Thursday, October 24, 2013

House shopping and home buying

When the Mister and I, in a whirlwind of house shopping, purchased our first home together three and a half years ago we couldn't have truly foreseen what it would be today. Sure, we had plans, hopes, and aspirations for what this new step meant for our future family and of course, our future projects, but really we could never have known. Today, we rush home from work to be with our little guy while he wanders around the living room straying a stream of toys behind him as he does, all day we look forward to sitting down in our dining room with our little family even if it means our over tired little boy will be whiny the whole time, we approach bath time with the excited anticipation shared only by that same little guy who is about to get to play with all his favourite bath toys, and then play time before bed is all of our favourite time of all because we read and play together as a family in the best room in the house - the Mini-Mister's nursery. Yes, our new house became a home with such fervour that we didn't know what hit us, until it had. It's been great; every messy, primary-coloured second of it. Then, with only slightly less excitement, the Mister and I look forward to the Mini-Mister's bedtime when we can then retire to our basement family room with the pugs, to curl up in front of the fire and TV to unwind. Life these days is almost as, if not more, whirlwind than our house shopping was but I don't think we'd trade it for anything. It's been amazing. Our home has been amazing.

We are living on a relatively modest footprint, given that our town home is only approximately 1800 square feet, but it's been more than perfect for us thus far. While we don't foresee that changing in the short-term, we do suspect that one day, we'll be looking to add a little more personal space to our personal space. Surprisingly though, I don't look forward to that day right now because I'm only becoming more and more attached to this home with every room that we 'do' together. We loved that this house was about as plain and builder standard as they come when we moved in, because it has really pushed and permitted us to create our own spaces with our own signatures. I hope that, short of finding the perfect home for the perfect price, when we start shopping again, we're able to nail down another blank slate. It really was the best fit for us.

On the topic of blank slates, I was looking at a house today that reminded me a lot of ours when we first moved in. You see, my parents are now on the market for a new house and they're hoping to find something in fairly close proximity to us, so they've been shopping in our neighbourhood. This house, that is currently at the top of their list, is large and well-situated which is nice, but even nicer (in my opinion anyway) is that it's a blank slate. What's important to me and what we were lucky enough to get in this house (and my parents would as well should they choose the house in question), is that the blank slate be extremely clean and 'liveable'. I'm not (and I don't think they are either) at a point in my life where I find myself with the time and energy to tackle a 'fixer-upper' but renovating/decorating rooms on my schedule because they are (the theoretical) fine the way they are, makes all the difference. I've been watching their shopping process unfold and I've certainly caught myself reminiscing from time to time because of it.

When we were shopping we experienced two different aspects of the housing sales industry. We 'hired' a real estate agent who helped us in our search by sending us many MLS listings and narrowing down important criteria, facilitated house tours, and guided us through the purchase of our ultimate choice. That choice however, was not listed on MLS but rather Grapevine, which is a 'for sale by owner'-type real estate site. When we found the house, we contacted our agent who contacted the seller as we wanted to make sure that they were willing to 'work with' (read: pay) an agent so that we would be able to continue to benefit from his experience and services that we'd grown accustomed to (not to mention, not leave him high and dry!). Luckily, the home-owner agreed and before long, we were on our way to home ownership. My only 'stressors' relating to the whole process were; the first house that we bid on and lost (thank goodness, we now know that it was not for us at all), and the butterflies when we bid on this one because it was perfect and we had to have it. Otherwise, the process was quite smooth and pleasant. It was a seller's market at the time, and who was going to walk away with the ownership was usually anyone's guess!

Driving around my neighbourhood the other day though, I saw a sign that I'd never seen:

 Not the actual sign - (Credit: Comfree)

I'd recently heard about Comfree but this prompted me to look into it more. I was fairly certain that this model of housing sales company was not around when we were looking in early 2010. As far as I can tell, via a quick search, the rules regarding flat-fee MLS listings changed in March of 2010, just shortly after we bought. The Comfree site tells me that they've been around since 2007 though, so perhaps my research skills need a little oil. Either way, as a buyer I would have certainly done some searching on their (and affiliated) site had I known about it. Anyhow, I poked around their site now and there were a couple properties around our area that I happily browsed (I can't be the only one that does that?). Overall, I'm pleased to learn of another place for me to dream wistfully about our next house even though I'm nowhere near ready for it yet. I do look forward to finishing everything we want to do in our current home, enjoy it for whatever period of time we see fit, and then start it all over again in a new home! Sounds fun, right? :)

So this whole house shopping and real estate business has me wondering what most others have done to buy and/or sell? Do you do it on your own? With some help via a flat-fee service site like Comfree, do you go 'all agent, all the time'? What about your experiences with any of all of these services? Great? Poor?

I'd also love to know what you look for in a house? Are you searching out that blank slate like we did? Or would you prefer that everything be done for you? I don't think that turn-key necessarily means that it has to be done for you, it just has to be clean and livable so that you can make it your own. Maybe all of that is why I shouldn't be allowed to watch HGTV real estate shows anymore? I'm always blown away by the buyers... ALWAYS!

 As usual, please feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts - I'd love to hear them!

Happy shopping, house shoppers!
Here's to buying the perfect home for you!


Alexa said...

When we bought in late 2011, comfree was just starting to expand in Ottawa. I saw the odd sign, but never would've considered listing with them since they weren't well known. A unit for sale in our building at the time was listed with comfree and it sat on the market for a long time, only because it was on comfree and not MLS. It was a nice looking unit and well-priced.

I looked for a house that was east or west facing, 3 bedrooms, some hardwood, somewhat move-in ready. We saw a bunch of fixer-uppers at first which I would've loved, but there was no way I was signing myself up for a lifetime of fixing up once I got pregnant!

Stephanie @ Two Zero One said...

A big hello from another Ottawa home blogger! I can't wait for your next blog post.

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SimonaGabriele said...

For an increasing number of people, second-hand homes are no longer the way to go. Buyers are instead opting for a house in a brand new development.

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