Tuesday, August 22, 2006

House Hunting

David and I have finally decided to take the plunge...into a crazy Calgary real estate market. At least things are cooling somewhat after a white hot spring market drove prices through the roof. The influx of people looking for work in the oil patch has made home-buying virtually unaffordable for many. Average house prices were over $400, 000 in May.

But after years of living in apartments and condos, albeit some rather lovely ones, we've decided it's time to buy a house!

I won't be blogging much for the next few weeks.

We met an agent last evening and I did the mortgage pre-approval today. Now for the fun part - looking at houses. Some say it's a chore, running around to see one crummy place after the next, realizing your budget isn't high enough, etc. but others say it's thrilling and enjoyable, as long as it doesn't last too long.

I'm actually excited despite the fact that prices seem like extortion to me. But the market is softening a little, there are more listings, and stuff is sitting on the market longer than a single day, like before. The bidding wars have stopped. People are no longer getting double their asking price. But there are lots of greedy (or wise?) souls out there trying to dump their dumps for insane prices.

Another problem is that Calgary doesn't exactly have the old-fashioned character homes we'd like. There are a few inner city neighborhoods with these older style 2-storeys, nicely renovated for a cool $750k or more. Slightly over our budget.

Many of the older, established neighborhoods that we like (the ones with mature trees, big lots, plenty of green space and not too far from the core) have boring bungalows from the 60's. Some of the houses are beautifully updated and look great, but the style isn't "us". Still, we've decided to compromise and look in these neighborhoods.

The third, and most gruesome option is the new suburbs. These are farther out and built like row after row of matching cereal boxes spaced 5 ft apart on tiny lots. We'd love a "new" house, but on the bald praire, the gopher fields they're developing don't leave much to the imagination. Neighborhood-after-neighborhood of these sprawling suburbs are growing like a plague. Picture a flat field with a million identical-looking houses. Yards are miniscule, and you have 20 neighbors staring at you whether you walk out the front or back door. And there are few trees. Personally, I hate the homogenization of these neighborhoods. The whole beige-ification of life. A new house is nice, but there isn't much character or space in these burbs.

So...I called our agent tonight to start looking at some of the listings he's shown us. Nothing stands out, but the lots are all lovely. We're looking at a couple of specific mid-town neighborhoods that are a little more posh than regular middle class, have top notch schools, and have slightly only slightly insane prices.

I'm already having trouble pacing myself, and wonder how my headaches will be as things unfold. Our meeting with the realtor ran late last night and David and I were brain-dead all day. I spent half the day at work on the phone with the mortgage broker, and the other half looking at the listings photos, figuring out where exactly the houses are situated, and doing mortgage payment calculations. Being the dork that I am, i actually developed my own Excel spreadsheet to do those amortization tables showing how interest calculations are done and how much of each payment goes to interest and principal. My results matched the online calculators, so I was geekily pleased with my geek self. I emailed it to David who will likely delete it while shaking his head.

I came home with a bad headache, and have spent the evening on chores. I'm detail-oriented to a fault, so I have a feeling I will overload myself in the weeks to come. But I'm so excited!

I will be checking other people's blogs as often as I can. And will post little updates as the process unfolds.


  1. Best wishes on your house hunting. It is a very exciting time buying your first home.

  2. Ohhh, that's so exciting. A good treatment for a headache, is being out in your backyard (or front), and piddling in the garden. At least it is for me anyway.

    I know what you mean about the market prices. Jamie and I were thinking about selling, because the price you could get was just crazy, but then we didn't have the time or money to build right away, so we are sitting on our house for a little while anyway.

    I'm sure you will find something just perfect! Can't wait for pictures!!!

  3. How exciting and terrifying all at once! It sounds like a lot of work (I'm still a lowly apartment dweller) but I can't imagine anything more rewarding than owning and caring for your own home.
    My family lives in Minneapolis and my dad recently remarried. He and his wife both sold their homes and bought a bigger one together. I was shocked at both what they sold theirs for and what they paid for the new (actually 100 yr old) house! My stepmom sold hers in 36 hours and got well over the asking price. You'll have to stay on your toes.