Our New Project: Being Homeowners! + Some Tips!

Happy Monday, all! We’ve decided to take Mondays to update you on our current projects and things we’re working on. Today is an introduction to definitely the biggest project we have ever taken on, and one we will be surely updating you on as the weeks and months go by…

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We bought a house!

We’ve spent the past several months planning, getting our affairs in order, viewing houses, and signing paperwork, and, as of last week, we are homeowners! We will move in May, and are undertaking a pretty significant renovation that will take most of the summer. It’s a beautiful, 90-year old home in Halifax, and we will be sharing lots of stories about the renovations and our design process.

For now though, we thought it would be helpful to share some things we’ve learned along the way from this crazy, intense, expensive process of buying a house for the first time. We definitely don’t claim to be experts on the subject, but maybe our little morsels of wisdom we’ve gained along the way can help others who are headed down the same scary/exciting road!

1. Talk to Everyone – We realized that once you’re willing to go into hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt, everyone wants your business. So talk to lots of people. Don’t just go with the first people who cross your path. Ask your friends which professionals they had a good experience with and start there. We talked to many mortgage brokers, real estate agents, lawyers, etc. We ultimately picked the people we worked with based on how we felt their background matched our needs, and mostly whether we were ‘compatible’. It’s kind of like dating. You’re going to spend a lot of time with these people and they will know the intimate details of your life. You want to trust them and feel like you can talk to them.

2. Have a Wishlist – Know what you’re looking for. Write down all the things you are unwilling to compromise for in a house, and stick to it. For us it was the character of the house including original wood floors and solid bones, as well as a layout that matched the type of renos we were looking to do. Be patient. The right house will come along.

3. Know What’s Up – Spend time on MLS and Viewpoint (or other listing websites) and check out what’s out there. Your real estate agent will guide you toward properties they think will work for you. But only you know what you really want. So look up what’s available and don’t hesitate to ask your agent to see a house, even if they haven’t suggested it to you.

4. See Lots of Houses – This really worked for us. We saw 15 or so houses before we picked ours (and this is even kind of low on the number of houses we could have seen). The house we bought was one of the first five we saw, but after we saw another 10, we asked for a second viewing of this house because we couldn’t stop thinking about it. It also gave us better perspective of what was realistic to expect around our ideal purchase price.

5. Get a Home Inspection – This seems obvious, but we know not everyone does it. The home inspector is there to see the things you can’t. Even though Nick is basically a contractor, we still learned things from our inspector that he couldn’t spot. Better to know about everything upfront than have some nasty surprises happen after you’ve moved in.

6. Know What You CAN Do – If you are planning extensive renos to the property you buy, make sure you know what you are legally allowed to do according to zoning regulations. We’ve discovered that nearly every house in Halifax has different rules about how it’s zoned. R1, R2, C1 etc only mean so much. You need to go to the zoning office and inquire about a particular house because there are a LOT of specificities per property based on its size, the year it was built, etc. Moral of the story? The zoning office is your new BFF.

7. Closing Costs – It costs a lot of money to buy a house and there are a lot of extra costs added on to the closing. Lawyer fees, home inspection, location certificate, deed transfer tax, closing adjustments like fuel & tax, home/property insurance etc etc…. It’s a lot. Like thousands of dollars. So make sure you have that budgeted in addition to your down payment.

Hopefully these tips will help you in your own home-buying process! It sure is exciting, but it’s a big decision, and the more prepared you are, the easier it will be. We’d love to hear your first time home-buying tips – leave us a comment!

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