Give Me Back My Five Bucks

How I chose my first home

Some people say they knew exactly when they had found “The One” for them. They just got that giddy feeling inside of them. Everything about it was perfect. It was love at first sight.

Of course, I’m talking about buying your first home. :)

For me, I’ve always been a little bit indecisive when it comes to making big decisions, and buying my first home was no exception. I always thought I’d buy my first home with a partner (maybe a husband), but life doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. I had spent years saving up for my down payment, and I was ready to buy. I just needed to find “The One” for me.

Related: Two years of home ownership

Once I found a real estate agent that I wanted to work with, I came up with a wish list of things that I wanted for my first home:

  • Less than $280,000
  • One bedroom
  • Townhouse (separate entrance)
  • In-suite laundry
  • Parking spot
  • Open floor plan

My agent took me to see 11 different properties over two weekends. I saw everything from new builds with granite countertops and all the upgrades, to rundown units that needed a lot of TLC. In the end, the two that appealed to me were townhouses. I liked the idea of having a separate entrance – it felt like more of a home to me, instead of living in a condo building surrounded by neighbours.

The first townhouse was listed at $265,900. It was a one-bedroom home in a very desirable location, and ticked off all of the items on my wish list. The layout was a little quirky, but it had a nice front porch and was just steps away from a beautiful park.

Related: Take this quick and easy quiz to see if you’re ready to become a homeowner!

The second townhouse was $292,000. It was a two-bedroom home with a slightly more closed off floor plan, but closer to public transportation. It was a little more expensive than my wish list budget, but I could see how I would be happy there.

It was a really tough decision. I visited both places twice, and spent some time just hanging out. I took into consideration the layout of both places, as well as the space provided (the two-bedroom townhouse was approximately 250 sq. ft. bigger). Having a bigger home would mean it would be more appropriate for a longer period of my life. But did I really need the space?

Most importantly, I thought about the price. Was the second townhouse worth almost $30,000 more?

Related: How I saved for my down payment

Broken down over 25 or 30 years, it wasn’t a big difference in terms of monthly payments. But I needed to think about a bunch of different factors, such as the amount of interest paid over that time frame, how quickly it would take for me to pay off the mortgage, and how a larger monthly payment would affect my other life goals (such as retirement and travel).

In the end, I chose the one-bedroom townhouse because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fully utilize the space that a two-bedroom offered. My real estate agent and I were able to negotiate the price down to $259,900 – $6,000 off of the list price.

By choosing the cheaper option, I’m living in a nicer building complex, as well as saving on my mortgage, utility bills, future renovations, and the cost and energy of running a home. But perhaps most importantly, as a single homeowner, I have the security in knowing that I can comfortably afford my mortgage (even if interest rates rise) by myself.

Disclaimer: This post content is sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, however the views and opinions expressed herein represent my own and not those of Royal Bank of Canada or any other party and do not constitute financial, legal or other advice.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Michelle says:

    We looked at so many houses before we bought our current house 4 years ago. We definitely got that giddy feeling :)

  2. How did you decide what size down payment you wanted to target when you first began saving, or did that come later after you’d been saving for a while?

    • Krystal Yee says:

      No, I didn’t have an exact amount I wanted to save for my down payment when I first started saving, because I had no idea if I was going to buy by myself, or if I would eventually buy with a partner. It took me close to 4 years to save up a down payment of $26k (10%) – plus $10k in an Emergency Fund, and an additional $10-12k in closing costs and initial renovations.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    One of the things I considered (as a single person) was what would I be able to afford if the rates rose? Could I still handle the payments?

  4. I planned to write a post about buying our first house together as a couple and what I was looking for when I bought my first home at 21 and again at 24. I find that each time was different as I learned what was more important in my life. In the end spending less was the best option and why 4 years in we can say bye bye to the mortgage!! Sounds like you had a good plan and put it into motion. Good for you.

  5. Madame says:

    My sister and I just bought a house together and it was definitely a long and thought out process. We looked at a lot of different houses, but in the end we decided on a new build and can’t wait until move in date. :)

  6. Danielle says:

    Nice post. Does your townhouse have strata fees or is everything separately metered? What are the property taxes like? Just trying to get a better idea of costs when I eventually buy

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Yes, we have strata fees. I pay about $175/month, and that covers garbage, recycling, compost, hot water, gas fireplace. So I am responsible for electricity (which runs me about $10-15/month) for my 680 sq. ft. place. Property taxes this year for me were about $930. :)

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