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Canadian real estate experts, authorities and pundits will continue to be the ones asked to decide what housing is needed now and in the future, but you and I will have to live with the results whether they prove to be right or wrong.

Take the initiative to secure your future. The more flexible the design of your home, the more practical it will be to convert if your lifestyle changes. The more affordable your home, the more flexibility you'll have if your financial situation changes or housing costs increase over time. Take a long careful look at your home and cottage, and at the neighbourhoods involved. Decide what should be preserved and what can be improved. Band together with your neighbours and apply persistent pressure on local politicians to get results. Real estate professionals, renovators, mortgage lenders, urban planners and contractors can provide ideas on what can and cannot be achieved with your current property and in your area. They can also help you assess the practicality of buying another more flexible home. My definition of success with real estate is simply to "have your home and money too." These two essential elements provide the flexibility necessary to overcome challenges in other areas of life from health onward. Here's one resourceful, a "have your home and money too" story that illustrates the power behind a well-designed home.

More than thirty years ago, Jim and Janet Barrows built the two-storey house of their dreams on a quiet cul-de-sac in south London, Ontario. The house was an ideal place to raise their two children and decades later is proving to be a great place for their retirement.

To welcome Janet's mother to their home about 15 years ago, the Barrows build a wheel-chair-accessible addition with a separate ramped entrance and ensured their entire main-floor was barrier-free. Years later, the vacant three-room suite proved perfect for Janet Barrow's next venture -- a Bed and Breakfast -- which also ensures they can stay in their home as long as they like. If stairs became an issue, the Barrows feel they could move into the fully-accessible suite and use the house as a B & B. Janet Barrows explains the transformation from family home to bed and breakfast this way: "Friends and family had long referred to our home as 'the Barrow motel' because our doors were always open, people dropped-in with regular frequency! Then my husband retired from teaching high school and a few years ago, I lost my job in the health care sector. Being home all day, I realized how enjoyably varied life could be and I decided I never wanted to work again solely for a 'wage.'

"Only one bedroom in our 5-bedroom home was being used, so I proposed to my husband that either we move to a smaller house that's easier to keep clean or do something that would incorporate use of the entire house on a regular basis. Barrow By The Ponds was therefore born out of a desire to truly enjoy what I do, work on my own time clock and to be my own boss." The B & B formally opened its doors in 2001. Now, the Barrows regularly host guests from Germany, The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, The Caribbean and Mexico, as well as visitors from across North American.

Many B & B's are started by people who want to move to a resort or tourist area and create some income at the same time. The Barrows realize that London is not a "hot" destination, but they are happy where they are and find business comes to them through the Internet. They have regular visitors who break their trip between Detroit and Toronto with an overnight in London. Others come from around the world and across the country to visit family, attend Western University or get out-patient treatment at the hospital. The B & B's new website, designed by their daughter Michele, should add to the traffic over their threshold.

"When I retired, my plan was to relax and enjoy myself," said Jim whose definition of "enjoy" is spelt G-O-L-F. "What I like best about the bed and breakfast is meeting strangers. The tax benefits are great, too, and not having to move into a new neighbourhood is important. We are able to continue friendships and be close to the kids." The Barrows share the tasks of keeping their B & B immaculate and welcoming. An accountant handles the financial details. They feel confident that their home will continue to adapt to their needs and that their B & B will remain an important part of their lives.

When you visit one of the thousands of B & Bs across Canada, don't be shy about using your travel time to learn more about your own real estate. Most proprietors will be happy to share their experiences and suggestions for enjoying your home and money too.

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