This year, 2012, will be the year that I bought a house. Four walls, that are all mine – well half mine, thanks to my partner in life, love and home-ownership. Real earth, a plot of land. Walls to paint, grass to cut, gardens to plant. A bathroom where I can plug in hair appliances, a place to barbecue, a place to wash my clothes, and a place to lie my head.
It’s really happening, and our little blue house on Saint John’s west side is ours as of January 20.
I will truly miss living in the historic uptown, our beautiful, tree-lined Germain. But after almost 10 years of paying rent, I am ready for home ownership. An investment for the next few years, at least.
The journey of house-hunting was filled with ups and downs, adrenaline highs and frightful lows. For all those property virgins out there, I want to share some of the things I learned:
- It was easy for me, an optimist, to fall for a home right away while my boyfriend, and our agent, were quicker to point out the faults. This was important.
- While we weren’t sure we needed an agent right away, we are so glad we went with Don LeBlanc of Century 21. His easy-going, patient, almost fatherly advice was so appreciated. He helped us weigh the pros and cons and bring up points we wouldn’t have known ourselves.
- Mortgages are complex and bizarre things. So are lawyers. Both want your money, and lots of it. Shopping around is important.
- One thing to consider if buying a house is the term of your mortgage. Five years is common. This means your interest rate is guaranteed (historic lows right now, people!), but you will pay a penalty if you break the term, equal to the interest you would have paid for the remainder of the term. Kind of a scary concept, so we had to make sure home ownership was something we wanted to commit to.
- Property taxes will make up a significant portion of our monthly living expenses. Around $225 – yikes! And yes, the taxes are higher in Saint John than in surrounding towns, but the real estate is more affordable, and the transportation costs are less. The latter two won us over.
- Because of our investment, I find myself considering the city issues I often write about from an entirely different perspective. Transit cuts mean I can’t take the bus to make it in time for my 7 a.m. shift. Saint John’s water and sewer projects mean I will have to pay more every year for however long into the future. And the Harbour Bridge’s ongoing repairs will mean traffic delays for us in the summer months. Ack!
- The what-ifs are the scariest part. What if we lose our jobs? What if we break up? What if our house burns down and insurance doesn’t cover it? I’m not gonna lie. These still scare me. I guess at some point you just have to take a leap of faith.
The issues around home ownership are very grown-up. What’s the difference between aluminum and copper wiring? Why do we need attic vents? How much will our electricity bills really be?
It’s a little scary, but also very satisfying. Apartments have always felt transient to me. A house is a home.
Can’t wait to have you over for tea.