I’ve been meaning to blog about this awhile ago! But life got a little crazy with the new house/renos/Christmas. Ok, I feel like I’m just making excuses for myself now. I do apologize for the long wait, I know I’ve been teasing you guys with Instagram photos of our house but still no post!
As you may know, my then fiancщ (now husband) and I bought our first home back in 2012. It was a pre-construction home. I was pretty nervous since well – I’ve never bought anything so expensive before! I remember losing so many nights of sleep and wishing I didn’t just put myself in debt for the next 30 years of my life. I bought my first home when I was 27 years old – which was a huge accomplishment for me. I always thought I’ll be living at my parents home until I’m 45 (it’s just soooo comfy!) But we all need to grow up one day and find our own independence. So I took the first step and bought myself a new home.
I remember first looking at condos with my fiancщ near the (downtown, Toronto) area – they are so expensive for such a small space. I’m more of a uptown gal, where I’m used to my space. Although I work downtown Toronto and this would mean it would really cut back a lot of travel time, and travel expenses too! But to me, it just wasn’t worth it. We also looked at Homes In Orange County, just to see if we could afford them as we’ve always dreamed of living in Cali. Unfortunately, we just wouldn’t have been able to fund the move, or remotely make it financially work. Thankfully though, we managed to find the perfect first home here in Toronto, winner! So here are some of the checklist when I bought my first home and hopefully these tips will help you too!
#1 Know your finances/budget
Yes it’s true! You need to make sure you have the finances and budget all in line before you start looking for your dream home! This will determine your location and what type of housing you can afford. For example, condos, apartments, semi-detached, town homes or detached homes. Something basic to remember is that you need a high credit score to get a low mortgage rate so it’s important to keep an eye on your spending history. One of my friends had never used a credit card before and didn’t realize how important a credit score was when it comes to loans and interest rates. She had to quickly look into Credit Cards for No Credit and try to build her credit before she applied for a mortgage and it end up costing her loads! Once you meet with your bank adviser and getting your mortgage approved you will have an idea how much you can afford. Keep in mind that in Ontario (your mortgage approval is only valid for 3 months, so make sure you are serious about house hunting when you apply for the mortgage approval process). Also, there’s always closing fees! Make sure you have enough for that and if you are getting a pre-construction home, there’s always other little fees like “upgrades”. Even moving our laundry from the 3rd floor to the basement costed us $800. Want a double sink in the master bedroom? Yes that will cost you too. Love those coffer ceilings? Think about it if that’s a “must” on your list. Sometimes there are things you can cut out and things you just have to pay. Making a house into a home personal to you is also going to cost you. These are all things you don’t think of before buying a house. When refurbishing a home, we’ve found that it’s wise to invest in a decent set of DIY machinery. From nail guns to saws and dremels. Our personal favourite? You could use paslode nails to make jobs easier and less time intensive. They work great to hold things up, and can be easily installed.
#2 Location, location, location
It’s good to have a vague idea where you want to be living. We made a mistake of not really having a good idea where we want to live. We didn’t really sit down and talked about what would be good in the long run. We were just so excited to see everything there is out there! So, for us, we looked at almost every pre-construction site there is in Toronto, and greater GTA. The good thing is, we knew we wanted a pre-construction home, since they usually take 1 – 2 years before they give us the keys. We wanted to use that time to save a bit more and of course get ready for the wedding! After realizing we have to pay a huge portion of land transfer tax in Toronto roughly ($19,000 minus $2000 for first time home buyers, we’re still looking at $17,000) we decided to stick to uptown, Vaughan, Markham, Richmond Hill area. We get more bang out of our money.
Here’s my checklist when we were looking for our first home:
- Close to Go Train (Public Transportation) Since I worked downtown – I need my house to be 10 min away from the Go Train Station.
- Close to an elementary school. (For future and also for property value!)
- Close to highway. I didn’t really get this wish since we’re no where close to a free public highway. Although we’re really close to 407 (toll route) but I guess I’ll settle for that.
- Close to restaurants (Chinese food/groceries)
- Close to parks, quiet neighborhood
Some really good tip is drive around the neighborhood on the weekend/weekday. So you get a feel of the traffic (which I didn’t do, but wish I did!) and you’ll also get a feel of the neighborhood too. I really like our neighborhood, it has a small downtown feel to it. There are parks, little retail stores, yoga classes,Kumon via walking distant.
#3 Know the size of your home
How big do you want your home to be? Small and cozy? Grand? 4 bedrooms or 3 bedrooms? What size bet can you fit in there? Can you keep that comfy king size mattress or does it need to be replaced for a smaller one?How long do you plan to live there for? I have been told your first home is not going to be your last home – so start small and something you can live comfortably in. And this is the best advice someone could had given me. We purchased a 3 bedroom detached home. It’s 1980 square feet with 2 garages space, which was important to us because we both have cars. I didn’t want to have to move one of our cars each time my husband needs to leave. Especially during winter time! Who wants to venture out in the cold?!
# 4 Layout that works for you
Once you have tackled all those things done. Here comes the fun part! Oh I love this part, model homes. I must had been over 50 model homes! I just love how they decorate the place and how they make it work. But be careful, you want to make sure it works for you and your partner. If you are lucky, the layout of your dream home is one of their model homes. Unfortunately, it was not for us, but you still want to go into the builder’s model homes and see how the quality is. How the space looks like for other layouts and see if everything is sturdy and well built. We viewed some condos where the floor was already creaking! That’s a big nono for us. Here we started to dream about how we would function as a family, imaging ourselves living in the house, lay on the bed and see if you can see yourself living in that space! I would avoid the evil pinterest, it makes everything so unrealistic. You want to carefully look at the layout and really see if that space will work for you.
# 5 Sign up for newsletter!
My inbox was filled with emails with grand openings of new pre-construction homes. You want to be the first ones there (if you are really serious about that builder that is). We got our house during their grand opening phase 5, with the promotion $20,000 off detached homes, $30,000 off semi-detached homes and $30,000 off townhomes for one day only. We’ve been to this builder a few times and have viewed their model homes more than 10 times, I’ve done my research on them online and they seem like a decent builder. I remember the place was packed. So many families asked if we were going to buy that house (since it was the 2nd last house left)
Tip: you can HOLD the house for 24 hours (some builders let you hold it for 1 week, it depends on the promotion and builder) ours only allowed us to hold the house for 24 hours since they had the promotion.
#6 Act quickly, but really think it through and take the plunge!
This is the HARDEST part. You’ve done the research, your mortgage is approved, you’ve been dreaming about your potential new home. But what is holding you back? Right the 25-30 years mortgage of your life. I remember asking myself, “is this a good investment?” as much as I want my independence, and live with my future husband. I need to make sure that this is a good investment. My needs and wants doesn’t come first, smart decisions does. I looked into the location, the property value of that area, their property tax (you want to know how much they pay for their property tax to make sure you can afford that too). Once I did all that research, I went back the next day with my cheque book in hand along with my now husband and happily said – we’re buying the property. The progress took about 4 hours to sign my life away. You would think it should take longer, but yup 4 hours! There’s not much explaining while I was signing my name on every copy of papers (4 copies to be exact). I don’t know if it was the excitement or just numb that I’m actually buying a house. I walked out with the stack of papers in my hand and screamed “oh.my.god. we bought a house together! Now, you have no choice but stuck with me for the rest of my life”
I’m so glad we bought the house when we did, because when Phase 6 came – the promotion was gone, price shot up and there was an insane line up during the grand opening for their Phase 6 homes.
1. 5 years later……. Our house keys! In my later posts, I’ll blog about the Pre Delivery Inspections (PDI), closing fees, frame walks etc. Till then, Happy hunting your dream home!
Thanks so much for reading,