We had talked about buying a home in London, but it had all been rather abstract. Something we could do "someday" if we decided London was where we wanted to "settle down." It wasn't until we saw a small house on the market in the neighbourhood where we were renting, that we started to seriously discuss buying.
Now to get the full picture, I have to explain that housing prices were fairly high in the area where we had been renting (I realize that "high housing prices" are relative - but I'm speaking for London specifically.) We didn't think that we would be able to find anything in our price range - and at this point we were still guesstimating our price range - in the Old South/Wortley Village neighbourhood. So when we saw a small house go on the market just a couple blocks from our apartment, I looked it up on realtor.ca, mostly out of curiosity. When we found it fell within the price range (albeit at the top) of what we thought we could afford, we figured "what the heck - might as well check it out." So we did. It was small, but we don't need a huge house, and we liked the location, so we were considering it. In the meantime I mentioned to a colleague at work that we had look at the house and she enthusiastically recommended a realtor. Since I knew we should consult a realtor if we were seriously thinking of buying, I contacted Kristen and we went on a second walk-through of the house.
|Doug salvaged the bricks used to landscape the|
front yard from the basement.
After much discussion of budgets, size, neighbourhood, renovations, and lack of closet space - we decided not to make an offer on the house, but we asked Kristen to keep her eyes open for us. As soon as we mentioned that we would be interested in homes in Old East Village (OEV) as well as Old South, she got excited. It was much more likely that we would find what we wanted, in our price range, in OEV.
Allow me a moment to rave about our realtor. Kristen Clowry is amazing. If you are a looking to buy a home in London or Toronto - especially if you are a first time home buyer - call her, you will not regret it!
Anyway, Kristen kept her eyes open in Old East, and had us in two homes for viewings the day after they were on the market. We ended up making offers on both homes. After meeting with us once, finding out what we liked, and touring one home with us - she clearly had us figured out and was able to direct us to the homes she knew we would love!
When we first walked up to our current home, I was immediately struck by how cute it is. I loved the brick, the large front window, the stained glass above the original door - seriously, great character! Fortunately for us, the character continued on the inside. The current owner had made some great updates, but had kept a lot of the original features as well (the house was built in the 1890's.) As Doug and I drove away, we knew we had found the right house for us. Working with Kristen, we made an offer that night. It wasn't immediately accepted, but with some back and forth we were eventually able to come to an agreement that worked for all of us, and the offer was signed!
Now, never having purchased a house before, I don't have anything to compare this experience to. It wasn't nearly as complicated to buy a house in a country where we weren't permanent residents as I thought it would be. I think that was due, in large part, to the hard-working staff at Mortgage Teacher. They patiently walked us through the process, explaining things in ways that we could understand. The most complicated part was verifying our income, and with that our status in the country. Fortunately, this was all before our permits had expired, and we realized what a pain that process would become. Also, we had to show the provenance of our down-payment, which meant painstakingly documenting the movement of those funds from the US into Canada. In our favour, we moved this money after the Canadian dollar had started to fall, so we made a fair amount by just moving the money. (Not as much as we would make today - but we try not to think about that...)
After a thorough inspection, which didn't reveal anything we didn't anticipate finding in a 100+ year old home, and officially getting approved for the mortgage, we signed our life away and took possession of the house on April 16th. (One of the things the seller wanted was a quick possession.) It gave us the luxury of being able to do all the painting we wanted before moving in on April 27th.
We have been thrilled with our home. Along with the painting, Doug has done a lot of work in the basement and on the back yard, and we have added insulation under the kitchen. We have a long list of "to-do's" some that will have to come sooner than others (isn't that the case with every home), but overall we are happy with our decision.
We have been fortunate that many family and friends have come to town since we've moved in (and now have a sleeper-sofa they can stay on) which has been nice since we're stranded here. However, many aren't able to make it, so we included a link to this video in our Christmas card. So if you would like a virtual tour of our home, you can check it out here:
You know what they say about real estate - it's all about location. Stay tuned for an update on why we love Old East Village so much, and we're confident this home is a great investment!