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My biggest home buying regret: not fully considering the future

I’ve made a lot of financial mistakes over the years (which is kinda why this blog exists in the first place), but I never thought I’d consider anything related to buying my first home to be a mistake.

Let me backtrack a little bit.

Just over four years ago, I found myself single, with a good job (plus lots of freelance work), and a $50,000 down payment. I had always imagined buying my first home with a partner, but when I was ready to buy and found no man by my side, I thought: why should that stop me? I worked so hard the previous 6 years to get out of $20,000 worth of debt, save up a $10,000 Emergency Fund, as well as a large enough down payment, I knew I could do it on my own. So that’s what I did. :)

I found myself a Realtor and went house hunting. Within a few weeks, I found exactly what I was looking for: a cute 1-bedroom townhouse in a great neighbourhood. After a few rounds of negotiation, we settled on a price which was well under the mortgage amount I was approved for (and the budget I had set for myself), even before my down payment.

Things moved quickly, and soon I was in my new home. I was making extra payments towards the mortgage, saving money, and having fun exploring my new neighbourhood with my new friends. My office moved to a new location, and all of a sudden, my commute to work was 15 minutes. Life was good.

Little did I know that by the end of that year (8 months after moving in), I’d be quitting my job and moving to Europe.

Moving to Europe was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned how to hustle as a full-time freelancer, and I got to explore so many different countries. However, it wasn’t good on my finances, as I had to continue paying my mortgage while I was away, and had to significantly scale back on my retirement contributions.

Now that I’ve had my home for 4+ years, I’m finally starting to think about selling it. My home, as lovely as it is, just doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore. My plan had always been to re-evaluate my living situation after my 5-year mortgage is up, but now that I’m almost there, I find myself wondering if it was all worth it.

I spoke with my Realtor just a few weeks ago, and based on recent sales history in my area, he thinks I’ll be able to sell for more than what I paid for it. After running my own numbers, I’ll likely come out ahead over renting during the same period of time. So, that makes me happy. But I wish I had considered whether my life was really settled by the time I was ready to buy. I thought it was, but clearly it wasn’t.

That being said, I really do love my home, and I’ve had a lot of great home ownership experiences so far:

  • I borrowed a manageable amount of money for my mortgage
  • I kept early retirement goals in check
  • I kept savings in the bank
  • I’ve met a lot of really great people in my neighbourhood
  • I learned how to deal with a strata council (pros and cons)
  • I learned how to be happy living on my own
  • I went through a successful renovation project

Thankfully this “mistake” (likely) will end up as a positive outcome for me financially, but it certainly has made me re-evaluate where I want to live going forward, and that as a single female living in an insanely expensive city like Vancouver, renting is probably what’s in my future.

Would you buy a pre-construction condo?

FrameworkOver the weekend, BF and I got to discussing real estate, and what would happen if, in the future, we both sold our current properties and bought something together. I live in the suburbs and BF lives right downtown, and we both agreed that we would be happier living close to downtown in our preferred neighbourhoods of Gastown or Chinatown.

For those who don’t know Vancouver, Gastown is a beautiful, established neighbourhood in the downtown area. It has historic brick buildings, cobblestone sidewalks, and lots of shops and restaurants. Just around the corner is Chinatown. It’s raw and gritty, but you can see how things are changing (businesses are moving in and condos are going up), and in 15-20 years I think it’ll just become a seamless an extension of Gastown.

Because we want to maintain our current lifestyle, obviously a house is out of the question. :) So we went online and started looking at condos within a $400-500k price range and reasonable monthly maintenance fees. There were a lot of options to choose from. But the ones I liked the best were the new construction homes. I liked the idea of being able to customize your space, and in the neighbourhood we really liked (Chinatown) there really aren’t any existing buildings to choose from. We even walked over to the showroom of our favoured condo development that we saw online – Framework – and took a look at the plans and the building model. Everything in the show home was so beautifully decorated and modern, I can see how people can get swayed by new builds. :)

Of course there are cons of buying into a condo development that hasn’t even been built yet. You have to pay tax on all new properties in BC, you have to wait and be patient for them to finish building (and there are always delays), and while you wait, the value of the property could go down. Not to mention, you won’t really get a good sense of what the building (and your unit) will feel like until you walk into it for the very first time.

After looking at the Framework development, we strolled through the neighbourhood, and I realized that it’s where I want to move next. Whether it’s renting an apartment there, or buying a condo there for next year, I’d really like Chinatown to be my next neighbourhood. Whenever that might be. :)

Have you ever considered buying a pre-construction condo? 
Have you ever decided to buy/live in an up-and-coming neighbourhood?

Thinking of selling my home

Life has been busy! I’ve been working a lot of extra hours at my full-time job, planning the Canadian Personal Finance Conference, working on some freelance stuff, have done a bit of volunteering, and have been trying to declutter my place – which has been put on hold for the past week or so.

Over the last few hectic months, I’ve been thinking about my home and how functional it is for me. I love the neighbourhood I’m in, and my home is really cute. But I’m beginning to realize that my life is pulling me further into Vancouver, and I’m still stuck out here in the suburbs. Most company head offices (including my own) are located in the city, my boyfriend lives downtown, and all of the fun activities I like doing are in the city, or more easily accessible from Vancouver. The commutes are killing my productivity (2-3 hours round-trip), and if I could have that time back, I feel like I could be doing a lot more with my days.

My place has rental restrictions, so unless a family member moves in, I’m not allowed to rent it out. So the only thing I can do, aside from staying, is to sell my place and move closer into town.

It’s a tough decision to make, and I’m not quite there yet. I’ve been a home owner for 4 years, and while I don’t think I’m in a position to sell this year, I’m thinking hard about putting my place on the market to sell next year. That eliminates having to pay a hefty mortgage cancelation fee, and it gives me time to figure out what my next move is going to be.

So until that time comes, I’ll just keep on getting rid of my stuff. It’ll mean less packing once I do eventually decide to move. :)

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