Monday, September 7, 2009

So Where Will We Stay?

Where to stay when we come back to Canada? Suitable and affordable accommodation back home is going to become a significant issue for us in the years ahead. By “suitable”, I mean a place with all the necessities where we can unpack our suitcases and feel at home for anywhere from 1-6 months. If it’s just a few weeks here or there, we can easily stay with family or friends, several of which have offered us a place to hang our hats. We thank God for them! But for longer periods of time, we really need our own space.

But it’s not easy to find such a place. Nearly all rental units require a minimum one-year lease to begin with. We need something significantly shorter, but with all the amenities and basic furnishings so that we don’t have to go and haul our household stuff out of the various places we’ve got it stored and unpack it, only to pack it up and haul it back again a relatively short time later. We’re getting too old for that! In fact, unless you really love moving all the time, I think moving all the time gets old real fast no matter what age you are!

This wasn’t an issue in earlier years of our overseas experience because family life with younger children was fairly stable, our parents were in relatively good health, and airfare for four people to travel back and forth across the ocean even once every couple of years was rather prohibitive. We just stayed in Africa for anywhere from 2-4 years at a time and then came home for at least a year before going back. For that length of time, it was no problem to find a suitable place to rent and to go to the trouble of moving our stuff in.

But now our situation has changed. Events and activities involving our grown-up children and elderly parents necessitate more frequent trips home. And flying back and forth has become more affordable, not just because of better prices for airfare, but also because we now only have to pay for two people to fly. However, we can’t stay for as long as we used to. And therein lies the problem.

An option we’ve considered and dismissed for the time being is home ownership. There are several reasons for this: 1) A house costs more money than we have, 2) it would tie us to one place every time we came home, and 3) the current rental climate is a landlord’s nightmare. In order to make mortgage payments, we’d have to rent the place out during our absences. Not only is it hard to find good tenants (and bad ones are nearly impossible to evict), but we’d have to engage someone to manage the place for us, at least in terms of maintenance and repairs. And if we’re only coming home for a month or two, it’s still not worth the effort of moving our stuff in and out again, never mind having to ask one tenant to leave, and then finding another one only a short time later.

So what’s the solution? Well, we’ve found a temporary one for now: corporate apartments. These are fully furnished apartments or condos that can be rented for as little as a week at a time. True, they’re not cheap, being more expensive than a regular apartment. But they’re cheaper and bigger than a hotel room, and include all the utilities and services, like electricity, water, telephone, cable, and Internet, that you’d normally have to go through the hassle of signing up for when you move in, and then terminating when you leave. You just bring your suitcases in when you’re ready, and leave when you’re done. And unlike most apartments, you just pay by credit card. Convenient or what!

But as I said, this is a temporary solution for this time at home. In the future, I’d like to see something similar, but for less money. At the moment, corporate apartments cater primarily to business clients, people who are moved around by a company or corporation for work-related reasons. But in our increasingly global village, there are going to be more and more people like Kathy and I, private individuals who need to spend a few months here and a few months there, but who don’t have the financial resources of a for-profit organization or business behind them. It’ll be interesting to see what possibilities develop in the next few years...

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