossed your mind before 2020, but hey, there are no rules any more. Reports are showing a mass exodus of city dwellers, leaving urban centres for the (literally) greener pastures of the country. Statistics Canada found that "Toronto and Montréal [are] both experiencing record-high population losses to surrounding areas," while real estate hub Zoocasa reports up to 75% increases in home sales outside the Greater Toronto Area. If you’re buying your first home in Ontario, this market is absolutely on fire.

Pandemic-motivated moving

We are in a stage where depending on your career, work from home is more accessible than ever. COVID-19 has forced people to reckon with their previously fast-paced lives, with more opting for lifestyle over hustle. Without the necessity of the city, people can stretch their dollar further in the country, allowing people to focus on health, wellness, and quality of life in the face of a globally depressing pandemic.

Thanks to increasing development, life outside the city offers much of the same amenities, largely via big box stores and Amazon deliveries. While picking things up may require a farther drive or longer delivery times, most everything is available. COVID-19 has proven we can work from home, get everything delivered, and still connect (virtually) with friends and family worldwide, all without missing a beat.

Relocation to a suburban or rural lifestyle will bring a lot of changes, whether you’re a first time home buyer leaving the rental life behind, or a condo owner trading up for more space. Without Ubers to get around, moving may also require a car, and familiarity with your new streets. 

Culture shock in the city

When you're trading the hustle for the heartland, there is potential for a certain type of culture shock. Accessibility to groceries, clothing, or supplies may be limited, although COVID-motivated delivery expansion may mean everything is merely a click away. You may be driving more and encountering more wildlife along the way. At home, chores may increase, requiring maintenance on both the interior and exterior of your home, as well as the property it sits on. 

If you're still working downtown, bank on a longer commute to the city as well as increasing wear and tear on your vehicle. Outfitting it with snow tires may not have been a priority on cleared city streets, but northerly snowdrifts and blizzards make snow tires essential. Rural roads require skills and focus: changing weather, crossing wildlife, and higher speeds contribute to dangerous conditions.

Before you make your way to the countryside, you’ll have to face purchasing a home first; which is becoming quite daunting with urban bidding wars creeping into rural locations. Buyer beware —the price may feel good, especially compared to hot urban markets like Toronto. Our top tip for buying your first home? Do your due diligence when purchasing to ensure you're not buying a lemon located on a floodplain (or at least make sure you qualify for flood insurance in Ontario) or an aesthetically pleasing money pit, all which can set you up for more significant issues down the road. Inexperience won't be a valid excuse if things go awry, especially if you have to tack on renovations and repairs to your new home's price tag.

For those who win a bidding war, make sure your purchase price isn't wildly inflated relative to the home's assessed value. The larger the difference, the bigger the potential headache when securing financing and insurance.

Insure your assets

Get home & auto insurance  

Your home is most likely the most valuable asset you can own, and so it makes sense that you’ll want to protect it at all costs. Selecting insurance for your new life outside the city may be a more extensive process, as there may be more to include in your policy. Insuring your home will now include the property and any existing structures on the land, like a shed or free-standing garage. If you’ve bought a car as part of your relocation, factor insurance coverage into that as well (or better yet, bundle with your home insurance for more savings).

The first step is ensuring you have the appropriate insurance coverage, should something go wrong with or on your property. It isn’t enough to just have insurance — you need to understand your policy after you receive it, as it’ll detail the home insurance coverage for water damage and how home contents insurance covers your valuables. 

Your policy should also detail how to maintain coverage if you decide to invest in significant renovations or additions to the house, like a garage or pool. It is always a good idea to keep your insurance provider in the loop — certain proactive measures may affect your monthly costs, such as smart home heating and home security systems.

If you had a vehicle before your move, make sure you update your coverage for your new location. Rates may change due to factors like address and usage. While keeping a clean driving record will help minimize rates, proactive measures, like adding snow tires, can help decrease rates as well. If you're adding a new car to the family, make sure it fits the needs of your new home (we like four-wheel drive for more remote locations) and is maintained properly at all times.

A fresh start is exhilarating, with the added space gained relocating out of the city a bonus. New places to explore, a new home to settle into, an opportunity to reimagine your life. While no one can anticipate what the world will look like post-COVID, creating your new world outside the city may be one way to enjoy the present.

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