Time Jump.

Ok, so I have lots of other stuff along the way that I want to post about – but while it’s fresh, let’s fast forward to the past couple of weeks.  I’m updating from the new digs, amazeballs.

The Prep.

Two weeks ago, I figured it was time to start moving my money around, ensuring it all arrived in the right accounts at the right time.  Unfortunately, since I’m a totally spoiled Gen-Y’er, I expect all of this to happen immediately on-demand.  That’s not how banks work – transferring large sums of money between your accounts takes time, and things get put on hold because the banks go “listen, miss spends-money-in-ten-dollar-increments-usually… you can’t just go throwing that kinda coin around.”  Even though I did everything with plenty of time to spare, had everything lined up and timed out according to the way the banks work, it was nonetheless quite stressful.

Last week involved all the final arrangements for things – doing the final walk-through of the house, signing a billion documents with the lawyer, getting The Big Cheque at the bank, and then finally the keys and the move.

The Keys.

Getting the keys was very anticlimactic.  After all the work that goes into this whole process and decision, you get a phone call, show up at the lawyer’s office, and are handed a key.  That’s it.  Congratulations, best of luck in your new home, general niceties and whatnot, but it somehow doesn’t seem real that getting this tiny piece of metal means you now own a house (or co-own it with the bank, I guess).

What I will say, however, is this moment was a great example of “under promise and over deliver.”  I was prepared – by my realtor, by the bank, by my lawyer – for the key-moment to happen at the end of business or close-to then; I got my keys at 1:15 p.m.

The Chaos.

After getting the keys, I took a load of small stuff including cleaning supplies to the house, with the help of my folks.  We walked around, made sure everything looked good, and then cleaned up, then grabbed dinner and then I chaotically finished packing anything that wasn’t yet done.

The next morning, the movers arrived at 8:15 a.m. and were finished by 1:00 p.m.  Movers are the best, it is so worth it – they picked up all the furniture and boxes from two locations, did some additional moving in one of those locations, and then unpacked everything on an exceptionally hot day.  The only hiccups were a broken fixture (no biggie) and my box springs don’t fit up my staircase.  Alas – my first unexpected pain-in-the-ass expense as a homeowner will be for split box springs.

Since the movers finished, I’ve been going out and picking up things that I thought I had but don’t seem to, or that I never really needed before now – like a hose, and a step-stool.

All but two boxes of books are unpacked, and I’ve been purging away as much as I can.

So that’s what’s up!  Today’s adventures included the purchase of some storage binders for CD’s to try and save space on that, and actually using the stove for the first time even though I was super paranoid that despite cooking all the time somehow THIS time I’d set my house on fire… I was victorious, and dinner was delicious.

The Realtor.

Note: I first wrote this about eight months ago, just as I was getting ready to purchase.  I’ve left the post largely unedited to capture what was going through at the time.

The past couple of weeks have been so stressful, it’s been a nice break to blog about times I was more organized and thoughtful about everything.  Last week was all about making sure all my finances were in order, and this week was the final walkthrough, a visit to the lawyer, getting all my final arrangements made with the movers and utilities and all that fun stuff, and ensuring everything is ready for the move.  The move stuff is the most difficult part, believe it or not, in part because everything’s basically been in storage for a couple of years.  Trying to think ahead and plan out where things will go is tough when you have boxes and boxes of “mystery stuff.”

Anyway.  My former rational self.

Up to now in the search everything’s been pretty hypothetical – what would I want, what would it cost, etc.  After doing all that researching and thinking, I was ready to bring in a professional to help actually search.  This timing coincided, of course, with being financially ready to make a move.  In March, I began reaching out to a couple of realtors and was on-the-hunt by April.  By June, I’d found my house.

Before I get into what to look for in a realtor as a buyer, I think it’s important to point out why you should work with a realtor, as a buyer.  The reason comes back to why I called out to the Facebook Hive Mind – most people don’t have a lot of experience on their own in buying and selling real estate.  Even if you’ve bought a house or two, compare that to the amount of experience you have in other things – for most of us, with home buying, it’s not a lot.  A realtor deals with this all the time and helps guide you through stressful, emotional, and a financially critical process.  And – they do this with no direct cost to you as a buyer; the seller pays realtor fees, not the buyer.  Check out howrealtorshelp.ca for more on why you should hire a realtor.

I met up with my now-realtor, who was a contact I had from a personal referral – we chatted about what I was looking for, what their strategy would be, and it really didn’t take long to know that it would be a good working relationship.


Maybe don’t hire someone like Lionel Hutz or Gil Gunderson…

There are a few things to talk about with a potential realtor – before making my decision formally, the things I wanted to know about were:

  • Details on past experience; how long have you been doing this, how well do you know the communities I’m interested in?
  • Details on the strategy and approach for both the search and for negotiations
  • Details on how we would stay in touch throughout the process (we mostly texted and phoned, I was always responded to essentially immediately, no matter what day or time)
  • Details on managing my expectations – including a discussion around the list-to-sale-price ratio

One other consideration was how does this work – contractually speaking.  Did I need to sign anything?  Several realtors I spoke to – including mine – did not require anything in writing to work together until it got time to work on a deal, and the term of that arrangement could be as short or as long as I liked – in other words, once I found a house I wanted to buy, we could do the paperwork such that we were only formally working on that deal.  If that deal didn’t work out, I wasn’t stuck.  Not all realtors work this way, however – and it’s important to understand what you are (or are not) signing up for.

Once I had made my decision about the realtor, it took no time at all before I was being e-mailed listings.  This is something that the realtor sets up with/for you through MLS.  Basically a bunch of search criteria that you discuss are set up and then when new listings match that criteria you get an e-mail – and so does your realtor.  The critical thing here, in competitive markets, is that by working with a realtor you’re getting access to information before it goes on the MLS website publicly.  So does everyone else working with a realtor who has the same sort of search criteria that would make that listing pop up, but it was definitely helpful getting that early heads up.

Once you find some listings you are interested in from these search criteria, you start going to look at the houses.  It’s so much different – and so much better – going with a realtor to a house than going to an Open House.  We started out by going to all kinds of things – several listings at a time – and then were a little more targeted in our viewings.  My realtor was great at pointing out things that I had no idea about – like efflorescence in the basement, signs of poor maintenance, and of course things that maybe didn’t look amazing right then but had potential and were worth thinking about.  The important thing for me was that I never felt pressured in any house – there was never a sense that I was being pitched on every house we went to; in fact sometimes I would look at a house and go “I love this!” and my realtor would remind me of little things like how difficult it was to get in and out of the driveway and other things that you might think in the heat of the moment aren’t THAT big of a deal but ultimately would probably grate on you.

At any rate – work with a realtor, and make sure it’s someone you’re comfortable with, someone who gets what you want and what you don’t, someone who is very responsive – and someone who can remind you of potential, seeing past what’s immediately obvious, when that’s called for; as well as someone who brings things back to reality when needed, too.