How A Senior Manager Bought Her $720,000 Home In Etobicoke, ON

Welcome to How I Bought It, where one Canadian reveals just how exactly they managed to buy their home.
Today: a 30-year-old senior manager who makes $110,000 a year
Location: Etobicoke, ON
The home: A 2 bedroom, 2 bath corner unit in a 2004 high-rise condo. (The previous owners updated the hardwood floors, light fixtures, kitchen faucet, thermostat, stainless steel appliances, and the washer and dryer.)
When I bought it: January 2021
What I spent: $720,000
Downpayment: $180,000
Mortgage payments: $1,078 (bimonthly)
Maintenance fees:
$809 (monthly), which covers two gyms, 24/7 concierge and a pool
How I bought it: I gave up my rental in the summer of 2020 and moved back in with my parents, so I saved a lot for six months (I'd been paying $1,800/month in rent and utilities). I also had help from my parents and grandparents, who contributed $100,000 towards the downpayment. It was important to me not to overextend myself (my take-home after tax income is approximately $2,600 every two weeks and payday happens to coincide with the date my mortgage payment is due). The only reason I was able to afford this place was being able to put a decent amount down and securing a low interest rate (1.94%). 
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Why I bought it: It’s been a personal goal of mine to own property since 2018, when I started working full-time after being on contract. One reason is for investment purposes: Real estate is one of the best ways to build wealth and forces you to save and invest on a monthly basis. But it took a lot of number-crunching and research for me to be comfortable with making the commitment. There are so many other costs associated with buying a condo (interest on your mortgage, lawyer fees, land transfer tax, maintenance fees) that when you compare it to rent, it can be a much higher expense. At the end of the day, I'm assuming the market will continue to hold strong and I will get a solid return when I do decide to sell. When the interest rates are as low mine is, it’s essentially “free” money, so it felt like a good time to make the leap. 
I also wanted to find a more permanent home after years of paying rent. I was very picky about where and what to purchase, and have been looking for two years before I found a place worth it. There were a lot of boxes I wanted checked, including location, lots of natural light, and access to transit or highways. I also love how close it is to the waterfront. I wanted to find a place to call my own and look forward to “nesting!”
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How the deal went down: I’m a research-driven decision-maker, so I spent a lot of time trying to understand the process of buying real estate before starting to look. The realtor I worked with — who I found through a friend — took the time to understand my goals (timeline and finances), what features in new condos were important to me (including location), and any other additional “value-adds” I wanted in a new home.
I knew that I wanted a fixed five-year mortgage and got pre-approved. I used a mortgage broker to give me insight into what I could expect to pay for any given unit. This helped relieve the pressure when I saw a unit I liked; as soon as I saw one, I would crunch the numbers to understand what I could offer while staying within budget, and then make the decision to place an offer or not. 
The unit I purchased hit all of my parameters and was priced extremely competitively for comparable condos in the area. My realtor highlighted that a corner unit in this particular building in this neighbourhood was a rare find. To move quickly, my realtor arranged to see the place in-person and toured me via FaceTime (I was in Ottawa at the time). After looking at the unit, speaking with the concierge, and walking the neighbourhood (also on FaceTime), I fell in love. I decided quickly that I wanted to make an offer. 
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To avoid a bidding war, my realtor and I offered $30,000 over asking, offered a closing date within a few weeks, and promised to send a $40,000 deposit on the downpayment within 24 hours. We didn’t make a conditional offer. Within four hours, the sellers accepted our offer over four others. The unit was on the market for less than 24 hours. 
What I wish I’d known before I bought: To budget for closing costs! Depending on where you are buying, the land transfer tax can be fairly significant. (FYI: Most first-time home owners are eligible for a refund.) The amount I would have owed without the rebate was $21,750. As a first time buyer, I got a rebate of $8,475 and paid two land transfer taxes: one for municipal and one for provincial (this is unique to buying in Toronto). My lawyer fees were just under $1,000.
If you set up your mortgage to bi-weekly payments (i.e. every two weeks instead of once a month), you end up paying with one more “pay period” per year, which ultimately saves on interest. 
The best advice I can offer is to be prepared by getting your finances in order and to be clear on what it is you’re looking for (i.e. your must-haves vs. nice-to-haves). Having a realtor I trusted really helped because she made sure I was prepared and walked me through what to expect from the process so that when it came time to jump, I didn’t hesitate. 
Have you bought a place recently? Help us demystify the path to home ownership by sharing your own journey. Submit your anonymous How I Bought It here, along with any photos of your home.

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