Farewell to the Freshman Freelancer

As of 2018, I have finished my freshman year of freelancing. I have officially been working as a freelance writer for over a year!

It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. A whole year (actually 14 months) since I’ve worked at an office job with regular hours. A whole year of doing everything on my laptop. A whole year of very rarely putting on a real bra (work from home perk!).

The freelance life is pretty different than what I thought it would be. And actually, I don’t know if “freelance writer” is the right title for me. A lof of the work I do is just remote or contract. I have work that I complete for clients on a per project basis (e.g. two articles per week) or a set number of hours per week. But I’m not pitching magazines or online publications to write one time only pieces. Though that is something I’d like to add whenever I can find the time.

I actually prefer the more regular work I’m doing than super traditional freelance work where you just do a one-off project and then move on. It’s nice to know that I have something reliable to work on every week (well, as reliable as contract work can be). It allows me to build relationships with my clients, take on new projects with them and advance my skills. And it means that I don’t have to spend time trying to find new clients all the time.

Another reason why the title “freelance writer” doesn’t really fit is because I’m actually doing a lot more than just writing. I’m doing a lot of social media work, which has been a new found love for me. I’m doing editing, content management, emails and different types of writing like copy writing, that I haven’t done before. And I’m actually really happy that it worked out that way. One of my fears of freelance writing was that I would get burnt out and tired of writing. So I love that I can mix it up and work on my non-writing projects when I’m not feeling too inspired to put pen to paper.

It’s also allowed me to find new areas, like social media, that I’m really interested in. A year ago, I had zero experience in social media beyond my own personal accounts. Now running social media channels, scheduling posts and engaging with audiences is a part of my daily routine.

Speaking of daily routine, that has got to be my favourite part of freelancing full time. I love that I can start whenever I want. I’m not on a set schedule. So when Colin worked his 5:00am shifts, I could mimic his schedule (well, a modified version where I’d start working around 7:00am). And when Colin worked his night shift starting at 4:00pm, I could mimic that too. I’m flexible if we need to take Ellie to the vet, visit Grandma or run errands. I love having that flexibility!

I also love that every day is different. Right now, I have about seven clients on the go. So every day is a different combination of tasks to do for those clients. Of course, some of the clients have similar work that needs to be done each week, but it’s never exactly the same. And there are always brand new things popping up – like this week where I got to work on a free elopement contest.

Of course, there are things that I don’t love. I don’t love that I don’t get vacation days, sick days or benefits. The pay is variable to a degree, which can be tough at times. Some clients have run out of funding and had to eliminate my position and sometimes I’ve had to part with clients when the project or pay wasn’t working out. I dislike that there is always work to do – which makes it hard to stop working and have real time off (especially when I can do a lot of work from anywhere on my phone). Sometimes it gets lonely when I spend all day in my office with only Ellie to talk to. I hate the competitve feel with fellow freelancers when fighting for jobs and comparing rates. I’m nervous about filing taxes for the first time as a freelancer. I miss having co-workers (well, only certain co-workers). I don’t have a set trajectory for the future or really any job security.

But overall, I am so happy with my decision to go for it and try on freelancing. It’s not roses and sunshine every day but there are many rosy and shiny moments. It has allowed me to live my life the way I want to live it – if I was still working at UBC there is no way we would have adopted a dog or bought a home in Surrey. And I probably wouldn’t be able to say yes to so many awesome vacation plans. Plus, you can’t beat my commute 😉

But the best part about freelancing has to be the fact that I actually enjoy my job. I don’t wake up dreading going to work, like I did at my UBC job. I don’t daydream about quitting. I don’t stare at a screen mindlessly and waste time on Facebook all day (okay, I still do this on occasion). I’m excited about the work that I’m doing. I’m challenged by it. I’m good at it. I’m learning from it. And, most importantly, I’m really passionate about it. Again, it’s not perfect, but it is pretty great. I don’t think I’ve ever said this about a job before but a year in and I’m happy to say: I love my job!

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Looking Back on 2017

Every year I like to take some time towards the end of December to look back over the year and everything that has happened. I also like to make some predictions for the year ahead and see how accurate my predictions from last year were. So here is my review of 2017:

January:

I spent Christmas 2016 in Toronto with my family and returned to Vancouver just in time to ring in the new year. January was spent packing up my place, packing Colin’s house, trips to IKEA and shoveling snow.

February:

In February, we went with Colin’s mom and cousins to an all-inclusive resort in Huatulco, Mexico. It was so nice to leave the grey, cold and snow in Vancouver for a week of sun, beach and drinks. Plus, this was Colin and my first time in Mexico (my 32nd country!). The rest of the month was non-stop packing and moving.

Huatulco, Mexico

March:

We officially moved into our first apartment together in March – our one bedroom apartment in New West. We actually moved on Feb 28 but let’s just call it March. We also celebrated Colin’s 24th birthday and attended a date night with Young Hip & Married.

Our New West home!

April:

April was a really fun month for us! On the 1st, we brought home our Ellie pup! It was earlier than we thought we’d get a dog but looking back, we couldn’t be happier with our choice and the pup in our lives. We also celebrated our anniversary on April 16th and towards the end of the month, my sister Jade came out to visit us.

Look at that wink!

May:

May was fairly low key for us. We went on our first family camping trip with Ellie when we joined Colin’s friends for a weekend at Weever Lake.

10 points if you can spot Ellie!

June:

At the end of June, we headed up for our annual weekend in Pender Harbour. It was really fun to have that time away from everything with family and to be able to bring Ellie with us. We also had a really special time spreading Randy’s ashes up in Pender – one of his favourite spots.

July:

After Pender, we had about a week or so at home and then we were back on the road. This time to San Francisco! I love SF and was so excited to explore this city more and share it with Colin. We found lots of cool new gems (like Coit Tower and this delicious Korean restaurant). Plus, we got to see HAMILTON!

Hello, Lombard!

HAMILTON!!!!!

August:

In August, we headed up to Kelowna to visit Colin’s brother and his new baby boy. It was awesome to spend a weekend away and to meet the newest member of the Marriott clan. This is also the month when we started getting a bit more serious about our house hunting.

Colin and baby Jordan!

September:

Somehow, by September we had taken our house hunt to the extreme and actually had an accepted offer on a home! But outside of house stuff, we still had more traveling to do. In September, my mom came out from Toronto for a week in Vancouver. And then Colin, his mom, my mom and I all set off on a west coast train trip! The four of us journeyed by train to Portland, Eugene, San Francisco and Napa Valley. It was an amazing trip!

October:

October was all about the house. We closed and got the keys on October 6th and moved in on October 10th. Leading up to that move was so much packing, throwing things away, driving over boxes, sending emails, filling out paperwork and meeting with insurance people, mortgage people and bank people. Who knew it would be so complicated and time consuming to buy a home? But after all of that, we are so happy in our new place and hope to call it home for quite some time.

Our new home!

November:

November was kind of a chill month for us – which was needed after all of the house crazy and a busy December ahead of us. I got a new phone and buckled down to do lots of writing work.

December:

December was a crazy busy month and it was jam packed with family goodness. My dad planned a last minute trip out to Vancouver and it was so nice to host him here. The weather gods must have been smiling down because it was nothing but sunshine the entire time he was here. After he left, we had two days to pack up, finish off work stuff, watch the new Star Wars movie, and then we were off again. Onto our second trip to Mexico – with my family this time. We met the Lees in Toronto and carried on for a fun week in Cozumel. On the way back, we got to see some of my Ang family at the airport and then returned to Vancouver for Christmas with Colin’s side. It was a whirlwind but so nice to see everyone this month.

Christmas at Terminal 3!

My 2016 predictions:

So last year on Dec 22, I wrote my 2016 review post and broke down my predictions for 2017 into career, living and travel.

One of my big career goals for 2017 was to end the year being able to say that I am a writer. I was hoping to be full time freelance by the end of the year. I’m really proud to say that not only am I a full time freelancer now but that I have been all year long. I would confidently say I am a writer (and have said so when people ask what I do). But my work also went in cool new directions and I’ve found a lot of interesting projects in social media and editing. So I am a writer – but I’m more than that too. I really love the new areas I’m learning about and the possibilities for growth in these areas in the future.

On Dec 22, 2016, I was putting the call out for an apartment for Colin and I to rent. Little did I know that we would find an apartment a few days later and then move out of that place and buy a condo of our own before the year was up. Becoming homeowners has been the biggest shock and surprise of 2017 by far. Did not see this one coming! If someone had told me I’d own a home in Surrey with my partner and dog at 25 years old, I would have laughed so hard. But here we are. And while it wasn’t something I thought would happen, I’m so glad it did.

Last year I knew about our Mexico trip in February, surprise SF trip in the summer and train trip in September. I thought Europe was a possibility, but that turned into our second Mexico trip with the Lees. So there weren’t really any surprises travel-wise in 2017. We added a couple little trips but nothing major. But no complaints here – we got in lots of “local” (North American) travel and I really loved all the places we visited and people we got to visit with.

2017 in summary:

2017 was a big year for me and for my little family. It was my first year as a full time freelancer who works from home in a field that I am passionate about. It’s probably the first time I’ve been able to say I loved my work all year long and I really enjoy what I do. Travel wise, I think I learned to appreciate trips that aren’t as exotic or unique. Everyone and their dog has done an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean but it was still really fun and a great way to spend time with family. I’m learning to appreciate local travel and smaller trips.

Despite living away from my family in Toronto, I feel like I got to have a lot of family moments this year. And for our little family, we grew by one when we adopted Ellie, our wee pup. And we took another big step by not only moving in together but also buying our first home and returning to Surrey. So it’s been a year of some pretty monumental changes and shifts that will be with us for a long while. Overall, it’s been a really good year. I didn’t think it would be nearly as life changing as it was when this year started but all of the changes have been for the better and I’m excited about how they’ll continue to shake out into 2018.

Looking ahead to 2018:

My favourite part about these posts is predicting what will come in the next year. And maybe it’s because I love surprising myself and seeing how different things actually end up being. 2017 was definitely full of some big surprises that I didn’t think would be happening. But that has sort of been the case every year. So I’m thinking 2018 will also be full of a bunch of stuff I can’t predict. But here’s what I’m planning and hoping for:

Career: I want to continue working as a freelancer and growing in my writing, editing, content managing and social media. I want to strengthen my relationships with current clients, get raises, take on new projects and be even more successful. I want to get better at my craft and be more successful. I love being able to work from home and I want to keep fine tuning my work so that I’m on a schedule, in an office and working on projects that I absolutely love.

Travel: So far we have a trip to Ireland planned for April (which we are SO EXCITED about!). We got an amazing flight deal (about $320 per person, round trip) and can’t wait to get back to Europe. It’ll be a new country for both Colin and I and a new adventure. I’m itching to go out and do a big trip so I’m sure Ireland will satisfy that. We’re also planning to spend next Christmas in Toronto, which will be a first for Colin. I’m really excited to introduce him to all of my family traditions. And then there is talk of a trip to Arizona over Colin’s birthday in March. And I’m also hoping for some smaller trips in between Ireland in April and Toronto in December. Maybe we make it out to Calgary for stampede and to see Colin’s cousins, a weekend in Seattle, a last minute deal to Vegas, a weekend in Kelowna to see Kyle, a mini trip to Victoria to see Emilie – lots of options!

Life: So I feel pretty confident saying that not much is going to change on the home front. We’re so happy in our new home and with our pup. We have no plans to move or add to our family in the next year and I’m really okay with that. We’re not rushing down an aisle or to bring any human kids into our life (a dog kid is just fine, thanks). As I said, it’s been a big year. So 2018 is our time to just sit back and enjoy that. I want to work on the smaller things like getting my office set up just right, keeping plants alive, cooking better meals in our kitchen, using our condo gym, going to Zumba classes, reading more, cleaning more often, going out on more date nights and just being more purposeful with my time and working on things to improve myself and my life. It doesn’t have to be flashy or dramatic but just bettering the little things. That’s the goal for 2018.

A Family-Filled December

This month was pretty crazy for us! But despite being really busy, it was awesome because it was a month jam-packed with family.

Right at the start of the month, I got to see my good friend Jordan for a sushi dinner after his big trip to Asia and then my friend Ale for brunch, who I haven’t seen in over a year. It was so awesome to catch up with these two!

And then on Dec 5th we got to pick up my dad from the airport for his last minute week-long trip to Vancouver. I love when my family from Toronto comes out to visit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as I would like, especially with my dad’s family as they are 4 people. So I was really happy that my dad decided to come out on his own and spend a week with us out west. Now that Vancouver has really become my home, I love the chance to share it with my family back east.

Dad lucked out and we got nothing but sunshine for his entire week here. I loved showing him our new home and indulging in our neighbourhood sushi place. We got to do some x-mas shopping at the mall and discover some new and old parks in Surrey, which Ellie loved. We introduced him to Colin’s mom, Margie, and hosted our first dinner party at our house.

We also got to do lots of fun festive stuff like checking out the lights at Lafarge Lake, attending the Yule Duel in Gastown, seeing the Four Seasons Christmas trees and Hyatt gingerbread houses, and visiting the Christmas Market at Canada Place. We browsed Granville Island, had brunch with relatives, enjoyed deluxe theatre seating, and ate lots of good food like Black and Blue happy hour apps, poke bowls and steaks at The Keg. All in all, it was an amazing week in Vancouver with my dad!

And then two days after he left, we followed him back to Toronto to meet up with my step family, the Lees, for our trip to Mexico! Before this year, Colin and I had never been to Mexico and now we’ve just come back from our second all-inclusive Mexican resort in the same year. This time our group of 15 journeyed to Cozumel, Mexico.

I love family trips like this where you get to spend time with everyone over the week instead of just a quick dinner where you make small talk with three people and then have to leave. It was so great to spend time with the Lees, who I haven’t seen in almost a year. It’s crazy how big the little cousins have gotten!

I’m not a huge excursion person when it comes to these resorts. I’m really happy to just lounge by the pool with my book, hang in the ocean, cruise the buffets and head to the swim up bar. And since I get seasick, I happily passed on the snorkel trip and the catamaran sail (which ended in the group getting rescued because they couldn’t get back to shore). But everyone seemed to have fun no matter what they ended up doing.

These were our rooms!

A typical day for us: hit the breakfast buffet around 9/10 and then head to the pool. There we would play with the little kids, take them to the bar for Dirty Monkeys and push them around in Jade’s giant inflatable duck. We’d lunch at the nearby buffet and be sure to fill up on fresh nacho chips and even fresher fish. Afternoons I usually spent in a chair by the pool reading my book and chatting with family. We’d usually stake out a row of chairs and take turns heading to the beach, playing with the kids and reading our books. Around 5/6 we’d head back to the room to shower up and then meet everyone for dinner. After dinner it was mini disco time for the kids and then we’d either take in the nightly show or play card games in the lobby.

The kids at mini disco!

Jadey and Maddie in the pool

Outside of our typical day activities, there were some extra special moments. On our last full day, we visited San Gervasio, a Mayan ruin, which was really cool to see. We took a jeep around the island and stopped for roadside chicken and ice cream. It was a really fun adventure and nice to see more of Cozumel. There was the fire show on the beach, which really blew us all away. There was basketball (both on the courts and in the pool) with Jade and Lee. And of course, there was the day Colin finally received his luggage after it had been missing for the first 5 days of our vacation…

One of the ruins at San Gervasio

But for me, it was the little moments that I loved the most. When my littlest cousin Jonny would let me hold him because he eventually recognized me. When I got to pick up Maddie from kid camp and she showed me all of her Paw Patrol toys. When Lara kept asking when Colin and I were getting married. When I got to connect and catch up with my aunts, uncles and grandparents on the pool chairs. When Chris taught us how to play Fuji Flush and I went to buy it on Amazon the minute we got home. When we watched the kids dance to the chu-chu-ah song and couldn’t get it out of our heads.

The little cousins hamming it up!

It was an awesome vacation and a great chance to spend time with family I don’t get to see very often. It was also really relaxing. A part of me felt guilty for not taking advantage of all of the excursions and activities. But I enjoyed my vacation and came back feeling relaxed and refreshed. It was nice to take a break from my laptop and real work.

On the way home, we got one more added dose of family. During our layover in Toronto, my mom and some other members of the Ang Gang showed up at the airport to hang out with us. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed so we couldn’t do dinner, but they brought up take-out and lots of Christmas presents. It was a short visit, but very sweet.

Christmas at Terminal 3!

And then back in Vancouver, it was time for even more family. On the 24th, we picked up Ellie, who we had missed so much. We visited Colin’s dad, Randy, at the cemetery and then spent the night watching Christmas movies and baking Christmas tree brownies. The next day, we went over to family friends Jackie and Derek’s home for Christmas breakfast and stockings. It was a really nice time to be with a small group and enjoy a really yummy brunch and fun stocking opening. Plus, it was snowing so we got a white Christmas!

We went back to Margie’s to open more presents and then it was off to grandma’s. We got her ready and headed over to Uncle Rod’s for Christmas dinner. It was so much fun playing games with Colin’s cousins and then eating way too much turkey for dinner.

We rolled into bed later that night with full bellies and full hearts from a month filled with family love.

Merry Christmas!

A Year Later

Today my good friend Emilie came over to see our new place and catch up. The same Emilie I was sharing a hotel room with in Ho Chi Minh City exactly one year ago. We both couldn’t believe it had already been a year. How time flies! And how life changes in just one year.

Last year, Emilie and I were just a couple days into our Vietnam trip. This was my big escape trip. It was the kind of trip you book last minute and your stomach does flip flops as you finalize the flights. It was an exciting trip. It made me smile uncontrollably. It was also a great way to run away. It was a nice break from real life. It marked the end of one chapter of my life.

When I left for Vietnam, I had just quit my job at UBC. I was living in a studio in Kits. I had a couple of writing gigs but nothing long-lasting or high-paying. We were still fresh off of the loss of Randy and so many things were up in the air. My life seemed very uncertain at that moment. Vietnam was kind of like the fork in the road.

If you had asked me a year ago, over eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast at Hello Hotel in HCMC, where I would be in a year, I would have optimistically said I would hope to be writing part-time, working another part-time job I didn’t hate and looking for apartments with Colin, maybe in Burnaby or East Van.

But of course, I was wrong.

Emilie was visiting me today from Victoria where she is living now and going to law school. Last year, she was working at Science World, pretty fresh off leaving her Master’s program at UBC. Now she’s in a completely different field and different city!

And, of course, I was way off for my predictions for myself too. I’m working full-time from home as a writer. It’s not exactly what I thought it would look like. In fact, a lot more of my time is spent in content management and social media than actual writing. But I am loving it! I didn’t even know I was interested in those fields. I’m learning a ton and there is so much room to grow. It’s scary and there’s a lot of unknown but I actually love what I do for work. I definitely wasn’t saying that when I worked at UBC.

I’m no longer in my Kits studio or even looking for rentals with Colin. We live in the home that we OWN in SURREY! I could have never predicted that.

And then there’s Ellie 🙂 We had talked about getting a dog sometime down the line. But Ellie coming into our lives this soon was a big surprise (even though I pretty much orchestrated the whole thing).

So life is totally different than it was a year ago. It’s way better than I thought it would be at this time. I’ve been catching up with a few friends over the last couple of weeks and it’s crazy to see how much has changed in such a short time.

Everyone keeps asking me (or us) what’s next. But I’m pretty happy where we are. We did quite a bit in a year. It’s been a lot of big changes. They were all positive changes. But it was a lot very quickly. I would be so happy if the next big things in our lives were awesome work promotions, really cool trips and new successes in the kitchen or at the gym. We can hold off on rings or babies or any of that business for a while now. We have this awesome life with our own home, a dog and jobs we love. And I just want to take a breath and enjoy it all.

Of course, that being said, if I had to predict right now where I would be in November 2018, I’m sure I would be way off. Life is just funny like that! Let’s hope that like my 2016 predictions, things are different for the better!

Home Sweet Home

After all of our house buying crazy, we finally did it. We bought a house.

Okay, a condo. But in Vancouver, that’s as close as we’re ever going to get to a house.

It was a lot of work to get here! There was so much paperwork, meetings, emails, signatures and endless to-do lists. But finally FINALLY we are finished and fully settled in. Last night, Colin and I popped the bubbly our realtor had given us on the day we got the keys. We decided to save it until everything on our Moving To Do list was crossed off.

Cheers to our new house!

So we met with the notary on October 3rd I think it was. I don’t remember the day but I do remember feeling so awfully sick. I had the worst runny nose and watery eyes, which everyone had to endure for like an hour while we signed all the papers. It was gross.

But then two days later, we got our keys! We met our realtor at our brand new home and she had a huge gift basket for us full of fun goodies (like the bubbly). We had also brought over a few boxes and a dining room table we had bought off Craigslist, so we moved that in too.

The next few days were all about running back and forth from New West to Surrey. We wanted to bring over as much as possible in Colin’s car so on uHaul day, we’d just have the big stuff to worry about. Honestly, these days were probably the most stressful. As well as moving things, we were still packing, eating Thanksgiving dinners, arranging for painters, etc.

And then on October 10th, we moved! Colin’s amazing friends helped us out and it was the fastest and easiest move ever. Well, it was a little bit complicated because we had to board Ellie at the vet for the day and then go to Coquitlam to pick up a couch we had bought (another online find). But the actual loading and unloading was super easy and we finished ahead of schedule – even with a huge rainstorm in the middle!

So why has it taken us two more weeks to actually settle in? It’s not because we’re bad unpackers. In fact, we had the place basically all unpacked the next day. And we had done our IKEA run ahead of time, so there wasn’t too much to buy. But there was the issue of our old apartment.

We had our lease until the end of October. So to save a little money, we decided to rent it out. We had guests book to stay at our New West place from Oct 14-24. So after we moved to Surrey, we still had to go back to New West to clean, ensure they had everything they needed and meet them with the keys. And worst of all, we had to leave our internet behind.

Lucky for us, our guests checked out a few days early (not because they hated our place but because they rented a place in Vancouver and were just staying at ours until they found something). So on the 21st we headed over to pack up all of our stuff and bring sweet WiFi back to our lives. Sadly, our internet company is the worst. We didn’t get connected to the internet until the 25th, despite being told every day until then that it should be working. Dealing with our internet provider was a nightmare.

And then yesterday, we headed back to New West to do a final clean, move our second bed out of the apartment and return the keys to our landlord. Once we got the bed all set up here in Surrey we were finally, blissfully done moving! The only thing left on our to-do list is to copy our mail key (which, in our defense, we tried to do but the key copy place didn’t have the right key) and buy some plants I won’t kill.

Okay, enough rambling! We’re home and we’re loving it. It’s so fun to have this much space. I love having my own office (/guest bedroom). There’s a great green space right across the street for Ellie. Our local mom-and-pop cafe is the best – and I would know because I spent a lot of time there in our pre-WiFi days. And the building next to us is going to become a Shoppers, grocery store and bank. Yay!

Here are some shots of our place. Please excuse my horrible phone-quality photos! I promise our place is actually beautiful and spacious.

Our first plant – courtesy of Margie. Hopefully we dont kill it!

Our built in shelves featuring our beloved Funko Pops 🙂

Colin’s desk

Our little gallery wall!

The kitchen

Our bedroom. It’s actually a good size with two big closets but tough to tell in this shot.

Our ensuite bathroom! It is so luxurious having two bathrooms.

One part of our balcony featuring our recycling bins 🙂

The view from our balcony. Sadly, not the mountain view we all wish we had.

Second bathroom!

In suite washer and dryer! One of the best parts!

My office/the guest bedroom

Ellie thinks the guest bed is hers…

Where all the freelancing magic happens!

Ellie wondering why the heck I’m running around the apartment taking photos instead of rubbing her belly. Fair question.

Welcome home!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 4

Note: This part was written on September 1st. Currently, it’s the last in the series, but I suspect there will be a couple more parts coming. Those ones should be written and published in real time. While this one was written on Sept 1, I do my best to catch you up on everything that happened (SO MUCH) since part three. And yes, it’s as lengthy and rambly as usual.


Part 4: In which I, the incessant rambler and over-thinker, finally become a homeowner.

Welcome to our new home! We own it 🙂

That’s right: I AM A HOMEOWNER!

How insane is that? Even more insane, it’s not the townhouse we first fell in love with.

Let me catch you up, because so much has happened in less than a week.

So last Saturday, Colin and I went to see the townhouse and fell in love (part 3 of this series). The next day, we went back to the townhouse with Margie, Colin’s mom, and our realtor, Leslie. 

We pulled up as Leslie was just coming out of the house. She greeted us and then very quickly said, “Well, they’re definitely overpriced.”

I was intrigued. Did that mean we could get in for way less than we thought? Score! But then she continued to list some of her concerns with the house. Things we hadn’t noticed, like older appliances and a hole in the basement ceiling, came to light. Leslie also mentioned how busy the open house was, how the sellers had only lived there a year and how the realtor didn’t have any strata documents for her to look at.

To say we were deflated would be an understatement.

So we went to tour the house again and it was kind of painful. While Colin and I tried to point out all the parts of the townhouse we loved, Margie and Leslie continued to voice their concerns. There were the uneven floors, the heat in the second bedroom, the paint in the basement, and so on. It hurt to hear people talking bad about our house.

Despite the issues, Colin and I still felt that if we could get it for a good price, it would be worth it. We loved the location, the amenities, the space and the fact that a townhouse gave us three separate levels. But we were ignoring some of the issues. The complex is old – built in 1970. And there’s upkeep with a three-storey 1500+ squarefoot house. Plus, all the issues like ceiling holes and slanted floors we had missed the first time we toured.

So we drove off, feeling a bit less keen on our dream house but still holding out a bit of hope. We decided to check out another open house by Gateway station. We were in the neighbourhood, so what’s the harm, right?

As we pulled up, Colin and I noted how much we liked the look of the complex. The complex, Access, is right by the skytrain, but off on a quiet road. It was much newer (built in 2002), looked great from the outside, and was a four-storey condo complex, which we like much more than the high-rise condos.

We arrived intending to look at just one apartment but ended up touring three.  The first was a one bedroom plus den loft apartment. We knew that wouldn’t be enough space for us but the realtor was waiting outside happy to show the space, and we were excited to see a loft.

We loved the loft! It was awesome to have the levels and the super high ceilings. And there were even mountain views! Unfortunately, it was more of a home for one person or two people without much stuff. A two bedroom loft might be an option but we’d get priced out of that pretty soon.

The next was the apartment we had come to see – a two bedroom on the third floor for $375,000. While I loved the wood laminate in the living space, the layout was what I’m calling “skinny rectangle.” It seems to be the default condo layout. The skinny rectangle is when you walk in and it’s just one straight line of space for the kitchen, dining room and living room. Everything always feels very tight and would be impossible to try and put desks or even a proper table in there.

As we were planning to leave, someone mentioned that there was another two bedroom having an open house in the next building over (same complex). We figured while we were here, we might as well check it out. Funny how a fluke tip to check out the next building would totally change everything for our house hunt.

We headed up to the apartment on the second floor. We stepped in, and immediately we were all smiling. The space was big, it was bright and, most importantly, it wasn’t a skinny rectangle. There were multiple spaces, little corners and tons of windows. The bedrooms were a good size, there were lots of closets, and the floors were nice. The kitchen was good and the balcony was large. We were pretty impressed. Until we heard the price.

$409,800.

Well, that’s why we hadn’t seen this place online. I generally ignore everything over $400,000. I understand paying over four in New West but in Surrey – c’mon! But at the same time, we had never seen a layout like this before.

I mentioned to the realtor that she was priced over $30,000 more than the other two bedroom we had just seen, and she replied that it was due to the space. She also slipped in that they would be reducing the price the next day. I nodded politely, assuming this had been a wasted open house for us since there’s no way we could afford it.

So we emailed our realtor and casually mentioned that we were interested in this place and the potential price drop. We also sent a couple more apartment complexes that we were interested in, Ethical Gardens and Pacifica. Our realtor let us know that this unit in Access had actually been on the market for over 40 days, which was a promising sign. On Tuesday, they reduced the price from $409,800 to $398,000. Our ears perked up.

At the same time, we were dealing with all of our mortgage issues.

The main issue was our push to use the mortgage professional we had been working with and Margie’s reluctance. To do our due diligence, we agreed to take a meeting with her bank. On the way there, Colin and I agreed that we would keep open minds, but not sign anything. We wanted to be loyal to our mortgage professional who had been so helpful thus far.

To our surprise, the meeting at the bank went way better than we thought it would. Margie’s guy, Saj, was personable, knowledgeable and definitely looking out for her best interest. He broke down all the numbers, was able to offer us a great rate and was patient with any questions we might have.

To summarise a lot of back and forth, we ended up going with Saj and Margie’s bank for our mortgage. We felt bad that we couldn’t continue with our mortgage professional. But having Margie’s support was important for our mortgage. And for Colin and me, we wanted to make sure we were getting a good rate and working with a good person. We get both of those things from Margie’s guy at her bank.

During this time, we also let go of our townhouse dream. The age of the complex and the issues brought to light were starting to make sense to us. And the fact that both our realtor and Margie were against it wasn’t a good sign. Colin and I agreed that our next home could be a townhouse, but we could let it go this time.

So on Thursday, we arranged with our realtor, Leslie, to go back and visit the unit at Access again. We were excited to tour it again and liked it even better the second time. I didn’t let myself start thinking that it could be ours yet – I didn’t want to get disappointed. But I was definitely getting attached to the place.

Leslie really liked it. She pointed out how rare the layout and location of the unit in the building was. She understood why they were trying to price high but believed there would be some wiggle room. It was really reassuring to hear Leslie speak so highly of the unit as she’s had experience in that complex. She said she hadn’t seen anything like that one before. We got even more excited.

We also checked out a unit at Ethical Gardens. I could tell as we were walking through, Colin was already sold on Access. While there were some pluses about Ethical Gardens, like a super long kitchen, giant closets and proximity to the mall, there were some noticeable downsides. For one, the living space was tiny and likely wouldn’t hold a couch and a dining room table. It wasn’t the one for us.

Ethical Gardens. Lovely building, but not the right one for us.

So as we walked back to the car, Leslie gave us some more info and said to call her if we wanted to put in an offer on Access. We headed home to crunch some numbers but I think we both knew what we wanted to do by then.

We called and officially put in an offer.

And then that’s where the real drama and waiting by the phone began. There was a counter, and another counter. There were multiple contracts to sign. There were emails. There were calls with the realtor, with the bank and with each other. And there were rushed texts and constant inbox refreshing.

All to say, just over 24 hours after our initial offer, we were signing the final contract. We accepted their latest counter and we were officially buying a house. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Of course, there’s a little asterisk next to that. We have the next week to remove subjects which means we need to do the home inspection, appraisal and make sure all our financing comes through with the bank. If no red flags come up, we’ll pay the deposit next Friday and officially be homeowners. And then we pay up on October 5th and get the keys October 6th.

How crazy is that?

It’s insane to think how fast everything has gone. In the big picture, it’s a little crazy to look back and see all that has happened in a year. Next Friday, the day our subjects are removed and we officially get the house, is September 8th – a year to the day when Colin’s dad, Randy, passed away. I would have never believed if someone told me at this time last year that by now I would be living in a condo in New West with Colin and our dog, working fulltime as a freelancer, and now buying a home. Unbelievable! Colin joked that we might as well get married and have a baby this year just to get it all done.

And while it feels like I’ve been looking at homes forever, this part of the process went way faster than I thought it would. I’ve been looking online at homes for a few months. And in that time, we’ve probably been to about a dozen or so open houses. But I never would have imagined that we’d go to an open house, schedule a viewing, put in an offer, go through negotiations and have a signed contract on a house in less than a week. We saw the place for the very first time on Sunday and had a contract signed before Friday night’s dinner. Insane!

Colin and I were also saying to each other how lucky we got on this one. The very first home we put an offer in was the one we got. Of course, our first offer wasn’t accepted; we had to negotiate. But still – it was all with just the one home. And we weren’t in a situation with multiple offers where we had to outbid someone else. I always assumed if we bought a home in the Greater Vancouver Area, we would be searching for months, putting in offers on a few places before one worked out, competing with multiple offers and being forced to pay way above list price. But nope, none of that happened! Maybe that’s why people move to Surrey…

So yeah, that’s my life right now. I still can’t truly believe that we have a house – that we are homeowners. It sounds so crazy to me. I’m not sure it’ll feel real for a while yet. I wonder if it will feel the same as just renting in a new place. I hope not. I hope it’s different. I hope it feels like home. And I hope we’re happy there for a long time. Or a long-ish time.

And until then, my brain gets to be filled with all of the logistics and stuff we need to get done. For the next week, we hold our breath and wait while the financing, inspection and appraisal get done. We cross our fingers and hope that nothing bad happens and we can get everything finalized on Friday. My mom is also coming in from Toronto on Friday, so we get to bring her to the place, which is even more exciting.

And then there’s all the fun of moving. We have to tell our landlord we’re ending our one year lease super early and hope he’s forgiving about any penalties we have to pay. We have to switch our internet over, which was such a headache when we moved here from Kits. We have to cancel our utilities and start new ones in Surrey. We have to figure out home insurance. We have to pick paint and hire painters. We have to get boxes. We have to rent a uhaul.

I sort of feel like we just moved – which I guess we did, since it was only Feb 28 that we moved in here. So crazy that we’re going to be doing it all over again in such a short amount of time. But hopefully after this one, we don’t have to move again for a long time.

I’ve never lived in the same place for very long, and even less so in my adult life in my own homes. The longest would have been 14 months at my place in Kits before this one. So it’s interesting to think that this is going to be a long-term move. We don’t think this is our forever home, but it could be good for a long time. There’s enough space for us to be comfortable there as two with a home office/guest room and space to move the office into the main room, should we want to put a kid in the second room sometime down the line.

And it’s a move to Surrey, which is bittersweet. I know Colin is so excited to be closer to his friends and close to work. I’m excited for him. And I’m excited we’re by a skytrain so I can go and see my friends. And I know our neighbourhood is just going to keep getting better. The sad part is being just that much farther from Vancouver and leaving New West after such a short time. If we are going to be looking for more space for less money in our next move, it will likely still be in Surrey or even farther out. So New West isn’t really in the cards, at least not for a long time. Maybe we can come back here as retirees 🙂

But it’s all exciting! It’s nerve wracking and there’s still so much to do and wait on. But it’s exciting! We bought a house. We’re homeowners. That is just bananas!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 3

Note: This post was written on August 26. If you’re following along in the series, this post was written after our meeting with the mortgage professional and after some refinement on our down payment number (not as huge as we once thought it would be but still a good number). It’s the third part in a long and rambly home buying journey. You’ve been warned.


So you know how window shopping is actually the worst because you see all the pretty things you can’t buy?

Yeah, that’s what open houses are like.

We’ve been to about 10 open houses by now in New West and Surrey. We popped into a couple around our neighbourhood and then scheduled out a weekend to see some in Surrey. So far, it’s been really informative. It’s great to get a feel for new neighbourhoods, see what is available, figure out what we like and don’t like, etc. When asked if we were working with a realtor, we’d say that we were just getting a feel for the market and were probably looking to buy in the new year. The selling realtor would praise us and our great decision to do some market research. Our parents were supportive and our mortgage professional thought it was a good idea.

So where did it all go wrong?

When we saw our dream house.

Okay, the outside isn’t that dreamy but I swear it’s nice in there!

During a late night scroll through my phone, I received an email alert that a new house had been listed in our Surrey areas. Curious, I clicked on the link. And I was intrigued immediately. It was a townhouse. The place was 10 minutes from the skytrain and mall, had an outdoor pool and playground, was three storeys and over 1500 square feet. Our current apartment is just over 500 square feet, so you can imagine how excited I was for the prospect of three times that!

I sent Colin (who was sleeping at the time) a message asking him to remind me to show him the place the next day. The next afternoon, I walked him through the listing. Colin was also intrigued. There weren’t too many photos so we were curious what the place really looked like. Was it actually three floors? Where did they put all that square footage?

So on Saturday, we rolled up to the open house. As we pulled into the abundant visitors’ parking across from a swingset, playground and basketball course, we began joking with each other saying, “I hope we hate it! The inside better not be very nice.”

But, it was really nice.

We had arrived a bit before the 2pm open house start time but were ushered in by the realtor. Arriving early allowed us to have the home to ourselves and we were free to ask the realtor all of our questions.

We walked into the living/dining room and were immediately impressed by how big it was. The photos online made it look way smaller. Next we checked out the good-sized back deck and discovered a shared, enclosed backyard where we could let Ellie roam free (if our neighbours were cool with it).

We headed upstairs to find two giant bedrooms. Seriously, such huge spaces! We were always thinking the second bedroom would be my office and when we have guests, we’d put a bed down on the ground. But with a second bedroom of this size, we would easily be able to fit a bed and all my office stuff at the same time. The bathroom upstairs was also giant and very modern.

One small corner of a very big second bedroom

The kitchen was updated and had pretty good cabinet space. We talked about where we might put a microwave and already I could see us living in the house.

Last, we went downstairs to see the finished basement. We were warned that it wasn’t quite finished but were pleasantly surprised. The space was huge! There was in-suite laundry, a half bath, storage and tons of space for hanging out.

Colin and I were getting kind of giddy. We started asking the realtor more serious questions such as the date for offers and when the current family was hoping to move out. We left with nervous smiles – what the hell were we going to do?

We sat in Colin’s parked car for a good 10 minutes just talking through the situation. Our original plan was to get our pre-approval in October and start looking for homes in the winter with a move-in date of Feb/March. We talked through the money situation and whether or not we could afford the $398,000 list price (or more if it goes above asking). And then we started talking about the logstics – could we get pre-approved fast enough to make an offer? Would our parents be willing to commit to down payments and get that money to us? Could we find a realtor?

ARE WE CRAZY?

The way I felt in the car is the same way I feel when I book a big trip. “Am I crazy?” keeps flashing in my mind. I’m nervous and I’m excited. I can’t stop smiling but I also can’t stop letting out exasperated breaths. It’s that feeling of taking a risk but knowing the outcome could be so good. I never thought I would feel that way about a house.

And best of all, Colin was totally on the same page. A part of me was scared that I would fall in love with the place and Colin would not be feeling it. Honestly, that might have been better because then he could have talked me down. But Colin was just as into it as I was. We both walked through the townhouse and actually felt like we were walking through a home. It felt like someplace we could live and be happy for a long time. We saw our futures there.

So after crunching a few numbers and assuring ourselves that it wouldn’t hurt to at least try, we decided to go for it. Could we pull this off? Remains to be seen.

Our first step was to talk to our parents. I texted my mom and called my dad – no reply from either. Colin’s mom had called us just as we were leaving the house to make plans for dinner – perfect. On the way to her house, we sent our mortgage professional an email asking if our crazy dream of getting the world’s fastest pre-approval was even possible.

Over the rest of the afternoon, dinner and dog walk, we talked to Margie about our dream home. I was so impressed and grateful that Colin totally took the lead on this one. He was the one who started using words like “dream house” and “we fell in love with it.” It made me feel so good to know that this wasn’t some scheme of mine I had pulled him into. Colin was just as into this as I was.

I also got to talk to my parents that evening. And to our surprise, all three of our parents were on board. Of course, they wanted to make sure we were doing our due diligence and asking all the right questions. But they were all super supportive. Colin and I kept expecting someone to say, “What? Of course you can’t buy a townhouse. Are you kidding?” But nobody did. We were expecting to be talked off the ledge but instead we were encouraged to jump.

So we emailed a realtor I had been communicating with to try and get the ball rolling. And we made plans with Margie to go back to tomorrow’s open house so we could show her the place.

When we finally got home, Colin and I were mentally and physically drained. Poor Colin had worked at 5am, so he was super tired. But I think our brains were also fried from all of the what-ifs and how-abouts of the day.

Lying in bed, Colin asked again, “Are we crazy?”

I mean, we probably are. It does seem incredibly fast. But there are also so many good points. I’ve been looking at homes for a couple of months now and I’ve never seen something this big, this nice, in this location for this price. And it’s the first one that has really felt like a home. There’s something about having multiple levels in a townhouse and not being able to see every square inch of your house from the front door that’s pretty cool. We asked the realtor about other units in the complex and he said they don’t come up often. The last unit to sell was winter 2016 – almost an entire year ago. So I’m scared if we don’t act on this one, we’ll lose out. And if this is a home we spend 5, 10, 15+ years in, will it really matter if we put in an offer two months earlier than we had planned? Doubt it.

But it still feels crazy. And maybe, even impossible. I’m trying not to get my hopes up. I know it is still such a long shot for this house to be ours. First, we have to hear back from our mortgage professional and see if she can help us out. Then, assuming she can, we’d have to get all our financial documents to her. Next we’re waiting on the lender and praying we get a good mortgage rate. Banking (pun intended) on a good rate and this place being in our price range, we then have to work with a realtor and come up with a good offer. And then there’s hoping that our offer is accepted over everyone else’s.

So yeah, we have a ton of hoops to jump through. Our mortgage professional could write us back tomorrow with a simple, “Yeah, you guys are nuts. You can’t get pre-approved fast enough and you’ll never be able to afford that place.” Or by the time we get approved, the place could have sold. Or if we manage to get an offer in on time, there could be a bidding war that totally goes over our heads. Or maybe some money bags will swoop in tomorrow and offer way more than asking and this will all be for nothing.

But despite this mountain of obstacles we’d have to climb, I’m still hopeful. I can’t deny that part of me fell in love with this house. Walking down the stairs, I actually felt like I was in a home – not just an apartment or a rental. It felt like someplace we could grow into. There were little things we’d want to change right away (like painting the very pink and very blue bedrooms) but nothing major. And there were still enough projects to keep us busy down the road (like re-doing the weird textured walls in the basement). I could see us cooking in the kitchen, Colin playing video games in the basement and me typing away in my office/second bedroom. I could see Ellie running around the backyard while Colin fires up the grill. And I could even see our future kid playing on the swings right next to our house and inviting his or her friends over to swim in our pool.

What was that about not getting my hopes up?

I know real estate isn’t supposed to be an emotional thing. But how can you not get attached to the biggest purchase of your life that you’ll spend so much time in? I can’t imagine buying a house I didn’t love. So since this one has already won my heart, I guess I just have to be prepared to have my heart broken…

… while still holding onto a glimmer of hope that we could actually end up living there!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 2

Note: This part of the series was written in mid-August. Again, if long and rambly posts on home buying/life updates are not your deal, feel free to skim or skip!


So this has been one fairly eventful week. It all culminates in an update on the home buying front, but there are some other life details thrown in there, because buying a home isn’t supposed to be straightforward, is it?

At the start of this week, I was thinking it would be business as usual in our disgustingly hot apartment in New West. I figured it would be lots of working from Starbucks (I need their AC), wee pup walks and absolutely no travel or home updates. Clearly, I was wrong.

We actually decided to leave New West for a bit and headed out to Kelowna to visit Colin’s brother Kyle, his girlfriend, Corbie, and their brand new baby, Jordan.

I hadn’t been to Kelowna since 2012 when I went up for Residence Advisor Orientation at the UBC-Okanagan campus. To be fair, this should barely count as visiting Kelowna since we never left campus. I’ve been up to Kelowna three times before this and every single time I only saw UBCO. So this trip was a nice change.

It was a bit of a trek up to Kelowna, but we had our awesome road trip playlist, wee pup snuggles and a really good chat about life and money. I read somewhere that the best time to have serious conversations with a guy is when he’s driving. He’s in his element, he’s able to focus on the road, he doesn’t have to look directly at you and you’re not distracted by anything since it’s just the two of you. Turns out, that advice held true. Colin and I were able to have some really good talks about our money issues/goals, mental health, plans for the future, potential wedding ideas, etc.

Once up in Kelowna, we spent some awesome time visiting with Kyle, Corbie, Jordan and Kyle’s first son, Jaxon. Their house was awesome, as was the pool and the cute little cabin we got to stay in. Even without air conditioning and in Kelowna’s heat, that cabin was way cooler than our apartment. We got to try some great restaurants and visit Kelowna’s downtown.

Colin and baby Jordan!

We were super excited to meet Jordan and spend some time with Kyle and Corbie. I’m glad we got to go up and see them since they won’t be down in Vancouver until late September. At that point, Jordy will be almost 2 months old. However, we did feel like we were in the way sometimes. I really wanted to help out with the baby but it seemed like often, the best thing for us to do was just to give them some space.

All in all, it was a great trip. While in Kelowna, we also came across an awesome flight deal. And by “we” I mean that I saw the deal on Facebook and clicked through to the booking website, confirming with Colin once I had it all loaded up.

Colin and I have been wanting to get back to Europe for a while now. He visited in high school and I was there on exchange in 2014. We had talked about doing a big Europe trip in 2018. However, with all the talk of home buying, we assumed we’d have to postpone it.

But then, this amazing flight deal fell into our laps. Colin was a bit hesitant, but even he couldn’t argue with savings like this. Plus, it’s nine months away so we have lots of time to save and plan. So we officially booked flights to Ireland! We’ll be flying roundtrip from Vancouver to Dublin, April 9-19 for only $344 per person! How insane is that?

We’re stoked on the trip. Neither of us has been to Ireland before and we both have a bit of Irish in our bloodline. I would’ve wanted to stay for 2-3 weeks to see more of Europe, but I know Colin is worried about the cost. To be fair, I should be more worried about the cost so 10 days is probably the right move. We’ll spend all of it in Ireland and have an amazing time drinking beer, driving through the Irish cliffs and praying for sun.

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Can’t wait to see this in Ireland next April!

So we got Kelowna and Ireland – what more could we want out of a week? Oh, that’s right – something related to home ownership (the title of this post!).

Just before we left for Kelowna, Colin and I booked an appointment with a mortgage professional in Vancouver. I was excited about it because this is the first step we’ve taken in actually getting this househunt off of our internet browsers and into the real world. But it was also super scary. Colin remarked that we could be packing for Ireland from a new house that we OWN. Ahhhhh!

Another scary part of the mortgage meeting was filling out the online form and getting real about our finances. I’ve recently written about talking money with your SO and realize it’s something Colin and I are going to need to do if we are planning a future together. It was eye opening to see where we both were and what concerns we had.

There was also the controversy of meeting with a mortgage professional. In my research (articles I’ve found online and podcasts I’ve listened to), it seems that mortgage professionals are the way to go. They specialize in mortgages, have relationships with multiple lenders and can usually get you a better interest rate than you could get at your bank. Plus, like a realtor, they are free for buyers to work with. So what could be wrong?

Well, turns out not everyone is into that strategy. My mom immediately nixed the idea when I told her over text. She touted a friend of hers who had gone the same route and got screwed. After I explained my research findings, she softened to the idea a bit. She still wanted me to work with someone based on a personal recommendation. I get where she is coming from – it would be awesome to have a friend recommend a mortgage broker to us. But it might not be possible. We just don’t have that many friends buying homes. And personally, I prefer to go with the stats and research I am finding online over an anecdotal story from a friend who had a good or bad experience.

Colin’s mom also pushed back against the mortgage professional idea. She wants us to get a mortgage through a bank – specifically, her bank. Colin explained the research we had done but she still thinks her bank is best. And, seeing as she just bought and sold a home with them, I can see why. She has a great relationship with her bank and believes that she can use that to help us get a great deal. I’m less sure.

So all that to say, we are still meeting with our mortgage professional on Monday. But we haven’t signed anything yet and we’re not committed to her. We’ll likely take a meeting at Colin’s mom’s bank as well. It won’t hurt to try out a few avenues and see what is what.

And lastly, another big whopper on the house front: our down payment number changed. So all along, we have been counting on Margie (Colin’s mom) to help us out with our down payment. At first, we thought the money was a gift but now we understand it’s an investment. We still have to figure out all of the paperwork on that front. Our plan was to use her investment, possibly a bit of money from my parents, some of our savings and then the first time home buyers program to put together a pretty good sized down payment. 

Well, Margie just informed Colin on the phone that her contribution to our down payment was going to be more. Significantly more. So much more that we ran the numbers on some of our potential mortgage payments and they were laughable. I’m talking less than $600 for a monthly mortgage payment!

So obviously, this is a game changer. It’s way more money than we were expecting and it really could shake things up for us. Now, more than ever, do I want all of us to sit down and put this stuff in writing. Often, it’s Colin talking to his mom on the phone and then trying to relay as much of the information as he can back to me once they hang up. So it’s time to get things in writing once we meet in person. Of course, I want Margie’s investment to be protected. And I also want to make sure Colin and I are being fair to ourselves and our future. And I think it would be good to chat and get everything out in the open. It seems like the information we glean from her changes all the time – so it’s about time for us to be direct, sit down and talk like adults doing business.

We’re not quite sure what that sum of money means. Would she be signing the mortgage with us? Because if she does, we don’t qualify for the first time home buyers program. Is that bad? Or are we taking out a second mortgage with her? Colin said she mentioned something about a 0% mortgage we could do. How does this impact our other mortgage? How do we determine her investment pay off once we sell? Can we now start looking at higher priced properties because we have a larger down payment? Or should we continue looking at our current price range and just drive down our monthly payments/pay off the mortgage sooner?

So many questions! Basically, all of this new home ownership stuff has just resulted in a ton of questions. I’m hoping we can get most of them answered soon. I have phone calls planned with my parents for this weekend. I want to share all of this with them and get their opinion. Plus, if they were planning to contribute, as a gift or a loan or an investment, I’d love to know the number going into our meeting with the mortgage professional. Colin is also trying to get a ballpark figure from his mom so we have that information. He’s going to the bank with her on Tuesday but our meeting is on Monday.

And then I’m hoping everything else will get answered soon after that. I’m hoping our mortgage professional can answer a lot of questions at our meeting. And I’m hoping we can book a meeting with Margie’s bank this week and sit down with her to figure out all of the details. It’s scary! Things are really starting to move. The process is happening and the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together. Wish us luck!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 1

Note: This was written in early/mid August (I can’t remember exactly when) and is part of a lengthy, rambly series on our homeownership journey. Feel free to skip or skim if you’re not interested in homes! 


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No, we weren’t on this show. And no, we’re not buying a house on the water. But a girl can dream!

The first step to becoming a homeowner is deciding you want to become a homeowner.

Sounds obvious, right? Like, does this even count as a step? It sounds like it’s more of a pre-step.

But no, it is a bonafide step. At least, it was for us.

Home ownership was never something I gave much thought to. I grew up with divorced parents who would move everytime the lease was up. My mom finally bought a house when I was about 10 years old and sold it a couple of years later. My dad bought a house when I was 13 and actually still lives in that house. But by that point, I had lived in more than 20 homes between both parents so the stability of a mortgage over a lease didn’t mean too much to me.

When I moved out to Vancouver, I always assumed I would just be a renter. I liked the idea of being able to pick up and go. And I really loved the thought of moving abroad whenever I wanted.

Plus, if you know anything about Vancouver real estate, you know that buying here is a lofty aspiration. In fact, affording a home in Vancouver is more often the punchline of a joke than an actual reality.

But then we have Colin, my sweet, stable-home raised, boyfriend. Colin grew up in a single storey home in Surrey with his mom, dad and at least two pets at any given time. This is the only house Colin has ever known. He even has his height marked on the inside of a doorway. (Which, as someone who moved around a lot, is something I am so envious of).

Last year, after Colin’s dad passed away, his mom decided to sell the house. After many months of cleaning, donating items and taking truckloads of crap to the dump, the house was finally empty. Colin and I moved into an apartment in New West and his mom moved into a condo in Port Coquitlam.

The house in Surrey was no more.

Check out that stunning cherry blossom tree in front of the Surrey house!

But it lives on. We still talk about fond memories on the beautiful backyard porch. We remember the converted garage that served as Colin’s bedroom suite. And we even drive by every now and then just to see what the new homeowners are up to (they keep the blinds closed so we actually have no idea).

So that’s where we came from. I believed I would rent forever and that having a mortgage was too much of a commitment. The longest I had lived in one place as an adult was just over a year. Colin, on the other hand, was signing a rental lease with me for pretty much the first time in his life (he lived in North Van for four months during school but that barely counts).

We’re about halfway through our one year lease on our first apartment together. And naturally, the dream apartment we found in the middle of a snowstorm in December has begun to lose a bit of its charm.

The kitchen, which we loved because it was updated and had a dishwasher, is far too tiny. Two people in there trying to cook is ridiculous. The desk I bought from IKEA that we spent a few late nights spray painting and wallpapering has now become a glorified shoe rack.

Basically, our one bedroom has become too small. With me working from home full-time and our place being just over 500 square feet, this was only natural. It’s hard to make things work when my “office” is the dining room table which shares space with our TV, Colin’s desk and the couch.

This “dining room table” is now my desk

So, we knew we wanted two bedrooms in our next place. Being obsessed with research like I am, I got right to work looking up two bedrooms. I wanted to know what kind of places were available and how much more they would cost us.

I’ll be fairly open about our financials here. Our current 500+ square foot, modern, one bedroom apartment in a high rise in downtown New West costs us $1250/month. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is a pretty great deal. When we were first looking for apartments, we found that a lot of the nice new buildings in downtown New West were asking $1600+ for a one bedroom. And then the older buildings farther north had one bedrooms for around $1000, but we didn’t like the look or location. There was very little in the middle so I think we were lucky to find our place.

But my research showed that moving up to a two bedroom and still staying in our location was going to cost us. We were looking at places in the $1800-2000 range. The increase scared us a little bit. Before moving in with Colin, I was paying rent on a bachelor apartment in Kits (a steal at $850), so I was a bit more comfortable with the price jump. But I knew it would be a big change for us. Was it worth it?

I’m not sure how it happened, but I began to move my research away from Craigslist apartment ads and towards realtor.ca. I was curious! And the idea of homeownership had been dropped in my head. A friend of mine in Toronto was starting to look at the housing market with her husband (sending good vibes her way cause their market sucks like ours). And another friend and her partner had just purchased a place in Kelowna.

Plus, when we were looking for our rental last year, Colin’s mom had offhandedly mentioned that maybe we should buy instead. She was even willing to help us with the down payment, as she would have the money after selling her house. I was vehemently against the idea. I love Colin. But at that point, we hadn’t even celebrated our second anniversary. I had never lived with a partner before and Colin had barely ever lived away from home. I was not ready to sign a mortgage with him. Colin felt the same and after one morning of trying to look through house listings, we called it off and stuck with our rental plan.

But here I was, five months into our lease and looking at realtor.ca. What was happening?

I told myself it was just research. I just wanted to get educated. I was bored with the same old listings on Craigslist and I wanted to see something new. But was that it? A part of me that I hadn’t really acknowledged before was super excited scrolling through the home listings. And when I returned to the Craigslist ads, I was noticeably disappointed.

I spent a lot of my university and post-university years rejecting the ideas of traditional adulthood. I never really dreamt about settling down, marriage, kids, the mortgage and the minivan. I would’ve been just as happy travelling the world, moving countries every year and maybe having a partner by my side – kids were optional.

So I went out and I got those travelling experiences. I studied abroad in Amsterdam for five months. I volunteered in Swaziland for an entire summer. I travelled through Australia for a month. And I loved all of those experiences. But I also loved coming home. I loved decorating my apartment and picking out furniture. I loved having a neighbourhood sushi restaurant (my equivalent of having a local coffee shop) and house plants that I tried my best not to kill. I was craving a bit of a fixed life. I loved travelling, but I wanted a home.

And those home feelings definitely magnified when I met Colin. I got to see the world from his perspective, growing up in one home with both parents in the same place for his whole life. I found myself daydreaming about the fixed life we could have together. Slowly, the marriage, kid(s) and mortgage didn’t sound so bad – I’m still out on the minivan.

That’s not to say I completely gave up on all of my travel dreams the minute I got a boyfriend. It’s not like that at all. I was having those fixed life cravings long before I met Colin. In fact, I think things worked out with Colin because I was already in the mindset of placing some roots. And I haven’t given up travelling. Colin and I have gone on lots of trips together in our 2+ years of dating. And I even headed off to Vietnam for a month with a girlfriend while Colin stayed here. It was never and it will never be a matter of trading in my passport for a mortgage.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Sorry, I digress (again).

All that to say, I was looking at homes for sale and I was getting excited. And when I get excited, I have to start researching. So I started reading blogs about buying homes, what we could afford, what markets were hot and when was the best time to buy. I downloaded real estate podcasts and started sending questions to the podcast hosts. And, most importantly, I started talking to Colin.

Colin and I had already been talking about the move to a two bedroom. The idea of buying had come up but we thought it might be too expensive for us. These were all hypotheticals. And then, my research started to seep in. I would fill Colin in on everything I was learning, in small bite-sized chunks so he didn’t get too overwhelmed. Seeing as my previous obsession was talking about weddings, Colin was much more receptive to housing talk.

He started to get into it with me. I would call him over to my laptop to look through house listings. We would run the numbers together and see if we could afford it. We talked through neighbourhoods (more on this later) and sent each other links to relevant articles. Once the house hunt moved to Surrey, Colin got even more excited. We even spent one weekend in July going to open houses!

So, we were more than seriously considering it. We are more than seriously considering it. We are very much looking to buy a home when our lease ends in February 2018. We have crunched the numbers, gone to the open houses and started to reach out to realtors and mortgage brokers. We’ve started to discuss down payments with our parents and the state of our finances with each other. It’s happening! It’s kind of scary to admit but….

We want to be homeowners. We are planning to buy our first home in early 2018.

(Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Am I the only one freaking out? Typing that sentence gave me heart palpitations!)

Finding that Work-life Balance

Work-life balance has always been something that I’ve struggled with. When I worked at Free The Children, they pushed the term “work-life integration” instead of work-life balance. Basically, the idea was that the stuff you do from 9 to 5 should … Continue reading