I’ve been pretty MIA lately (it’s been over a month since my last scheduled post) and I’ll tell you why: I’ve finally decided to put down some roots in Ottawa and purchase a condo. I’ve been living in Ottawa for over 3 years: I love my job, my friends, my family and the life I’ve started building here. I’m a partner (read: owner) at my company, my job has given me some freedom to do some travelling (locally and internationally) and I love what I do on a month-to-month basis.
Long story short: After graduating I knew I was going to want to own a home in 3-5 years so I started saving a small amount (about 10% of my income) and increased it after paying off my student loans. It was a long term vision and I was pretty aggressive with saving. I looked into buying a house (and all the extra things I’d need to do that I hadn’t thought about, more to come in my next post) about 2 years ago so when I started looking this past March I knew exactly what I was looking for and how the housing market was. If you read the timeline below, it may seem like a quick decision from the time I met with my realtor to the time I put in an offer but it was meant to be.
Graduating University (2014): As soon as I graduated, I set up a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and set up auto-withdrawals from my account. This was to save for both retirement and to buy a home in 3-5 years. As a first-time home buyer in Canada you can withdraw from your RRSP up to $35k tax free (was $25k up until March 2019), as long as you repay the amount within 15 years). (You should do your own research if this is the way you want to go).
January 2017: About 2.5 years after graduating university, I’d considering purchasing a home in Ottawa with the potential to rent out rooms to college students. I looked into housing prices and what the market was like, and even met with a mortgage broker to get some more details and information). I went back and forth for a few months and ultimately decided that I didn’t feel financially stable enough to buy a home. I figured I’d wait a year and check in with my finances then.
Christmas 2017: My mom grew up in New Zealand and my uncles (and their families) now live in Australia. Both NZ and Australia are high on my bucket list of places to visit but I’ve always wanted to go for an extended amount of time to make the long flight and almost 12 hour time difference worth it.
My uncles came to visit for Christmas and told us about becoming a NZ citizen by descent. My immediate thought was “I could become a citizen, go and do my master’s paying citizen fees (working part-time at my current job remotely) and then return to Canada to settle down”. So, putting the house on the back burner, I applied to become a citizen.
Summer 2018: I became a dual citizen (Canada and NZ) and missed the date to apply for my master’s for 2019. (I always had the thought that I could do my master’s while continuing to work part-time at my job rather than quitting). It was time to do some serious research and to talk to my boss.
February 28, 2019: I give myself “Goals” for the month (I love my bullet journal) and one of my goals for February was to talk to my boss about doing my master’s in NZ. On February 28 (last day, hey-ohh) I talked to him for about 15 minutes and we decided on the following:
- I wouldn’t be able to work while I was there: a big part of my job is public consultation and as a Project Manager I have to be able to go to meetings for projects. I certainly couldn’t do either while halfway across the world.
- I could do my master’s in Ontario (we have a few offices in the province) and do a semester in NZ as a sabbatical from work (rather than two years to go and do my full master’s there).
- I could do my master’s in Ontario and when finished take some time to do to NZ.
I was happy with the compromise! It seemed like a great way to continue to do my job, get my master’s AND go to NZ for an extended period of time. Yes please!
March 4, 2019: I contacted my realtor Joni Campbell. (Funny story: a friend of a friend recommended her to me and it turns out I went to university with her son!). She is the sweetest! (If you want to purchase in Ottawa, let her know Darcie (me!) referred you.)
March 6-8, 2019: I signed up for a pre-approved mortgage online through my bank and talked to them on March 8 to get a better idea of what I could afford. Within these few days I went from wanting to purchase a house ($450k+) to a higher rise condo (about $280k-$330k). When talking to my bank, they asked a lot of questions to see if I’d thought about things like: closing costs, lawyers fees, inspection costs, condo fees, insurance etc. (more in an upcoming post).
March 10, 2019: Met with Joni in person and went over a few things such as: what I was looking for (1 bedroom condo); my budget (see above); time frame (was I in a rush to buy or could I wait); etc. She set up an online profile for me to get notifications when something within my requirements came on the market and we picked two condos to take a look at later in the week.
I had my heart set on one (modern, great amenities, great location, reasonable price) and wasn’t as excited for the second (older building but amazing location; bigger; longer drive/bike to work) but decided to check them both out.
March 12, 2019: Saw the two condos. I was so sure I was going to like Condo No. 1 (modern, amenities) but I was surprised by Condo No. 2. It was way bigger, had a great location, was marginally cheaper, and had more potential as a unit. I went back and forth between the two for the next day or so and talked to numerous friends/family members about the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, I decided to check out Condo No. 2 again.
March 14, 2019: Checked out Condo No. 2 and was sold. There are a few upgrades/renos that I want to do but with the price difference between the first one and this one, I could use the little bit of extra and make the upgrades I wanted. I put in an offer that evening. They countered within a few hours while I was asleep.
March 15, 2019: I countered in the morning, they came back with a final amount and I accepted. Now there were a few things I needed to do: give a deposit cheque within 24 hours, get a building inspector, get a quote for insurance (condition I set with my realtor, not required), and contact a lawyer to look at the status of certificate.
What a great 28th birthday present to myself, right???
March 20, 2019: Building inspector and contractor to the condo. I had decided I wanted to look into getting the kitchen redone so I had a contractor come at the same time as the building inspector to take some measurements and give me quote. I found out about the Purchase Plus Improvements Mortgage and thought I would look into rolling the kitchen Renos into my mortgage (rather than paying out of pocket).
March 29, 2019: Spoke with my lawyer who checked out the status certificate of the condo association and found no issues so I removed the conditions from my offer and it’s mine!!
Next up: more specifics on buying a home! I thought it would be an interesting post and give some insight to my life in the next few years!