Friday, September 14, 2018

8 years, 281 days

It was about nine years ago that Cathy decided we needed a house. She was very certain on this matter.

View from the living room window.
On the other hand, I thought this was madness. I had many solid reasons for thinking so. We'd just come back from a pricey vacation in Australia for almost four weeks. I was also unemployed, with my contract with the Government of Nunavut having expired earlier the summer. And while I was sure I would get something, I didn't have anything at the moment Cathy was hatching this scheme.

Plus I didn't see the need for the place. We had a perfectly nice apartment downtown. Cathy could walk to work in minutes. All the grocery stores were nearby and it had a perfectly nice view. And it was a quiet building. No kids. So why rock the boat?

But Cathy wanted a house and went about persuading me. She was convinced we were fine on finances (indeed, the bank pre-approved us for a staggering and insane amount) and she set about keeping an eye for new places. I distinctly remember having a conversation when driving where she said "Look, if you think this is a bad idea and feel that strongly about it, we don't have to do this."

I might have only been married for four years at that point, but a little klaxon was going off in the back of my head telling me that, at all costs, do not accept this offer. This was a trap and I would be punished in ways that would not be enjoyable.

Compromises were made. At some point I think Cathy dangled letting me having a spare bedroom and converting into a den/geek space/Room of Requirement. That and the promise that we weren't going to beyond our means on a house. I thought the later point secured us from having to worry about it for quite some time. Iqaluit real estate was insane in 2009; it's only gotten worse since.

View of the house at Christmas. Cathy loves to light the
place up.
After one failed attempt and several deeply meh houses, we stumbled on one. I should emphasize the amount of dumb luck karma that went into getting this house. First, there were no building inspectors in Iqaluit at that time. So we had to do the best we could to figure out what kind of shape it was in with our deeply limited experience. The people wanted to move quickly, so the process was expedited. We first looked at the house in mid-October; we moved in on December 1.

Where did the dumb luck come in? Turns out the neighbourhood we live in - Tundra Ridge - is one of the nicer ones in town. My neighbours include a former premier, the CEO of Nunavut Tourism and the President of QIA. The house itself was built by a mad Dane back at the turn of the century and all the ones he build are known for quality and sturdiness of the construction. And other than a contractor related disaster last fall on some renovations, we haven't had any problems. Plus the views are spectacular.

So yeah, we've used some good luck on this house. Having said that, I remember in November 2009 signing my name committing to paying back what seemed like an ungodly amount of money over the next 25 years.

Except it wasn't 25 years. It was exactly 8 years and 281 days. As of September 7 we made our last mortgage payment. The house is now ours.

All ours.
(Yes, I know. I'm burying the lede. I prefer to think of as setting the scene for the payoff).

Cathy and I are phenomenally proud of this achievement. We both try not to brag much, but we've been bursting the last few weeks as we knew this day was approaching. Every two weeks we'd get a letter from RBC updating us on how much was left on our mortgage. You've never seen two people happier to be getting mail from a bank about a mortgage update.

We had help, of course. Cathy's parents kicked in a few thousand dollars when we first bought the house. Both sets of our parents installed in us an ethic to not get in over our heads financially. Bills got paid on time. We love our vacations, but they only happen after everything else is taken care of. Same with my geekery (Cathy's only bad habits, I swear, are Swatch watches and Fluevog shoes).

We've had a couple of people ask how we did it. Well, not having kids, not smoking, drinking little and not owning a ski-doo, boat, ATV or multiple cars helped too. You prioritize where you want to spend the money. Getting out from under the bank and our trips around the world were our priorities. Yours may vary.

As for what's next, we have a few things to catch up on. Cathy's laptop is about 8 years old. My desktop is 7 years old. I might get another year out of my computer, but Cathy's laptop is on death's door. We may even splurge on a new TV set. And in two years, when I turn...sigh....50, I'm taking a couple of months off work and we're going to travel to Australia (head's up, Sarah). So some reserves to pull that off will be a good idea.

And then back to saving money. It's not like we're suddenly going to be eating out every night and buying new cars or boats. It's not us. Plus, we have ambitious retirement plans. Cathy's insisting we retire to a place with palm trees. So that will take some doing.

But mainly we'll just enjoy not owing any money. I can't overstate enough how much we hate owing banks money.

Oh, and we'll be burning our mortgage at some point soon. Safely away from the house, of course. I like a little irony as much as the next person, but that would be a bit too much.

Last Five
1. Lazy bones - Joel Plaskett
2. Heart vs. doubt - Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case
3. Believe in me - Sloan
4. Old Dan Tucker - Bruce Springsteen*
5. Feud - Band of Horses


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