Five Things To Do Before Buying a House

Desirae OdjickLessons Learned, Lifestyle, Spending55 Comments

Five things to do before buying a house, especially if you're a first-time buyer.

Looking for a list of things to do before buying a house? I’ve got you covered based on my own personal experiences, because fun story: we just bought a house!

And yes, almost everyone guessed this already from my not-so-cryptic tweets about taking money out of my EQ Bank savings account, and about having big news, and literally every DM I sent screaming about buying a house… but whatever.

We did it!

This is probably definitely the biggest money thing that has ever happened to me, so you know I’m not just going to leave it at that. This isn’t an Instagram post of our keys, after all, and I have So Many Thoughts about this whole process – plus, I want to share how we did it, what we learned and what made the whole thing stress-free-ish and easy-ish.

Here are the five things we did before buying a house that I think made the entire process way easier, and that I would recommend to literally any other first-time buyer. Plus, these to-dos were fun. (Mostly.)

PS. This post is a 2,400-word monster, so like… grab a coffee.

We Spent Ages Creeping Open Houses

It was two years ago, almost to the day, that I first convinced bribed The Boyfriend to spend a Sunday afternoon trekking around to open houses in our suburban neighbourhood.

We had already discussed our timelines for buying, so it was entirely understood that we weren’t going to jump at a house if we liked it – especially since I think I probably had about $3,000 in my house down payment savings at the time, if that.

Honestly, even given a bit of trepidation that we would fall in love with a house and then be piles of sadness that we couldn’t buy it yet, we had so much fun.

We live in a suburb that was built up in phases, so we got to quickly identify which models of house we liked, and which ones were just never going to work for us. Tiny, closed-off rooms and cramped entryways? No thank you. Two-car garage and master bathrooms? Yes please.

(Yes, we’re luxurious monsters, but in our defence, we live in Ottawa and the real estate dreams are still alive in the suburbs here.)

It was this process, which happened over literally two years whenever I saw a few houses I thought we would both like, that helped us narrow down the areas we wanted, and what we wanted to find there. We knew which models of houses we liked, we had extensive conversations about which features of a house were must-haves for each of us, and we knew which renovations we were willing to take on – and which ones we really weren’t.

As a bonus, we also got to know the local market, and watch which houses would sit on the market at a specific price, and which ones moved quickly. Now, I’m not claiming to be some kind of expert by any stretch of the imagination, but having a general sense of what houses sell for in your neighbourhood is a very good thing – and it seriously helped us out in several ways.

Including, but definitely not limited to, forecasting our future budgets.

We Did Extensive Budgeting

Once we were on the same page about our combined must-haves list, and we had a sense of our numbers, the budget spreadsheets came out in full force.

Specifically, I wanted to make sure we were future-proofing our budget to handle things we both see in our futures in best-case and worst-case scenarios. That includes things like temporary job loss, maternity leave and the Dread Pirate Daycare if we are blessed with expensive tiny humans children.

Sure, we could afford a massive place with our dual-income, no-kids lifestyle, but my real questions were more like…

  • “Will we still be able to save 10% of our pre-tax income for retirement when we have a $1,200 daycare bill?”
  • “How can we scale back to accommodate the massive drop in income if one of us takes parental leave for a year?”
  • “What if one of us loses a job?”
  • “OK, seriously though, will I still be able to go to the pub / buy lattes guilt-free when all of this is going down, or are we going to be house paupers?”

So I ran the numbers, aka my favourite thing to do ever, and worked it out. We could afford to cover the mortgage, all of the bills, all of the insurance and all of the emergency-house-fund savings, even in our worst (and best) case scenarios. Without that reassurance, I never would have been cool taking our next step.

Asking the bank for hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

We Got Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

After I hit my down payment savings goal (big ups to my savings rate) I knew I wanted our next step to be getting pre-approved for a mortgage together.

See, here’s the thing: The Boyfriend owns his townhouse right now.

The plan was always to sell his place and then buy one together, for a number of different reasons. The big catch was whether the bank thought we could afford the place we wanted, because if they didn’t, we didn’t want to go through the cost and hassle of moving just to get something we weren’t totally happy with.

And OK, yes, I did just walk you through the gigantor process I used to figure out whether we could afford this much house.

And yes, The Boyfriend kept reminding me that if I, with my 50% savings rate, was convinced we could afford it, no bank in their right mind would deny us a mortgage. But I wanted to be sure, OK?

Because real talk: moving is expensive.

Like, more expensive that you can even conceptualize until you’re in it. There was no way either of us was on board to buy and sell our house again in five years, so we wanted to get the place we wanted to stay – especially since The Boyfriend already owns a home.

So on a sunny Tuesday morning, we strolled into the bank for what I think was one of my favourite dates with The Boyfriend, ever.

We were prepared with every document the bank needed, we were already on the same page when it came time to talk numbers, and the entire process was ultra-smooth. (The woman helping us even commended us on being exceptionally prepared, and told us we could teach a class on this, which is probably up there among the best compliments I’ve ever received. I was giddy. She also doesn’t know about this blog.)

They approved us for our full budget, and reassured us that we could carry The Boyfriend’s current mortgage and the new place, no problem. They even gave us the wink-wink advice that if we really were going to buy a place to stay there for a long time, we could go $10,000 to $20,000 over our current budget, no problem.

Which like, was good to know! But spoiler alert, you know we stuck with our budget.

PS. We didn’t shop around for a rate because The Boyfriend currently has a mortgage, and it has a fairly competitive rate – which we know because we did our research. The savings of switching for a slightly lower rate wouldn’t have made the penalty to get out of the current mortgage worth it, so we chose to stay with his current mortgage provider. If we were doing it from scratch, I’d definitely use a mortgage broker or at least compare my rates online.

We Used a Realtor

So with our pre-approval, and the tacit permission that we could afford to buy first, sell later, I took to my MLS-creeping with renewed vigour. Literally the day we got pre-approved, I saw a listing that I hadn’t noticed before, and showed it to The Boyfriend.

“This place looks great, eh?”
*hands over listing on my phone while we’re watching TV*
“Yeah, let’s go see it.”

So I emailed the listing realtor to ask when the open house was, because the listing was vague on dates.

If you’re thinking “Wait, why didn’t you email your realtor to setup a showing?” just wait.

This gets so much better.

The listing agent, obviously, emailed back to say we should do a private showing, so like, cool. Let’s do that. We set one up for Friday morning, aka three literal days after we got pre-approved for a mortgage.

To prepare, I sent a frantic DM to my friend Andrew, the mastermind behind Family Money Plan and my go-to on all things housing. He paid off his mortgage in six years, so he knows a thing or two about houses.

He calmed me down, and prepped me with a list of questions to ask the listing realtor so that I would be able to update my obsessive comprehensive budget forecasts for this specific house. If you want to get that list, which had the listing realtor flabbergasted that I was so prepared, you can download it here at Andrew’s newest project, The Millennial Homeowner.

(Literally my favourite thing is surprising people with how prepared I am when they don’t expect me to be. On my list of hobbies, that is really far up there.)

So we finish up the showing on Friday morning, me with my notebook full of questions about how much the utilities cost, The Boyfriend excelling in his role as skeptic (because I can’t be chill to save my life, and we 100% planned that).

We get into the car in the driveway.

Me: “I think we should buy it!”
The Boyfriend: “Me too. I guess we should call Helene.”

And that, friends, is the story of how we got a realtor.

We saw the house, liked it, knew we wanted to make an offer, and went straight to Starbucks to call our in-our-heads realtor, who did not know she was our realtor or that we were buying a house. She’s a close family friend, so we texted her that SURPRISE, we want to buy a house today and can you help us?

That was around 11AM, and by 3PM, we were back at the house doing a walk through with her. She had done up all of the paperwork for us to put in an offer, and pulled up multiple comparable listings from the past year to see what we should pay for the place. All we had to do was listen, discuss and sign, and boom: we had a conditional offer to send to the sellers.

After that, things kicked into high gear, and we really saw the value of having a realtor. She handled everything with the selling agent, texted us to let us know that the offer had been accepted, dropped everything to take a look at The Boyfriend’s townhouse and help us make a plan for listing it, and set us up with a real estate lawyer and house inspection the following week.

I’ll be honest: This past week, with fulfilling all of our conditions and getting an entire three-bedroom townhouse ready to list, has been a wee bit stressful. If we hadn’t had someone handling the logistics, details and legalities of the house purchase? I can’t even come up with a catchy phrase for how stressed out I would have been. It is beyond words.

So please allow this illustrative gif to do the talking for me.

To do before buying a house, to make sure you don't end up crying under your desk with a bottle of wine.

Since we’re hoping to only go through this process once in the next 30 years, not stressing out about learning all the details of How to Real Estate Without Screwing Yourself Over has been one of the best decisions we could have made.

If you’re looking for a great Ottawa realtor, Helene Hutchings gets my unconditional seal of approval for preventing any crying-under-my-desk-with-wine episodes.

We Had Savings

You know what’s helpful when buying a house?

Money.

In the past week alone, we’ve put down a $3,000 deposit, paid $500 for a house inspection, bought three cans of paint to fix up The Boyfriend’s townhouse for listing, and drawn up a budget for all of the things we need to pay for in the next three months before and while we close on the new place and move. That’s not counting the money we’ve spent on renos over the past two months that we did knowing this day was coming.

Gulp.

You can read all you want about closing costs, and do every calculator in the book, and prepare as much as you want, but when it comes time to add everything up in real life, you’ll be 100% less stabby if you’ve got at least some of the money ready, outside of your down payment.

PS. We’ve Had All The Talks

As a small aside, since I know a lot of you are wondering and have cautioned me about this before, we’re both going into this fully aware of the legal and financial ramifications of taking on a purchase like this before having a big party and promising to love each other forever.

Your girl wouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without doing that, you know me.

TL;DR: Five Things To Do Before Buying a House

Because this post was a behemoth, and you’re a total champion for reading all the way through, here’s a recap of exactly what we did, and what I would do again in a heartbeat, to make buying a house as stress-free as possible.

  1. Creep open houses with reckless abandon. Seriously, it’s a really fun date, even if your date is a friend you bring along to look appropriately skeptical. Grab a coffee and go creep some houses that are open.
  2. Figure out your budget, in all scenarios. Don’t just rely on what your budget can accommodate now, unless you’re reasonably sure you won’t have major life changes in the future (and lol don’t ever be sure about that).
  3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you can get all of the paperwork filed, filled out and stamp-of-bank-approval-ed before you find a place you want to buy, you’ll be able to fulfill your financing condition way faster.
  4. Use a realtor. Unless you plan on making a lot of real estate purchases, or you have the time, patience, confidence and inclination to DIY this purchase? A realtor is probably worth the money you’ll spend working with them, and if you’re just buying, you don’t even pay for them. The sellers do.
  5. Have savings. That means above and beyond your down payment, too, because that money is already spoken for by the actual house. Closing costs are no joke, friends.

Is a house in your future – or have you purchased one in the past? Let me know what helped you prepare, so that readers can learn from your experiences too! (And if you’ve written about it on your blog, for goodness sake, leave a link! More advice is a good thing when it comes to housing, IMO.)

55 Comments on “Five Things To Do Before Buying a House”

  1. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

    Squeeeeeee! Home buying is so stressful. Home ownership is even more stressful. But we wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe one of our neighbors 😉 ). I cannot wait to hear more about it. Congrats for having such a solid game plan! Best of luck with everything, Des!

  2. Kate@GoodnightDebt

    Yay! Congrats on your major purchase! And yes!! All the savings. I’m a few months ahead of you and gosh I feel bad for my poor bank accounts.

    Can’t wait to read all about it!

  3. Jordann

    Yaaay! Congrats! The steps you listed are basically the EXACT steps I took, including going to look at open houses way before I was ready to actually buy a house. Clearly your obsessive research paid off, and I can’t wait to read more about this process.

    1. Desirae

      Well remembering how much I adored reading about your house-buying adventures, I’ll make sure to cover it more!

      Seriously, people reading this, go check out Jordann’s blog, her house posts are A++++.

  4. Danielle

    We just bought our condo last summer but I’ve been searching and looking at listings off and on for probably 2 years before we seriously started looking together. I figured out pretty early on that we wouldn’t be able to get a house in Toronto so it took us a few months to debate whether or not we wanted to move outside of the city and if we were willing to make that sacrifice, but even then the prices were so crazy there that it didn’t really even matter. One thing we did when we ran our numbers was do multiple budgets with different interest rates. We looked at the interest rate history over the last 15 years to see how much we could carry, because it’s not only whether or not you have two salaries or one, or a kid and daycare, it can also be rising interest rates in the future. That really made us feel secure in our decision, also we went significantly under budget and got a really good place that we can stay 5 to 10 years easily.

    Congratulations ago I figured out you were buying a house with all your awesome vague tweets ?

    1. Desirae

      Hahaha unsurprising, I’m notoriously bad at secrets 😉

      And yessss to the interest rate thing! Everyone: do that too. I think the best thing regulators have done recently is to make sure everyone qualifies at 4.64%. It’s SO important.

  5. Piggy

    YASSS ALL OF THIS.
    I think too many people forget the “figure out your budget in all scenarios” step. Because if you’re planning to have kids, or go back to school, or survive on one income instead of two… all of that changes how much of a mortgage you can afford.

    1. Desirae

      RIGHT?! Like… I am going to have enough things to cry about if I’m sleep deprived and keeping another human being alive WITH MY GD BODY. I don’t want to add credit card debt to that! No thank you. Housing that will work for future life potential scenarios is a must.

  6. Felicity (@FelicityFFF)

    Congratulations!

    We were major open house creeps for a while when we were considering buying a home. I love them, because it’s no commitment — you don’t even have to have a realtor to go. They’re fantastic to get a taste of what it’s like. Plus, you can totally pretend to be on House Hunters or some other reality TV show. 😉

    1. Desirae

      Thank you so much! And we TOTALLY pretended that lol – or at least I did, to the great chagrin of my boyfriend. I would like, fake interview him when we left the house. He was a great sport about it, but when I threatened to actually make videos he revolted, haha.

    1. Desirae

      Hahaha like I get it, and it’s very well intentioned! But we have also had every talk in all the world. And we’re obnoxiously open about money stuff. So I feel VERY comfortable with our arrangements!

  7. Heather

    First of all, I just discovered your blog and I LOVE it – especially because I also live in Ottawa and it is so rare to find a financial blogger who blogs about Canadian finance (let alone Ottawa finance). So, yay!!

    I bought my first house by myself 4 years ago at age 25 – I lived with my parents for awhile right after university, got my first “real” job which paid next to nothing (luckily, found something more lucrative shortly after), and saved practically everything I earned. I was able to put 20% down (partially funded by my RRSP using the Home Buyers Plan), so I saved on CMHC insurance, and as a first time home buyer, saved on land transfer tax as well. Little did I know that, shortly after buying my home, I would meet my future husband! We have been living together for 3 years now, got married last year, and have decided to buy our “forever home” together this year. We just put an offer in on a place, so fingers crossed. We also just sold my house, so I’m hoping everything falls into place! We will definitely be putting 20% down with equity from my house, and will have plenty left over for all of our other home-buying expenses.

    Your blog posts about buying a house are very timely for me – Buying a second home is far more expensive (real estate fees to sell my house, land transfer tax, etc.), but at least this time we will be purchasing a house with our combined incomes – and we have a set budget in mind that is FAR less than what the bank approved us for.

    Anyway, BIG congratulations on buying your first (and hopefully last) home! We are very fortunate to live in Ottawa where we can still afford to buy homes with all of our must-haves. Although, this snow storm today? RIDICULOUS.

    1. Desirae

      Oh my gosh, it sounds like we are basically Ottawa house twins – this is great Heather, congratulations on everything and on the sale of your place! You should totally email me (desirae@halfbanked.com) to gossip about Ottawa housing and the place you put an offer in on – and let me know how it turned out! This is obviously my fave topic right now, haha. (We bought a place in Kanata since we both work out here, for some context!)

      I’m glad we connected! And thank you so much for the kind words 🙂 Yay Ottawa friends!

  8. Kate

    Congratulations! This is such a great list. Also, a part of #2 is don’t assume you’ll be able to afford more down the road. I think it’s common (in the States) to say “I love this house. It’s a stretch now, but if I keep getting raises/bonuses/Aunt Tildie remembers me in her will, we can totally afford it.”

    1. Desirae

      Hahahaha oh don’t worry, that’s a thing here too. Although I will say most, if not all, of my friends have been super smart about factoring in life changes into their financial plans! (Babies. I mean babies. They’re all having babies.)

  9. Samantha

    Congrats on the house!! Ahhhh, so exciting!!

    I feel like I’m constantly being impressed by how impressed I am by you and all your preparedness! #rolemodel

    But really, thanks for breaking down the steps that you made and sharing how long it actually took you guys between looking and actually buying. One of my current roommates just decided in Jan that he’s buying a house and plans on moving out by Aug OF THIS YEAR. I’m going to send him this article in hopes that maybe he gains something from it (like doing your research, saving, and preparing in advance) because I think sometimes people just like to hype up how awesome a new house is vs all the work you need to do beforehand. Also props for not inflating your budget when you were told that you could. WILLPOWER.

    You always keep it real, Des. :]

    1. Desirae

      Awwwwww SAMANTHA! I feel like I am always being humbled by the fact that anyone even reads this blog, much less is as kind as you are about it! I’m really glad we connected, do I tell you that enough?!

      And for real, DEFINITELY send this to your friend! And make sure to include that we “bought” the place in March, and we move at the end of June. So depending on the closing date of places he’s looking at, he likely can’t just like, buy one month and move in the next. (Some places will do this for sure, but it varies wildly!) I hope it ends up being helpful – even though to be fair, so much of real estate is so dependent on your specific area. (And I somehow doubt that he lives in Ottawa, because that would mean you did AND WE WOULD BE IRL FRIENDS ALREADY.)

      1. Samantha

        Sadly, nowhere close to Ottawa. :[ But I did forward this on to him, along with your links from your Saturday newsletter. I’m sure even if he only skims the articles, he’ll find something helpful.

        Also completely unrelated, but I’m glad I told you a date for online banking cause I’m only just now starting to look into it. I still have a few days though! >.>

  10. fbgcai

    Good on ya!
    Big step – wonder how the buds over at Millennium Revolution are reacting – I can guess 🙂

    Two minor points re use of the realtor:
    1) get your own agent i.e. not the one listing the property – if you use the listing agent as yours there is a severe conflict of interest – they’re first and foremost the SELLER’s (vendor’s) agent not the purchaser’s agent (guess who pays them)
    2) yes even though the seller pays the agent guess where the money comes from – you

    And I would add that you want to get a good legal advisor and title insurance – worth every penny (or nickel) – saved my skin and hard earned $ more than once – get someone who does mainly real estate law be it a lawyer or paralegal

    enjoy the new house!

    1. Desirae

      Bahahaha I can guess as well! Different strokes for different folks – I have zero interest in long term travel since it’s too hard to have a big dog that way, lol. As everyone always says, the best financial plan is YOUR financial plan.

      We definitely used a buyer’s agent too – the listing realtor gave us a soft pitch about working directly with him, but like, no way man. We’re thrilled to have had our own representation in the deal – and I have full confidence we’ll say the same about our lawyer!

  11. Gwen @ Fiery Millennials

    I’m going to share this article with the tagline “Everything I didn’t do before buying my house”.

    Slightly tongue in cheek, since I did run my budget and scoped out the area beforehand. I didn’t anticipate finding a house so quickly, so I had to scramble to come up with a preapproval letter to put in with my offer. (The guy that ran my numbers was absolutely amazed by them lol). I’d been through the process before, though, so I was able to come up with all the paperwork I needed in a timely manner.

    Congrats on The House!!

    1. Desirae

      Thank you so much Gwen! And as I said on Twitter, we basically bought the opposite house from you anyways lol.

      Gwen: bought a badass income generating property to speed up FI!
      Des: bought a big house in the suburbs to live in with dog and boyfriend.

      I am constantly in awe of your financial prowess and the way you’re leveraging your real estate market, friend! Dear everyone reading this: go read her blog, she’s a great writer and is doing some serious cool stuff with her money.

  12. Leigh

    Congrats you two!! We did the open house thing last summer and eventually concluded that a) we weren’t willing to spend more than we already are today yet, b) we weren’t confident enough in not having kids to buy a place we wouldn’t have kids in but weren’t able to find a place we thought would be a reasonable transition if we changed our minds, c) I (and now a bit we) own the condo we live in that we like enough things about that a new place must be pretty awesome, d) we (mostly me since I love this condo I already own) weren’t willing to buy a new place without planning to get married, and e) the neighborhoods we wanted to move to were a no go with the location of my last job. We ended up remodeling our living room (hello cheaper than moving) and now we absolutely love this place and plan to never move unless we have kids.

    Open houses while owning a place reminds me of the saying to go shopping for clothes wearing items you already love and only buy something new if you love it even more than what you currently have. I can’t wait to hear more about your house plans!!

    1. Desirae

      Thank you so much Leigh! And that thought process on the buying vs. not buying is so smart and wise, which is zero surprise coming from you, haha.

      And omg I have never heard that saying but I AM SO STEALING IT AS GUIDING LIFE ADVICE. No joke I might even write a post about it. (I have this one style / brand of plain t-shirt I love and I need to wear it always when shopping now, because you’re right: I get suckered into trends that I won’t love as much as this shirt, and then I always just wear this shirt anyways, cause I have like six of them. The uniform is creeping into my day to day life, lol.)

  13. Kate @ Making it Rain

    Congratulations, so exciting! Isn’t it wonderful that buying houses is still a doable thing in the Ottawa area? This is getting pinned as my go-to guide when I start looking at places. Thank you, as always, for the great read!

    1. Desirae

      Awww thank you Kate! And omg yes, we’re very very lucky in Ottawa – to the point where I actually feel a bit guilty that this was an option just based on the place we ended up living 😐

  14. Kira

    Congrats! That’s a huge accomplishment 🙂 My fiancé and I bought our first house together almost 2 years ago and I swear nothing feels better than coming home to your own home at the end of the day. We rented for years together and it just feels SO much better.
    I cannot stress enough how important it was to have a realtor. I could not imagine trying to buy a home without one, seriously. In our case (we have a townhouse) there was a condo association and condo fees involved so we ended up doing a lot of research into how much was in the reserve fund, how much fees had been increasing, etc. It’s definitely a good idea to get as much condo documentation as you can and find someone to walk you through everything (if you aren’t familiar with the documents it can be seriously confusing). The last thing we wanted was to get hit with a surprise “donation” to the condo association for a major fix that they didn’t have enough funds to cover. Lucky for us, their reserve is very healthy and the fees haven’t been increasing by ridiculous amounts so we are happy with the purchase. 🙂
    Again, congrats! Enjoy the new home!

    1. Desirae

      That is so so so important when it comes to condos! (And congrats on buying!!) We’re in a condo right now and we fully expect for those conditions and questions to come up if we get an offer on our place. We’re also in a good place with the reserve fund, *luckily*, so hopefully anyone new coming into the house will feel good about it!

      True confession: as stupid-excited as I am to get the new place, I’m already feeling a bit nostalgic about this place! It’s the first place we ever lived together and has been a wonderful home. I just hope the new potential owners love it as much as we did!

  15. Aki

    Congrats for new home. I always fine finance writers always stick with idea of 20 percent down payment. Any reasons you decided to go with 10% considering you have to pay chmc insurance as well.

    Congrats again for new house and that’s a excellent list of questions

    1. Desirae

      Thanks Aki! And yes – honestly, it just came down to timing. I’d prefer to pay off the mortgage a bit faster to offset the CMHC fees in the long run than to wait another year or two to buy. It makes sense right now based on the other big things we want to do in the next few years, so the difference between 5, 10 and 15% down wasn’t a big deciding factor in the big picture. (Which is funny because my opinions have definitely shifted on this! I’ll write more about it in the future for sure.)

  16. Rachael

    Congrats on the home purchase! I brought a home last winter and basically followed the process you did. I didn’t go to any open houses mostly because I am in a small town and there normally aren’t that many unless a home is on the market for a long time. I did however look at listings for probably about 2 years before I was looking to buy. Either way I think it is important to have an idea of what is in the market in your location, pricing and what properties eventually sell for. I also agree it is important to have savings! At that time I felt like I was draining my poor savings account. When I was going through the buying/ moving process I had people asked if how it was going and if it was stressful and honesty I was surprised with how not stressed I was for the process.

    1. Desirae

      That’s awesome Rachael – congrats right back at you! And it’s funny, if I isolate the house process on its own, it hasn’t been too bad minus the getting stuff ready to sell, lol (we have a shocking amount of stuff for people who don’t have a lot of stuff, if that makes sense?!) It’s more so that we didn’t obsessively plan this whole process, so we both had a lot of other commitments going on at the same time – but that’s ok! I’m of the school of thought that nothing shows up in your life that you’re not equipped for or ready to learn from. So uh… that’s my motto for the next few weeks lmao.

  17. Andrew

    Congrats on the house Des! You were so well prepared for it. I’m looking forward to all the stories about new homeownership life.

    1. Desirae

      YOU are the real MVP, friend! Thank you so much for all of the help!

      Dear everyone: go download Andrew’s list of questions to ask your realtor / the listing realtor, ASAP.

    1. Desirae

      Thank you so much Anum! I won’t lie, so far it’s been stressful, lol, but definitely exciting and I’ll make sure to keep updating about it!

  18. Julie @ Millennial Boss

    CONGRATS!!! So exciting. I didn’t realize when we were DMing that it was such a new purchase! Woot woot! I’m confused what you mean about the mortgage. Why didn’t you need to apply for a new one?

    1. Desirae

      Oh I think this is one of those “Things are so weird in Canada” items. From what I’ve read about the States, it’s normal to lock in a mortgage for the full term of your payback period, right? Like, a 25-year mortgage is a thing? Here, the longest term you usually see is 5-year fixed or variable rates, and when that term is over, you’re free to shop around even if you haven’t moved. On the other hand, breaking that mortgage before the end of five years usually comes with penalties, so we decided to port the existing mortgage to the new house and keep it for the remaining few years – we’ll compare rates and get a new mortgage when this one expires!

  19. Bryan

    Congrats on the house! The girlfriend and I are in a very similar situation except we are hoping to buy a new-build so we can save even more before the move-in date. I, the boyfriend, have a house and will sell it to fund the new house. She is a first time home buyer still living at home and saving like crazy!
    So my question to you is: How did you (and how can we) maximize first time home buyers credits? Do we only get half the credits since half of us are first time home buyers? Or is there a way to get more? Any insight would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

    1. Desirae

      Hey Bryan! Sadly, no advice beyond what you already know – you’ll probably only qualify for half of the first-time buyer’s credits if you buy together, but at least you’ll get that! (It’s scoring us $2,000 back on the land transfer tax, which is nothing to sneeze at!) If she can qualify on her own based on just her savings and income, she could technically buy it herself and add you to the house later on, but that’s usually a big ask if you’re looking at a joint budget to figure out how much you can buy! Your real estate lawyer (who you’ll need as part of the transaction either way) will definitely be able to help you figure out all of this stuff when the time comes – good luck!!

  20. Stephanie

    Congrats on becoming a home owner! I admit I wasn’t as prepared as you were when I bought my first condo. There are a few things I wished I had done differently like choosing a better realtor, having a higher down-payment & paying more attention to the contigency reserve fund. I did much better when I bought my current condo. I guess I am more of the “learn by doing” type.

    1. Desirae

      Hahaha usually, me too! I had the advantage of a partner who had already done this all once, and a really good realtor, so it didn’t go as far wrong as it could have. And the nicest thing for us in terms of selling is that our reserve fund at the current condo is well topped-up! So when people do come in and check it out, they’ll hopefully see it as one more reason to buy it, lol.

  21. FinancePatriot

    I am probably one of the few FIRE people that doesn’t think buying a house is a great idea, but we did buy one in 2008 that was built brand new. However, I have no plans on moving as that costs at least 3% to pay for the other person’s buyer’s agent commission and likely 6% because most hire someone to sell it. So we’re stuck. Luckily, it’s a good house in a great neighborhood with nice schools and plenty of room.

    1. Desirae

      Oh I’m definitely of the opinion that this is a lifestyle purchase and likely the biggest indulgence of my life, lol, not a money-making endeavour. I do look at housing – even owning – as a cost, not really as an asset, and this is just how we’ve decided to allocate our spending because we love being at home and both really value having a house. I think we’re probably on the same page on that, as we are on the “omg let’s never move ever” thing, lol.

    1. Desirae

      Hahaha oh my gosh this is exactly how I picture housing projects going – I’m half amused by your awesome writing, and half terrified that this is going to be my life soon, lol. (And thank you so much for the kind words!)

  22. Aki

    I am curious being a finance writer what your thoughts on it.
    1)What percentage of household income will go in housing ?
    2)How saving vs paying of mortgage will be worked out?

    great blog.

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