Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Buying a house in Toronto - Part I

Last year, after the initial fuss of our engagement had settled down, Lori and I decided to buy a house. As house prices are high, the price tag of a wedding and a house purchase seemed prohibitive, so we thought we might buy a house and throw the wedding there. It didn't take long for our optimism to fade, and we quickly became very discouraged. Discouraged doesn't come close to describing how messed up buying a house in the city actually is. So the dilemma is: do you buy a house in the city and pay through the nose; or do you save your money and buy a house outside of the city and spend all your free time commuting. Personally, I enjoy sleep too much to have to get up early to take commuter trains, and I love the fact that TTC allows me to come and go from work to home as I please. Buying a house in the downtown area borders on madness. The houses you can afford either have three kitchens in them and require major renovation to make the space livable, or they are so small that it would be a complete change in lifestyle. Finding a balance between them is difficult, and often is a matter of timing more than anything. The problem Lori and I currently have, is that the neighbourhood and apartment we're currently in is amazing. Well, at least we think it's amazing -- we may look back years from now and have a good laugh at it. In short though, we're in an $800K home in a $800K neighbourhood. Anything that we move to will be a step down: two bedrooms, two dens, two bathrooms, large spacious kitchen, large master bedroom, patio, backyard, private parking, all utilities included and about 100 feet from transit. We really wanted to buy a home in our neighbourhood, so postponing the purchase allowed us to save a bit more for a down payment. So, a few weeks ago we started up the house hunt again. This time, we spent a couple weekends driving around, trying to get a feel for the surrounding neighbourhoods. We saw lots of listings in our area, and we looked them up on MLS, but quickly discovered that even the smallest dumps in our area were beyond our price range, and if we could afford it, we'd be burying ourselves so far under that our lifestyle would exist to support the house. We made a trip out to the east end of the city, which is popular for first time home buyers. The east end of the city is completely foreign to us, and to make matters worse we were driving around the east-end on a weekend that the Don Valley Parkway was closed for maintenance. We spent nearly an hour on Queen St East, and got a really good whiff of the garbage processing plant. Unfortunately for the east end, we resolved that we were not east end people, despite how pleasant everyone makes it sound. We decided to focus our search in the west end of the city, just outside of the downtown core. We expanded our search area to our surrounding neighbourhoods, compromising on the location for price. .....