The next chapter

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I love our apartment. It's big and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows on the main level, a loft, a Jacuzzi tub and two sinks in the larger of the two bathrooms. I love the wood floors, the maple cabinets, and the big closets, but most of all I love how Peter and I picked it out together and set it up together the way we both like it. It's the first apartment that's truly felt like a home, and it's the first apartment I'm going to really miss when it's time to move out.

We had a meeting with the bank recently to find out about getting a mortgage. It seems like the time has come to start looking for a more permanent home, something we'll own, a place where we can paint the walls or rip up the floors if we're so inclined. We found out we were approved for a shockingly large mortgage ("we can buy a MANSION!") and then were brought back down to earth upon realizing how the biweekly payments would play out ("we can live on Mr. Noodles and stolen ketchup packets and buy a mansion...")

There is a LOT to think about when you start talking about buying a home, as I'm sure you homeowners know. There's the financial piece first and foremost. How much can we afford? How are interest rates going to change? What insurance should we include? Then there's the other stuff, like where we want to live. Signing a one-year apartment lease is one thing...if you aren't crazy about the neighbourhood, you can sublet or move after 12 months. Buying a home is quite another thing. And then there's agreeing on personal taste in terms of the house layout and design. Luckily we have a lot of the same decorating tastes, so that's a plus.

Some of the mandatories we can agree on include:

-it needs to have three bedrooms.
-it needs two bathrooms. One is too few and three is too many to clean.
-it needs a kitchen with lots and lots of cupboard and counter space...and a dishwasher (that's my request).
-we want a decent-sized yard.
-we both hate carpet, so we're looking for hardwood and ceramic.
-we don't want to have to do renos. We want to get the keys and be ready to live in the house. A coat of paint is OK. Tearing out the kitchen cupboards or gutting a wall isn't cool.
-it needs to be a detached house in a good neighbourhood.

Nice-to-haves (but not must-haves) are:

-a front porch
-up-and-down laundry (takes up soooo much less space!)
-stainless steel appliances
-a big corner tub
-windows with little panes...I love those
-crown moldings
-a finished basement
-a fireplace

Not too unreasonable, right? Oh, but throw in our price range. Ah ha. Ah haha. Ah hahahahaahaha. Consider the fact that one day we will PROBABLY reproduce. And that we'll have a dog. Both of which cost money. Ah ahahahahahahahaha. Over the past couple of days, I have asked myself (and Peter) repeatedly: HOW DO PEOPLE AFFORD SHIT? SERIOUSLY? We're fortunate in that we both have zero loans or debts and perfect credit and we're still a little freaked least I am.

Over the next few months expect more house chatter as we start the quest to find our little nest. I have been spending every spare minute on MLS scouring the listings. It's exciting, but scary. Any advice from homeowners would be wonderful!

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  1. first off, don't believe what the bank says they'll give you. look at what you can deal with. we figured out on our first house that we could afford our rent plus about a third more and still be comfortable.

    second, unless you build new, there's almost no way you'll get everything you want. it might be perfect, except it's all carpet, for example. the only way to truly have it exactly the way you like it is new construction. but, with new construction, the price is the price, and it will probably go up at least 10%, more like 30. there's no dealing on cost with new homes. plus, you'd have to move to the burbs.

    houses that are between 20 and 30 years old will need a lot of maintenance and renos. they may look pretty perfect, but this is the point when everything reaches the end of its useful life. in a house that age, you'll likely soon need to do a new roof, furnace, hot water heater, septic system (if not on city water) and other major costs. trouble is, these houses also usually look like they're in much better shape than a 100 year old house, so it's easier to overlook these upcoming expenses.

    i have a wonderful piece of land in the country to sell if you're interested. :)

  2. What an exciting time!! HAve you ever watched Proprty Virgins? It's my favourite show, all about people goint through their first home buying experiences.

    I am so jealous and I hope you continue to document the process! My boyfriend and I often dream about our first home.

    PS Your apartment sounds uh-maze-ing.

  3. Yeah! Congrats! It is so much fun looking for your first house! Once you start looking, be prepared to want to buy; it is hard not to want to jump on a deal if you think it is the one!

    I agree with Jeff, the mortgage peeps approve you for WAY more than what you can (probably) afford.

    There are also a lot of other expenses to take into consideration above the sale price such as property tax, cmhc insurance, closing costs, legal fees and deed transfer taxes, among others. So it is important to stick with a budget, and only look at houses in that range (don't tempt yourself with more expensive homes).

    I think the most important thing though, is to know what you want- and it sounds like you got that down! You will get a better idea what criteria are more important than others once you see what is in your price range.

    We wanted a newer home too (to avoid any major renos), but had to settle on a few things such as no garage, a small yard, and smaller rooms. In the end, we may have settled for some things, but we love our little home and have had fun doing small upgrades here and there to make it our own!

    What area of HRM are you thinking of?

    Good luck with the hunting!

  4. From my experiences in real estate, I have to tell you, be prepared, buying a house is insanely stressful. And it only gets more stressful the more people are involved.

    I think you will quickly realized (and it sounds like you already are) that what you can afford, and what you just absolutly must have, don't necessarily match up. I've been in my house four years and I still have things I want to change. You'll realize that some projects are easier done yourself instead of finding a different house.

    Things like ripping up carpeting and putting down hardwood floors really aren't that hard, you can do it. Go into each house with an open mind and realize you are going to have to deal with certain things like carpeting for a little while until you can get around to replacing them.

  5. Thanks everybody for your advice :)

    Jeff...I would muuuuuuuuch rather build than buy! If we were in New Brunswick it would be a no brainer because I could have the house built for next to nothing. Here it's a different story unfortunately and building seems really pricey.

    Jen...we're pretty open in terms of location. We would be OK with Fall River, Bedford, some parts of Sackville, even some areas of Dartmouth. Peter works out of town most days so ideally we'll cut down on his drive by being close to the highway. But if there was something great in Hammonds Plains or some place like that we would look at it as well!