If you’ve got a ton of questions about buying your first home, you’re not alone. Join me, @RBC_Canada and a panel of 5 experts for the #FirstHome Twitter chat, on June 26th at 9 pm, EST. Get answers to your most complicated questions – and Canadian participants get a chance to win one of many $100 RBC Visa Gift Cards!
When Jesse and I started looking at homes the first time we bought, our wish list wasn’t long. We wanted a house, preferably with some heritage, that was close to our family. We were open to a fixer upper, as long as it wasn’t terrifying to live in before we completed that work. It turned out that as short as that list was, in our city with our modest first time home buyer’s budget it was hard to find anything that fit it!
House Hunting Fuel: Optional. Sense of humour: Mandatory.
What we did find:
- A house that was listed as having a claw foot tub… only it was upside down, broken & in the sand filled basement.
- A house that still had a gurney in the living room, in case you weren’t completely sure someone had recently died there.
- A house full of renters who wouldn’t leave for the showings, one of whom was naked. Naked. I really can’t overemphasize the nudity.
- A house that slyly tried to hide that it didn’t have a washer or dryer, or any way to hook them up.
- Many houses that had cracks in the wall… that continued straight through to the outside of the house! For breezy summer days and terrifying winters.
Ultimately, I found that my Most Valued House Hunting Skill was resilience & a sense of humour, so I wasn’t tortured about what was available or the fact that even these relatively scary homes were being snapped up in bidding wars.
After seeing 10+ houses a week for over a month, we made ourselves into real estate detectives and developed a strategy. We would only look at homes where there was at least one similarly priced house in the area that went on the market in the same week. Because there were so many multiple offer situations, this meant that at least some other buyers would bid on the other property which would (hopefully) increase our odds of success. After two weeks of bidding with this new strategy we found a beautiful house (with another beautiful house for sale down the street), bid as high as we could comfortably go, and won! As crazy as it sounds, we were still the winning bid of eleven other bids that were reviewed.
I’m so glad that the market has calmed down since then!!
Fast forward to 2012
When we bought our second house this year, the process was incredibly, wonderfully calm. We looked at it twice and thanks to the inexperienced real estate agent who listed it, we had an opportunity to pounce! It was priced out of reach of most first time home buyers, but it lacked air conditioning and a main floor bathroom so it didn’t have the features that most people looking to buy a house of it’s size would want. It was over twice the size of our last house (not hard, our previous home was teeny at under 700 sq. ft!), in our ideal neighbourhood, had enough bedrooms for us to start a family one day, was perfect for entertaining, and had a huge backyard. There was even a huge newspaper feature lined up to publicize it, but it was pushed back until the week after they were accepting offers.
I couldn’t believe that we were lucky enough to be placing a bid on it, and didn’t really believe we would get it… until our realtor let us know that we were the only buyers at the table! We were even able to negotiate for some repairs to be made before we moved in, and I still pinch myself that I get to live here.
Looking at the strategy that we used to buy our first house and the very different experience of buying our second home, I think the real lesson is that timing is everything.
All your luck can change with one listing, or with a listing nearby a listing you like. Or even with a newspaper’s publishing schedule! While it’s not something you can plan for, if you’re looking at houses try to trust that one day soon the timing that’s working against you now will change and work in your favour.
As hard as it is, even if you’ve put on your Real Estate Detective hat and are being strategic with bidding you’ll need patience. You never know, the time may go faster if you pretend you’re a hard boiled flatfoot on a housing market stake out.
Waiting for the perfect timing is so hard! How do you keep from going crazy when you have to wait out an important decision?
Disclaimer: This post content is sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, but the views and opinions expressed are only my own. As with everything, if you need legal or financial advice, speak one-on-one with an expert.