There are those who thought this took too long. Still others thought this went way too fast. Let me offer some insight into our priorities and processes.
First, for the “too long” camp: I know there are plenty of folks in our socio-economic circle who’ve long since bought their first (or even second and third house) by our age. I would wager a guess that while a small percentage of those people may be better with money, or more disciplined with their finances than we have been, the vast majority of the people our age who have already bought a house are simply people with different priorities than us. We’ve known since before we were married that we’d be moving to the States at some point, so, until that happened, we endeavored to keep ourselves relatively agile — meaning free of large financial obligations or long-term housing commitments. We did this purposefully and intentionally, so that when God gave us the opportunity to pursue our over-the-border dreams and ambitions, we’d be able to move on that quickly.
We also knew that the move to the States wouldn’t be permanent. We’d anticipated a slightly longer stay, but God’s timing is better than ours, so we won’t question it. Nonetheless, with the real estate market the way it was (clearly in a bubble when we arrived, and clearly with the bubble bursting as we left) it never made good financial sense to buy a house in the States.
No, we haven’t been complete financial geniuses. Recently we started car shopping again, and realised that we’re not even considering cars in the neighborhood of what we paid for our last little car. We’ve learned a lesson or two there. But despite the bumps along the way, we’ve generally made pretty sound financial decisions, and are confident that in buying a house now, we’ve made the best of the opportunity and freedoms available to us while we were younger, and that we’re making the right decision now for the future of our family.
How many people who buy their first house when they’re 21 get to go work in New York for two years, or spend a month in Asia? Furthermore, our decision to delay the purchase of a house has allowed us to bless other people generously, and the joy that comes from that is pretty hard to place a dollar value on.
Now for those in the “too quickly” camp, we understand that it may seem like this happened very fast. In fact, this has been a very long process for us.
We have, at a number of points over the past 4 years, observed the housing market in whatever place we’ve been living in, and only when we knew that we’d be moving back to Ontario, did we begin to see a positive place to invest.
Over the past 6 months, we’ve been investigating the finer details of the purchase: mortgage rates, market behaviour, currency stability.
And over the past 2 months, we’ve looked at, on average, 4 properties a day, via the various technology tools available to us. In Canada, mls.ca contains complete listings for every house sold by a real-estate agent anywhere. Propertyguys.ca (and .com in the States) lists a large number of privately sold houses. All the details of these houses are listed online (usually including pictures), and firing up Google Earth allows you to view the neighbourhood, surrounding facilities and resources, and get an idea about what the property looks like.
And over the past 2 weeks, we’ve driven through all the neighbourhoods we were interested in, to get a better feel for where we wanted to live.
Granted, we actually went and saw only about 12 houses in person, but that’s because by the time we actually were ready to view a house, we knew exactly what we were looking for, exactly what problems to keep an eye out for, and exactly what kind of place would meet our needs.
The only difficult part has been beating the other informed and ready buyers to the punch. More than a couple times a place we’ve been interested in, but didn’t move on quickly, has been sold the next day.
Obviously this is a huge purchase — the biggest one we’ve ever made. And I don’t think anyone is more nervous than I am about assuming the giant debt load, obligation and restriction on freedom that comes with a mortgage. But one thing I am completely confident in is that we’ve bought a house that will fit our needs, and that we can handle the payments on without feeling tight or financially constrained at all. We got what we needed, in a great location, for a price that is well within our comfort zone.
And thanks to my parents, we got it a year earlier than we’d hoped for. So yes, we know what we’re doing, and to the best anyone can predict, we stand to make decent money on this place.
We’re looking forward to having everyone over for a house warming party in early September. We’ll make sure we’ve got the hot tub warmed up for ya!