From the Ground Up

I’m buying a house! Finally! I’ve been saving up for this moment for the last four years. Not always aggressively during that time, but (often) consistently. I’ve wanted to buy my own place for a long time before that, but I didn’t start seriously considering saving money for a down payment until early 2006. I was living with a girlfriend at the time in an old Victorian home on the east end. We had a great time living together, and didn’t want to move apart for reasons other than practical – I was thinking about moving back in with my parents so I could save money, and she was contemplating getting a place with her boyfriend who had been living with us for the previous month, having just moved to Toronto from Calgary. So it was around May of 2006 when we parted ways…only to move back in together two years later! But in the meantime, I was back in the bedroom I grew up in, putting all the money I would have put into rent, and then some, into a savings account.

I thought that I would have enough money saved up for a down payment after two years, but in that time the market changed. Back then I was saving up for a condo, not a house. They were a lot cheaper back then than they are now. The trick is to buy before the builders break ground; you save a ton of money that way. The down side is, you have to wait two years until your condo is move-in ready. So I guess I should have bought when I first moved back home. But I didn’t have the down payment then. I hate catch 22 moments like that. Anyhow, I’m glad that didn’t happen, because I know I wouldn’t have been happy in a condo. I don’t want to own a box in the sky. I want to own a piece of land, in a house with multiple stories. (By the way, I’m not hating on condo owners. There are many advantages to living in one, it’s just that my preference is to be in a house.) After two years of living at home, I just had to move out again, even if that meant going back on my word when I said I would own the next place I lived in. I needed my independence back.

June 2008 – move back in with my former roommate, her boyfriend (now husband) and another friend, in a newly built, three story, three bedroom, three bathroom, three patio townhouse downtown. At this time, paying rent made it difficult to put money into savings. I still contributed, but not as much. I was okay with the sacrifice, because I was 27 years old and living my life in a really cool house with great friends. Only ten months after moving in together, we were already separating. Not on bad terms, though. The couple was about to get married and wanted to be alone together again, I had been considering living by myself for the very first time, and another roommate was laid off along with 1/3rd of Toronto and was moving in with family. Moving out by myself was VERY expensive. I had always lived with roommates who had all possible household essentials, so it was senseless for me to contribute anything during that time because then we would have had duplicates in storage. When I moved, I dipped into my savings to start my life on my own. I bought cutlery, dishes, pots and pans (every kitchen item, really), a couch, a bed, bookshelves, kitchen table and chairs, an armoire (no closet in the bedroom), a vacuum, ...needless to say, I needed a lot of stuff, all at once. I paid myself back, though. Eventually. Slowly. 

After seven months of living alone, my boyfriend moved in with me. Rent went down for both of us. I was suddenly able to contribute more money to savings each month. And now, finally, I’ve saved up a significant amount of money to put towards a down payment. There’s nothing holding me back now from starting my search. I can no longer justify putting money into rent, and therefore, into someone else’s mortgage each month. So two days ago, I met with a mortgage advisor. I’m very lucky to have a friend/co-worker who moved into her second house about a year ago. She and her husband have been through this before. She offered to come with me to my first appointment at the bank. I’m so grateful for this, because I don’t even know what questions I should be asking. I have to admit, yesterday was a little overwhelming. Afterwards, my head was full of numbers with decimals and a whole new vocabulary of bank terms. I’m going to make another few appointments with mortgage bankers at different banks to look for and negotiate the best deal. I’ll be calling the real estate agent I’m most likely to be working with in the next few days. And so begins my house hunt. Let the games begin.