HOMEFINDER: Big decisions require sound minds

Lorayne and Ian Aitken try to encourage home buyers to take extra time in making such a big decision.

Lorayne and Ian Aitken stand outside their home in Central Saanich. After a few moves up and down the Island

When Lorayne and Ian Aitken saw a recent story in the Peninsula News Review’s Homefinder section, they felt they had to share their experiences — and try to encourage home buyers to take extra time in making such a big decision.

Ian was born and raised in Central Saanich. He and Lorayne lived on Veyaness Road together for about two years. He had been there for seven or eight years, he added. When it came time to think about retirement, the couple looked to different markets to try to maximize their return on the home in which they were currently living.

Ian had finished a career at the Brentwood government liquor store and Lorayne, too, was anticipating retirement — at least a little earlier than the traditional age 65 or 67. So, they picked up stakes and found a home in Ladysmith.

While the move left them mortgage-free, they soon found out there were lessons to be learned that even the basic due diligence had missed.

Near their new home, the Cassidy airport was undergoing renovation. The extent of that work had the couple worried their home might be under new flight paths. Already, they would see sightseeing aircraft nearby but had grown used to that.

Fearing the worst, they again sold their home and found a new place in Cedar, a rural community south of Nanaimo. This is when their challenges started.

The house they bought, despite a thorough inspection, turned out to be infested with carpenter ants.

It’s one of the limitations of a home inspection, said Ian, that the inspector cannot remove walls. Nor was the infestation listed in the seller’s disclosure statement.

The Aitkens said they discovered there was little recourse but to seek legal redress when the previous owner refused to help. Ian said it was a lot of work for only a few hundred dollars in repairs.

From that, Lorayne said they learned what to look for — such as small piles of sawdust in the case of carpenter ants.

After a while, the couple decided they wanted a lifestyle change and looked at buying a townhouse. This brought them back to Central Saanich and a unit in Saanichton. They thought they would adapt to life under the rules of a strata, but for Ian, the limitations become too much.

“I still wanted to be able to mow my own lawn and to drop the tailgate of my truck and enjoy a beer in my yard.”

He and Lorayne advise that before anyone moves into a strata for the first time, try to rent first and try out the neighbourhood to see if it’s right for you.

It wasn’t a good fit for them, so with their long-time real estate agent in tow, they found a home in Central Saanich that they love.

The Aitkens say that finding the right real estate agent is vital. Someone who knows what they like and will spend the time to do a good job, they say, is key to having confidence in a home-buying decision.

The couple admit they have done well in real estate over the years, but with their latest move, Lorayne has had to put off retirement for a few more years.

Despite their challenges along the way, they’re happy with the decisions they’ve made and hope their experience offers a little bit of friendly advice for other people looking to downsize — or even up-size to a new home.