Michael Harrison and partner Jennifer Giesbrecht moved from Vancouver Island and bought a home in Nova Scotia this summer, mid-pandemic. They say the financial advantages over being in Victoria are huge. (Courtesy Michael Harrison)

Greater Victoria couple packs up and moves to Nova Scotia mid-pandemic

Buying a home virtually was a leap of faith for Michael Harrison and Jennifer Giesbrecht

In the midst of a pandemic, one Greater Victoria couple made a dramatic lifestyle change, by packing up everything and moving to the East Coast of Canada.

Michael Harrison and Jennifer Giesbrecht bought a home in Windsor, Nova Scotia this summer, having only seen it in photos and working closely with their P.E.I.-based real estate agent.

“It was a bit of an eye-opener when we arrived,” Harrison told Black Press Media from their new home. “The first couple of days we were a little down – the garage was falling down. But every project we do it feels a little more like home.”

“We knew it needed some paint and powder and we were OK with that,” Giesbrecht added.

The couple, together since 2018, each got out of the real estate market in Victoria about five years ago and have been mostly renting since. The fact their current mortgage is “less than a third” of their rental costs in Victoria sealed the deal.

While a more COVID-friendly location wasn’t a major factor, the pandemic figured in their planning.

Harrison, a veteran comedian and ventriloquist who appeared on America’s Got Talent and has worked for years on cruise ships, and Giesbrecht, a former medical office administrator who joined him in January as a sound and lighting tech, were in Cozumel when they were told their next gig was on hold due to COVID-19.

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As the pandemic ground the cruise industry to a halt, they decided to wait things out at home, living at Giesbrecht’s father’s place on Sproat Lake near Port Alberni.

That’s when the plans came together for the big move.

Harrison fell for P.E.I. during a previous trip and had been receiving real estate updates since. A friend suggested the couple look into the agricultural-rich Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.

With no live shows due to restrictions on gatherings, Giesbrecht says, “our job literally became sitting at the kitchen table researching the Annapolis Valley and real estate and everything about Nova Scotia.”

It came down to doing virtual tours.

“Our agent was great. We’d ask him things like, ‘can you open that cupboard’ so we could get a better look,” Giesbrecht adds. “At one point I said, ‘I know this sounds strange, but how does the house smell to you?’ I wanted to know if it was musty.”

They towed a large trailer across Canada in July, visiting family along the way and dodging a tornado just outside of Brandon. Once they got settled and the Atlantic bubble loosened, they took advantage of all the area has to offer, visiting wineries and cideries, and exploring such iconic sites as Peggy’s Cove and Lunenberg.

Harrison says Windsor is close to Halifax airport (45-minute drive), handy if the cruise business opens up, but they also love the scenery and the friendliness of the people.

ALSO READ: 2021 Victoria cruise ship season still uncertain, says harbour authority

They’re enjoying not living as nomads, with far less financial pressure.

With Giesbrecht’s help, Harrison performs virtual shows from their home studio – the greenscreen puts him anywhere in the world – and works part-time as a custodian. Giesbrecht has also found work.

“The shows we do now are more of a bonus, it’s our wine money,” she says.

Performing steadily since he was a teenager, Harrison is enjoying not having his home time limited to two or three weeks, a schedule which left him little family time.

“I told Jen I never really unpacked my suitcase, it was always beside my bed,” he says. “It’s nice to be busy, nice to have work, but at what cost? I really appreciate a home life.”

To view Harrison’s online persona, visit funnyguy.ca.


 

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