The First Time Home Buyer’s Perspective
Before I bought my first home, I felt like the “club of home-buyers” was as shaded in a mystery to me as the “club of new parents”. I had no idea how anything happened or how they made it work, and it all seemed baffling and difficult, complete with many knowing looks, stacks of secretive papers, and “you’ll understand when you get there” warnings.
To be fair, I’m still not a parent, and I’m still completely befuddled by what happens once the baby actually comes out, but I AM a home-owner as of recently, and not only can I finally say I’m in the club, but also- you totally DON’T have to wait until you’re ready to pull the buying-trigger to understand how it works!
When we began the process of buying our place, it was actually relatively easy to “pass go”. We used a realtor who was also a family connection, and she sent us handfuls of properties over email to ooo and ahh over while we spent the summer working in another city. We weren’t yet ready to start getting serious about looking, but it was nice to get a handle on what was available in Calgary at the time.
However, we were in the middle of a week-long drive through the States from Toronto to Calgary when a certain condo property popped up online that we felt ticked all our boxes (and we had strange boxes, including concrete walls for my musician husband’s jam sessions, a walk-out patio large enough for our custom beer keg fridge, and an office for me that wasn’t closed off to the rest of the house… what?? I get lonely!).
Working with a great realtor
We booked with our realtor to see the property a week after we got into town, thinking we’d give ourselves some time to settle in, but I couldn’t stop dreaming about the place- literally- we were camping our way west and for once it wasn’t the fear of gun-happy Americans keeping me up. So we asked our realtor if we could see the place the day we got back, and truly the minute we stepped in the door we knew it was right for us.
It fulfilled all our open-concept, downtown-living, move-in- ready (*ahem* budget- friendly) dreams, complete with wood-burning fireplace, 100 sq foot walk-out patio, and either the thickest walls ever or WE’RE the noisy neighbours (actually, now that I think about it…). Afraid some other lucky sonofagun would snap the place up if we “slept on it” over the weekend, by 5pm that same afternoon we’d put in an offer, and by 10pm that night the place was ours. It was that simple. We basically just said “we want that”, like a toddler in a candy
store, and they said, “ok you can haz it”, and it was done. We had no idea that the process was actually just beginning. Now we needed a mortgage.
Get a pre-approval
THANKFULLY, our sweet realtor, Christina Giuffre, linked us up with Julie at DLC Elevation Mortgage, and we truly can’t say enough about how helpful she was in assisting our understanding of the PhD-level info that is the mortgage world. Do NOT try this at home, folks, was essentially our realization- we really did need a professional to walk us through all the options, new language, and laws.
I had decided to get pre-approved for a mortgage early so I knew what our budget was and could focus on drooling over homes within our approval rate. What I DIDN’T expect was that Julie would not only completely clarify the whole mortgage process up front, but would also give me much-needed advice on growing my credit score as a woman (ladies! Did you know many of us are actually linked to our partner’s score and aren’t growing our credit score at all, even though we think we have our own credit cards?
It’s kind of (okay, incredibly) scary to be so vulnerable with your finances and complete lack of property ownership know-how with a stranger, but Julie assured us that most young first-time home-buyers are in the same exact spot we were, ie. just getting on our feet financially, still dealing with student debt, and relying on some parental “gifts” to help get us to 20% down.
Because we figured out all our pre-approval stuff way before we were even checking properties out in person, we knew exactly what type of property we could look for (before Julie, we didn’t know that approval can change based on things like condo fees), what price we could afford (again, Julie enlightened us that it changes based on other fees, not just the list price), and even small details like how to get approved when one of us is self-employed (apparently us freelancers look very sketchy on
paper). This saved us from getting hooked on a certain property just to find out it literally could only live in our dreams.
Though the pre-approval/buying/mortgage process really did feel like a crash- course on adulthood. I felt super empowered to tackle it with a bunch of awesomely brilliant women helping out (our realtor, broker, and lawyer all ended up being women- Calgary rules!) and ensuring the whole strange dance was demystified before we signed our lives away. Turns out being in the club is fun when you actually know what’s going on.
Let’s not talk about interest rates
However, a word to the other home-buyers in the club who think that mortgage rates are appropriate party conversation: I don’t care how much research you put into your decisions, I still don’t want to hear your opinion on our choice of rate/amortization/adjustable, etc. If you really want to talk houses, go read that article on the castle house and let’s chat about that turret room!
By Alexa Gilker