As COVID-19 case counts rise in Ontario, Mike, Jean and Abby Terrell fled the big city for country living.
“It wasn’t if we were going to get sick, it was just a question of when,” said Mike, formerly from Woodstock, Ont., but now an Odell New Brunswick resident.
“It was very terrifying, my anxiety had gotten a lot higher,” said Jean.
Mike worked in a large factory as a manager and Jean was a special education teacher. In August 2020 they purchased a home in New Brunswick, sight-unseen and timed their move so their daughter could start school on the first day and not have to miss time in class self-isolating.
“We have a million-dollar view here on a shoestring budget,” Mike said.
According to a 2020 study by the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price for a home in Ontario is $594,000 compared to New Brunswick’s average of $183,000.
“We were lucky enough to own our home in Ontario, so once we were able to sell it and buy this one there was enough money to survive while we looked for a job,” said Mike.
Holland Homes owner Jenna Holland said there is an influx of people moving to New Brunswick, so the inventory is low. Her company is filling the gap by building luxury houses on riverfront lots for Ontario clients.
“Fredericton is changing into a seller’s market, so the cost of living here is going up,” said Holland.
Richard Florida, an economic analysis and policy professor at the University of Toronto, told Global News this new trend of rural gentrification is largely driven by people working from home and many smaller cities in the U.S. are now developing strategies to entice remote workers.
“Tulsa, Oklahoma, they offer you $10,000, they help you find much more affordable housing, they plug you into a community of other remote workers and other young people and they are attracting people from San Francisco, New York, and Chicago,” Florida said.
Mike Terrell hopes to find work within the community, possible on the town council, but for now they are content relaxing on their new property, having play time at home.
“It feels like a way more relaxed easy-going lifestyle, which is what we were looking for and love,” said Jean Terrell.