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February 01, 2019

Learning the ropes

Young couple’s first time homebuying experience offers lessons

Darlene Casten

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There is a lot for new homebuyers to learn, one young couple discovered. There is the mortgage, the lawyers, the inspections and the house hunt.


Rewind 10 months and that is where Nico and Monica started. Although, they weren’t necessarily hunters, more like gatherers.

After graduating university they were talking about buying a house together. They had been casually looking around, gathering information and checking out communities they were interested in.

They heard about a Walden townhome opening up with great prices and decided to put a deposit down. But, their house hunt got serious really quickly and at the time Nico was away on a family vacation so when he got back they started re-assessing. Nico’s dream was to have a garage where he could work on
his car and they started considering a single family home instead.

However, they hit a roadblock with their mortgage when the bank told them they’d need to wait until Monica had received two full paycheques from her employer. As a new geophysicist with a small company, she’d been experiencing periodic layoffs.

That sent the couple back to the drawing board and they again reconsidered what type of home they wanted and how much they wanted to spend.

That is when they started reaching out to friends for advice. The first thing they were told was to hire a realtor.

“At first we didn’t have a realtor and that was a huge mistake,” Nico says.

“We didn’t realize how important it was to have a realtor,” Monica adds.

They interviewed a few realtors before hiring one.

“He gave us a lot of advice,” says Monica. “The one we hired told us what would add value and what doesn’t. He told us about condo boards and different bylaws and that you have to be careful of what condo board runs your townhome. He was telling us the hard facts and the small things too, like what to
look for in your cabinets.”

Their realtor helped them finalize what they were looking for and recommended a lawyer and mortgage broker. Hiring professionals to assist them on their home buying journey was the best move, they say.

“It was rocky at first because we didn’t know what we were doing,” Monica says. “But it was pretty smooth once we were working with the right professionals.”

Once they had set their priorities and budget the process of finding and buying a home was finalized within a few months.

“(The realtor) was really fast in giving us a list of houses in the quadrants we were looking at in our price range,” Monica says.

They decided, due to Monica’s job insecurity and because Nico was going back to school they wanted a mortgage one of them could pay on their own. 

“As the costs went up and up, we realized we should go back to a townhouse,” Nico says.

Scaling back also allowed them to save for things that are important to them, like a new sofa and dining room set, travel and a future wedding.

When a 1,019-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhome in the Avalon Master Builder ZEN in Cranston development had a $20,000 price drop, their realtor let them know right away.

“He advised us how to go about getting this house,” Monica says. “He told us about another offer (on the townhome) and said ‘here’s how you could beat that’ and it worked. The owners liked our offer.”

Monica and Nico were also able to get a second surface parking spot for $5,000, which they said was a steal compared to other places they’d looked at where a parking spot went for as much as $35,000.

The home also came with upgrades that they knew added value.

“It has pot lights and comes with window coverings,” Monica says. “I love the kitchen — the island in the middle with the sink, the granite countertops, the soft close drawers.”

The two-master bedroom layout also suits their future plans to rent it out when they move on.

For now they are enjoying their new home. Their master bedroom fits a king-size bed that has a view to the west.

“What we really liked the amount of natural light we get and in our bedroom we have a view of the mountains and I love the mountains,” says Monica.

Living right off of Stoney and Deerfoot Trail also puts them on easy and fast transportation routes to the Rockies and anywhere else they want to go in the city, they say.

Nearby, they’ve been shopping at the Cranston Sobeys and have been checking out the shopping at 130th Avenue and Seton, a five-minute drive away.

“There’s a lot there,” Monica says. “We checked out the new MEC and the VIP theatre — it was cool.”

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