B.C. family cashes in on hot housing market to 'wander' the world

A 36-year-old woman and her family are using the money from their house sale to travel instead of buying another house. The pricey real estate market has them questioning whether B.C. really is the 'perfect place' to live.

Family of four will travel while reconsidering decision to live in B.C.

Natalie Chen (right) and her husband, Thang Ngo (left), were excited to celebrate their home sale in June. They decided two weeks later they would use the money to travel. (Natalie Chen)

A young family from Surrey, B.C. is taking advantage of the hot housing market — they've sold their house to "wander" the world for a year — even if it means abandoning the coveted dream of owning a detached home when they return.

Natalie Chen, her husband Thang Ngo and two daughters have sold their five-bedroom "dream home," the majority of their possessions, and will be jetting off for at least a year.

"With the ability to cash in, why not? We have our health, we have financial freedom at a young age," said Chen. "There's no guarantee that when we're older we'll have those things."

She said they realize when they return they may not be able to buy a similar 3700-square-foot house in South Surrey.

Their house was listed for nearly $1.3 million and sold for above the asking price.

But she's counting on travelling in cities around Europe, where homes tend to be smaller, to help ease that concern.

"Realizing that we can live comfortably in a town house or a condo ... because that can give us more financial freedom to travel and do things that make us happy."

With housing prices where they are, she said her family will consider leaving B.C. altogether rather than feel "trapped" by costs beyond their comfort zone.

"We're all too afraid of leaving what everyone seems to be saying is the perfect place to live, but how do we know that for sure?" she asked.

Journey to a house

Natalie Chen and her husband sold this 5-bedroom family home for above asking price in less than a week's time in South Surrey, B.C. She says they might eventually move outside of the province, because "it's okay to be away from Vancouver." (Thuy Ngo)

The 36-year-old recognizes she and her husband, 39, are fortunate to have owned a home early in life.

The couple bought a starter condominium in Ladner, B.C. in 2004 which they sold for a small profit.

That led to their first home in New Westminster, which turned another profit.

The house they just sold was custom-built with a private ensuite in every bedroom and looked out onto a park in the area of Summerfield.

Like other listings in their neighbourhood, she said they received multiple offers and sold their house in less than a week.

"We've just been lucky to be in the market at the right time," remarked Chen.

Taking a leap

Chen handmade costumes for her husband and daughters to announce to other family and friends they would be taking off for a year's adventure. (Natalie Chen)

As an entrepreneur, Chen prides herself on being a nonconformist. 

She began her career in computer animation, eventually switching into the IT industry.

Three years ago, she took her biggest leap, starting a custom cake business from home.

Ngo will also be putting his career as an industrial electrician in the oil and gas industry on hold.

Their two kids, ages three and six, will be be home-schooled during the year abroad.

Chen's only worry is about how her daughters will adapt to constantly moving, but is relying on her belief that home is ultimately their family unit.

"Maybe for them, it might awaken them to new and different things as well."

They plan on beginning their travels later this summer.


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