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How A 25-Year-Old Tech Consultant Bought Her $940K Toronto Condo

Welcome to How I Bought It, where, each month, one Canadian shares how exactly they managed to buy their home. Our goal is to demystify the path to home ownership by talking openly about the challenges — and often the privileges — in getting there.
Today: a 25-year-old tech consultant with an income of $100,000
Location: The Annex, Toronto
The home: A 2-bed, 2-bath unit in a low-rise building. Built in the late '90s/early 2000s, it features some elements not always seen in newer builds, like a gas fireplace and extra-high ceilings which give the space a loft conversion-like feel.
When I bought it: October 2021
What I spent: $940,000
Downpayment: $350,000
Mortgage payment: $1,700/month
Maintenance fees (monthly): $800. Includes a parking spot, locker, elevator, garbage, general maintenance and landscaping, and snow removal.
Land transfer and lawyer fees: $22,000 in land transfer tax (as a first-time homebuyer $4,000 was refunded to me). Total legal fees came out to about $1,200.
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How I bought it: When my parents got married they didn’t have much besides a good sense of humour and debt from student loans. By the time my siblings and I were born, they were able to provide a comfortable life for us, but the important lessons of learning to budget and splitting our wants and needs started at a young age and I've always found myself geared more towards saving for the future.
While getting an undergraduate degree in engineering, my tuition was as high as $12,000 per year. I received smaller scholarships (between $1,000 to $3,000 for tuition), but nothing that covered the entire cost of my degree. Rent was an additional $600 per month (living with roommates helped to keep the cost down), and thanks to some websites that shall not be named, I was able to get any required textbooks online for free. During the school year, I worked part-time as a bartender, which would bring in somewhere between $500 to $2,000 per month, depending on the number of shifts and how generous people were with tips. I had some money saved up from teaching swimming and lifeguarding in the summers throughout high school (I started working at age 12) and continuing that six days a week through the summers in university allowed me to start each school year with another $6,000 in my pocket to cover expenses. By the end of each university year I would usually end up with less than $100 in my bank account and manage my money tightly in the summers so that I had a bigger vodka budget for the following year.
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Though I never really finished each school year with much in my pocket, I was fortunate enough to graduate with no debt. Education has always been extremely important in my family and my parents didn’t want the cost of education to serve as a barrier, so I was fortunate that they were willing to cover what was not covered by scholarships. I’m well aware of how lucky I am that I had that support both in my education and in the purchase of my first home (serious props to anyone out there who has been able to do it completely by themselves!).
My first full-time job after university required me to fly in and out of Toronto every single week for 16 months. Forking out more than half my paycheque to live somewhere for two days per week seemed a bit ridiculous, so instead of finding a rental, I moved back in with my parents in their Toronto home, where I contributed $500 per month. The rest of my paycheque I would split out into savings, investing, and monthly expenses. My lump sum payments towards my investing account typically range from $5,000 to $10,000, which I invest into a mixed portfolio that currently is sitting at 70% equities and 25% fixed income. The remaining 5% is cash sitting ready to be invested. Travelling every week for work meant that Monday to Friday my meals were essentially covered, allowing me to contribute a bit more towards savings and investing than I could have if I had been working in Toronto.
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I first set myself up so that I had a solid $5,000 in my “rainy day” fund, which I was keeping in my chequing account (finance bros don’t come at me). Once that was established, my monthly income was split: rent ($500), mobile phone ($50), fun/activities ($500 at most because it was COVID and we couldn’t do anything, though pre-COVID my monthly “fun” expenditure were closer to $1,000), travel savings ($100). I would normally be left with $3,000 of take-home income, which I would send over to my investment account where I first maxed out my TFSA ($30,000). Before the start of 2020 I had also already locked up $15,000 in an RRSP GIC. After all my other expenses were covered, I would evaluate the number left in my bank and transfer this to my TFSA and investing account. But I’d always make sure I had at least $5,000 sitting accessible because I’m a little risk-averse and like having cash on hand in case I immediately need it.
By the middle of 2021, I’d been living with my family and working for over two years, half of which was in a lockdown, which meant I’d saved a significant amount. Partner this with a good return on investment on a large set of my savings that I put into the market in April 2020 (I invested $50,000 from my TFSA and other savings and made $21,000 return on my investments), I had amassed enough worth that made purchasing a condo, instead of renting, not far out of reach.
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But even after saving the majority of my income for several years, I didn’t have enough for a downpayment on a condo that I’d be able to stay in for years, like a one-bedroom, plus den or two-bedroom. This meant that even on top of all my savings (I had around $200,000 saved up) and a $400,000 mortgage pre-approval I had to ask for help — in this case from my parents. (Though I have around $20,000 in RRSPs I was hesitant to pull that out for the purchase of my condo as I would have had to ensure all that money was back in the same RRSP within 15 years. I plan on letting my RRSP grow, but I did cash in on the first time homebuyers credit which refunded me $4,000.) 
In the end, the gap between my savings, mortgage, and the purchase price of the home was $200,000, which my parents contributed as a gift. (There's an expectation in my family — and something I would 100% do — that if one day they came upon harder times and needed money or would be asking for help financially, that's something I would do.)
Why I Bought It: I love to travel, but I have always seen myself living in Toronto long-term. Once I realized I was at a point where I could consider purchasing a home, I decided I wanted to have a place to fully call my own, build equity, and avoid the trials and tribulations of a landlord. Going into looking at places, I had a multi-page spreadsheet of all my wants, needs, and "will not tolerates,” which I used to guide my hunt and help my realtor understand what I was looking for. The place I purchased checked off all the boxes that were important to me: close to transit, a balcony, lots of light, and a unique layout which doesn’t resemble the layouts commonly seen in Toronto’s newer builds.
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The previous owners took great care of the unit and did some upgrades as well (including new flooring and opening up the kitchen wall to the living room), which meant there was very little I’d have to do to the space, besides patching holes from old wall hangings. The one negative I had to consider was that there’s a building going up right next to it, and a few more planned for nearby, but considering how rapidly buildings are going up in Toronto, I realized that at least with the construction next door already underway I was going into an offer knowing how the view from my unit would be impacted.
How the deal went down: Though I had been actively checking out the market on websites like realtor.ca and HouseSigma since January, I only contacted a realtor in September once I knew how much of a mortgage I was pre-approved for. My budget was originally $600,000 to $700,000. As ridiculous as it sounds, units in that price range were disappointing. Even going outside of my search boundary and to pre-construction condos, I wouldn't have been able to afford the one-bedroom, plus den I was looking for, and when I found things that were in my price range, they weren’t in Toronto anymore.
I raised my budget to search between $700,000 and $950,000, which meant I was looking at larger units with a true den or a two-bedroom, and along the subway line. (I don’t have access to a car and access to transportation is important to me.) The unit I purchased was the third one I viewed in person. I fell in love with it the moment I stepped into it. I viewed a few additional units after that one, but I wasn’t able to get that third unit out of my head.
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This was for many reasons, high among them being the unique layout (not the cookie-cutter Toronto condo that’s a long, narrow unit with the bedroom at the back and separated by a semi-opaque sliding door), as well as the fireplace, the high ceilings, and that it was a low-rise building. I really wanted the place I bought to be a space that I knew I could make my own, and I had a feeling I would have a hard time doing that in a typical Toronto unit. You could attempt to equate it with a meet-cute in a romcom — I just saw the apartment and KNEW.
I ended up booking a second viewing for a week later, and put in my offer of $935,000 that same night. The offer had a short window before expiry (in an attempt to avoid getting into a bidding war) and an unusually short close (21 days), which I think was liked by the sellers as the unit had been empty for the duration of the pandemic and they were ready to part with it. After a short back and forth with the seller on price (they came back asking for a bit more and I agreed, because getting this place was literally my dream and I wasn’t going to lose it over $5,000, even if it brought me to my max), we closed the deal within the offer window, and 21 days later I took possession.
What I wish I’d known before I bought: Reaching out to people I know for a realtor was one of the best decisions in my hunt, as it connected me to someone who was experienced, quick to pick up on what I wanted, and provided significant insight into building “red flags” and “green flags” as we were searching. 
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For anyone looking at purchasing their first condo, pay close attention to the condo status certificate (a doc that outlines the rules, regulations, and rights of the condo board and owner) before making an offer. Sometimes maintenance fees are advertised at a lower price (especially in pre-construction condos and newer builds), but the status certificate can reveal an upcoming jump to these fees, which could drastically change your monthly expenditures and is something that you should incorporate into your planning to determine if the place is affordable for you.
Submit your How I Bought It here, along with any photos of your home. It’s completely anonymous, meaning you can be fully transparent.
Buying a home is the biggest purchase you'll ever make — but who says you have to make it? Welcome to New Lease, a series that examines our long-held beliefs about home ownership and renting in Canada.

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