That’s generally not what you want to hear when buying a house. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I heard from my real estate agent, mortgage broker, insurance agent, lawyer and close friends. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I was getting good advice. I thought everyone was looking out for me, the client. I thought wrong.
My road to home ownership was a long one to say the least. At age 4, as my father’s business was going through some tough times, we were kicked out of our custom-built family home. There we were, a family of 7, my mom holding my newborn sister in her arms and we were on our way to start over. At this point it was 1995 and we moved to a growing suburb of Toronto called Richmond Hill. We rented a nice family home but my parents still had the dream to own a place they could call their own.
As time went on and the retail business environment changed to favour big box stores and overseas production, my father’s office furniture business was being forced out of a market it once thrived in. Needless to say, the years following our move were challenging. I always remember my parents doing what they could to provide myself and 4 siblings everything possible, despite the fact that we didn’t have much money. My dad would drive me to and from hockey almost every single day, paying for private lessons and the endless travel costs associated with AAA minor hockey. This, of course, had to come at a different cost. We never had new cars, we rarely had nice new clothes, we never went to Disney Land, and we never owned a home.
Fast forward to 2009, the year I graduated high school. My parents’ marriage had completely deteriorated and they separated. We all moved with my mom since she was working full time for the first time since I was born. They didn't move far from each other and I saw my dad as much as I wanted, but this setup gave me a new level of independence and responsibility I’ve never had before. While my friends were off at university, I was running my own landscaping business, doing whatever I could to earn enough to buy my own freedom, that being home ownership. I experienced challenges and had to fight to save up enough to put 10% down on a small duplex in Hamilton.
At this point, just last year, I thought everything was going great. I was earning a good income, I had overcome a few personal struggles and I was dating a wonderful woman. I was now ready to buy a home. The real estate agent I used wasn’t anyone specific. He wasn’t a relative or close friend, just a guy that worked in the area I wanted to live in. I assumed all real estate agents were the same since none of them did anything to stand out to me. At that point, I had an interest in real estate beyond just my own home, and was planning on getting into the industry. I’m a quick learner and clients in landscaping love me, how hard could it be? As Iwent through my purchase, nobody really asked me what I wanted on a deeper level. What got me excited, what made me happy, what kept me up at night, what made me worry? Nobody seemed to care much.
As we neared the closing day, right before Christmas, my excitement grew. The dream was coming true, the day was finally here! Then I got a call that would shatter all my hopes. This call was like a knife deep in my chest. The mortgage broker called me and said “Bad news, the bank pulled the approval”. I had no idea what that meant. We had a deal signed, they approved me, I was getting the keys the next day! Ultimately, the bank heard that another bank declined the deal due to concerns with the housefoundation, so they no longer wanted a part of this deal. I was left with a couple expensive options, none of which appealed to me. I could force this deal through with an expensive private mortgage, get a home inspection saying the house didn't have any flaws and hope a different bank would look at it, or I could pull out and lose my deposit. I was already told by the seller’s agent that the seller would be difficult to deal with and he would fight to the bitter end if I walked away. This decision wasn't going to be easy.
What does one do when so much emotion and so much money is on the line? I requested an extension so I could take time to think about it over the holidays. After a few restless nights and discussions with family members, I decided to walk away from the deal. At the end of the day, I lost over $7,000 between my deposit and legal fees, but I came away with a valuable lesson. I learned that buying a house is more than just numbers and you really need a solid team, starting with a realtor that truly cares about you. A realtor that will stand in your corner and fight for you, not just when his commission is on the line. I also learned that backing out of a deal you don't feel comfortable with is an expensive proposition. Like most things in life, solid preparation based on solid knowledge will lead to a desirable result. Unfortunately, I didn't have either, and the result showed.