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How A 30-Year-Old Retail Manager Bought Her $474K Calgary Townhouse

Welcome to How I Bought It, where one Canadian reveals just how exactly they managed to buy their home. Our goal is to demystify the path to home ownership by talking openly about how people get there.
This month: An engaged 30-year-old retail manager who makes $49,000 a year.
Location: Southwest Calgary
The home: A 2 bed, 2-and-a-half bath row townhouse built in 2006 with an attached double-car garage, lower patio space, upper deck, in-floor heating, and AC. There’s no work needed apart from a few cosmetic upgrades to lighting hardware.
When I bought it: April 2021
What I spent: $474,000
Downpayment: $180,000
Mortgage payment: $1,500 monthly, split 50/50 between me and my fiancé.
Maintenance fees: $430/monthly, includes exterior insurance and outdoor upkeep, from lawn mowing to painting the exterior of the home.
Property taxes: $3,500 yearly
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How I bought it: The townhouse was actually purchased in my parents’ name; they put $120,000 towards the downpayment ($10k of this came from a savings account I’ve had since I was born that’s been accruing interest). I’m an only child, and my parents always planned to purchase my first property in their name, but all payments and anything needing to be done to the property is up to my partner and me to cover. In addition to this, my partner received $60,000 from his grandparents to contribute to the downpayment. He’s from a family of four boys, and the two eldest boys have bought houses with their partners, with his grandparents contributing a good chunk of money for each downpayment.
Because the townhome is in my parents’ name, they had a lawyer draft up a legal agreement that says my partner has a third of a stake in the home; so if we were to break up, he would still have a third in the property.
I have a few friends who’ve purchased homes and they've done it on their own. Being an only child, I've always been very supported by my parents and I’m also in a very lucky position. My dad is in real estate finance and he's got his real estate licence, so he's very familiar with how deals work and the property value per square footage and that kind of stuff.
Why I bought it: My parents have had several investment properties over the years, so purchasing a townhome for me made sense as an eventual investment for me. The plan is to own and live in our townhome for three to five years. If we decide we want to sell after that time, then all the equity put into the property will go towards a downpayment for something bigger that would actually be in our name. Or we could decide to keep the property as a rental income and go that route. The neighbourhood we bought in is central and really popular. That was another reason why we love the area, because the property will only ever appreciate in value due to the location.
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COVID changed a lot of things, in particular because the market was so crazy for people who weren't necessarily ready to purchase, but were in a better position because they weren't spending money in different aspects of their life. During this particular time, we would have been a little bit more capable [to purchase on our own], but definitely not for this budget. That was the other reason why my parents did it in their name: My partner and I wouldn’t have been able to qualify for the financing. I’ve had the same vehicle since I graduated university (my parents bought it for me so it’s not in my name), so I don't really have any kind of credit.
How the deal went down: We started seriously talking about looking to buy with my parents in 2019. At that time, we talked about the max budget being $300,000. We were looking for a two-bedroom apartment. But as we started looking, we decided it made more sense for us as we're getting older to be in something with a bit more square footage, along with a garage and some kind of outdoor space. The more we looked at properties, the more we upped our budget; so it went from $300,000 being the max max to, "Okay, maybe we need to look at $375,000."
And then we kept increasing the budget. It was confusing for our realtor because we kept seeing things that we really liked and adding things to our must-have list (an attached garage with storage, having some kind of outdoor space, having two bedrooms, at least two bathrooms, ideally a powder room on the main floor or in the basement. I’m relatively particular about the aesthetic of it, so we knew going into it that we'd have to be making some updates). 
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While we were looking, we were renting a one-bedroom in Mission for $1,400 with everything included (we’d been renting since 2019). We put in offers on three different places, and lost them all. One in particular was being dealt with by a relocation company located in Toronto. We put our offer in on a Monday morning, but they didn't look at it until Tuesday morning and they’d received another offer that was $2,000 over ours. So they just went with the higher one. That was really frustrating and happened a couple of times.
We were getting to the point where we would have to make a decision, even if not all of us were able to look at the property. With this property, I saw it listed on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. and we viewed it on Thursday right after work. Since the market is so hot right now in Calgary, we knew we had to act quickly. We put together our offer that night and the selling agent didn’t take it seriously. They wanted to see what the six showings the following day would bring, which pressured us to up our offer to only $4,000 below list. We put the offer in on Thursday and then found out Friday at 1 p.m. that we got it! Since it was vacant, we took basically an immediate possession (two weeks!) and since my parents were buying, we didn’t need to wait for any financing to come through, which made it an even easier deal for the sellers.
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What I wish I’d known before I bought: Be patient, but be aggressive! We put in our final offer relatively quickly, and it was definitely due to the fact that we had lost so many properties where we hadn’t made the decision quickly enough. In these last six months when things were going really quickly, we were definitely getting discouraged, having put an offer in on three solid places. There were a couple other places where I really wanted to put an offer in, but by the time we were ready to do so, other offers had already come in. It kept feeling like this place was the one and then we would lose it, and then you'd think that you'd never find something as good as that home again. With the townhome we’re in now, everything was perfect: the location, the size, the finishings. So I think having the patience to know that it will work out [is important].
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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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