Beyond the City Lights - Healthy and Wealthy in a Small Town

So you want to move outside of the big city but are wondering what it's like and how to do it while making smart financial choices for your family? You can have a great, active life in an area that is safe, fun, and close to work, balanced out by time spent hiking or kayaking.

We're starting up a new series in the podcast called “ Beyond The City Lights: Healthy & Wealthy In A Small Town". Today I'm joined by Realtor Karen Kenyon from Royal Le Page Parksville – Qualicum Beach who will share insights into her experiences living big in a small town.

In this TRANSCRIPT of "The Women's Wealth Canada Podcast," Glory Gray and Karen discuss:

  • How to make the most of a home buying trip

  • How to make your home stand out when selling

  • How should you stage your home?

  • Types of homes that are selling now


Welcome to Women's Wealth Canada, I'm Glory Gray. The other day I was reading an article about how the pandemic has changed the wealth management industry permanently. Like many other industries over the past year, the way we present our service to our clients has changed, and the way our clients receive our service has changed. Think about how you've changed so many things in your life over the past year and the way you purchase things now.

Before March 2020, I had two offices on Vancouver Island - one in the central island area and one in the southern island in Victoria - and I split my time between the two of them. Like many of you, I decided to start working from my home in the central island and permanently closed down the one office space, and only kept the Victoria office space open in the southern island. I began meeting new and existing clients by phone and by Zoom video conference.

What I found was clients began to really enjoy not having to disrupt the flow of their day, get up and go to some financial advisor's office - instead, they could grab a cuppa or a glass of wine, get comfy and have me come into their home safely and virtually and have a relaxed conversation about their financial goals. I don't see that changing in the future and so the way I do business has forever changed.

At the same time, I began to see lots of young families moving into our area. We're a rural area and there's very little industry. During the financial crisis 10 years ago, young families left our area and moved to larger cities because there was no work here. Not now. Now these same people are coming back to the island and bringing their work with them. How are they doing that? Well, now they have the technology that will allow them to do that. And that opens up a whole new lifestyle for these families.

Some technology has been there a long time. I started working from home back in 1998, when I first married Squatch. Remember, back then we were all on dial up and no one had a cell phone. The corporation I worked for had to pay for four landlines to be installed in our house; one for our home line, one for my business line, one for my modem, and one for the fax line (remember faxes?) I remember the phone company had to bring out excavation equipment to bury all the lines. But what if I had to travel? I couldn't take all those lines with me and laptops weighed a ton. Now I can just about carry my entire office with me in my pocket. Aren't we living in amazing times?

All this to say that maybe you're considering a big move away from the city, but are wondering what it's like and how to do it while making smart financial choices for your family. You can have a great active life in a safe area, balancing work hours with time hiking and kayaking, and you can do it in a way without going broke. So to help you in this journey, we're starting a new series called “Beyond the City Lights: Healthy and Wealthy in a Small Town.”

Because Vancouver Island is made of mostly small towns, we'll use it as an example throughout our series. To kick things off, realtor Karen Kenyon will be joining me today. Karen is a licensed Realtor, certified home stager and interior designer. She's a certified luxury home marketing specialist, a member of the Million-dollar Guild and a recipient of the Royal LePage Chairman's Club Award, which is given to realtors who are the top 1% in Canada.

Karen was born and raised in the UK and Italy and later moved to South Africa. She and her husband have lived in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, but like many people, after traveling the world she found a permanent home on Vancouver Island.

So come join our conversation. Karen and I are just about to talk about what it's like to live on central Vancouver Island. Grab a cuppa, have a listen and I'll meet you back here afterwards.


For those who might not be familiar with our area and they're thinking about moving, what two or three things do you wish you could tell someone who's thinking of buying and moving to the area?


Well, you know, this area offers so much. We have amazing proximity. If you want to go to Vancouver you can hop on a float plane and be there in 20 minutes or get on a ferry. You can go to Victoria, you can go up island to Campbell River, you can go across the Tofino. I mean, we are central island and we're centrally located. And from here, everything is, you know, within arm's distance. But for me specifically, what I love about Nanoose Bay is... I love the walking trails, I love the beaches. And I love this kind of Farm to Table community feel with the wonderful organic farms within a few minutes of where we live, and fabulous places like... I have to give a shout out to Springford Farms because they're so amazing.


They are my favourite!


Fantastic, right! I mean really! I look forward to going there. Every time you go there, they keep getting new things. And I love that idea that we're eating food that's produced locally.

I came to the island 20 years ago, and spent some time renting a property in Nanaimo thinking I would buy a house in Nanaimo. And one of my friends who lived up in Nanoose said "you should come out to Nanoose," so I drove out here. I drove down the road and saw the ocean. I phoned my husband and I said, "I found the place."

I feel grateful and I think one of the things that's wonderful about my job is that I get to see the place that I live reflected in the eyes of newcomers every day. And I'm reminded of how lucky I am to live here.

I would say the saddest thing about my career as a realtor, is that I meet so many incredible people who I would love to be friends with, but I'm so busy working, I don't have time.

Everybody has a story and life of where they come from and what they've done. And if they share that with me that's a privilege for me to hear that. But I have met the most interesting people from all over the world.


So, you have been here for 20 years. And you've been a realtor and all that time?


No, I got my license in 2007.

My youngest child had left home and gone to school, and I thought well, that might be a nice thing to do because I've always been passionate about real estate. Within a year I was working harder than I've ever worked and it has been a surprising career for me.


Most of our area are folks in our area are over age 55? Would that be fair?


Yes, I would say, over 50, maybe.

Active, younger, retired. And I'm seeing a lot of semi-retired people, people who haven't quite retired yet.

They're still consulting. They're still working a few days a week. I have never lived in an area with so much intellectual capital. So many people from so many different walks of life, with so much life experience. We could start our own university right here! All the intelligent wonderful people from so many different walks of life.

People are still active and they have so much to give. A lot of people are actually carrying on working, even if it's just part time, a few days a week, consulting and doing what they might do. I love that.

I'm also finding that younger families are now working remotely in the area. We're starting to see younger professional people move to the area, and they just love it because it's a safe place for their children to be. It really is like taking a step back in time.

Right in the middle of the COVID lockdown last year, I was contacted by a gentleman who writes for The Sunday Times in England, and he was writing an article. His premise was this - since the lockdown in England, everybody's been sitting at home watching Netflix, and they're all asking themselves, “These places that are showcased on these shows, do they really exist? Are they really wonderful communities to live in?"

And of course, Nanoose Bay came up because of Chesapeake Shores, so he interviewed me for the Sunday Times and there was actually an article in The Sunday Times about what it was really like to live in this area.


We talked a little bit about what people would be surprised to find in the area. Now if they’re planning a trip here and they want to start looking at houses with you, how could they make the most of their time during their visit with you?


I think they can use tools online to look at homes and floorplans.

But one of the key things I find is narrowing it down to where you want to live.

Because, sometimes people will come and they will be looking from Victoria all the way up to Campbell River, so they will meet with 10 different realtors up and down the island, in a short period of time.

It's much more valuable if you have decided on an area, because then we can concentrate on that area, make sure that you see everything. Find out everything about an area, so that you're in the right place.

Real estate should never be a short term purchase, and it should never be a quick purchase, because it's a very expensive mistake to make, if you make a mistake.


So would you advise, if they're just not sure what area to move to - then maybe come to the island several times. Visit Victoria, visit up island …


Yes. Drive around the neighborhood, because you get a feel for the kind of neighborhood that you might want to live in.

And the other thing people can do to help me to help them, is tell me what they love about where they live now. Then that might give me an idea of where they would best fit in the areas that I know, because I find that people will often ... even though they're moving to a different place … they'll also be looking for a similar community.

So, if they talk to me about what they like to do, where they live, the kind of people they enjoy meeting, often we can narrow it down to a couple of communities that might be right for them. Because nobody wants to move somewhere, and be completely alone, and have nothing in common with any of their neighbors.

Well I don't know, maybe some people! But, most people want to move somewhere and at least have some kind of community that they can move into.

I jokingly said, years ago, that you should drive around at election time, and make sure that you're not moving on to a street where every single person on the street is voting for someone different than you would vote for.


That's brilliant, actually!


And it's really about, you know - finding a likeminded group of people that you can connect with.


Is it fifty-fifty buyers and sellers in your business?


I would say it's pretty even with me. Some agents prefer to do more listings. I worked in sales before, different kinds of sales, and I was the buyer for a corporation, but I also worked in the store. If you don't know what the customers are asking for, you don't know what to buy for the store.

I find it the same in real estate. I need to talk to buyers, and I need to go out with buyers, and then they show me ... they tell me this house isn't right or that house isn't right. Many of us are looking for a similar kind of home, right, because we're all looking for something in our demographic.

When I go to do an evaluation on a seller’s house, if I know that I've interacted with several different buyers looking for that kind of home, it makes it much easier for me to price it.

I think that you have to work with buyers. And I would say yes with me, it's probably about fifty-fifty.


So if I'm selling a home. How can I make it stand out from the crowd?


Clean is the first word that comes to mind. Clean … really clean!

People sometimes say, "my furniture is old or it's not all staged and fashionable." Buyers will not care about that. They care about clean.

It's amazing the difference that a nice, clean, well-cared for home that has been kept up in terms of maintenance can make. Those things make a big difference to the confidence of the buyer with proceeding with an offer.

The other thing that I find interesting today is that we do encourage our clients to declutter their homes because people are watching all those shows on TV where every house they see is absolutely perfectly staged right? It's hard for people to see beyond other people's possessions.

But I have found that if there are some personal pictures on the wall or mementos, maybe somebody was in the military or maybe somebody was in the RCMP, or maybe somebody's grandfather, you know, won a medal.

When I take buyers through a house and they see something like that, sometimes they connect with the seller and that connection makes them also feel that the house is right for them.

Maybe people don't want to leave personal items out because of privacy, you know photographs of their children or whatever.

I think some things that tell the story of who the owner of the house is can create a wonderful ambience. And of course, some things can create a negative ambience as well, right, like a big stuffed creature or something!


And for people who are looking - let's say that they are retired and they're thinking about moving into a home that has amenities that they can stay there for a long period of time, what should they be on the lookout for?


Aging in place is an interesting thing because up until about four or five years ago, we would see people moving into a nice rancher thinking that they might stay there until a certain time when they might go to retirement home or extended care.

So, they would be asking me about living in a single level home, thinking that if they had to go in a wheelchair, or something like that, it would still work.

But I'm starting to see now that people are more reluctant to think about going into an extended care home. That they're looking for houses that have some kind of accommodation where somebody, a family member or somebody else, could move in with them and take care of them.


So, two story houses ...


Yes, they will have a sort of resurgence in popularity. And also, families moving in together, multi-generational living.

Parents live on one floor and the kids on another floor with the idea that the kids can look after the parents. We are starting to see that, where five years ago, I don't think we ever saw it.


It's something that so many European countries have been doing forever, literally for centuries. We've thought it maybe wasn't our cup of tea but now it makes complete sense.


Well, the expense of moving into extended care is a consideration.

And so I think people do think, it might be easier to pay somebody to live in my house and look after me. I don't know.

We're just starting to see it. So whether it becomes a trend or whether it's just something that we're beginning to see because of COVID, only time will tell.


Are you most often seeing people who are downsizing or people moving to our area to upsize?


Well before COVID I would say that, 60% or 70% of people were downsizing.

Since COVID, I've actually seen people wanting slightly larger homes. Maybe because they're feeling that they're going to spend more time in their house, travel less. They want more hobby space.

COVID has definitely been a game changer in terms of real estate in this area.

One of the problems that we have now, the thing that I'm most focused on this year, is that we have too few homes for too many buyers. That is a problem that we have not had in this area before. Historically we've always had plenty of homes for people to buy. Now, there's been such a rush to the island, for people buying property that now, for homes under about $1.3 million, there's probably five buyers for every house.


That's amazing.


In some cases, in the lower price ranges, we're seeing multiple offers - between 5 and 20 offers, depending on the house.

But then again, it is a good time to be a seller, it's a terrible time to be a buyer.


Anything else that you'd like to share?


No, I mean I just thank you for inviting me.

I feel very privileged that you invited me to do this. I do consider it a privilege to do this job to be invited into people's homes and to see all these beautiful homes that people have.

And every home I see, it doesn't matter what the cost or value of it is - it's a privilege for somebody to invite me into their home and to trust me with selling it. I'll never take that for granted.


Well, thank you. It's been a privilege having you on Women's Wealth Canada.

That was Karen Kenyon, Realtor with Royal LePage Parksville-Qualicum Beach Realty.

In our next episode, we'll be heading to Victoria in Vancouver Island's southern part to speak with life transitions coach, Sue Maitland, who'll be sharing tips from her popular workshops on networking and transitioning to a successful new life. You don't want to miss that.


Resources in this episode:

Karen Kenyon, Realtor, Royal LePage Parksville-Qualicum Beach

Springford Farm


This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. It is not an offer to sell or buy or an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any entity or security cited. Mutual funds offered through Portfolio Strategies Corporation. Other products and services provided through Glory Gray Wealth Solutions.

Listen to the entire podcast episode: here

GET THE GUIDE: "12 Smart Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Financial Advisor" Schedule a free financial consultation with Glory Gray by emailing us at:

Website: Email: Twitter: @WomensWealthCA Facebook: @GloryGrayWealthSolutions LinkedIn: Glory Gray

#womenandwealth #financialplanning #personalfinance #yyj #vancouverisland #retirementplanning #retire #budgeting #mindfulspending #nanoosebay

Copy of blog header (1).jpg
Don't miss out!
Get every post, exclusive bonus content,
and free guides straight to your inbox.

Success! Well done, you!