Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The journey toward home ownership

So I’ve left a lot out of the blog, and I’m going to rectify that now. Sit back, cuz it’s gonna go on a while.

Several years ago, a banker talked me into an Registered (Retirement) Savings Program, or R(R)SP (sort of a Canadian IRA) and a Tax-Free Savings Account (TSFA, sort of a Canadian Roth IRA, if I understand what a Roth is). The TSFA was so I’d have an interest bearing savings account that I could have automatic deposits directed to, because obviously without such a scheme I am incapable of ‘putting money away’ on my own. And interest. That’s post-tax dollars, so the only freedom from taxes if on the interest, up to some amount of deposits a year. Something absurd like $5000 which I couldn’t hope to get to even if I worked at it.

The RSP was sold to me not because I should be saving for retirement, which I should, but because there’s a scheme where you can take out money for a first mortgage (or a mortgage of a first home, or a primary home, or something) without penalty (with the proviso that you have to pay it back in some specified amount of time, but if I was able to save it in the first few years, I could certainly pay it back in the next). So I’ve slowly been building a little bit of savings toward a down payment on a first house.

So for a while now, the banker has been pressuring me to buy something, because equity and so on. Never mind that in the meantime my banker went away and was replaced by a random dude I don’t know. Not that my banker wasn’t originally a random dude, but at least she called me asking if I wanted to arrange some investments, as opposed to this random dude who inherited her extension, when I called to find out about a mortgage.

Okay, so the reason I was inquiring about a mortgage was that I decided that this was the year. Actually I decided a couple years ago that next year would be the year, and started looking in earnest. My idea was I could read listings and visit open houses and whatnot at my leisure, which I did, until I found a place that I wanted to do something about, and then I could do something about it.

The change this year was that apparently someone in my building (on my floor) has complained about a ‘smell’ that was determined to be coming from my apartment, and in February I was threatened with eviction if I didn’t do anything about it. Since still have no clear idea what this smell was or where it came from, I have even less clue about whether or not I got rid of it. But in dealing with it, I cleaned up my place enough that they didn’t evict me. But anyway, whether it was in March or the end of July (at the end of my lease), this was Clearly The Time.

So I called a realtor and actually started looking at places with professional assistance. Once I wasn’t getting evicted, I found a mortgage broker. (Banker #1 and Banker #2 both did pre-pre-approvals on me and assured me that they could get something together in something like 24 hours, so if I’d been evicted, I would have just gone with that, but since I didn’t and had a few months to plan, I decided that due diligence would be for me to shop around. And since I have no idea how to shop for a mortgage, I engaged a broker.) And in between the start of this story and the end Banker #2 went away and was replaced by someone else. And she needed somebody else to do something later on in this story. So in case you’re counting, we’re on Banker #3.5.

So Realtor has been feeding me listings, and every couple weeks we went to look at a few. Meanwhile Mortgage Broker has been shopping my specs around, working out interest rates, insurance rates, different down payment schemes. I don’t pretend to understand any of it. At some point she or the lawyer or somebody will tell me to appear somewhere with some kind of money in some specified form, and I will.

So, we looked at a bunch of places, and of course, after dithering for weeks and weeks, we settle on what I call door #2, i.e. literally the second place we looked at. It’s not what I thought I wanted (which was something like a townhouse, rather than something like an apartment, with a private garage in very short list of places in town. It met all my other specs for an apartment though (two bedrooms, two baths, underground parking, in-suite laundry. Second floor, for going up and down stairs to the garage–because I can do two flights easily, three flights sometimes becomes problematic, but four is painful, at least going up). In my price range. Reasonable value per square foot, or however you calculate value. New build, more or less completed and available more or less any time.

So I did it. On Saturday, April 25th, I put down a deposit on an apartment-style condo in the ‘village’ called St Norbert, just south of what I think of as Winnipeg proper. (The current city of Winnipeg was amalgamated from several distinct municipal domains in the 1970’s. So technically St Norbert is a ‘neighbo(u)rhood’ in Winnipeg. But it’s just south of The Perimeter (highway) which in my mind encircles Winnipeg Proper (although Winnipeg Proper in this sense includes stuff that isn’t technically in the city of Winnipeg, and there are places, like St Norbert, which are technically in the city of Winnipeg, but not within The Perimeter). (This sense of Winnipeg Proper may be something I just made up all on my own.)

So deposit deposited, paperwork gone through, Offer to Purchase made, and condo I got the condo documents, which gave me seven days to fulfill the conditions on my end of the offer, which were a) lawyer approval, and b) securing funding. So I get the Realtor to recommend a Lawyer, and the Lawyer(‘s assistant) agrees to take on the Offer to Purchase (it was pretty boilerplate and the Lawyer expressed general concern about whether the unit would be available by the proposed July 7 possession date, which since it’s basically finished it will be) and gives his approval. The Mortgage Broker nails down a deal with a lender I’ve never heard of (but apparently is the largest non-bank mortgager in Canada); we talk about what happens if I or the mortgager defaults, what happens if I sell, what happens if I die and so on, followed by the signing of papers and so on. Lawyer and Mortgage Broker send paperwork to Realtor, who sends it to Seller, and barring unforeseen Acts of &deity;, it’s all gonna happen.

So I went off to a conference in the third week of May, and since then I’ve been purging and packing. At least that was the plan. Mostly I’ve been dithering and worrying. But I have engaged a moving company, who are coming on July 13th to move everything I tell them to move, so I have until then to get packed. And purged.

I’ve also had a meeting with Banker 3.5 (since April, Banker 2 has moved on and Banker 3 needed assistance to do something magical with my RSP), and I think now I wait for the lawyer to call with a dollar amount, and instructions about who to write the check (or get the bank draft made out) to, and when/where to show up with it. I still need to do condo insurance (which Realtor told me I’d need to be able to prove I have before I take possession). I’ve called the cable/internet company to arrange my change of service. I need to call the phone company and cancel my landline, and do something about reserving elevators and informing my current landlord that I’m not renewing my lease. And purge. And pack. Fortunately, I’m sort of taking June and July off, to do all this. So here I go.