This post is a combination of three updates, one written on the 13th, the other two days later, and one written just now.
I’ve been hyper because I have no sense of a proper level of service from the Realtor. I feel like she’s been slow. A couple properties I said I was interested in have gone off the market. Our first showings are Tuesday; my first contact with her was last Tuesday. Is this typical? Is it Toronto? Is she just terrible? Well, I told her there’s one place I’m keenly interested in, and it will be accepting offers Tuesday; the day I expect we will see it. If we lose a chance to bid on it because the Realto has been sluggish I will be Very Angry (tm).
I feel like this is a stupid amount of money to pay for a post box. On the other hand, there is no place on earth quite like Church/Wellesley in Toronto. So maybe it’s worth it. And tbh it does represent Our life savings. I should not be embarrassed about (just barely) being able to afford a downtown condo at 50 years old. We’re blue collar people, though, doing white collar work. The poor don’t rub off so easily.
Still the voice shouts about a mobile home somewhere semi remote, and a quiet, simple life. I think perhaps I’ve had that, though, and it wasn’t very fulfilling. Time to try living large and social. Doing and being. Plenty of time to be laid back when you’re six feet underground.
I’d really rather not have to extensively renovate a vintage unit, but if I have to to get into a good building at a price we can afford, I will. I am guessing no one runs up 4x8 sheets of drywall on the elevators though.
Today was walking with my sweetheart, just a stroll to Parkdale, coffee at Abbott, then home via the waterfront. A little sun touched but it was a lovely day.
Monday morning my irritation with our "realtor" was at the breaking point, so I sent an email to a local-ish broker named Trish who I found on the gayrealtynetwork.com site (yes this is a real thing that exists). The message said, "hey, this is the service we are getting, is this what we should expect or is there something we're missing out on?"
Five minutes later, I got a response saying like, "no, that's bullshit, what's your phone number, I'll call you." So I replied and she called straight away, obviously giving breakfast to a small child in the background, and clarified that the Toronto market requires a much higher level of service, and for whatever reason, we weren't getting it, and -- if we'd like, she could shuffle her appointments around to take us to look at properties that very morning.
So I said yes. And she made it happen; within three hours she drove us out, and we went and looked at our two top picks. She was really good, giving her professional opinion about suitability, giving us insider info about the buildings, things we weren't looking at, things we should look for, etc. Like: what's the vibe you get from the security/concierge in a condo? You want someone professional, yet friendly. Not someone rude or icy, not someone just marking time.
You also want a building that's had, or having, major maintenance items (roofs, chillers etc) handled out of the regular budget. You want a board that's willing to undertake significant upgrades to lighting or windows, if the cost/benefit is there. You can't be afraid to pay for things if they're worthwhile. A condo building needs to be managed proactively. You want one with mostly owners, not absentee landlords. She also buttonholed a resident in the elevator, asked him how long he'd lived there: 20+ years. Did he like it? He sure as hell did. Because people who live in a building will either love it and they want to talk about it, or they hate it and they want to talk about it.
A good broker will also give you solid advice about what you should offer for a place, factoring in other units in the building, what kind of discount you should expect for a unit based on the renovations it's had compared to others, compared to similar units in other buildings, etc. She gave us a very clear idea that the unit was well priced -- that the asking price was reasonable.
So the only thing remained was to decide if we wanted to put an offer in, and we did, this morning. She made sure to reach out to the listing agent and build up a rapport, to make sure that she could feel out what the sellers wanted: max dollars, quick close, what. We learned that they were not even living in Toronto any more, and likely wanting to just shed the property ASAP. Which, we're fine with -- we don't have anything to sell, we did that last year.
We decided to go in at about 1% over asking -- remembering that the asking price was very reasonable -- if there was a chance of competing offers, but by the deadline of 7pm no one else had registered so we went in right on what they were hoping to get, very happy to pay that amount of money for that amount of condo.
And at about 9pm or so, they accepted and countersigned our offer! So, assuming no fuckups with the close, on June 4th, we'll own a little slice of Toronto near the corner of Jarvis & Wellesley, exactly where we want to be. Basically, ground zero in Toronto's pride neighbourhood.
The 36 hours of the title of this post was how long it took from talking to Trish on Monday to having an accepted offer. Which is only slightly more time than it took our first "realtor" to respond to our initial contact email with an incorrectly gendered reply. We asked Trish if that was her fastest deal and she said, no, 4 hours.
To be fair -- I've been doing research on real estate in Toronto for well over a year. Learning where we want to live, what good buildings are, how much space we'll need, what we might have to renovate, it's been hundreds of hours of research. From viewing our first units to nailing the deal down in 36 hours is kind of an orgasmic frenzy, but that in no way discounts the tremendous amount of foreplay it took to get to that point.
I don't expect any further drama with the transaction, other than handing over $$$ at some point, and promises to regularly hand over more $, but that's just the usual house buying shit.
I always kind of viewed the apartment as living only "kind of" in Toronto? It's always been removed from the places where things happen. On a subway line, but not really near anything. And certainly not permanent. Not holding us here, not being roots. Well, now we've got roots. I think we're here to stay.
And you can bet we've been over that dozens of times before signing papers: do you want to live here? Is this the place for us? We could buy a remote cottage, we could buy something in St John's, we could live quietly, go into semi-retirement. But that's didn't feel like living. We've been living quiet hermity lives for decades.
I think while we can, with the time we have left on this planet, we should shine brightly in a big city, where we don't have to pretend to be people we are not, just so we don't get glared at by judgy conservatives. It will be so much healthier.
We've got a lender; we'll be paying an effective 10.5% APR (including all fees, mind) to borrow what remains after our down payment -- for just one year. It's kind of usurious, but on the other hand, we still have no income. One way or another, though in a year we'll be able to secure a real mortage from a real bank. Condo fees and taxes in, it's a little like paying a 50% larger rental payment for the next year to live where we want to live, in space we can control.
We judge the extra 50% worth it in order to get what we want, where we want, before real estate does anything stupid in this area. And if, next year, we have to take money out of the RRSP (a tax-deferred investment like a 401K) in order to have enough equity to qualify for a bank mortgage, we'll do it.