Today is exactly one month since we were handed the keys to our very first home. It’s been a whirlwind month since then of painting, packing and unpacking while still trying to keep up with normal daily things like homeschooling and blogging.
When my husband and I were planning our wedding nine years ago (!!!), many people asked us if we were buying a house. Our answer was no. He had one year left to his second degree and we didn’t know where he’d find a job after graduation. So we rented an apartment together. Then we changed jobs several times, went back to school, and moved lots, so we just kept renting.
For years, though, I’ve been looking at houses and dreaming about the day we can get our own. Every “For Sale” sign catches my eye and makes me look twice, wondering, “Would I live there? Or there? Or there?” I wanted a house that was ours—a house that we could paint and fix and change and put holes in without worrying about what the landlord would say or whether we’d get our damage deposit back.
Finally, at the beginning of this year, we felt like we’d reached a place where we could talking about buying our first home. My husband has a steady, secure job with a company he likes. We’ve gotten to know Vancouver. We have friends and community here. And so we began looking.
And looking. And looking. My husband spent hours pouring over house listings, searching for the perfect place. It was both exciting and depressing. Exciting because the next house might be ours… depressing because so many homes didn’t fit our needs. The Vancouver real estate market is not friendly for young families or first-time home buyers.
Beyond price, the places we looked at were too big (I don’t need two living rooms and two dining rooms) or too small (we have four kids) or had too many bathrooms (I don’t want to clean four!!!) or a bad layout or a small kitchen or needed too much work (renos, anyone?). I often gave up in disappointment, not wanting to look at pictures of another pretty house only to find that it was way out of our price range.
Then it happened. We walked into a home and said, “Wow.” It had a gas stove (something I grew up with and have always wanted). It had a full-size laundry room (a big win for me, after spending the last year in a shared laundry situation). It had big windows and new floors. And it was close to a park, a Catholic church, and a SkyTrain station.
We drove around talking about the possibilities. We called our realtor. He called their realtor. And then we spent a very tense week waiting to see if the sellers would accept our offer. In the middle of that, my husband went on retreat and our van broke down. It was a crazy, chaotic week but at the end of it, we’d bought our first home.
The paperwork followed. I began dreaming of paint colours. My husband tried to figure out where we’d fit all the furniture. Finally, the day came when we showed up at our first home to pick up the keys from our realtor. The girls ran through the empty rooms, bouncing off the walls in excitement. (They kept saying, “Yay! No more looking at boring old houses!”)
I went to Ottawa for a weekend and then came home to jump into new home ownership. First thing: painting. My brother came over from Vancouver Island for three days to help me prep and paint the bedrooms. Two friends offered to watch the girls for two days while I did the painting. It was so exciting to see the house become ours. (And yes, I painted one room with Pearl in the Juno.)
The move was crazy and chaotic. I think we were spoiled by having movers for our last move, because we weren’t prepared for this move. Maybe it was going away to a conference or trying to do all the painting, but when Saturday came, I was still packing. A friend’s brother helped us for the afternoon, but I couldn’t get a babysitter or any other help. My husband ended up pulling an all-nighter just to get everything out of the old house and into the new house.
And then I began unpacking. Organizing. Settling in. It’s been a lot of work. It’s also been very satisfying. This time, we are here for a while. This time, I can give away the moving boxes. This time, I can fix it up the way I want it, instead of putting up with it because it’s just a temporary rental.
Owning our first home is the start of a new adventure for us and I’m excited about everything that will happen for our family here.
Do you own or rent your home? What makes a house a home for you?