by Mary Ann Gratton
When I first saw a “For Sale” sign on the home in which I grew up, I got a lump in my throat. Although my head told me that it was the right time and the right circumstances for the sale, my heart had a different reaction.
My mother put her property up for sale this past summer after living in the same suburban Toronto house for more than 50 years. This was a seismic shift for my siblings and me. For the first few days, I could not even bear to look at the real estate sign on the front lawn for fear of starting to cry. Although I believed the move would be good for Mom, my emotions were complex.
To the passer-by on the street, this bungalow does not appear grand or lavish, but for me it is rich in memories that my family and I made in that space over the years. This was the setting for so many unforgettable moments in my childhood and adolescence. In this little kitchen, my family shared many meals. My mother, two sisters and I did our Christmas baking there every year. I recall with laughter all of us being up to our elbows in sticky marshmallows while creating yule logs and other treats.
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My father had a workshop in the basement and another in the garage, and he could often be found tinkering or fixing something in one of these spaces. We joked that, because he was the lone male in an otherwise all-female household, Dad needed his own space to escape from all of the X chromosomes!
"When I first saw a 'For Sale' sign on the home in which I grew up, I got a lump in my throat."
This house was the venue where we gathered for birthday parties, holidays and graduations. It served as the backdrop to my wedding photos and countless other family events. And within those walls, my parents played many lively card games and shared cups of tea with friends and neighbours.
Not all memories are fond ones. There were slammed doors during our girlish spats -- and broken hearts after teenage breakups. Still, I believe the good memories outnumber the bad ones by a wide margin.
Having worked at the Ontario Real Estate Association for the past six years, I have been exposed to many aspects of real estate. Although my background is in journalism, I have learned a great deal about the real estate industry through this job. I have been writing and reading about real estate issues and challenges through my work on The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter. In recent years, I have worked on hundreds of different articles about real estate.
This is different. This is personal. Saying goodbye to a house that has been part of your whole life is a milestone like no other. Even though I have not lived in that house for more than 20 years, the property was a constant presence in my life. My father passed away this past winter after several difficult years battling Parkinson’s Disease. He had been living in a nursing home for three years, so my mother was alone in the house for a long time. My sisters and their families now live hundreds of miles away. Mom was not using most of the space and the property felt empty to her. The time was right for her to downsize and forgo the responsibilities of maintaining a house and yard.
When the “sold” sign went up, I sent a photo of it to my sisters. Like me, they felt a pang of nostalgia and sadness. But we are happy too – happy that Mom is moving on to a new chapter and a fresh start in her life. The price that my parents paid for that house in the 1960s increased by more than 4,000 per cent in 2016. The passage of five decades of time, combined with the nature of Toronto’s recently heated market, fueled this increase. We’re also pleased that the sale went quickly and smoothly, with the help and support of an excellent REALTOR®, of course.
The home selling process was bittersweet, according to my mother. She is pleased and excited about a new phase in her life, although she will miss her neighbours and a place that has fostered so many fond memories. Mostly, though, we are grateful for all the good times enjoyed by family and friends under that roof. That, to me, is what real estate is all about.
Mary Ann Gratton is the editor of The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter.
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