Things I learned as a first-time homebuyer

The turning point for our move, and my first purchase, came about quite organically because we had run out of space!

Our oh-so-loved ‘let’s-shake-it-down’ one bedroom condo quickly turned cramped when our son turned one and our dog turned two. The novelty of sharing a 1 bedroom had worn its welcome and it was time to move!

To sell first or buy first? After much back and forth, and having really lovely in-laws, with whom, if need be, we would be able to bunk with, we made the decision to sell my husband’s condo first. The condo sold in a flash! So we set off to find a house. What we thought would take a couple of months turned into nine months of heavy, not always so much fun, house hunting.

At the start of our search we were feeling glorious. We were excited; we were full of zest and ambition, and we were dead set on one particular pocket of Toronto.

We learned pretty fast that we couldn’t afford the area we had our hearts set on.

After losing out on more than a handful of homes, we took many deep breaths and regrouped. We figured out that in order to successfully buy a house in Toronto we needed to pivot and started looking in other Toronto neighbourhoods we could afford.

For some odd, unknown reason I had been determined NOT to live in the area we eventually ended up buying in aaaand I am head over heels totally in love. Once we made the decision to look at houses in areas we could afford, the next offer we submitted was accepted and we were home owners!

Three things I love about our location:

  1. Our neighbours. Our neighbours are tidy, kind and they’re always up for lending a helping hand. My husband and I know they look out for us, as we do for them, and it’s a really special feeling. I know it’s unknown who your neighbours will be until the keys are in hand but taking the time to go for a walkabout of the street prior to buying is a really good idea.
  2. The proximity of our house to shops, parks, trails, Public transit, the city’s centre and a highway.
  3. The vibe of the Community; It’s laid back, people are chill and friendly.

Three things I love about our house
(not including the people and furry humans that live inside):

  1. Its Exposure. Our house faces east/west so the amount of natural light we have all day long is incredible.
  2. It has a Great layout. There’s no interior space wasted, we use every room equally so subconsciously the house feels balanced and loved from every inch.
  3. Fenced backyard. After living in a condo with our dog it’s awesome to be able to open the backdoor to let him out. It’s doubly awesome to see our son romp around the backyard and, the third awesome thing about having a backyard is enjoying it with friends and family.

A Couple of Tips for First Time Home Buyer

  • Keep an open mind
  • Let your mortgage pre-approval guide your location search
  • Leave your love in your car when viewing properties (emotions come later!)
  • Submit offers on properties you can afford, I mean really afford (have a contingency fund available for the unexpected and make sure you understand what the ongoing carrying costs are on the property)
  • It’s absolutely normal to feel waves of hyperventilating during the offer process. Its super intense and hard to prepare for until you’re in it. Deep breaths!
  • Treat the Home Inspection Report with a grain of salt (there’s always more the meets the eye when it comes to what’s behind the walls )
  • If you go the renovation route, the whole process takes longer and costs more than you think.
  • Interview no less than 3 renovation companies and ask all of the worry-ish and awkward thoughts that keep you up at night, such as but not limited to ‘do you have a team we will be working with or are you our primary point person?’

‘How do you plan to share your notes with us letting us know what stage things are at; what’s been done; what still needs be done?’, ‘Realistically how much additional money is going to be needed to complete the job?’, ‘What happens if you leave the business hallway through your project; who would step in for you; and how would that all look?’, ‘Do you have someone who can help me with the design side of things?’ … in fact , there’s so much to share on this topic my next blog will shed more light on the renovation process, nightmares and rewards…stay tuned!

Buying a house in Toronto can be a real challenge. It takes commitment, patience and communication out the wazoo. Your golden ticket is to have advisors you trust, such as your realtor, mortgage specialist, real estate lawyer, and accountant. And, of course those who can be your sounding board, your partner, family and friends. There are letdowns and high fives, copious amounts of research and hours of property tours. But, once you secure a place to call home, you’ll feel like a million bucks.

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