Our wish list included a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with a garage, and a basement that could generate rental income. It was also necessary for us to find a location with a high walk score. After living and working in the downtown core for a number of years now, we didn’t want to go back to relying on a car for getting to work. We also wanted something move-in ready, since it was easier to finance the higher sale price than sink funds into a reno job right after purchasing. Not an easy set of requirements for a home in the city given our small budget.
We soon took two big hits on our journey to finding our first home. The first was the decision to drop move-in ready from our list. It was too common for houses to be (poorly) renovated prior to being put on the market, and just beyond our price range, so rather than pay for someone else’s reno that we didn’t like anyway, we wanted to do it ourselves. With some reno experience from our family homes, we were prepared to find a fixer-upper and put in some major work and money so we could end up with a home that we would love.
The second big change in our thinking was on the size and age of home we were willing to accept. In the pedestrian friendly areas we considered such as Leslieville, Riverdale, or the Junction, there simply weren’t any homes for us to choose from with wide lots or decent basements, let alone a garage. On top of this, 80 year old homes may have character, but they’re also usually in poor shape with sinking floors and roof problems, which translates to higher costs. It seemed like both our wish list and budget were shrinking.
The optimism we had built up from months of browsing MLS listings on our own was fading quickly as we were being disappointed by poor conditions and out of reach prices. Many houses just didn’t look as good as they did on paper or were priced for bidding. With winter coming up, we knew there would be less to choose from and we started to wonder if it would take us months to find something.
We never expected that after only one month of working with him, he would find us a newly built (less than 10 yrs), move-in ready, 3 bedroom, 3 bath spacious home that included a garage, a finished basement with a separate entrance, and was around the corner from the subway. It was even within our budget and had everything we originally wanted. Everything except a walk-in closet, but no one complains about missing the bonus draw when you win the jackpot!
The big lessons for us were that no matter how much time you spend researching and browsing home listings, you just can’t know what the house is really like until see it for yourself. Listings and photos can be misleading, but a good realtor will be instrumental in helping you separate the wheat from the chaff, providing insight on pricing history and trends, and most importantly, making sure you are prepared to act quickly when opportunity knocks. As first time home buyers, this included getting us in touch with mortgage brokers, lawyers, inspectors, all the different players so that not only was our experience as efficient and smooth as possible but that we were able to purchase as quickly as we did. For all of this, we are immensely thankful to Shawn for his help.
Shawn Venasse has many great qualities, but for a top-rated Toronto realtor with the experience that he has, we could not be more surprised at how easy-going and friendly he is. He is a pleasure to work with and we can only hope to work with him again the next time we go house shopping.