14.3.13

Your Dream Home: How Do You Know When You've Found It? (Part 1)


As you know, Corey and I recently purchased a house.  No, it's not the lovely home in the picture, but it's an equally attractive (to us) home with a deep lot for Barkley to run and located in a neighbourhood we like and think will improve in the future.  Friends have been asking us how many houses we looked at and how long it took us to find this house and they're often surprised by our answer.  Today, I'll share our story and some of the criteria we used to decide so quickly.  No, our house didn't have any neon signs telling us that it was the right house... although, as an agent, I think that would be awesome!  Instead we used a combination of gut feeling and logic and we are thrilled with our decision!

First, I'll explain the lack of pictures.  It's a personal decision for me not to post even exterior photos until we actually own the house out of respect for the current owners.  Once we take possession, there will be no shortage of "before and after" photos as we share our renovation diary with all of you!

Back in the fall, I turned 30 and had a bit of a grown-up crisis.  I woke up one morning and suddenly remembered that I had never intended to stay in our condo for so long.  Our condo had always been a short-term living situation in my mind but it's funny how life sometimes speeds up and our temporary condo had somehow become semi-permanent. 

We looked at a few houses (perhaps 4 or 5) and spoke with my mortgage specialist at RBC before deciding to hold off for a few months to get our ducks in a row and prepare to sell.  As president of my condo board, I had an AGM coming up and, after a year of many positive changes to our condo, I wanted to see my obligations through before leaving. 

I began staging the condo over the winter and put away some of my more unique art and spruced up with some new bedding and throw pillows.  We listed in January, prepared to stay on the market for a little while and, while I sent listings in our price range to Corey, I refused to look at any myself.  I knew how I would feel if I saw a fabulous house before we were ready to buy and I didn't want to tempt myself until we had sold. 

Shortly after our sale became firm (conditions were waived by our buyers) we decided to see four houses one evening.  We arrived home late and the next morning, I drafted an offer on our favourite of the four. 

This process rarely happens this quickly with buyers and some people assume that it was easier because I am a real estate agent.  This may be true in a sense because I have more awareness of what to expect in our price range and in the current market but I believe it has more to do with the fact that Corey and I both had very clear "needs" and "wants" which helped us to narrow our search rather quickly. 

Initially, our list looked like this:

Needs:
  • Price (we wanted our mortgage payment to be similar to our current mortgage and maintenance fee total to ensure that we weren't overextending ourselves)
  • Freehold (detached, link, semi or townhouse)
  • Minimum 2 bedrooms
  • Excavated Basement
  • Neighbourhood (we were pretty general here and had narrowed our search to include several Toronto neighbourhoods)
  • Backyard (even a small yard was fine but we wanted some outdoor space of our own)
  • Parking for at least one car
  • Not on a busy or main street
Wants:
  •  Parking for at least one car
  • A 3rd bedroom
  • A large kitchen
  • Central Air
  • Not on a busy or main street
  • 2 full bathrooms
  • Detached
  • 2-Storey
  • Garage
  • Deep lot with room to extend the house
We realized rather quickly that we had quite a few choices so we began to narrow our search further.  While I didn't mind the idea of permit street parking, Corey really wanted a parking space so we added it to our "need" list.  We also decided that we'd enjoy some quiet after living on a main street in our condo so we decided to only look at houses which were not situated on a main street.

These modifications left us with 4 houses which still matched our criteria so we decided to see them all.  They were almost all priced within about 10K (one was lower than the others) but they were spread over four very different neighbourhoods.  Here's what we found:                
  1. The first house we saw was amazing. It was huge, located on an attractive cul-de-sac (a BIG plus for Corey, since he could already imagine our kids riding their bikes on the street!) and it backed onto a ravine... perfect for nature lovers like us!  The kitchen needed work but it was huge and I had to stop myself from imagining how I would renovate it while I was there.  It was our favourite house of the evening.              
  2. The second house was not quite as large as the first house but it had a deeper yard.  The house had more charm (old architectural details) but it was less open-concept so the rooms seemed much smaller than the first house.  It did have some potential and I preferred the neighbourhood to that of the first house.  It did not have central air but was otherwise a decent option.            
  3. The third house was detached (a huge plus for us) and priced a little lower than the others.  The layout seemed awkward to us and it smelled like cats.  Still, there was plenty of space on the main floor and several different rooms.  It had a garage (Corey loved that!) but there were several steep steps leading up to the front door.  I'll confess that I pictured my clumsy self with a stroller one day trying to figure out how to get a baby up to my front door without slipping.                      
  4. The fourth house was in one of my favourite neighbourhoods.  I know house prices in this neighbourhood are expected to rise and there's plenty of green space around and almost a small town feel!  While the main floor was smaller that the other houses, the kitchen was huge and had space for a large island.  This backyard was my favourite of the four.  I was a little disappointed to learn that the basement was only partial (the front half of the house) and I felt vaguely uncomfortable while inside the house.  I'm not a superstitious person by any stretch but this house just didn't feel good to me.  That being said, I usually try to make decisions using logic.                               
We ended up choosing a house, sleeping on it and changing our minds.  Actually, I woke up to discover that Corey was sick and had stayed home from work.  "Great" I replied.  "Now I have time to draft an offer on that other house before I go to work!"  Luckily, Corey indulges me and happily supported me in making an offer on our second choice... which after some sleep, became my first choice.  Once Corey allowed me to show him some information on the neighbourhood, it became his first choice as well. :)    Note: Corey says I actually woke up and said "No, we're not supposed to buy that house.  We're making an offer on _!"          

Since we have purchased our house, I have stopped looking at other listings in our price range unless it has been for a client.  I have also told Corey that unless it's for work, I'm not going to search neighbourhood sales for at least a year since it's a good way to drive myself crazy.  Besides, there's no point in worrying about prices next year when we plan to stay in this house for at least a decade.                             

Of the four houses, can you guess which one we ended up purchasing?  I'll share the answer tomorrow. :)     
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