The first time we saw our home, we knew it was out of our price range. We were driving around downtown St. John’s on a sunny August afternoon, armed with maps from MLS and the iPhone. We had been spending months on MLS searching for our perfect first home, and we had been underwhelmed and disappointed in a market that was red hot. A few promising houses were snatched up before we could even see the interiors, and we were outbid by less than $500 on one house (a Godsend, retrospectively!)
On this gorgeous day, we had around 20 houses scheduled for a ‘drive-by’: these were houses that met the following sole criterion
- houses at and under our budget, and those that were within 20K over the budget, since we could potentially negotiate
During our drive-by, we would assess each house for its potential of possessing these qualities
- in need of moderate TLC
- heritage character
- existing or room for apartment/suite
- yard, outdoor space
We wanted to look at as many homes as possible, especially since MLS photos aren’t always representative of potential properties and houses. I developed an archival memory for properties in the downtown core: I could name the price, square footage, and additional details of almost every listed property. It was for this reason that I dismissed our house as we passed during our drive-by, even though they were having an open house. It was 40K above our budget: case closed. Why torture ourselves?
At the end of the drive-by, we called the realtors to schedule visits to homes that we thought had potential. One of the first agents asked if we had a representative. We hadn’t dealt with an agent, and felt we could search just as well on our own.
This agent asked if he could come by and better explain the role of a buyers representative. He visited our apartment the very next day, and explained the benefits of having him guide us through the buying process. We wouldn’t lose a thing by having representation, and the agent also brought several property profiles, some of which hadn’t yet been listed on MLS! We were very excited at having a new ‘insider’s’ perspective on the market.
The following week he sent us several more profiles, including what would be our house: the price had been reduced by 30K, as the open house the weekend before was a dud, and they were highly motivated to sell. Intriguing!! So we scheduled FOUR viewings for that weekend. On that sunny Saturday, we found out that the property we liked most of the three (cheap, cute, location) had been purchased! Booooo.
Continue to Drive By: Part 2 for the last installment of our home-buying saga!