Because we bought a condo in this gorgeous city!
The whole process has been a learning curve at lightning speed. In the UK, real estate moves in months. In Vancouver, real estate moves in days – or in our case, hours.
We started looking to buy in early October. By early December, the deal was done. Here’s how the whole thing played out.
The money part
First stop, a mortgage broker. It seemed a good idea to know how much of a mortgage we could get, before we started looking for real estate.
Having no clue how to possibly choose a mortgage broker, I took a recommendation from a colleague and contacted Michelle Byman on October 5.
Michelle was great. Immediately she laid out everything we needed to provide to get a mortgage and recommended three different realtors.
She was also completely unflappable. Even when we felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants, Michelle came through for us. More on that later.
Too many realtors
Next, a realtor. Here was our first mistake: arranging to meet all three realtors Michelle recommended. We thought we would be able to take time to choose one. Turns out, in Vancouver, realtors move as fast as the real estate market.
The first realtor we met brought details of potential properties with her and expected to begin visiting open houses immediately. Being too polite (too British?) to say no, we followed suit.
Then we met Linda Burchell, whirlwind realtor and parking ninja. We had a lot in common, and it felt like she was on the case and on our side. We had our realtor!
Which of course meant we had to break up with the first realtor. We sucked it up and did this in person, after we looked at the perfectly fine real estate she’d found for us – but I really wish we hadn’t had to.
We also had to cancel our meeting with the third realtor, which came back to bite us later, when he recognized us at an open house he was selling and we were viewing….Awkward.
The first offer
Ready to rock, we embarked on a rigorous regime of having Linda trawl through Vancouver real estate listings, find homes we might want to see, schedule visits to open houses – then drive us around every few days to check them all out.
That is where her ninja parking skills came in. No matter where we were in Vancouver, no matter how busy the traffic, she always seemed to find rock star parking right outside every open house!
We looked at our first real estate with Linda on October 21. On October 24, we decided to put in an offer for a place in Mount Pleasant. Offers were due on October 27. We had only three days and it was a nervewracking, stressful experience.
First off, Vancouver real estate is so blazing hot right now, no one is putting any subjects or conditions on their offers. That means no subject to financing, appraisal or inspection.
As newbies, this felt extremely risky. It IS extremely risky.
Assuming – and it felt like a big assumption – Michelle found us a mortgage after the fact, if the lending bank appraised the property to be worth less than what we paid for it, we would be on the hook for the difference.
Even worse, if Michelle couldn’t find a mortgage for us at all, we would be on the hook for the entire purchase amount.
Of course, Michelle couldn’t advise us to go for that – it’s the kind of crazy madness only Vancouverites would even consider, right?
But it was also becoming clear that finding a mortgage after the event is increasingly common in the Vancouver real estate market…
So Michelle talked us through it, we considered the risks, she considered how difficult it would be to find us a mortgage – and in the end, we felt like it would probably be OK.
But then, what about the inspection?
Thank the blazes for Trina Skare.
Trina is one of the few female home inspectors out there, and came highly recommended from Linda. She was also available immediately, which meant we could at least get our potential new home inspected before we put in a no subject offer.
Meanwhile, I scrambled to get a bank draft for the deposit and read through the last few years of strata council minutes to look for anything dubious. Like I knew what I was doing.
On inspection day, Trina did a fantastic, thorough job – almost overwhelming me with the level of detail included in her report. I felt a lot better about putting in the offer when she told me everything was in great condition.
Finally, we came to offer day. Linda sent it in, with no subjects (flying by the seat of our pants then.) I also wrote a letter to the owners, explaining who we were, and how much we wanted to buy the place. Maybe it would help?
Alas, it wasn’t to be.
There were several offers, the whole thing became a bidding war, and after a second round in which everyone upped their offers, we lost out. We later realized this is now the new normal in the crazy world of Vancouver real estate. List low, watch the multiple offers roll in and let the bidding war begin.
Honestly, it took me a while to get over that first loss. The place had seemed so perfect. It seemed like the owners liked us. It seemed like we were in with a chance. I’d already started imagining living there. Sigh.
But four days later, on October 31, there we were, deciding to put in another offer on another place, this time in Fairview.
After losing out once, this felt a bit like a rebound house, but it had a lot going for it. We had two days to get the offer ready.
With practice under our belts, on November 2, we went for it. No subjects. Another nice letter.
Again, we lost out, in yet another bidding war. We were starting to feel pretty disheartened with Vancouver real estate.
Looking for a place was taking up so much of our free time. We saw and messaged Linda more than most of our friends – and when we did see them, the house hunt was all we talked about.
(They were probably bored as all hell, but thankfully they indulged us. As you are doing right now. So, thanks. I appreciate it.)
All in all, we seemed to be getting nowhere and for a while, it felt like we’d exhausted our efforts.
Love at first sight
Two weeks went by. A myriad of apartments flashed past.
A couple of places almost had us reaching for a bank draft – but after a day of intense discussions, that made us feel like we could have hammered out a viable Middle East peace process, we decided that neither was really right for us.
Then everything changed.
At about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday November 14, we walked into an awesome condo on Pine Street. The mountain and city view was amazing, the living area was open plan, it had two bedrooms and two bathrooms – and the whole thing had just been renovated and looked brand new.
A potential offer amount immediately jumped into my head. We looked around for about 20 minutes. I tried to look unimpressed to put off other potential buyers. By the time we left, we were sold on the place.
And when were offers going in? By 7 p.m. that evening – coincidentally the same time the puck was set to drop at a Giants’ hockey game to which we had tickets that night. We had less than five hours to get our shit together.
Here I can’t help but look back on our two previous failed offers as training for this moment. We knew exactly what to do, we didn’t get ruffled about it and we acted decisively.
There would be no bidding war, we would go as high as we could with no subjects, then go to the hockey – and screw it if we didn’t get it after that. Maybe the Giants’ would win, hey?
Our offer went in. The puck dropped. And we waited.
“ok GET READY you have grown up now the apartment is yours!! Congratulations!!”
At 8:04 p.m. – some five and a half hours after we first saw the place – Linda texted to say we had bought it, for the amount I first imagined. At this point the hockey became a blur. (Which is a good thing as the Giants started losing, badly.)
Real Vancouver real estate
Drinks were drunk, excited phone calls made and a zillion messages sent. In just a few hours, we had bought a condo in Vancouver. I couldn’t quite believe it. We actually owned some Vancouver real estate.
Since then, I’ve been like a crazy whirlwind organizing everything – a deposit, a mortgage, a lawyer, home insurance, mortgage insurance, movers… the list goes on. And it sounds far too grown up.
Finally, on December 7, the purchase closed and this beautiful apartment was finally ours. We moved in two days later.
Sitting here at the start of 2016, I still have to pinch myself every day. It all happened so fast, I think I’m almost in shock.
Not only have I achieved something I’ve always wanted, I’ve also knocked a pretty big thing off my list of 101 Things in 1,001 Days.
Now we just have to pay the mortgage…
Our Vancouver real estate A-team
I want to say thanks to the team of people who helped us achieve this crazy dream in such a short space of time – Michelle Byman, Linda Burchell and Trina Skare. We couldn’t have done it without them. If you’re looking at Vancouver real estate and you need a mortgage broker, realtor or home inspector, you can find their details below. We highly recommend them!
Michelle Byman – Mortgage Broker
TMG The Mortgage Group Canada Inc.
Linda Burchell – Realtor
TRG The Residential Group Realty
Trina Skare – Home Inspector
Need To Know Home Inspections
I want your feedback. Any thoughts, reaction, advice… real estate dreams and nightmares? Let me know in the comments below!