Monday, October 22, 2012

Real estate weirdness

Real estate is one of those things that makes my head want to explode. I guess it's because I never really grew up with it. I remember moving from a basement apartment to a townhouse when I was five, and then move to another nearby house when I was seven. And then that was it. Our house on Drake Crescent is where I grew up and lived well into my 20s. Hell, I even made appearances there in my 30s (not exactly proud of that, but such is life). The rest of my time was spent in apartments. I (well, we) did not buy our first home until I was 39 years old.

Now, a chunk of that was simply not having any money. I remember when I was working in Clarenville and living in a damp basement apartment where the rent was $400 a month and I still needed a roommate to help with the bills. But even then, I recognized there was something fundamentally looney tunes about the real estate market.

People who really couldn't afford to buy houses were going out and getting 35-year-mortgages (see, US housing bubble crash of '08) or banks were throwing money at people who clearly shouldn't be getting money. Or people would be a giddy over how much their house was now valued at. Which is lovely and all, but if you have to sell it, doesn't that mean you have to buy another house to live in, which will probably be just as expensive?

People get weird around houses. Cathy had to twist my arm, put me in a headlock and threaten other forms of torture to convince me to buy our current house back in '09. I wanted nothing to do with it. I really liked our apartment; it was downtown, close to everything, a five minute walk to school for her and had a great view of the bay. Plus I was between jobs and I'm the anti-handyman when it comes to repairing stuff, which I understand you have to do when buying a house. So why buy one?

As it turns out, she was right to pressure me. It's nice to have our own space, to not worry about producing too much noise, or having to endure any manner of weirdness from neighbours. I like having a spare bedroom for guests and another one to convert into an office. We still have a nice view and Cathy, it turns out, is quite the handyperson which prevents me from being put into situations where I accidentally wreck the house. So yes, I am man enough to admit that my wife was right and I was wrong. Getting the house, as insane an idea as it was back at the time, was the right move in the long-term.

But I guess once you own a house, the crazy bug can happen from time to time. And it goes beyond interior decorations (note: let wife do pretty much whatever she wants as long as I have my office). We found out one of our neighbours was having an open house over the weekend. And seeing as how their house, from the outside, is nearly identical to ours, well, curiosity got the better of us. Well, Cathy. I went to the gym and tried to figure out what was going on with curling.

When I came back, Cathy was still in a mild state of shock. The conclusion: their house was slightly smaller than ours, probably not as well lit in the living room and master bedroom, but still a pretty nice house. And, oh yeah, they were asking $100,000+ more than what we paid for our house three years ago.

Now several thoughts go through the brain at a time like that. The first is "Are they nuts?" The second is "Has Iqaluit's real estate market seriously gone that crazy in the past three years?" and finally "How cow, are we now rich?"

The answers are: Possibly, Possibly and No.

I mean, I wouldn't have put our place on the market for that much. Apparently I would have been wrong, although it's one thing to ask the price, quite another to get it. If the previous owners of our house has been looking for that much, we wouldn't be living in our place right now and would still be in our apartment downtown. But there's been weird things going on with housing in town this past year. Even with houses springing up like weeds on the Plateau Subdivision and aggressive expansion planned up there over the next few years, people have been having a hard time finding a house to buy. I know a couple of that have been looking for about six months without much luck.

So maybe there is something to asking that much.

But as for us being rich, well, no. Look, it's nice to think that in some distant future if we decide to leave Iqaluit that we won't take a loss selling the house, but that's about all that number is worth to us right now. It's an easy enough path into loopiness when you start obsessing over house prices. All I need for it do for me right now is to keep me warm and dry, be a place to keep my stuff, and not be a money pit. It is doing all of those things very well. It does not need to be a lottery ticket.

Last Five
1. You hung the moon - Elvis Costello
2. Dead in the water - David Gray*
3. Jet lag - Brendan Benson
4. Across the river (live) - Peter Gabriel
5. Knocked up - Kings of Leon

1 comment:

Way Way Up said...

I can totally relate to this post in many ways. I think the market here is edging towards the realm of surreal-ness at times. A house just down from mine which is almost exactly the same floor plan sold for something like $220 000 more than what mine was listed for. And they pretty much got what they asked for from what I understand. A $300-$400 000 home in most markets is a $1 million+ here. It really is ridiculous and lends into a lot of greed and stereotypes about Fort McMurray that I find disheartening at times.

On a more positive note, being able to fart around and make the improvements you want is kind of nice. Housing being what it is in many of Nunavut's smaller communities did help me develop a few home improvement skills I otherwise would not have had.