My friend Christine has kindly agreed to write a series of posts on her experiences with buying a home for the first time which will be posted occasionally. See Part 8 – Condos and Taxes.
Several months into the Search
After a few months of searching for a house, what have we learned about ourselves and what compromises are we willing to make in our quest towards home ownership?
It has definitely been a learning experience as we grow more comfortable with the market and narrow down the neighbourhoods. We are only starting to accustom ourselves to the dizzying whirl by which houses are bought and sold downtown. The majority of houses are sold within a week of being listed. A day or two can mean losing out completely on a house. Oftentimes we were not quick enough to even visit a house before it was sold. Photos while useful, are not always accurate and do not replace an in-person visit. We also find it stressful having to decide on a house within just a couple of days of seeing it.
My intention of taking a practical approach to the house hunt seems to have flown out the door. Hubby and I have had strongly positive or negative reactions to the properties that we have seen. Other times, we have felt indifferent about a property which for us is not ideal considering the half million dollar price tag. Despite the quantity and variety of houses out there, we have not yet been able to match a house to our requirements and budget. I feel like picky Goldilocks trying to find a house that is just right instead of too small, too dark, too far, too much work, or too expensive.
While we recognize that it may be foolish, there are developing areas in large swathes of the city that my husband and I have discounted because they are too rough for our liking. Early evening “stroll tests” have helped us determine if we would be comfortable in a particular area. Some of the downtown areas undergoing transition are rather deserted in the evening and have rundown buildings popular with the homeless.
With our modest budget, is the search an exercise in futility? We are not ready to panic yet. Downtown is still realistic for our budget if we can imagine the potential of a fixer-upper. The trick is in finding the right house with an affordable amount of work. Our real estate agent has advised us to keep the neighbourhood in mind when considering renovations. In other words, don’t put more money into a house than the area is worth. Expensive finishes and renovations in some neighbourhoods will not be recouped when a house is resold, and thus should only be chosen for personal enjoyment.
Our friends have asked us if the over-inflated downtown prices are serving to change our minds about wanting to stay downtown. We have vacillated for months with the idea of moving farther out, but our forays out of the downtown core are showing us that a house is less important to us than staying downtown. Therefore we are definitely more open to condominium ownership than we were previously, but are not yet ready to take that route.