The Move: We’re retirees who bought a granny flat to live near our daughter and save money

“We live in a prefab cabin on her 50-acre property”
Cathy Rivoire
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In April of 2020, my daughter, Caitlyn, was thinking about selling her home. She’s a teacher who lived in Smiths Falls with her three dogs; she wanted to get away and settle down on a larger rural property with some acreage. My husband, Gord, and I have lived on a 50-acre property in Lombardy, Ontario, for the past 40 years. Jokingly, Caitlyn suggested that Gord and I could apply for a land severance to create a separate lot for her to purchase. To her surprise, we were both on board.

Our initial plan was to sever the two acres of property that included our home and allow Caitlyn to build her own house on the remaining 48 acres, but after much correspondence with the Ministry of Transportation, we discovered that we couldn’t get a land severance. They suggested that we look into a garden suite or granny flat: a small home typically built in a backyard adjacent to the main home. At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. I was under the impression—like a lot of people—that a granny flat is one step up from a trailer.

READ: Why I gave up my condo and moved in with my best friend and her family

But within a few weeks, we started seeing the upsides. Gord and I were ready to downsize from our home on the property, which had become more laborious to maintain over the years. If Caitlyn took over our house, we could keep it in the family, and living in a granny flat near her also meant she could help us as we aged. We decided to sell her the house below market value for around $300,000. I looked into granny flat companies and connected with Roger Robertson from South Shore Homes, a Perth-based retailer selling modular homes manufactured in New Brunswick. They were similar to a luxury apartment, with amenities like laundry rooms and walk-in closets. Robertson’s office was built like one of the models so prospective buyers could see what it would look like. We fell in love with a model two-bedroom, 900-square-foot space with an open-concept kitchen and living room. Gord and I were sold before we even left that day.

Our customization plan included the addition of ten feet to accommodate a second bathroom and walk-in closet. We converted one of the bedrooms into my art studio and added a three-season sunroom and deck, which gave us a bit more space. We ended up spending roughly $275,000 on the home and renovations. The process of ordering and delivering a home usually takes five months, but a combination of COVID and supply chain issues delayed our move-in date from September of 2021 to January of 2022. Along the way, we discovered that our home would be considered “temporary” and can only be on the property for 20 years, so we built it on blocks rather than on a foundation. Our children can decide what to do with the land later on.

We have the benefits of living in a luxury apartment while enjoying our outdoor space. Our son, Douglas, works in Ottawa and lives ten minutes away with his wife and two young children. We usually see them on the weekends for our family tradition of Sunday dinners, which we rotate cooking. We love to eat on our beautiful deck—weather permitting. As for upkeep and chore division, Caitlyn and her dad share dog-walking duties, and Gord plows the snow or mows the grass in the winter. Caitlyn says he’s the best property manager she could ask for.

MORE: The Big Idea: Help seniors age at home

During the day, when Caitlyn isn’t working, she and I will cook our favourite meals together, relax outside with the dogs or occasionally work on joint home improvement projects. If I need help with my devices, she’s a doorstep away. She sometimes jokes that when she lived in Smiths Falls, I would call her every day, but now, not so much. Caitlyn’s friends wondered if moving so close to her parents was a good idea, but we’ve been able to give each other privacy and communicate whenever either side oversteps. After living in this granny flat for over a year and spending time with my children, there is nothing more I could have asked for.

I’ve always known there was something special about this land since the day we purchased these 50 acres. It means a lot to me that my daughter has planted her roots in this space, too. We’ve made decades’ worth of memories as a family here, and now, there will be decades more to come.

— As told to Ann Elpa