You have heard all the scary stories, read about all the crazy prices and for many, gave up on the dream of owning a house in Toronto.
It’s all true and with the banks starting to raise the roof so-to-speak on mortgage rates, it’s not going to get any easier.
As we just hit the first anniversary of buying our first Toronto home, I wanted to share a positive story that it can happen in a quick time frame. For us it was being at the right place at the right time. I want to share a story to show it is possible to buy a house in an area that meets your needs as well as staying under budget. Everything lined up for us and we could not be happier a year later.
But the adventure to get there? It was a roller coaster that I am glad we don’t have to go through again this year.
As some of you know, we owned a house in Halifax for five years. We loved our house. It fit us well. But we moved to Toronto in the spring of 2014. We always figured that once we bought our first house, we were in the game and would never be renters again. You sell one house, upgrade to next and so on and so on. But then we go and change that plan drastically by leaving normal and going to insane – the Toronto housing market.
We always thought the profit we made on selling our Halifax house would be perfect for rolling over into the Toronto house.
I remember when we first landed in Ontario and living at Katie’s parents as a transition spot, Harry and I went to look at an open house down the street. It was a normal sized, older home that looked like what we would want. Sure it was near Broadview and Danforth, but I was not prepared for the sticker shock.
Harry and I looked around and he even picked his room. We got to the end, grabbed one of the booklets to show Katie and left. I flipped through and saw the price. $1.2 million.
Yep, that Halifax sale wasn’t going to get us very far. We basically became first time home buyers again.
Let’s fast forward a bit. We lived at the Rocks for four months, rented a place in High Park for 15 months and during the 13th month of our stay we finally decided it was time.
We had gone over our year lease and were month-to-month. We were tired of our Indian Trail place and did not want to lock into another year rental lease.
Katie and I started to explore the idea of actually buying again.
Time To Start The Process
Luckily for us, I had a good friend who ran his own real estate business in the area. They would look out for us and find the perfect place in our budget. We were excited at the prospect of moving even though we had no idea of where, when and how.
We started going to look at places in our desired areas and quickly realized our budget did not go as far as we hoped. There was always something that sucked at each place and we just were not willing to settle.
– Crappy location.
– Weird layouts.
– No basement.
– No yard.
– Way too much work to do.
– Way too nice and we knew we would lose it.
– Just did not feel right.
There was always something that made us scrunch up our nose in disappointment. As corny as it sounds, you want to walk into a house and just know. It wasn’t happening for us and even though it had been a few weeks, we were starting to get dejected.
We did not have a true timeline, but we knew that looking in November and December was what we wanted because it was off season and there would be less chance of a bidding war.
Our little family also had reached the point of not enjoying our apartment anymore.
Every day we would get alerts from our agent and every day we would set up new viewings. It ran the full spectrum of emotions. Excitement, anticipation, tiring and annoying. It sure is not as fun as they make it out to be on TV.
I also want to point out that in the big picture, we should have been happy. We know people who have looked for years. For us it had only been weeks. But still, it was getting frustrating.
Hey There Parkdale
Then one day I was looking at the MLS site and started looking a little outside our desired location.
I looked south into Parkdale and saw a listing that was in our price range. I started looking at photos and thought right away, we had no shot.
But what the hell, I sent the listing to our agent and she got back to us right away.
I believe this was on a Tuesday. She got back to us and said we had to see it on the Wednesday as they were only accepting offers until Wednesday night.
So we looked at four houses on the Wednesday morning including the one I had found outside our grid.
We went to see the Parkdale house first. It was on a quiet street and had the Go Train running behind it. But the train was almost silent and it did not sway our opinions.
Katie and I looked at the place for about 20 minutes as we were on a tight schedule. It was beautiful. Had pretty much everything we were looking for. The yard was small but it was outdoor space. The basement was unfinished, but we saw the potential. The natural light was ideal. The bathroom was small, but it was not a deal breaker. We liked it. The listing price worked and Katie and I kind of knew we both wanted to take a shot.
We had 20 minutes to decide if we wanted to throw a lot of money at this place that we knew nothing about other than how it showed. Offers were only being accepted until 7 pm that day.
What the hell? Not much time to decide. We looked at the other three houses that all sucked by the way and we were back to the Parkdale house.
Should we, shouldn’t we? Can we? I also want to mention we did not even have our banking in order yet officially. But we were pre-approved so that counts right?
That is when stress hit full force. It did not help that Katie had to go out of town for work and I was very sick with a stomach virus at the time.
You Must Choose Wisely
We decided we would think on it for like AN HOUR and then get back to our agent. Long story short, we went for it and to be honest, we did it as a practice run because we never thought we would win the house. It was too nice.
That afternoon, we both were doing banking, moving money around, getting certified cheques and trying not to freak the hell out.
Again, 20 minutes and then decide on spending that kind of money. It was crazy. We could not remember if the place had a double sink, what if the shower did not work and so many other things.
We were doing it. Capital WTF.
The plan was our agent would submit our offer and then once all offers were in we would meet up a local bar and wait. I stayed home with the kids and Katie went out to be our negotiator.
Man the next few hours flew by with a lot of wheeling and dealing.
*** Public service announcement for a happy marriage***
People, for your own good, if you are planning on having IMPORTANT phone calls with each other that our time sensitive, make sure phones are charged and there is no gunk blocking the microphone in your phone so people can hear you speaking. Yes, we can laugh about it now, but I know Katie was not impressed at the time.
Anyways. There were no other offers. NO OTHER OFFERS?
Shit, did we just make an offer to buy a lemon? What was wrong with it? Worry set in.
We then learned the sellers were motivated and were not really into playing up the price. They wanted to be out. They had another property already to move to.
A few negotiations went back and forth on the price and then Katie finally called to say we got it! HOLY SHIT. How did that happen.
I was numb. At 10 am that day we saw a house and by 9 pm we bought the house. Yep, that’s the Toronto housing market.
By the time Katie got home, we were so tired physically and mentally, I think there was a quiet fist bump and that was it.
Time To Get The Money
The next day, that’s when the crazy all started. We wanted to see it again. What did we just win? Of course now we had to get the money part set. That meant actually securing a mortgage. We were recommended a broker by our real estate team and we started that process.
Our joy and excitement quickly went down the toilet when we finally saw what our monthly payment would be. Uh oh. It was not good. It was not what we were led to believe. It was scary. Our entire experience with this particular mortgage broker was not good. Let’s just say, we want to thank them for being so bad, because it forced us to go elsewhere and it helped us not get stuck in a horrible situation.
Here are just a few of the issues we had.
– The initial monthly payment was based on the wrong address.
– We had to send the official papers back at least four times with very amateur mistakes.
– We were not getting the personal treatment we were expecting.
– It felt very railroaded just to get it done.
Again, looking back, the shitty experience actually worked out because it forced us to seek better. Thankfully from this we got hooked up with the financial advisor who oversees Katie’s parents affairs and he took amazing care of us.
Are You Serious?
Oh, I also want to mention another kink in the plan right here. It’s a big one. While in the middle of dealing with the shitty mortgage broker, literally a week after making the offer on the house, I learned some really shitty news. The company where I worked was laying off a bunch of people and OF COURSE, I was one of them.
Panic at the Disco for sure. Uh, shit, I just bought a house.
The first thought was, will we lose this amazing house and have to go back staying in our shitty apartment because of me.
Do we try to push it through the banks anyways and not tell them?
Well like I said, our new financial saviour did not panic and helped us make it work. In a short while, a whole new plan was mapped out that would give us flexibility and a monthly payment we could do. It was going to work. But that meant starting over with paperwork and signing documents and finding tax forms and endless stuff to make it happen. Time did not seem to be on our side.
The holidays were looming and the sellers I am sure just wanted to know we were good for our purchase.
We went to see the house again just before Christmas. It had been almost a month since we made an offer and we were actually nervous we would now not like it.
We Chose Wisely
Thankfully we did. It was the boost we needed. To see it again. To start seeing what we would do when we moved it. We were back to feeling positive again. It however did stress us out to not have it all locked down before Christmas.
But it all worked out early in the new year.
Finally after many calls and meetings with the bank, lawyers and all the fun stuff of buying a house, we got keys on January 19th.
Yes we got keys. Of course I was not working at the time so I rushed out to get the keys. It was a great feeling. Life was about to change big time.
Exhale. Yes it was going to work out.
That’s the story of how we bought our first Toronto house. I bet I left out a lot of the story mostly because I have blocked it out of my mind. Or maybe it was from banging my head in all the small basements we looked at.
It was a stressful and crazy learning experience. It was nothing like buying our first house in Halifax. Everything was to the max.
But in the end, we got what we wanted. We never settled. We found a great location. We stayed under budget. It happened so fast. No waiting years. No losing hope. No moving to the burbs. We did it.
Katie and I still don’t know how it happened. The journey makes no sense. But the take away is, surround yourself with the right help, put trust in them, question when things don’t seem right and don’t waiver from your budget. We never thought it would happen. Everything lined up for us. We are all very happy. This will be where we will be living for quite some time. The boys have a public school and a high school all within walking distance. The area is exploding with cool all around us. We could not have done better.
To all those out there who think home ownership is not going to happen, keep on plugging, keep on trying I hope you get the luck that we seemed to.
Now it’s off to shovel some snow.
I also have to give a plug to our real estate team. The Pavlov Real Estate team took great care of us. Our agent, Rachel, was the perfect one for us. She had a young family, knew the area and most importantly, she told it like it was. There was no sugar-coating. She had all the answers and made it fun. So if you are looking for agents experienced in the west end of Toronto, check them out.