Editor’s Blog #2: Diary of a Condo Buyer editor Joannah Connolly chronicles her home-buying experience in this real-time journal. In this second edition: making an unexpectedly early offer on a condo…

January 19, 2015

Home viewing woman and Realtor

I am in a unique position – as well as being the editor and content manager of Real Estate Weekly newspaper and, I am also a prospective home buyer.

Having sold a home I owned in London, UK, following my emigration in 2010, I am now looking for a one-plus-den or two-bedroom condo at around $460,000 in Vancouver’s West End, where I am currently renting. I am in the very fortunate position of having a substantial down payment from the equity raised on my London apartment. And of course, because of my job, I have great contacts in real estate and associated industries to help me find my dream home. Otherwise, I am subject to the same highs, lows and vagaries of the home-buying process as all our readers.

Here I chronicle my home search and buying process and share all the lessons I learn along the way. I promise not to hold anything back, although names will be changed for anonymity!

In the first edition of this blog, I met my real estate agent, discussed needs and desires in my home search, and went to my first viewing. I also told you my next installment would be all about getting mortgage pre-approval. I was wrong.

That said, I did have a great preliminary discussion with my mortgage broker Anna, in which I filled in forms and we discussed the process. Aside from that, however, we decided that because of my large-percentage down payment and with mortgage rates still getting increasingly competitive, we could take the calculated risk of not getting pre-approved before making an offer.

However, Anna does recommend most clients do get pre-approval in place, including a rate hold. My situation is slightly different as there is no risk of not being approved on submitting an offer, so it’s worth waiting to see what the best rate is when we need it – up to a point. After the spring, as the risk of a rate hike increases, it’s likely to be worth getting a rate hold then.

With all this in mind, I have been waiting for the market to pick up in the New Year. Last week I spotted my first potential candidate, a two-bed condo in the West End. It’s a smidge over budget at $479,000, but with 900 square feet and two full bedrooms, it seemed like it could be worth stretching the purse strings a bit.

A private initial viewing with my real estate agent Bob, immediately before the Saturday open house, completely sold me on the place. It may be only the second condo I’ve viewed, but in my job I know the market pretty well! And I’ve been scouring listings for over a year now, and even online I could see it was a standout. It’s got all the space and the character I need, while having some really great additional functional aspects too (master walk-through closet into cheater ensuite, anyone?!)

We then went to an open house nearby of a condo that was listed for $499,000 and nowhere near as nice. So after that I was feeling pretty sure the first place was right for me. It is unnerving to decide on a home so quickly, as I was expecting months of viewings and open houses. But why pass up a great place just because you see it early on?

The next day I was back at the Sunday open house with a friend for support/validation, and she (conveniently) agreed it was lovely, and ideal for me. So on Monday my real estate agent and I went ahead and submitted an offer!

We went in a little low, at $465,000, as the open house had been sparsely attended and we were confident there were no other offers – plus the list price of $479,000 is really stretching my budget. The sellers countered the next day with $475,000 – not much of a concession. So we retaliated that evening by offering $471,000 and a shorter subjects period.

And good news! The sellers (with a little grumbling) accepted the offer. We have a deal! It's time to celebrate. Not too much time though - we only have just over a week to get the inspection done and find me a mortgage. Watch this space!

Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.
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