As Toronto home buyers try to navigate the hot and often frustrating real estate market, choosing the right location becomes increasingly important. But for a budget-conscious first-time buyer the winning strategy sometimes requires thinking outside of the box.
In Meghan’s case, this meant looking for a property outside of Toronto, but still within the GTA. Home extends far beyond its walls and into a community that surrounds it, so it was important for Meghan to find a neighbourhood that felt welcoming, charming, less like a typical suburban development and more like a ‘small town’. After a few weeks of exploring the east end of the GTA, Brooklin proved to be the perfect fit!
The Village of Brooklin is located within the Town of Whitby, with an estimated population of 19,000. Downtown Brooklin is a designated heritage conservation district and its main street is dotted with local shops, eateries and daily essentials. For those who enjoy the outdoors, the Heber Down Conservation Area is just a few minutes south and the Deer Creek Golf Course is there when you’re ready to hit the links.
Meghan began her search last summer when the high prices of Toronto real estate shifted the interest of many buyers east of the city. With increased interest and competition there was a slight learning curve, as with most first time buyers. But Meghan stayed focused and positive throughout the process, so when the right property came along she didn’t hesitate. Here is Meghan’s story on finding her very own nest.
What influenced your decision to purchase a property?
I had been renting for close to 14 years. I was ready to make a move – I needed an additional bedroom to use as a home office/craft room since starting a job that entailed working from home the year before. Additionally I was starting to feel restricted by the small scale of the space and lack of amenities i.e. no dish washer or en-suite laundry. Once I decided I was ready to move I did the rent vs. buying analysis. Essentially, it would have worked out about the same with renting, saving me only a little more each month. Being a home owner and having control over my space outweighed any financial gain for me.
Was the buying process different than you expected?
A little. Even though I am a researcher and made sure I knew what to expect from a process and procedure point of view I was still shocked by the some of the behaviours of sellers and their agents. It really is a seller’s market and the things that they can get away with can be really frustrating. I had a deal fall through because the Seller’s Agent didn’t do their due diligence over a rental furnace/air conditioning system. It was discovered at the very last second and there was no real willingness to negotiate or understand the significant cost and risk they wanted me to take on. They were completely unreasonable. You really have to be sure of what your boundaries and limits are….and then have the strength to stick to them.
What’s the best thing about owning real estate?
That it’s mine! I don’t have to depend on the whims of a Superintendent if something breaks down. Repairs can be done to my level of satisfaction. Also, I change the finishes or layout if I want too (with Condo board approval of course). The first thing I did was put in hardwood. If I never have to see apartment parquet flooring again it will be too soon.
What do you wish you would have known?
How to play the game to win. Deciding on an offer price is really tough. With the first property I offered on I was way too low, but still decently over asking. By the time I got the hang of it the market had moved on and the properties I was looking at were now out of reach. I had no idea that properties could jump in price by $50-100K over a series of weeks. My advice is look at the comps over the last year and try to see if you can spot a pricing pattern. With one area you could see that prices increased $50K every 3 months or so.
How did you decide on the location?
I knew that it was really important to me that I had the additional space I needed without being house poor. That definitely meant I had to look on the outer edges of the GTA. Most of my friends had already moved north to Richmond Hill or live in Whitby or even Cobourg. Durham Region is central to everyone and being located at the 407 and near the 412 means I can get anywhere I need to go pretty easily. I chose Brooklin specifically because I liked the vibe. I love the small town feel close to the city. I can walk to amenities just like I did when I lived Roncesvalles Village in Toronto, but I am also close to the country and lots of nature. The people are very friendly and laid back.
How would you describe your neighbourhood?
It’s very quiet and residential. At the same time it doesn’t feel suburban, which always feels soulless to me. There’s old development with a sense of history and new development with lots of life – both create a real personality for the streetscape.
How would you describe your home?
Incomplete! I am waiting for my budget to catch up with my vision. In all seriousness it’s very warm and inviting. I think it feels more like a house than a condo because it has a great layout with a nice flow between the private and living space.
Do you have a particular design style?
Traditional with the unexpected. I always like to throw something in that adds interest, whether it be something whimsical or contemporary. My design concept for this space is ‘sophisticated serene’ with the antique brown floors, french white walls and blue and purple accents. At the same time I didn’t want it to be too serene. That’s not me. So I added some sass with a dark raspberry accent here and there.
What’s your favourite thing about your home?
My dishwasher, my en-suite laundry and my bedroom wall colour. In that order.
How did owning a home influence your lifestyle?
I started nesting. I found myself wanting to stay home and cook a great meal, hang out etc. Really enjoy the space vs. just using it as a place to sleep and change clothes before going out again.
Thanks Meghan for sharing your story. It was a pleasure to work with you and help you find this great property. It looks even more inviting and warm now than that you’ve put your personal stamp on it.