After meeting with two realtors and deciding on our favourite, we were quick to begin looking at houses and get things moving. We set up a date to view some homes in Cambridge after we started receiving all of the automatic home listing updates based on our criteria. Before we talk about the homes, let’s recap what we’re looking for:
Preston (Cambridge) in select neighbourhoods, Hespeler (Cambridge), select areas of North Galt (Cambridge), and South Kitchener (near or below the 7/8 highway that cuts through Kitchener from East to West). Our preferred neighbourhood is where we used to live before the landlord incident of 2010, near King and Eagle, near the downtown core of Preston. Hespeler is almost out of our price range entirely, but if we can find something we can afford, almost any area in Hespeler gets the green light. Kitchener is trickier, since it’s farther away from the 401 for Dan, and we really need to LOVE the house and overall location for this to work, but we’re not ruling anything out. Notice how I left out North Galt? It’s really not high on our list of places we want to live, because again, it’s taking us farther away from the 401 and it’s less centrally located in the region.
We’re first time home buyers, and we’re unfortunately lumped into the magic budget bracket of $200k-$250k that every other first time home buyer is in, so competition is pretty stiff. Our first trip out to see homes was somewhat discouraging because of this, but more on that shortly.
Single-detached home with at least 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, although a 3 bedroom house would be great and more than one bathroom is always appreciated. DINING ROOM. This is the biggest factor in why we can’t stand being in our rental place any longer – we want to entertain! We want to have people over and offer them a place to sit and chat with us that isn’t on the only two places to sit down in our living room. It’s a deal breaker if the house doesn’t have a dining room.
Structural issues, trashy neighbourhoods, major renovations needs. Don’t need the hassle.
House Viewing Trip # 1 – Cambridge Edition
Our first trip out included seeing 5 homes that we flagged as interesting to us. Three homes in North Galt, one in Preston, and one in Hespeler. Everything was under $250k, and met our basic criteria. Two of the homes in Galt were on the same street, Norfolk, near the Delta in Cambridge.
The first one was a flip-job, 1.5 storey with some nice looking main floor living spaces and a brand new kitchen, but Dan saw some sloppy (shoddy?) workmanship around some things that count, like brand new windows that were poorly installed and are essentially garbage now. When we drove up the street, every home seemed in pretty good condition, it was a nice looking neighbourhood. It was a shame that the neighbour immediately next to the house didn’t care at all about maintaining his junk yard, and that was a real turn off for us.
The second house was just up the street, and there were no junky homes in the immediate area. This one was a bungalow, we really liked the layout of the main floor – it had a clearly defined entrance way with a coat closet, decent sized living room and kitchen, a real dining room, and two small bedrooms on the main floor. But the master bedroom was in the basement, and Dan’s head touched the ceiling when he was standing normally. NOPE.
House #3 was a little further north, off of Munch Avenue. Driving up to the house, the neighbourhood looked like it was more than we could afford – newer 2-storey homes that couldn’t be more than 20 years old. But then we saw the house, and it all made sense. You know how sometimes in new subdivisions, there were 3 or 4 models of homes that you could choose from, and one of them is always the weeny little ugly house that no one really wants to choose? There were a few of these in the subdivision, and they stood out (in a bad way) from the rest of the homes. There was no garage, and the house was essentially sitting on the lot sideways, so the front door faced the side of the house next to it, instead of facing the street. Weird. This house was also occupied by tenants who clearly could have cared less that their home was being shown to potential buyers. I was embarrassed for them – dirty dishes in the sink, toys left all over the floor, and I’m really sure I saw a dirty diaper rolled up on the front porch. The layout was weird – long and skinny, and the only sliding doors going out to the back yard were in the master bedroom. Ick. They also had their aggressive sounding dog locked in one of the rooms, so we never got to see what was in there.
The Preston house was interesting to us – it’s in our exact old neighbourhood (which we loved), and had been on the market since October. Curious. It looked cute enough from the street, but as soon as we walked inside, it screamed “MONEY” at me – every single room desperately needed updating, the kitchen should just be torn out, and the only bathroom in the whole house was weird and gross. On our way out, we also saw a ginormous crack on an interior wall in the front hallway. I don’t think homes get cracks on the inside for no reason.
So we were sad and discouraged at this point – every house we were a little bit excited about turned out to be a mega dud, and some of them were even priced near the upper end of our budget. House #5 turned things around for us, and gave us hope for our search. This one was in Hespeler, so first of all, we were psyched that there was a house in Hespeler that was well within our budget (listed at $239,900). It’s on Bergey, which is very near the downtown core of Hespeler, just up the street from the library. It was the junior version of my mom’s house, although we didn’t know that until we were inside. Almost identical layout, 100 year old home, beautiful staircase at the front hallway, lots of character. It was staged nicely, which is the fastest way to Dan’s heart. Kitchen needed to be updated, and so did the bathroom, but everything else was done – new mechanicals (Dan’s gold seal of approval), updated windows, freshly painted. We were getting excited and thinking we hit the jackpot on our first trip out, but the master bedroom let us down. They had a queen sized bed in the room, and there was barely enough room to move around it. Even though we loved the house overall, I kept thinking that if I’m this hung up on the master bedroom size, any other potential buyer in the future will care too. We weren’t in a position to actually do anything if we did love one of the houses, we hadn’t arranged for a pre-approval yet, so almost loving this house didn’t really matter. It certainly helped us feel better about our search, knowing that there were nice things in our price range, and it got us talking about where we are willing to compromise on our list of needs and wants.
We left the last house feeling good, and set up plans for a Kitchener home tour day the next week. We’ve seen more houses since this first outing, and the Bergey house has been brought up a number of times when we’re talking about our ideal home.