Our Fairy Tale House
We've been busy this past week and I always feel a little like I'm cheating when I have big news that I don't post immediately on the blog. I can't contain my excitement any longer and Corey and I made the news "Facebook official" this afternoon. Our family and friends have been so supportive and excited for us but I know they (and you) have so many questions (We understand- Our heads are spinning too!) and so I'll answer the most popular questions here!
This is all happening so fast!
That's not a question. :P But yes, it really is. For us too! Corey and I keep looking at each other and asking if we're crazy. In truth, we just have a habit of making major decisions rather quickly. When I look back to some of our major life changes (buying our current house, adopting Barkley, Cheetah and then Cricket, getting pregnant with Rudy...) they were all decisions we made very quickly and we stand by each of them. I think it's because we're constantly discussing our goals and the direction our lives are headed and so when an opportunity arises, we're usually already on the same page. Our gut instinct knows what's right for our family!
Had you been planning this for a while?
Well, Corey and I have been toying with the idea of a move for a few months and we finally decided to gather our tax info to send to our mortgage specialist. We wanted to see what we could afford before looking at anything (which is the advice I give my clients) but at the same time I tried to prepare Corey for the fact that we would still not be able to to afford a huge detached house in our top neighbourhood and that we'd be making more than a few compromises. We had chatted a little about our wants and needs and Corey had promised me he'd be open-minded but we hadn't decided on any specific neighbourhoods or anything. So, yes, we'd been thinking about a move but we hadn't looked at any properties (even just online) until this week.
So... How did it happen?
We finally got our pre-approval and a green light to start looking. I wasn't working that evening so I told Corey we could browse houses together online to give him a sense of what to expect. I reminded him that the list prices are often artificially low (to generate multiple offers). With this in mind, I guided him past the houses it seemed like we could afford (but would likely sell much higher) to the houses we could realistically afford.
Our pre-approval amount meant we could afford the type of house we wanted in some of our favourite neighbourhoods... but we'd be MAXING out our budget and it would need A LOT of work (like, a-LOT!) and we'd probably still be making some compromises. It was something we'd consider, but we preferred to leave some wiggle room in our budget. We weren't going to rule out our top neighbourhoods but the price point made them less and less attractive. Anyway, we began looking in our second choice neighbourhoods and we immediately saw some cute houses. One immediately called to us and we decided to see it right away.
We saw it half and hour later and the entire car ride there Corey reminded me not to pressure him. I was so good and I treated him like a client as opposed to my husband. It was so hard because I really wanted to offer on it right away but I stayed calm and let Corey think about it... overnight! By morning, he was ready to make an offer and I called the other agent right away and arranged to present our offer in person later that day... and the rest is history!
Why was it so easy to buy? Don't all houses sell in bidding wars?
Many do, but not all. This house was an example of what happens when you price too high initially. It's often a poor strategy because you sit on the market and then people stop considering your house because they assume there's something wrong with it if it wasn't snatched up right away. This is awful for the seller because often there's nothing really wrong with the house at all! That was the case here: Nothing wrong but unfortunate pricing and some cosmetic work required. There were also a couple of layout quirks that I think a lot of people couldn't look past but we see (relatively) easy solutions for.
This particular house had also recently reduced the price significantly from their initial asking price and I wanted to offer quickly before it attracted more buyers. I think our timing was just lucky and we were able to act quickly. Many of my clients have seen first hand that acting quickly can often make all the difference.
What's it like for a Realtor to buy a house? Is it easier?
Yes and no. It's easier because I know so many different neighbourhoods and have easy access to listings and stats and, more importantly, I know how to interpret them. I also already know the market, so there's no learning curve and I already have a good idea of what I can get expect to buy for my budget. Aside from that, it's just as hard if not harder! I am still a buyer and even though I've been through the process so many times with my clients, it's emotional and scary... only I don't have an agent to guide and reassure me! It's also hard to act like Corey's agent and let him take his time when, as his wife, I just want to tell him we found our dream house and we need to buy it! It can be hard to wear both hats but it's a good reminder to me of how stressful this process is for my clients!
Are you pregnant?
Ha ha! I've had three people ask me! We are buying a larger house with the plan that we will eventually need more space for another child, but I am not currently pregnant.
So what's this house like?
It's really charming! I think "charming" is the first word I'd use to describe it. I have actually always dreamed of living in a house like this one. It has a cross gabled roof (so sloping ceilings in the bedrooms) and a coffered ceiling on the main floor. The property is large and the house is actually surprisingly large. I love that the houses in the neighbourhood have large yards with mature trees. The best part is that it's only about ten minutes away from our current house. It looks like a small Tudor-style cottage but it's surprisingly large inside. I'll share more details soon, but it feels like a home. No, OUR home!
What were your criteria?
We had very few "needs" but here they are: detached (not because we don't love our semi but because we wanted this move to feel like an upgrade), a decent school district, a yard, a larger property, 3 larger bedrooms and parking for 2 cars or the option to get a street permit. Our "wants" list was longer: a garage, a main floor bathroom, move-in ready, a large basement, 2 storeys, a main floor family room, central air, charm. In addition to these needs and wants, our house came with a few bonuses: mature trees, a garage and parking for several cars, a small mudroom, a main floor office, two entrances on the main floor: a casual and a more formal entrance on the main floor, a separate entrance to the basement, lots of natural light.
Did you have to make any compromises?
Of course! Nothing is perfect and this house is no exception. It needs a full bathroom on the second floor (there's only a half bath currently) but we have some ideas to add on to the second floor already. The kitchen is small but we think we can make it work with all the extra storage in the house. Also, when we renovate it eventually, we'll maximize the space that we do have. The house is on a main street... Which was going to be a dealbreaker for us, except that I remembered a conversation that I recently had with a friend where she told me that she didn't mind living on a busy street because, in a decade, when her daughter is taking the bus home at night, she'll be close to a stop and have a well-lit path home. Isn't that a lovely way of looking at houses on busy streets? It has totally changed my outlook! It's also a corner house and it is set back from the main road and actually also fronts on a quiet, dead-end street.
And you're sure you're not pregnant...?
I promise I'm not! I do understand why people are skeptical though. Seriously, everyone keeps asking me!
Were you picky about neighbourhoods?
Yes and no. I like so many pockets in the city and I work all over the place so nothing really feels far to me. We did want to stay in Toronto though, and preferably not too far from our current house, since we're really attached to Rudy's school!
Do you have any projects planned for the new house?
Yes! I mentioned that we have plans for the upstairs bathroom. In fact, both bathrooms need to be gutted and eventually, I'll want a new kitchen and floors. Waaayyy down the road, I'd like to professionally finish the basement. There's also some non-sexy stuff that needs to be done like minor grading and electrical work. With all these projects, we still want to maintain the look and feel of our 1940's house so while we have lots of planned, we'll be trying to leave most of the architectural details. Other than that, it's going to be fun just painting and decorating.
What about your current house?
Oh we need to sell it. The new house came in way under budget but we still can't afford to carry both houses.
Are you ready to sell it?
Not yet... but we will be! Just don't hate us if we don't have lots of time to hang out for the next couple of months! We have a plan of attack and we are packing and getting ready to stage and list! We both still have busy work schedules so it's going to be hard but we'll push through! Emotionally, I don't know if it's fully set in. Selling is going to be an emotional process since I always thought this would be our long-term home. I have so many happy memories here and this has been the house where we brought Rudy home after she was born. I love our neighbourhood and our neighbours and I think I'll leave a little piece of my heart here.
What will you miss most about your current house?
I think, initially, I'll miss our kitchen. It was designed to utilize every inch of space and it has our beloved gas stove, under cabinet lighting, marble backspash and quartz counters. It's probably the most luxurious room in the house. Aside from that, I'll miss the bathroom with my clawfoot tub and the heated floors and I'll miss Rudy's nursery and play room. Oh... and the new front entrance and mud room. I love our front door and new steps. I had them built extra wide because I imagined taking first day of school photos on those steps each year... I'll miss that!
Will you post pictures of the new house?
Yes and I'm so excited to show you all the things I love about the new house... Just let me wait until we officially take possession. I want to respect the seller's privacy! Once the house is ours, I'll be snapping "before" photos left, right and centre! I hope you guys love the living room as much as I do! It's my favourite room in the house and it's just so open and bright. Rudy was running through the new house the other night and it almost brought tears to my eyes!
Is this your forever house?
I think so... But I thought that about our current house too. I think one of the things I love about our new house is that it has the potential to last us for decades. I like to think our family will grow up here. I picture a swing on the big tree outside (and maybe a treehouse in the back yard) and I feel like we're really moving home. It's hard to say "forever" though. I see so many houses each day and I probably fall in love with a house every six months, so there's always going to be temptation to upgrade down the road!
So now I think I've answered as many questions as I can right now. I'm excited to share more in the weeks to come. In case you're curious, you can read about us buying our current house here, here and here! You know what's funny? The stock image I used of a house in one of the posts sort of reminds me of the house we bought!
Our Fairy Tale House
Taylor de Sa
buying a house|life|moving|real estate|