Our first showings
With our decision made, our priorities listed, our real estate agent chosen and our mortgage pre-approval in hand, the logical next step was to start looking at houses (and, of course, freak out a little).
The first few houses we saw all had great ... locations. Yeah, there certainly weren't any winners in the lot, but we did learn a lot from the experience, and got a crash course in outdated electrical codes to boot.
The first home we'd selected to see was a condo townhouse in an east end neighbourhood. We adored the location, just off the main drag and a few steps to transit, and the posted pictures looked pretty nice. Sadly, pictures don't tell the whole story. When we got there, we found a claustrophobic kitchen, an awkward layout, dark rooms and a front room view of a dumpster. There were no subfloors, so you could see into the rooms below through gaps in the flooring. Mr. Speedy and I did not see ourselves living there. But, we did learn not to get our hopes up based on photos in the future.
The next series of homes that we went to see, still in the east end, taught us a different lesson: If there are no photos, it's probably not because they didn't have access to a camera.
I'm generally a trusting person. I wanted to believe that photos of the properties were missing because they were waiting for the family to clean up the home or repaint, not because it was dirty and needed a lot of work. They all fell into the latter category.
From a cramped house with ceilings that were too low for the very tall Mr. Speedy to a few big projects, a rear entryway through a bathroom and a gaping hole in one third floor that prompted us to make a speedy exit, we saw a lot of duds.
But, thankfully, that didn't mean it was a waste of time. At one of the houses, we got to see knob and tube wiring, which we'd never encountered in person before, the green wire used for a decade sometime long before I was born and updated modern wiring, all coming from the same box.
We also learned a lot about warning flags in listing descriptions. While we were aware of the perils of terms such as "renovator's dream", "great lot" and "good bones", we came to learn that when anything is listed as "As is", even if it's just the appliances, it's often a sign that the rest of the property could use some TLC, and likely some cleaning. Also, one-line descriptions, when there's room for a full paragraph, now make us wary, as there should be lots of things to say to sell any property, whether it's listing the great nearby amenities or the included appliances.
And we learned that we might need to undertake a sizable renovation project if we want to live in some of the nearby neighbourhoods while remaining in our current price range. That's something we're still not sure we're up to doing. We could handle some re-wiring (well, hiring a licensed professional to do it, that is), but a full gut and rebuild project still doesn't interest us at all
After that evening (and a long shower to handle all the grime and guck that comes with homes that have been vacant for a while), we feel better prepared to select more promising properties from the listings, and, with the help of RealEstateSimon, find a place we can see ourselves actually living in. Wish us luck!
Catch up on the home hunt: