The financial advantages of renting

Paul Humeniuk, a 45-year-old personal trainer, sold his condo and moved into a Rosedale apartment and now finds he has enough money to travel and put some aside for retirement.

Renting means a fit bank account

February 11, 2011

David Hayes

Special to the Star

“A year ago I asked myself, ‘do I want to be working non-stop and not taking vacations just to pay a mortgage?’ ” says Paul Humeniuk, thinking back to his past life as a condo owner. “I’m self-employed and I was working so hard that I thought, ‘am I eventually going to make myself sick?’ ”

As a personal trainer, Humeniuk, who is a fit and healthy-looking 45 year old, knew better than to allow stress to make him sick. So one day he had an epiphany. He saw himself without the burden of ownership, a weight lifting off his shoulders like the ones he pumped as a teenager that led to his passion for physical fitness and helping others get in shape.

“My plan was to get back in the market, but with no time frame attached to it,” he says. He looks around his minimally furnished, 830-square-foot one-bedroom apartment on the edge of the Rosedale Ravine, for which he pays a mere $1,225 a month, including parking.

“Then I found this and became spoiled.”

Here is how he got there. As a graduate of the business program at Humber College in 1989, Humeniuk helped his then-girlfriend move to Phoenix for a job. While there he met a fellow Canadian who was setting up a studio to piggy-back on a trend in California: personal trainers working one-on-one with individuals. Always interested in fitness, Humeniuk worked with him for six months to get a feel for the business before returning to Toronto where he joined Mark Kehr’s Fitness One-on-One, among the first personal training facilities in the city. (Today Kehr owns and runs The Yorkville Club.)

Two years later, Humeniuk went freelance and in 2002, was involved in a start-up called Core Strength Inc. that specialized in advanced biomechanics to treat injuries and boost performance. Along the way, he became certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Today his base is Sean Orr Works, a studio on Davenport Rd.

“I have about 40 clients,” says Humeniuk. “Some see me once or twice a week, others once a month. I’ve discovered it’s most gratifying working with people over 55. Many have worked their whole lives and retired. They come to me saying things like, ‘I can’t sit on a plane for six hours to go to Europe and if I got there, I couldn’t walk around on those cobblestones or climb those hills.’ I start working with them and a year later they can do it.”

In the mid-2000s, Humeniuk was among the early buyers in Liberty Village. He loved the area but was disappointed that the city hadn’t done more to alleviate the terrible traffic problems. Fed up, he sold his townhouse and bought a unit in The Brewery Lofts on Sumach St. It was, he says, a beautiful suite complete with polished concrete floors, 14-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and a big soaker tub in the bathroom. But after two years and an extensive reno, he found the expense as a single person to be just barely manageable.

“I’d purchased twice and I found that I’d put down as much as I could, which was almost everything I had. And I knew from others what comes next. You’re paying your mortgage and then the tax bill comes in and then your maintenance fees go up and then you discover a leaky roof you hadn’t counted on. I felt like all I was doing was working week after week, which turns into year after year, without vacations, to cover my costs. And I’m self-employed, remember.”

So Humeniuk sold again and moved into his current apartment. Sometimes he looks at the market to see what’s available. But, he says, based on what he could afford — approximately half a million dollars — he couldn’t live in Rosedale. And even looking at the Regent Park area or The Junction, he figures his half a million would get him about 600 or 700 square feet. That’s significantly smaller than the apartment he’s in now and would mean a return to the pressures of home ownership. So, for the time being, Humeniuk is a happy renter, investing a portion of his income with the help of a financial planner.

It was a lifestyle choice for Humeniuk. After he sold his suite in The Brewery Lofts, he took a 15-day trip to Berlin. And this month, he and his girlfriend, Ayla Cetinkaya, an esthetician, are spending four weeks in a nice rented home in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.

“I’m looking at my quality-of-life now,” says Humeniuk. “We’re going to have no timetable. We’ll wake up whenever we want to wake up, read the paper, exercise, have an afternoon nap. This would never have happened before but now that I have a lower overhead I can afford to live a little.”

David Hayes is an author and award-winning feature writer who has been a renter most of his life. If you have stories or information to share about renting, he can be reached at lifelong_renter@sympatico.ca.