In honour of the one-year anniversary of moving into our house (this Friday!) I wanted to share some thoughts I have about our first year in the house has been like, and on home ownership in general.
The type of house you buy will impact your lifestyle a lot.
The Fiance came home one day and announced that over the weekend, he planned to pick up some things at Canadian Tire, including a tool to help de-dandelion our yard.
“We have dandelions?” was my honest reaction, because I am a sweet innocent who doesn’t see yard beyond “it looks green.” He patiently informed me that yes, actually, our front yard is more dandelion than not, and that we had received a snarky sales offer in the mail specifically calling us out on it.
To his credit and very much not mine, his reaction was that we were going to tackle it ourselves, and so the $40 dandelion remover stabby thing came into our lives.
Two full weekend mornings later, I’ve mastered the art of stabbing the dandelions right in their
hearts roots, and after my hours of practice, I had the passing thought, “What could be more satisfying than getting the whole dandelion on the first try?”
A yoga class, followed by brunch on a patio, actually.
That could easily be more satisfying than getting the whole dandelion. (This is the kind of goodness I share on my Instagram stories, FYI.)
If you buy a downtown condo, you can probably still make that your Saturday morning whenever you want! But if you add a yard to your life, just know that you have basically taken on a new extracurricular activity whether you wanted one or not.
Housing is a lifestyle choice.
The amount of house you buy will decide the rest of your lifestyle.
It’s easy to recommend sticking to a reasonable budget, and not buying at the top of what a bank or a calculator says you can afford, when you’re more than a year removed from the frenzied excitement of the buying process—but truly, that one choice has made a world of difference in terms of how much we enjoy owning a home.
If you need to really stretch to the top of the “how much mortgage can I get?” scale, you’re going to feel it when you move in and start paying for everything. When I calculate our absolute maximum affordability right now, I got a staggering number: more than double the purchase price of our house.
My only question is how?!?!?!
There is no chance we would be able to save for retirement, save for a new roof, host a wedding and have our house at the same time if we had bought at the top of that range. There’s also no chance we’d be able to randomly suggest all-you-can-eat sushi with friends on a Friday night, which is one of my great joys in life.
Your house is the place where you live—it’s not your whole life. Budget accordingly.
Your home inspection is the gift that keeps on giving.
Yes, a home inspection is a Big Deal as part of the buying process, but it’s second only to our budgeting efforts in terms of its impact on our finances these days. The reassurance that we weren’t buying a money pit was good, but the detailed information about which smaller money pits were waiting for us over the next few years?
When we had our inspection done, we were informed that our roof had one to three good years left before it wasn’t going to have much left to give. Cool. It’s not the end of the world, but it is the cost of keeping a couple of dogs for a year, which yes, counts as a financial metric in this house.
So as soon as the craziness of the move was over, we set up a new house savings account (lol and here I was thinking the down payment savings for the house had just ended). This was to handle general emergencies, but was also set up to cover a roof repair in the next few years.
Thank god we did, because thanks to a windstorm a month or so ago, our timeline went from one to three years to this year, maybe in the fall. We didn’t lose too many shingles, and we had some very heart-stopping and much-appreciated family help patching the small holes in the roof, but it seemed like as good a sign as any to get some quotes and do the roof.
And because we had the home inspection and the savings account, it’s a non-issue. We’ll have enough to pay for the roof in cash by the time we get it done this fall.
The best move I personally made was not buying before I had a partner.
I remember getting brunch (the good old brunch days!) with a friend early in my career, and wondering in a very genuine way how on earth anyone could afford a house. We were both single, with entry-level salaries, and buying seemed absolutely laughable.
It turns out, that was 100% a blessing in disguise.
Even if buying had been remotely in the realm of possible for me at that point, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past year is that I am grateful every single day that I have a teammate to help handle the house.
When you’re the homeowner, there are just a whole lot more things that are on you, from buying appliances to handling little projects around the house to knowing when you have dandelions on the lawn. That’s not even counting the bigger things, like getting quotes for a roof replacement, which true confession, I was not very good at doing. (It’s a whole story, we’ll talk about it some other time.)
This isn’t to say that buying solo can’t be a great thing, and I know a lot of people who have done it and considered it a positive experience. But on the off chance that you’re single and stressed that you can’t quite afford a house on your own, trust me when I say there are serious non-financial benefits to waiting and buying with someone else.
Disclaimer: I have had brunch several times since buying this house, and as I re-read this I realize it sounds as if I am being like, deprived of brunch by my house, which is not the case. If anything, my entire position is that you should be able to do both financially—it’s the damn dandelions that really get in the way.
The two biggest things that make buying a house possible are location and salary.
Realistically, there are not many hacks that can get around those two factors.
I was at a party recently with a Young Homeowning Friend, and someone asked us how we were able to buy houses, because the media narrative is, of course, millennials can’t afford anything.
First of all, this party happened in Ottawa, which is a key factor right there. We have a relatively reasonable housing market, but even still, if you want to live in the downtown core or a particularly trendy neighbourhood, it’ll cost ya. Both my friend and I bought in the suburbs, which was point number one.
The second was our salaries, but even I know that doesn’t make for very good small talk, so we both spoke about our careers instead. We also talked about mortgage rates, so I’m not over here claiming I’m good at parties, I’m just not the actual worst.
Buying within our means is what makes home ownership enjoyable for me, because it’s how we can afford to live our lives without worrying about how we’re going to pay the mortgage. In some markets, or at some salaries, there is no overlap between what’s available and what’s within your means, and the fixes to that are big and hefty and something you need to really look at in the context of your whole life.
There’s no small hack to fix Toronto real estate, you know? Or the fact that your industry might require living in a certain city. There’s only getting really clear on what that means for your life, and the potential for home ownership, and making your choices accordingly.
And hey, if that choice includes maybe not ending up in a single-family home, at the very least you are dodging the dandelions. That might be a big or a small comfort, depending on how you feel about yards and how much you want to own a place with a lawn, but it’s not nothing, as I learned this year.
I’ve had my share of homes of over the years, both single family houses and condos, and I absolutely agree with these 5 points. It’s so easy to get caught up in the home shopping frenzy and not think about the future issues.
Thank you so much Gary! Luckily we spread out our house hunt over two years, which also helped with the “Being Reasonable” thing, lol. I’m such an advocate of creeping open houses for that reason alone! (Plus it’s so fun!)
I can completely relate to the joy that comes with the ‘War of the Weeds’. This has become my passion this spring…every night strategizing on what area to tackle next…. and then I think, this would never have been something I would look forward to doing a year and a half ago, prior to buying our house.
I also agree with the idea of buying a home and not stretching your budget far beyond your means. My partner and I had the joy of house shopping in the GTA during the housing boom. And we were pre-approved for a $600,000 mortgage(cue gulp sound) . If we decided against our current home and the price we paid, we would most certainly be living beyond our means.
If we decided to go for a home with a price tag in 600K range, there would be no room for renos, emergency repairs, a new dry because they like to break, oh and a new furnace in the winter… the joys of home ownership. A price tag like that would also limit your social life, vacations or even paying off any debt at all.
I think the biggest thing to learn when adulating, is that you have to think past the feelings of right now, and look to 1, 5 or even 10 years from now when making large purchases such as a home.
Good Luck with your battle against dandelions!
Thanks Ashley! And oh man, there is no better advice than planning ahead about which area you’ll tackle next. My first morning out, I was *convinced* that how long could a whole lawn take, like, 30 minutes? Just to give you some context on how woefully unprepared I was for the task, lol. But I’ve gotten more realistic with my estimates for sure!
And I LOVE the examples you shared, so important to consider. Thank you!!
SO in love with this line from your post: “Your house is the place where you live—it’s not your whole life. Budget accordingly.”
As is the case with so many things in life, the societal pressure as of late to be a homeowner is astounding! It is not your whole life, and I wish more millennials could really take that to heart!
Excellent post, as always, love reading everything you write!
Thank you so much Laura!! And omg yes, the pressure is so real!
Like Laura’s comment above – the line “Your house is the place where you live—it’s not your whole life. Budget accordingly” really resonates!
I’m so glad that I bought my house when I did and the house that I did – it is not perfect, but after looking for nearly a year – it hits all the essential points and a bunch of the nice to haves and it works in my budget.
I occasionally look around at houses to see if there is something interesting – but in the 8 years since I bought, house prices in my area have more than doubled – so I am going to stay put!
“The amount of house you buy will decide the rest of your lifestyle”
YES!!! How much house you buy plus the location of your house can easily drive 50% of your monthly budget. Housing and transportation usually account for 35% and 15% of the average budget respectively. That one decision drives half your spending.
Forget the ‘latte factor’ and ‘avocado toast’, focus on your home as a place to save money.
We have a 1,000 sq ft ‘post war’ bungalow for four of us (granted we have a 2yo and 4yo so they’re not full size people yet).
Super small but the layout is amazingly efficient. We’re in a very walkable area. I bike to work and we can walk for most errands. It’s made our lifestyle super affordable.
Our cash outflow is ~$38,000 per year for a family of 4 (and $5,000 of that is RESP contributions which we count as an expense). That wouldn’t be possible with a big McMansion (which is the other alternative in our area).
Buy small! Spend money on living, not on your home!
Great article! We are also coming up to one year in our house. We also kept our budget in mind when purchasing the house as we were not comfortable with the amount the bank was willing to lend us.
The money is a huge factor for me but the location has been the biggest lifestyle boost for me. I am now able to bike to work 9 months a year and a 25 minute commute by public transit. It took us 6 months and 12 offers but so glad we stuck to our desired location and budget!