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Team Case Study: Lessons Learned After One Month of Homeownership

For the past four weeks, we’ve walked you through our CMO Kerri-Lynn’s (KL) entire home buying process. In sharing her experiences here, our hope is that first-time homebuyers across the country will have a better understanding of everything you have to do to buy a home and move into it – and shed a little insight on what’s happening in the Toronto market, in particular.

On October 6th, KL picked up the keys to her beautifully renovated house in Toronto. For our final interview, I wanted to find out how she was enjoying it so far, and if there had been any surprises or lessons learned after her first month of homeownership.

Cait: After all the viewings and all the bidding wars, how does it feel to finally be in your house?

KL: In general, anytime you move, it’s weird getting used to a new home; it sort of feels like you’re a guest in someone else’s house. I know that’ll get better with time, and as we continue to decorate it to our style, add our personality to it, and also just build a routine in the space. But yea, it’s a little weird so far!

Cait: Is it different living in a house versus a condo?

KL: It’s different but probably not in the way you’d imagine. I mean, it’s great having more space! But a few weeks ago, I realized that because we’d always lived in a small condo, we actually don’t have everything we need to live and entertain in the house. In the condo, we used to have people over for drinks sometimes, but we didn’t have room for a dining room table so we never had people over for meals. Now that we have a table, we want to entertain more. So we hosted our first brunch a few weeks ago, and I quickly realized that I don’t have the kitchen equipment you need to cook for more than the two of us! My pans are small and old, so they need to be replaced. I also need more baking sheets – and basically everything. Good thing we got engaged, because I need to register for some stuff! (laughs)


KL: Thanks!

Cait: Can you walk us through your house a bit? Like does everything work, is anything broken, were there any surprises? Oh! Was it clean!?

KL: The sellers did a really amazing job cleaning it out before we moved in. Seriously, there wasn’t a speck of dirt to be found anywhere – even the drawers were wiped clean. Everything was just spotless. They even left two bottles of water in the fridge, and all the extra flooring and paint they’d used in the renovation. It was so nice to walk into and find – but I think this is the exception. There’s some kind of condition in your offer where your real estate agent can request that the home be clean. Our agent said it was insulting to check off that box, so to speak, so we didn’t include the condition, and the sellers actually told us they appreciated that!

As for surprises, there have been a few. Everything works, thank goodness, but some other little things have popped up. For example, in the master bedroom, there’s a breeze that comes in because the window doesn’t shut properly, so we need to get that fixed before the winter. There are also these little holes in the front porch that had been covered up but which will need to be filled in. So it’s nothing major and is all stuff we can live with, but that will need to be dealt with eventually; it’s just that we’re not used to that, because we’ve always been renters.

Cait: Yea, how is life without a landlord/property manager?

KL: It’s great, because you can obviously respond to problems at lot sooner, since you’re the one in charge. But for that reason, it’s also a lot more responsibility. And if you’re not handy, you just have to figure it out! Or at least one of you does, haha. My partner seems to all of a sudden think he’s handy and can tackle all these projects, which is good. And he did replace our locks, which was great. But I wish my dad lived closer!

Cait: On the financial side of things, how has your first month of homeownership been?

KL: Well, we had to repay the seller a prorated portion of their property taxes, because they’d paid up for the entire year. And then our land transfer tax was brutal. Even with the land transfer tax rebate, there are still two taxes that buyers in Toronto have to pay, so it was a huge chunk of money to hand over.

Otherwise, our first mortgage payment doesn’t even come out until December 1st, so we’ve only had to pay the interest adjustment so far. In that sense, it’s been ok. But I look ahead at our December budget and can see that life as a homeowner is going to be a huge adjustment. Not only is our mortgage payment obviously a lot more than our rent was, but we’re now responsible for more of the common costs, like utilities – and they are much more expensive in a house than they would be if we’d bought a condo!

Cait: Have you thought about ways you can cut back on spending?

KL: Yea, we are going to have to do our grocery shopping at the No Frills down the street! I’m also trying to spend less on lunches during the week. Cutting back on shopping will be the tough one for me, but it helps that we moved to an area that doesn’t really have any clothing stores.

Cait: Any final words of advice for other first-time homebuyers?

KL: A home isn’t just an investment – it’s a place you live for 5, 10 years or more! With all the hoopla surrounding the Toronto real estate market right now, I get the impression the investment aspect is overpowering the living aspect. I plan to live in my home for a long, long time.

I also wish I’d started saving a lot earlier in my 20s. I feel like one day you wake up in your late 20s and just decide it’s time to settle down and buy a home! Saving more sooner would’ve really helped when that day came.

Thank you for being so candid in your answers, KL! It’s been so fun interviewing you each week for this series.

Are you a recent first-time homebuyer? What are some other ways KL could cut back on her spending?