October 21st, 2018
It feels a little surreal sitting down to write this as this journey to our new home started exactly a year ago. Buying your first home. This is so daunting and comes with so many wonderful (and mixed) emotions. Excited and nervous being the main two I experienced myself.
Once we started our family we knew there was an expiry date looming on our beloved condo. It served us well and will always be our “first” home but we were outgrowing it quickly (especially since it was both our living + work space) – I remember walking out of the bathroom to see J about to climb my light stand – that’s when I thought ‘ooook – should probably start exploring the move. We knew we were going to try for another baby soon and knew we definitely wanted to be moved into the new home before his/her arrival.
Toronto is a very expensive market, we lived in North York and I was very reluctant to move anymore north. I loved the pocket of Toronto we were in, close enough to downtown, right next to the highway making the drive north to our parents easy. I felt like we were in the middle. Hearing so many stories of bidding wars and houses going way over asking – it was easy to feel defeated before you even began. We ended up moving north of the city and now having lived here for a few months I’ve never been happier. I love this small town living, in a family neighbourhood – it’s perfect for our growing family.
But I’m getting ahead…rewind…
Once we got back from Greece we decided to start to look more seriously thinking it would be at least 6 months till we found what we were looking for. We were really lucky that one of our closest family friends is a real estate agent who we trust wholeheartedly. This made the entire process from the beginning not only enjoyable but I really felt like someone had our backs and was in our corner to help us find the perfect home.
It is SO important to find someone you trust and feel comfortable with when buying a home. I cannot stress this enough. There is so many emotions that go into the search, finding the home of your dreams, losing the home of your dreams, being patient when you change your mind or when to continue looking at another 10 houses.
WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR?
Doing what I do for a living it made the house hunt..errr…let’s say interesting. We saw so many gorgeous homes that would have worked perfectly if I were not a photographer and didn’t require a studio / shooting area / office (with decent lighting + windows).
I love that Ko is very practical and realistic whereas sometimes I can get over excited and ahead of myself. Early on before we started looking he suggested we sit down and make a list of everything our future home *MUST* have. Bedrooms, Studio Space etc. The non-negotiables. Next we made a secondary list of things we’d like to have – and finally the things that would be wonderful but not necessary.
This exercise alone was so helpful and brought a lot of clarity. It was the perfect starting off point to take to our agent to get this process started. The more we understood what we needed the better we could get help and also find homes we wanted to check out.
4 TIPS TO DO BEFORE YOU START LOOKING FOR YOUR FIRST HOME
One thing I quickly realized is how quickly things can happen once you find the perfect home. I wasn’t expecting to find something as quickly as we did – it all happened so fast! I teamed up with the Real Estate Council of Ontario for this portion to give you 4 key practical tips to do before buying your first home. One thing they said that I can completely agree with is “When you’re ready to make a move, take a deep breath, sketch out a plan and get informed before you enter the market. After all, you may begin by causally browsing listings only to stumble across a place you love, and suddenly find yourself in the throes of a major purchase”
1/ SHOP AROUND BEFORE YOU START SHOPPING AROUND FOR A HOME
Meet with at least 3 salespeople before you sign an agreement. When you have a shortlist of representatives, ask each of them some questions to determine which one is right for you.
Questions to Ask:
- Walk me through your real estate experience.
- Describe your general approach to buying and selling, and how your approach will best suit my needs.
- Tell me about the fees and commissions I’ll have to pay.
- Which services does your brokerage provide, and are any of them included in our agreement?
- How often will you provide me with progress updates, and how will we communicate.
- Could you please provide me with some references?
2/ Look Them Up
Before you meet with any salespeople or brokers, be sure to look them up using the “Look up a real estate salesperson, broker or brokerage” search tool in the top right-hand corner of RECO’s website (www.reco.on.ca). It will tell you if they’re registered and in good standing, and if they have faced any disciplinary action.
3/ Read and understand everything
I knew there would be a lot of paperwork but I had no idea just how much. I’ve gotten pretty good and reading over contracts over the years but these were so daunting and confusing sometimes. I cannot stress this enough to read through everything, ask questions (even if you think they are silly) – get clarification until you understand everything.
4/ Be an active participant in the process
Your agent will no doubt be an amazing resource who can help guide you to make informed decisions, but you should always remember that you’re the one in the driver’s seat. You have the control and the final decision should be yours.
Being an active participant in the process means being completely open and candid with your agent about what’s important to you in a home and what you’re expecting from the relationship. You’re agent can help you best when you’re clear about what you want. This helped so much. By the end our agent knew good lighting vs. bad lighting for my studio space (north light was my 1st choice) – had we not explained all this he would have never known or been able to guide us.
You have a responsibility to do your own due diligence – don’t forget this one!
More tips? CLICK HERE
FINDING OUR FIRST HOME
And so it began, we signed the paperwork with our agent and we were off to the races! Sometimes we would find houses we wanted to check out and send them to him to set up – other times he would find some to show us. I loved that the process was a bit of both since Ko and I love hunting on the agent app finding houses (Ko probably more than me).
At first, it was exciting to just be going out to look at houses – and then it got a little frustrating though I’m thankful we stayed pretty positive the entire time. By this point we had our budget in place and I had reluctantly agreed to look north of the city once it became REALLY clear we would not be able to get the kind of house we wanted in our desired location.
Funny enough, I actually started to like the idea of having a larger property – we were planning on building out a sun room studio for me that would be attached to the house…this dream got squashed pretty fast too lol – we saw some houses that were so north they had septic tanks – after talking with one of my uncles about renovations and pricing it was clear that was NOT the way to go.
There were so many homes that were so close to perfect. But none that had the layout that would work with my studio the way we’d home it would. Lots of houses had a “media” room that could work as my studio on the second floor but that was not ideal as I wanted it more separated from our living space.
We looked for about 3 months and around the holidays I was ready to take a break. Ko found what would become our home just before Christmas. He sent me the listing and wrote ‘I think we should check this one out’ – you guys I don’t know why the photos didn’t do it justice. I suppose it looked smaller in the photos, who knows, lol but I did NOT want to see this house – I wrote back ‘meh – lets keep looking – what about these’ and sent more – the back and forth of this house happened a few times, and Ko, persistent kept saying what about that house I sent you? You didn’t like it? Lets just check it out and see! I was so against it! lol
I think it was between Christmas and New Years we had planned to see some houses and Ko booked with our agent to see that house. I remember them going over what we were going to see and Ko said ‘Babe, we’re in the area lets just check it out okay?’ I agreed.
Well we walked in and I was floored. The photos did NOT do it justice and it was hands down the BEST layout we’d seen. The living/dining room had large windows and even on the gloomy day had lots of natural light pouring in. I remember sitting on a chair with our agent looking at him and I kid you not I said “Shit! I love it! – Crap it’s perfect!” Reason for my language was part because I felt it was too fast and part because I knew the next part of maybe not getting it would be a bummer! So thankful Ko persisted to see this house even when I wasn’t into it.
Before I knew it we were putting in an offer first week of January and I was holding my breath everywhere I went. The waiting process – you guys – soooo painful! And then your mind plays tricks on you. Did we make the right choice? Did we move too soon? What if there’s something better? I’m a natural over thinker so this part of the house buying process was not enjoyable for me lol.
We did get into the market once it had slowed down. I’m so glad we didn’t get into any bidding wars and it was a pretty smooth transaction.
SELLING OUR CONDO
And this is where I keep it real with you guys. We really thought our condo would sell fast. Once we put the offer into the house and it became pretty clear we would get it we started to get our condo ready to sell and be put on the market. We decided to move in with my parents to make sure our condo was also in good condition for showings at a moments notice. It took us 5 months to sell our condo and I won’t lie, I was sweating it. Paying for a new mortgage and also paying maintenance fee’s on a condo you weren’t even living in at the time was a big pill to swallow. This was also around the time I got pregnant (yay!) but also really sick. I wasn’t working and was basically in a dark room at my parents back and forth from the bathroom. Such a beautiful time hehe. Just when I was about to lose hope entirely we got an amazing offer and as they say – there’s no timing like God’s timing – our condo closed that weekend we were moving into our home.
We’ve been living here for about 3 months (I cannot believe it’s already been that long) but we are still very much in settling in mode. Everyday this place feels more and more like home. Do we have a laundry list of things to do still to make it “home” and complete the way we want? Of course! But every day we’re getting closer and falling more in love with it. The other day as I was sitting in the kitchen I looked around and felt so grateful we found this space. I’ve also surprised myself with how much I’m loving this small town living. I live close to my two best fiends, the farmers market is around the corner and there’s a simple way of life here that makes my heart so happy. The other day we took Ko for his first swimming lessons at the community centre by our house and Ko and I were smiling like idiots so happy. Same thing happened when I was walking to pick up J from pre-school – I caught myself feeling so happy for these little simple moments that make life worth living. Home is where the heart is!
I hope you found this post helpful and informative! Thank you so much for RECO for sponsoring today’s blog post and sharing their tips with us! Be sure to check our their site for more information and helpful tips to buying / selling your home.