Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Housing problem

It's becoming morbidly fascinating observing how Cathy and I go about looking at houses. After being married for four years, and being together for nearly eight, it's kind of hard to get surprised by what your spouse will do, but we're managing to accomplish just that.

There is now another house we're looking at. This caught me a touch by surprise. After our last attempt, which ended in failure, I thought we would take it easy for awhile. Or if we were going to look at houses it would be just to get a better feel for what we're looking for in a place. That we were going to hold off until the spring when the timing would be better. There would likely be more houses available for sale, plus whatever we might need in the way of furniture and whatnot could be bought in July and sent up via sea lift.

But there we were last night, in a house going over their utilities costs and Cathy looking across the table expectantly at me waiting for me to make a bid on the place. Which was the point where I got us the heck out of there before I suddenly found myself even more deeply in over my head than I felt at that point.

Cathy wants a house. I understand that. I've been converted to the cause now and agree that owning a house would be better than continuing to pay rent. But for me this is a slow, methodical process. We look at lots of places, we get a feel for what we like in a place, we negotiate until we get the best deal, wait for the optimal timing and then go forward.

Cathy would like a place as soon as possible. Not just any old place, of course. She does want a nice place. However, I think the closing date on this place is horrific; Cathy sees it as only a minor obstacle. I'm not sure we can afford it without dipping into our RRSPs to make a down payment, something I oppose. Cathy's fine with it. Our maximum price is about $10,000 apart. Cathy can list things she likes about the place and things she's not 100 per cent fond of. All I can muster up is "It has no soul."

Which, I appreciate, is not helpful at all. I wish I could add something more constructive about the layout, the use of space and whatnot. But I feel nothing for this place. At all. It's like the devil visited the place and stole its soul or something.

Here's the heart of the difference, I think. I want my first house to be really cool. Some people look for the number of bedrooms, heating bills, view and whatnot. I tend to look for character and soul. The place I grew up in St. John's was a standard, boring, subdivision house. I always wanted to live downtown, because that's where the cool houses were. When we lived together on Bond Street it was a standard row house. But damn it, the place had personality. Our neighbour across the street, Anne, had an awesome house and I'm thrilled some of my friends bought it and going to go wonders to the place.

It doesn't have to be an awesome house like that. But I want it to have some kind of personality. Which is indefinable until you actually walk into a place. The first place we looked at had that. The condo we looked at (and rejected) didn't. And this place just feels soulless.

Cathy, on the other hand, doesn't mind so much. Or perhaps that's unfair. She just thinks there is a very limited number of those types of houses available in Iqaluit and when they do pop up, they'll be well out of our price range. So why not take a house that's solid, that we can do up whatever way we want and that we don't love. She also argues that you make the house into one you love. Which is fair enough.

Out of curiosity, I asked people on Facebook if you shouldn't love a house you're about to spend obscene amounts of money on. Unsurprisingly, the results were split, with some saying "absolutely" with others saying that such beasts are rare. One living in Fort Mac said I should be glad we're not paying half a million for a trailer home. It's all in the perspective, I guess.

I just wish I liked the house we might be spending the rest of our time in the north living in more than I do right now.

Any thoughts?

Last Five
1. Trust yourself (live) - Blue Rodeo
2. Sympathy for the devil - The Rolling Stones
3. Poets - The Tragically Hip
4. Broken arrow - Robbie Robertson*
5. Some unholy war - Amy Winehouse


Greg said...

I'm 5.5 years into a house I didn't care for and still don't. BUT its close to the kid's school, close to my wife's work and it was a VERY SMART investment ....SNORE!

This is my 4th house and standard suburban fare compared to the places I lived in Sandy Hill, Ottawa, The Beaches, Toronto, Portugal Cove and downtown St. John's.

It's an OK house with lots of options for renovation and I take comfort in the fact that I can sell it any day of the week and walk away with a nice wad of bills to go wherever I want in the world. So, I live with it for the low stress and the future options it allows me.

I'm guessing buying a house up there is a wierd experience at best.

Maybe one thing you need to consider is how long you expect to be there and what the ease and value of resale will be in a few years when you want to leave.

Save the dream house for when you are in a place where there are more to choose from and it will be a more reasonable price.

I've been told your first house is to teach you what you REALLY want and don't want in a house.

best of luck!

Anonymous said...

My advice is to keep looking. My wife and I waited eight years to find the right one.
We are not typical home owners. We did not buy for resale.
We waited for the 'one'. It is ideal for family, and ideal for retirement.
We are not budging.
The husband in me says do what Cathy wants.
I can appreciate your dilema.
Best of luck, Paul

Mat Knickelbein said...

Might I suggest a house in Apex. I think it is Iqaluit's best kept secret. We bought a house down here 5 years ago, and haven't looked back since. For sure there are some "cool" buys down here at times (I know exactly what you mean) and the prices are generally more reasonable. There are options for killer views, very kid and dog friendly, and the closer sense of "community" has been very enjoyable. The 5 minute "commute" is nothing to stress over - in fact I look forward to it - it allows me a few minutes of peaceful automoting to gather my thoughts in the morning (and shake the cobwebs out...) as well, after work, I enjoy cresting that hill and seeing the quiet, picturesque little "Apex" sparkling in the dark, cold, night. IMHO. Cheers.

Aida said...

though a house in Apex is tempting, I am not sure if some days I can get out to town due to that hill. I've been stranded more than once in Apex before and one time it was in an SUV cab.

you guys are going to take the $30K DP program right? and I found out that there is a $65K allocation if you want to do renovation to your home.

I think its impossible to find something that we really love in iqaluit. Yeah, there was one but I am not going to pay almost $400K for a 24 years old with some roof issue b/c it has killer views, its crazy.

i think we will eventually get a decent fixer upper, something not too big, but something that will suit my family.

good luck!

tanker belle said...

You're not at all on the same page - and yet that may be a good thing. Forking over that kind of money might cause you to have a stroke without support, but maybe Cathy would accept a house for too much $ without you. I do agree with not dipping into RRSPs, there's a line. And no, as I've said before, housing is not an investment, it's an asset and there are important differences.

As for soul, I know, I know. But how likely are you to get it there? Without needing massive work - Bond street is undergoing a complete reno. If you get a place that doesn't have soul you cna do something...that's what you need to be looking at when you walk in to a place. I suspect Cathy is, maybe she has the ability to see what a place can become, not everyone can do that. But there's also an argument for not spending too much: most people underestimate how much the renos will cost...and I don't mean like Bond street, I mena the usual stuff everyone undertakes - and the extra furniture.

I'm living in a totally soulless place; of course, I'm not paying for it. It's very nice though, in that hotel-feel kinda way. I seriously wonder if we're ever going to stop long enough to bother getting a house.

SRD said...

General gender dynamics of house buying sound pretty familiar :) I do think it helps if both/either neighbourhood or flat are what you both really want. We both loved the first flat we bought, and still do (although it was not to everyone's taste). The second one has character, but is too small already. BUT is in a great neighbourhood, which we both want to stay in. But then, we have a lot more choice than you do, I think. We didn't want to move to generic suburbs, but right now I would happily move to a 'boring' house with no 'period features' if it was nearby (location, location....). It does feel great not to pay rent anymore.

Ron said...

Why do you want the place? Investment? Home to grow old in? Place to store your junk? Sit down and answer that question then decide how important "soul" is in a house. What do you imagine you would have to do to the place to give it a "soul"? How much would that cost?

I think the view is secondary - its nice to have one but... meh! Is it in good shape? Does it have a decent bathroom and kitchen?

Are you inventing reasons not to buy cause you still can't imagine yourself as a homeowner? Remember all that debt is secured debt so technically all you have to do is sell the place and you are debt free.

Ditto on the comment about not paying rent. Every month that money is going into your pocket and not into someone else's - tha is a nice feeling and was a major motivation for me to buy my first house when I was living back in Gander.

I always figure I can live anywhere as long as I have my junk around me. Which makes it all kinda odd as right now I am living in a hotel room.