…or what not to do
If you haven’t already, check out the first part of this post here: A time-line of Home Ownership or What not to do (Part 1)
September 26 – November 18, 2020:
I spent the next nearly 2 months in limbo. I started preparing for the move and got exited about decorating and setting up my new space. After measuring my couch I realized that it was way too big for my new living room so I started shopping around for one that would fit. I tried to pin down exactly how much closing costs would be, while knowing that my sister would lend me the difference if I was short. My family made an effort to eat as much food from the freezer as I could, and I made arrangements to move my utilities. I researched and got quotes for home insurance. I called the school and had a bit of a headache getting a new bus stop set up for my oldest daughter. And I pretty-pleased my brother-in-law in to helping me move with his truck, while my sister was away on a work trip. I mean you can’t just buy a truck and not help your sister-in-law move, can you?
November 19, 2020:
I had not heard from any of my team (realtor, bank, lawyer, housing rep) since September, so I started calling and emailing everyone to see what needed to happen in the next little while. My realtor explained the final walkthrough to me and said it was up to “Carol” (remember her from Part 1?) to send the lawyer and housing what they needed.
When I called housing they still hadn’t received anything, and neither had the lawyer. I emailed Carol with several questions, and she responded several days later asking me to give her a call. I did. Many times. I even left messages. She never answered a single call, and the one time she called me back I missed it, due to an unfortunately timed bathroom visit! I called back within minutes and again no answer. While I fully understood that the pandemic market was keeping everyone extremely busy in the real estate industry, I was feeling very neglected. Frankly I should have kept pushing and advocating for myself, but Carol was a highly recommended professional, and I trusted her to perform her duties as required. As a first time home buyer I put my faith in the knowledge and experience of those standing to earn a fee from my purchase.
November 20, 2020:
This was the day I received my last pay cheque and child tax before closing. It’s important because this is the day that my carefully planned excel spreadsheet finally paid off. I had projected, nearly 3 months earlier, that if I kept my spending to an absolute minimum, I would have enough by this day to finish paying my credit card down to the required $10,000, and have enough left to cover closing costs. I would not need the cashback option after all, meaning a lower interest rate and thousands of dollars saved in the long run.
November 25, 2020:
Things get a little blurry for the next 5 days, as there was a lot going on and much of it was over the phone. Up to this point I have used my email and text messages to help me piece together many of the dates and events, but all of the conversation threads went cold. What I can say is that I was getting upset. I still didn’t have answers to many of my questions, and I think I cried on the phone with either housing or the lawyer at one point. This entire process turned me in to a different person, because so much was out of my control. A conversation with a colleague reassured me that it was normal to feel how I did at the time, but I truly felt unhinged. The staff at the law firm were the most helpful and patient at this point. They set up an appointment to sign the documents on November 30, in hopes that everything would be ready to go.
November 29, 2020:
I had given myself two days off work prior to closing to finish packing and cleaning, a day to close and move, and another day to start unpacking and setting up my new home. After that short pause I would be back to full time work until Christmas. Having still not received satisfactory replies to any of my questions, I was getting pretty pessimistic about the whole process. I was terrified that the entire thing was going to fall through at the last minute because of Carol, and the prospect of staying even another week in our rental was so depressing. I got as much work done around the house as I could, but was emotionally exhausted and needed far too many breaks. My back was also injured at work the previous day, so that limited my ability to bend and lift, serving to depress me even more thereby slowing my progress.
November 30, 2020:
My back hurt, I still had a lot of packing to finish, and Carol had made me her “top priority” today (no doubt. she hadn’t worked on my file in months and there was a lot to do before closing the next day.) so my phone was ringing all day. First she asked for my kids birth certificates so she could include my child tax credit as income. Then she sent me documents to sign, outlining my mortgage details. They had included, without ever explaining anything to me, Home Protect insurance. Basically this is insurance to cover the mortgage incase I die, but you must check no to a long list of health conditions (several of which I had) and there was no option to check yes or decline the coverage. Both of these things should have been done before this point, but the fact that they were slowing down the process this late in the game irked me yet again.
Carol agreed to remove the insurance and send the documents back for me to sign. Hours passed. I e-mailed to remind her I had not received them yet. She said they were still working on it.
My lawyer called to say he still didn’t have the documents he needed so he was cancelling our appointment. He would let me know when he had what he needed and we could reschedule. That was the last straw for me. I sent a firm yet still somehow professional e-mail back to the bank saying it was unacceptable that they had not communicated with me until the very last second then snuck insurance in without my consent. I then received a phone call from Carol saying she didn’t appreciate my e-mail to which I basically responded that if she couldn’t handle her workload, she shouldn’t have taken on so many clients, and that if I gave her level of service to my customers I would undoubtedly be fired.
She didn’t like what I had to say, and I didn’t like having to say it. As someone who has worked 20 years in customer service, I try to show the utmost respect to everyone I deal with, but at this point I was truly fearful of losing my house, and I put the blame squarely on her shoulders, whether I was right in doing so or not. I messaged my realtor and told her what was going on, and I talked to Housing who said they hadn’t received anything from the bank yet, which they needed in order to prepare their own documents to send to the lawyer. Unfortunately even if he received them, there wouldn’t be enough time for the money to be transferred to the lawyer before closing. My world was falling down around me.
At some point the revised document were sent to me, signed and finally at 6:36 PM the files were sent to housing and the lawyer.
December 1, 2020:
Early in the morning the bank called. She seemed now to understand that she dropped the ball in a big way and was going to do everything possible to get my purchase finalized and make it up to me. She said she had gone to her superiors to get me a better rate, and offered 1.79%, if I was able to pay off an additional $1000 on my credit card. The best advertised rate at the time was 1.99%, so I was quite pleased with that at least. I had about $2000 in my account for closing costs, but I took a leap of faith on this one and transferred the money over, holding my breath over whether or not I would have enough left. Carol also had a solution for the down payment from housing. She would take the amount needed from my credit card and transfer it to the lawyer, then when the housing loan cleared she would put the money back on my card and credit me the interest and fees. Ok. I was starting to feel a bit better. Frankly I was not ready to forgive and forget her previous negligence, but if she was scrambling now to make it right, I was going to let her. I still had the most skin in the game, but I think she understood at this point that her reputation may be in question should this not end favorably.
9:00 am: Having put one child on the school bus and dropped the other at daycare, we headed to the house for the final walkthrough. It was spitting a bit, but being in the house that was very soon to be my home made me feel happy again, for the first time in days. There was nothing worth complaining about, so I signed off with my realtor and headed back to the old house to finish up and wait.
At some point Carol called with a new offer. She could provide me with an extra $4000 cash back to apply to the remaining balance on my credit card, but at an increased interest rate. Since I excel at Excel (yup, a Microsoft pun) I calculated that the higher interest on my mortgage would cost me more than the savings in credit card interest over the 5 year term, so I declined.
2:00 pm: It’s pouring rain. My boots were already packed and buried in a giant pile in my dining room. It was roughly a 20 minute walk to the lawyers office, and with the ferocious valley wind my umbrella was useless. So I turned up for my appointment dripping wet. I can say that both physically and emotionally, those folks saw me at my absolute worst. I sat down with the lawyer, who was both patient and kind, as he explained the details of my mortgage contracts, answered my questions, and showed me where to sign. He also finally could provide the amount for closing costs. This included his fee, a tax adjustment (which was to pay back the seller for the few months of property tax he had already paid on the house) and an oil adjustment (the cost of a full tank of heating oil, which the seller provided). It was a little over $1300, which was more than I had!
I called my mom who transferred me a gift of $300 as a housewarming gift. That left me $12 short. I dug through my purse, and sure enough, there were a few bills that I had tucked away pre-covid and forgot about. A $10 and two $5s. YES! What amazing luck. I deposited it in the bank machine, transferred the whole thing to the lawyer and had, I kid you not, $8 to spare.
4:00 pm: The rain slowed to a light drizzle. My wonderful amazing awesome brother-in-law ( 😉 😉 ) came straight from work with his two boys – one able bodied and the other on crutches, and his truck. I wanted to get the soft furniture moved first to avoid it getting too wet, and give it time to dry before bed. The bank sent the down payment and mortgage funds to the lawyer, but it turns out this takes a lot longer than a simple e-transfer. Another friend showed up with his car, which we packed with my partners computer gear and pillows to protect it all. We were ready to hit the road. Except. We still didn’t have the keys. The realtor had to bring them to us, but she could only do so once the lawyer gave the go ahead. He could not authorize that until all of the money was received, and transferred again to the seller, and I was getting concerned that if it wasn’t complete by the end of the business day, they would go home and I’d be stuck for another day. Thankfully my landlord had not yet rented the unit, so he kindly offered to give us a few extra days if we needed them.
5:23 pm: The realtor called!! She’s on her way with the keys. Everything is done and I am a home owner now!!!! I giddily informed my family that we would be leaving in a few minutes with our first loads. Now I know where my realtor lives, it really wasn’t far, but time must have stood still because it seemed like it took forever. But it didn’t matter, I was ecstatic. What was probably only minutes later, I had my keys in hand, and we were on our way. My older nephew, who was recovering from a surgery, stayed at the old house with my kids, while the rest of us drove over, unpacked, did a brief house tour, and returned for another load. We got a fair bit done, but the rain started picking up again, so we were limited to what would fit in the truck with the cover on it.
My family has a bit of a tradition that on special days (bringing baby home, starting a business, etc.) we eat Chinese food. My brother-in-law and I picked up a ton of food to feed all of us, and perched around the old house we ate off of paper plates while formulating a plan for the rest of our move. We decided to take one last load of boxes to the new house, and bring the kids for the night, in part because my daughters bus driver was expecting us there the following day. My partner was going to stay behind to finish organizing the last few things and get started on a deep clean. The kids were so excited to see the house again, because they hadn’t since our initial viewing. I threw their mattresses on the floor of their new room, and dug their sheets, blankets and favourite stuffies from the bag I had smartly packed that morning, and they were out.
9:00 pm: I finally had a chance to sit down and process everything that had happened. I looked around my new home, with boxed and disassembled furniture in every corner, and wet foot prints tracked everywhere and I fell in love. This is what I had worked for, sacrificed for, cried over, for the last 3 months. I finally had a beautiful little home for my family to grow up in.
My mattress leaning against a pile in the new office, so I knocked it over right there and collapse in to a deep and well deserved sleep.
Final Thoughts on home ownership:
I hope this gives a fairly thorough overview of the whole process of buying a home, from start to finish. So many of the questions I had were not addressed in the many blogs I read on the subject, and the timeline of when different expenses are paid, who does what when, what you should be doing at different stages, and most importantly the emotional roller coaster I was on were things I was not fully prepared for. I know everyone’s experiences will differ and these are strange times, but I hope if you are planning on buying a home this gives you a little perspective on the whole thing.