Four years ago, when I was still living in London, England, I decided I wanted to move back home to Toronto and buy a house. I had looked at what my life in ten years would be like in London, and it seemed obvious that it would not easily include kids or a house. Two things I knew I would eventually want in my life.
Upon returning home, I became obsessed with getting into the real estate market as soon as possible. As you can imagine, at 23 years old, returning home from a life across the pond (in one of the most expensive cities in the world) I barely had a dollar to my name.
I am fortunate that my parents have always lived right downtown in Toronto, which has always made living at home that much easier. With their blessing, I moved back into their house and promptly began squirrelling any money I made into a savings account.
Six months into my new life back in Toronto, I met my boyfriend. It quickly became even easier to live at home, since I started to spend so much time at his apartment. As our relationship blossomed, I began to talk more and more openly about my desire to buy a house. It was obvious that, despite our eight year age gap, he had not put much thought into investing in property – deeming it a near impossibility for a creative professional in downtown Toronto. Considering I was borderline obsessive about buying as soon as possible, discovering he hadn’t really thought about it before shocked me.
Soon our Saturday morning chats consisted mainly of what our best housing options might be – go in it with friends or family? Move to Hamilton? We even took a weekend afternoon to drive out to the Hammer to explore the town and see if we could actually consider moving away from the downtown core. The answer was, only if we absolutely had to.
Since, at the time, I had started working for a friend’s startup company that focused on social media for real estate agents, I talked to him a lot about my desire to invest, and grilled him for every piece of information that could help me. Probably the most important piece of information he gave me, is that first time buyers only have to put 5% down. If we’re talking about a place that’s $500,000, coming up with $25K can be easier to wrap your head around than, say, $125K to put down the standard 20%.
As a freelance writer and blogger, building up 30K in savings wasn’t exactly happening quickly, but that didn’t deter me from keeping my eye on new listings that were hitting the market.
About a year and a half in from my return home, I was sitting in my office at work (yes the startup eventually got an office!) and saw a listing pop up in my Facebook feed that featured a home in the Corktown area of downtown Toronto for under $300K. I jumped on it and picked up the phone to call the agent. Later that day, I went to see it with my parents and boyfriend. The space was great and exactly the size that would be perfect for two the only problem was that it absolutely needed to be gutted, and the knob and tube wiring would need to be replaced right away. The thought of buying a house while simultaneously having to still pay rent, a mortgage, and for a 100K renovation was more than we knew we could handle at the time. We thanked the agent, and decided to walk away.
I have to give it to my agent, Paul McGregor, he listened when I told him to stop sending me other options for sale in the area, mainly consisting of condos. I wasn’t interested. He backed off, and I didn’t hear from him for a good six months when, all of a sudden, I received an urgent email from him alerting me that the home next door had just hit the market and that we should go see it.
Once again, I gathered my family and boyfriend and we went to see it that night. The home was renovated and move in ready, we loved it. Had we been approved for a mortgage since the last time we saw Paul and the house next door? Definitely not, we hadn’t done anything! He put us in touch with his recommended mortgage broker, and we started the process first thing the next morning.
Long story short, we put in an offer with 5% down, and it was accepted. It was definitely one of the most thrilling, scary, and nerve wracking nights of my life. When he gave us the news, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh, cry or throw up. On top of it all, it was the night of our 2nd year anniversary and I hoped to God that everything between us would keep going well, because we just committed ourselves to each other in a huge way.
Although we were interested in buying for a long time, we weren’t exactly the most prepared. Then again, I don’t think either of us thought we would actually find something so soon. Really, the home presented itself right in front of our feet and we took a chance to try and grab it.
When RBC approached me to share my story about buying #CasaGC, my first home in downtown Toronto, I was open to doing so because of the amount of people I talk to about home buying, who don’t have the information and knowledge they need to get into the real estate market. Most people don’t realize that as a first time home buyer all they need to come up with is 5%, and there are still options in the city to be found that aren’t nearing the million dollar mark.
If you have more questions about getting into the real estate market, I encourage you to take part in the #RBCFirstHome Twitter chat coming up on July 14th at 8:30pm-9:30pm EST.
You can submit your home-buying questions using the #RBCFirstHome hashtag on July 14th at 8:30pm EST. RBC experts will be on hand to answer your questions, and they have invited a lawyer, realtor, design, home builders, and home mortgage experts to participate as well. As a participant in the #RBCFirstHome Twitter chat, you also have the chance to win 1 of 5 $100 gift cards!
I’ll be taking part too, submitting my own questions that night to ask about home renovations and the best ways to add value to my home in case I ever decide to flip. Heck, I might even ask about how I can start planning for my second real estate purchase!
It can be intimidating to walk into a bank, or a real estate office to ask these questions, do yourself a favour and get them answered without having to step out of your comfort zone.
See you on Twitter during #RBCFirstHome chat on Tuesday!