Deciding to purchase my first home wasn’t as straightforward a decision as it can be for many people. I currently rent a very nicely built home that doesn’t leave me wanting for much. When something breaks, I don’t have to deal with it. My costs are essentially fixed, mostly everything works, I have enough space for my girlfriend, my cat, and I. Honestly, it’s pretty good living. On the other hand, I’ve rented my current place for 4 years, which means I’ve “thrown away” over fifty thousand dollars. 50 large! Of course, if I had bought a house all that money wouldn’t have built equity, but nearly half of it would have.
I would definitely like to start putting some of that money back into my own pockets, but I’m not in a huge rush since I’m pretty happy with my current living conditions. At the time we were in quite a sellers market, meaning houses were moving fast! If we found something we liked, we’d need to be ready to make an offer right away, which is certainly a little intimidating to a first time buyer.
Next comes figuring out what we’re even looking for. We made a list of some must haves, but were mostly flexible. One major decision is while I’m decently handy, I’m also extremely busy, so we weren’t willing to buy something that needed a lot of work. A few things on our list was a modern kitchen with decent space (since we’re used to a rather large kitchen at the moment), at least a second half-bathroom, a room for a home office (I currently share the space with my entertainment set up, which isn’t perfect for productivity), and lots of natural light.
Figuring out you must-haves right away can certainly help narrow down your search, but be sure to adjust this list as you go to open houses, view listings, etc. You’re going to learn a lot from the first houses you check out, so don’t worry if you don’t have much of a list yet.
Before we started looking too closely, it was important to figure out how much we could afford. Using some handy affordability calculators helped us plan for monthly expenses, but we also needed to consider how much we needed upfront. The minimum down payment in Canada is 5%, but there’s plenty of extra costs, such as property tax, lawyer fees, inspection, land transfer tax, etc. A more realistic expectation is the minimum we’d need is 10%, 5% for down payment, 5% for closing costs. I had to also take into consideration that my main income comes from my small business, which means a varying income year to year, while my girlfriend’s has the comfort of being salaried.
Let me get real with you, another concern I had was the perception of buying a home with my girlfriend, since we’ve only been together for a year and a half and we’re not married. I personally had no doubts about buying a home together, but I did worry a little about the perspective of others. We discussed having the home only in one of our names if we could qualify for a mortgage alone, but ended up deciding to find the house before we stressed too much about it.
With no particular rush, we decided to start casually looking at houses. Realtor.ca is my go-to to see what’s new. Sorting by new and putting a price limit at the top of my budget makes swiping through houses as easy as swiping through tinder!
Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.
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