Editor’s Blog #4: Diary of a Condo Buyer

I am in a unique position – as well as being the editor and content manager of
Joannah Connolly
March 16, 2015

Real Estate Weekly newspaper and REW.ca, I am also a Vancouver home buyer.

Having sold a home I owned in London, UK, following my emigration in 2010, I am in the process of buying a condo in Vancouver’s West End, where I have been renting. I am in the 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 to help me land 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!

Time to celebrate! In the past couple of weeks I have signed the papers, paid my closing costs, the transaction has closed and I have taken possession of my new West End condo. It has all happened so fast! (Unlike the snail’s pace that is typical of UK real estate conveyancing – the industry is famous for it back in the Motherland.)

Since my last blog entry in late January, I had to go into my mortgage lender to sign the documents, accompanied by my broker Anna who was with me every step of the way to ensure it all went down smoothly. It was a good idea to have her with me as she noticed that one of my prepayment features was not in place, so it really helped.

I then selected a reputable real estate specialist law firm to handle the work, using a recommendation from a colleague, backed up by my own professional knowledge of the firm.

The closing process was much more straightforward and efficient than the complicated machinations that I’m used to from UK real estate transactions. This time it was just a matter of filling in a couple of forms and voila! I was done.

I also had to part with my down payment (minus the smaller deposit I had paid into the real estate agent’s trust account some weeks earlier) plus associated closing costs. Having written this story about the unexpected costs of buying a home, I was nervous the bill would be higher than anticipated. But actually it was lower.

I had to pay:

  • the down payment;
  • legal fees, which were very reasonable and no more expensive than getting a notary public to do the work;
  • the first month’s strata fees;
  • portion of property taxes that had been prepaid by seller;
  • cost to obtain property tax information ($65.75 payable to City of Vancouver);
  • cost to obtain strata maintenance information payable to property management ($85.00);
  • cost to obtain insurance information ($30.00);
  • cost to obtain title insurance ($100.00); and
  • strata move-in fee ($100.00).

Not too bad, I thought.

A couple of days after signing the documents and I was meeting my real estate agent at the new place to get my keys. I’m in already! Now I’m just getting the place repainted to my taste, while I pack up my belongings (I have my rental unit until March 30) and I’ve got the moving company booked for this weekend.

A really great feeling was a few days ago when I sat on the floor of my new, empty home with a sushi takeout, enjoying the feeling of home ownership in this wonderful city. I’m also genuinely amazed that I started looking at the end of November and just over three months later I am proudly in possession of a lovely two-bedroom West End condo.

Final edition to come: the big moving day and lessons learned from that. Wish me luck!

Joannah Connolly
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.