We Bought a House! — Wait… What??

It has always been Malcolm’s and my plan to buy a house and fill it with memories. This hasn’t been a straightforward plan, and in the past six years there have been some highs and lows in our search for somewhere to put down roots. I am attaching pictures, and in some cases these are the exact house, and in some cases they’re not because I am not great at remembering addresses and used Google street view to find the house that “looked right” compared to my memories.

In the autumn of 2014, we were seriously looking for a place to call home and we fell in love with a house in Guelph. We had already been pushed out of the market prices in Georgetown where we were living at the time, but this place in Guelph checked most of our boxes in our price range. I loved it.

Cedarvale

The highlights:

  • Fully detached
  • A garage with entrance to inside the house
  • Fully finished back-split
  • Vaulted ceilings in the living/dining room

This house probably hurt the most to lose. We offered our best price but it was bought by a rental company for above asking.

A few weeks later we found another house in Guelph that looked like it would work for us. It was a bit older, but it was well taken care of and we got a good vibe from it.

Brant

The highlights:

  • Fully detached
  • Covered parking
  • Well maintained interior with a fireplace in the basement
  • Beautiful private backyard
  • Large open field behind with deer

We made our offer and it was accepted, conditional on financing and a home inspection. We found out that the beautiful field beyond the backyard was part of a new development project and for the next six years there would be construction back there. The wiring was also older and not to the current code. We walked away.

We decided to rent instead and got an apartment in Guelph, we stayed there until the fall of 2016, after losing Lily and Anika within a year of each other, we needed a change. I left my job of seven years, and we decided to travel! We made it as far as Kingston.
Malcolm got a new job that seemed promising, and we got a beautiful corner unit apartment rental with windows on two walls, in a newer building and while we knew that this place wasn’t our forever home, we knew that it would be a good place to stay while we rebuilt savings and could qualify for a mortgage again.

Occasionally we’d go to open houses and look at what was available in the market and when we first started looking we knew that since Malcolm had just changed jobs and I was unemployed we couldn’t get a mortgage, but our hypothetical dollar stretched so much further in this market than on the other side of the GTA. We were hopeful that when all of our ducks were in a row, we’d find the perfect thing.

But the market in Kingston felt the ripples of the crazy house prices in the larger city centers across the province, and people like us were heading to Kingston to get a better use of their dollars and also inflating the local market. The prices started to climb.

At the start of the summer of 2019, we found a house that blew us away. It was a little further out of town that we would have liked, but it was beautiful. I called it my unicorn house. We went back to see it a few times, and really took our time to consider. It would mean a 30 minute drive into the morning sun for me to get to school, but it was close to the water and so much nicer than what we had been seeing in the city at our price point.

Johnson

The highlights:

  • Fully detached
  • Beautiful interior
  • Master ensuite
  • Unique layout
  • Forest behind
  • Large garage

This house was slab on grade so it had no basement, but the living space had been well thought out, so it didn’t seem like too much of a loss not to have a basement. It also backed onto Millhaven prison property, which may have reduced our resale options down the road. But we decided that it could work for us. By the time we were ready to start the negotiations, someone else had already bought the house. We saw the listing agent a while later at a different open house and she told us that the local real estate agents called my unicorn house “the divorce house” it had been on the market 12 times in 14 years because the couple who bought it were splitting up. Maybe we dodged a bullet there.

The next house that we felt was worth our time was a bungalow on the east side of Kingston. We found this house near the middle of the summer of 2019, after returning from the Philippines when we had recently come to the conclusion that there would be no more trying for a family and Luna was the closest we’d be getting to a living child. So the nontraditional layout of this house appealed to us because it fit a very specific lifestyle.

Freeman

The highlights:

  • Fully Detached
  • One bedroom on the main level
  • Master ensuite
  • Large kitchen
  • Great room with vaulted ceilings
  • Two additional bedrooms (office/guest rooms) in the basement
  • Media room in the basement with surround sound

This house had multiple offers by the time we were ready to pull the trigger and we were advised that it was going to sell for far above asking, so we decided to walk away without putting in a bid.

The next house that I loved , Malcolm was not so sure of at the start. We toured this house on three separate occasions. I got a good feel off of it, the layout wasn’t a cookie cutter of everything we had been seeing recently. But it was an end unit town home, and that felt like a huge compromise.

Davenport

The highlights:

  • Master ensuite with a tub
  • Large windows at the rear
  • An open stairway to the partially finished basement
  • Upstairs laundry

We decided that we were ready to make our move, after seeing many comparably priced things and realizing we did not like them nearly as much. But by that time the house was sold.

It was the winter of 2019 when an interesting opportunity came up to get a new build in Phase 1 of a new development west of Kingston. We took our time, went and talked to the developer a few times, looked at the floorplans, and really considered our options and our budget, knowing that with upgrades the cost of the house could change drastically.

The highlights:

  • Semi detached, the lot we chose was right next to a park
  • Windows on 3 walls
  • Opportunity to put a deep soaker tub in the master ensuite
  • Chance to choose all of the finishes
  • Immediate appreciation in value as the subdivision grew

We got pretty far into this process, we had signed all the paperwork and entered a two week conditional period, and we found that due to Malcolm being self employed and the long runway for the development of the house, a closing date at the end of August, we could not be guaranteed a mortgage that far out. We had to pay the deposit and half of the down payment, all of which would have been non-refundable. Without a secured mortgage, that felt like too much of a gamble, so we walked away. Just a couple of months later the base cost of this house had increased making it no longer doable for us.

It was the spring of 2020, just over a week ago actually, and we found another house that we could see ourselves being happy in. It had a couple of compromises, one of the biggest (for me) being no garage. But it was in the city, and on the side of town we wanted to be on. We went to the open house on Saturday and brought Malcolm’s mom, Brenda with us for the second showing on Sunday. We all liked the house and we decided to put in an offer.

The highlights:

  • Unique layout
  • Finished basement with a 3 piece bathroom
  • Large yard
  • Cheater ensuite with a deep soaker tub
  • bright open kitchen

The house went to multiple offers, in a bidding war type situation, and it sold for far more than we were willing to pay.

The following Wednesday we got an alert that there was a new house coming on the market in the same neighbourhood as the townhouse we had seen in the fall. This place made sense on paper. It is in a developing neighbourhood, only a year old, comps are selling at above our price point. This would give us a good starting point in the market. There were some things that we didn’t like… Like that it was a middle unit town house with a shared driveway, and that the back yard was tiny and the 7foot tall fence was topped with barbed wire, and the fact that the previous renters had left it not feeling like new… But we were feeling the squeeze. Every time we look there are more and more compromises to be made at our price point and this could get us into the market since the inflation of house prices keeps expanding faster than we can save.

The highlights:

  • Decent sized rooms
  • Main floor laundry
  • Chance to add value by finishing the basement
  • No rear neighbours
  • Big walking closet
  • Shower stall in the ensuite could be replaced with a tub

So we put in an offer. We negotiated back and forth for two days, but in the end we could not reach an agreement that left both parties happy.

So on Saturday March 7 (my niece’s 19th birthday btw) we were back out at open houses again. The first house we saw was a semi-detached, raised bungalow. It, of course, has compromises. It’s not in our preferred neighbourhood, it backs onto the train tracks, but there are in a valley and there are trees and stone walls to act as a noise break, and the trains have no reason to honk their horns in the area.

The highlights:

  • High ceilings in the basement, and the opportunity to convert that space into a separate apartment if we choose to
  • Clean, bright space with windows on three walls
  • Massive pantry off the kitchen
  • Decent sized yard for Luna to run in
  • Decent street parking
  • Fields and parks close by
  • An area of town likely to appreciate in value over the next few years

Malcolm, Brenda and I all looked though the house together at around 1:30 and we definitely liked it. We went to see another house together and it did not compare. Through our real estate agent, we found out that they were holding offers until 4pm and then would be making a decision. At just before 3, we contacted our agent because we decided to put in an offer, even though we knew there was at least one other offer on the table. I had a feeling we were not going to get it. Malcolm and I decided to go to one more open house and that house, despite a similar price was not nearly as nice nor as move-in-ready. We submitted our offer at 3:58pm. At 4:45, our real estate agent called us to let us know that our offer had been accepted.

Today, Tuesday March 10th, we did the home inspection. The morning Via trains went by as we were there and they were no louder than the sound of a furnace turning on. I found the house even nicer this time through than I did when we first looked through it. There were no big issues with the house during the inspection and what was found was cosmetic. The house has been well cared for.

The final paperwork has been signed, deposit paid, and now we wait for closing in mid July.

After six years in three different towns/cities, Malcolm and I are now home owners!

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