It’s been about a month since my HB and I started house hunting in Toronto and calling it a whirlwind 4 weeks would be an understatement. We came into it thinking that we’d just see what was out there and if we found something that made financial sense we’d consider putting in an offer. Oh how naive we were.
As I’ve said time and time again, the real estate market in Toronto is crazy right now. So much so that we’re going to be taking a little break from it in hopes that things will cool off. I know a lot of this craziness is due to the fact that interest rates are so low, but come on!
We thought house hunting in winter was a smart idea. Who the hell wants to shop for a house when it’s -20 degrees outside? Apparently a lot of other jerks who are willing to throw down piles of money on houses filled to the brim with asbestos. Ugh.
- How I Dodged a Bullet By Not Buying a House in Toronto
- Beware of the Buyer Representation Agreement When Shopping for a House
- My First Bidding War (But Not My Last)
- House Hunting Checklist: My Must-Dos When Checking Out a House
- House Hunting in Toronto: My Experience in a Seller’s Market
My bitterness aside, let me fill you in on our most recent round of house hunting. Last weekend we saw 3 houses that were brand new listings on the market. They were all listed well below our budget, but as I’ve explained in previous posts, the listing price means absolutely nothing these days. All it is is a starting point.
Actually, it’s not even that. The listing price on a house is basically the seller telling potential buyers “If you offer anything below this, we’ll ignore you. And if you offer only $20,000 over this we’ll probably still ignore you. You know what, just give us a blank cheque, then we’ll consider giving you our house. Also, you’ll need to gut the place. Hope that’s ok.”
Let’s start with the first house. The house pictured above was our first showing. It was a semi-detached two-level house in an amazing location. It was literally a 5 minute walk to the subway, and from my work to the station it was only a 45 minute commute (yes, I timed myself). From the outside, it looked promising. On the inside, well, here’s what the kitchen looked like.
This house was lived in by the same owner for the past 35 years and he clearly hadn’t done any updates since he bought the place. It was also a Power of Attorney sale meaning the guy probably died there. Kind of creepy knowing that his ghost might still be there, lurking the hallways at night, but on the upside it would mean no bidding war.
There was an offer date a week from the day we saw it and the seller was just going to pick the highest bidder. None of that “Alright bidders, everyone up your bids because we want all your money!” kind of crap. Just straight to it, they’re picking the highest offer and that’s it.
Personally, I really liked this place. The layout was great, the bathroom was in good condition, and I could see it looking like a really great place once we did some renovations. But there were quite a few things that needed to be fixed before just slapping a coat of paint on the walls.
For one, the whole house had knob and tube wiring. Most big insurance firms won’t insure a house with that type of wiring, so the whole house would have needed to be rewired. The floors also needed to be replaced or re-sanded. And there was a big possibility that there was asbestos in the walls.
Adding all of those things up, my HB and I just weren’t sure if we were ready for such a big undertaking. A few days later we took another look at it and even considered getting a home inspection. But our realtor said that it would most likely sell for more than we were willing to pay, so we decided to just let it go.
Although it sucks picturing yourself in a house then having that dream just taken away from you in a matter of days, I know that when we find the right place my HB and I will have no doubts in our mind about it. I can’t wait to find out how much it goes for though.
For the second house we saw (sorry, don’t have any pictures to include), the inside was really what go us excited. It did have the craziest paint job I’ve ever seen (every wall was a different primary colour), and it did have a really odd layout, but we were told that those two things may scare off other buyers. It also had a semi-renovated basement that we could easily turn into a rental suite.
That being said, the offer day was only a few days after our initial showing and we just didn’t like being rushed into such a huge purchase. We were pretty excited at the prospect of making the house our own, but the timing wasn’t right and we decided against putting in an offer.
A good thing too since it would have been a big waste of our time. It was listed at $489,000 and sold for $625,000. That’s $136,00 over asking price. You see why we want to wait until the housing market calms the f*** down? Crazy!
The last place we saw was weird from the start.
Looks pretty decent from the outside right? Well, apparently this house was on the market about a year ago and couldn’t sell (first red flag!). Secondly, the moment we walked in my HB and I both looked at each other and said “What’s that smell?” It didn’t smell like mold or cigarettes, it straight up smelled like a barn.
As if there was hay and a few horses not too far away. But on the upside, it was pretty spacious and included a coach house in the backyard we could rent out (maybe that’s where the horses were hiding?). On the downside, this relic from Little House on the Prairie was smack-dab in the middle of the kitchen.
Kind of a neat antique feature, but it took up like 1/6th of the kitchen. It was weird. Then we went to the basement and it was also pretty weird. It was big enough to turn into another rental suite, but it had two showers (that were disgusting by the way) and only one bedroom. It just didn’t make sense.
On paper this house seemed great, but both of our guts told us “No, no, and hell no!” There’s a reason this house didn’t sell the first time and I feel like the reason would have become very evident if we did a home inspection. It’s listed at $549,000 and I believe it’s still on the market. And probably will be for some time.
It sure has been an interesting 4 weeks of house hunting, but I think for the next little while my HB and I are happy to take a step back. We’re both smart people and both fear making a mistake. And it wouldn’t just be a mistake, but the most expensive mistake of our lives.
Although we’re both kind of over renting, we’re going to keep renting until we find a place that make financial sense. Maybe that means waiting even longer until the market settles down, or maybe it means revisiting buying a condo or townhouse.
No matter what, I know I’m going to use this time to do some more research so we’re even more prepared the next time we go look at houses.