Finding the perfect home can be exhausting and emotional - just like training for a marathon.
When I was in my twenties, I spotted an ad that invited me to raise money for a charity by running a “destination” marathon. The idea was that you’d train with a group in Vancouver and raise a minimum amount for a good cause, and then you’d travel with the group to a destination like Honolulu to participate in a 26.2 mile (42 kilometre) marathon.
I had never run a day in my life.
I told my then-boyfriend I was considering running a marathon. He immediately told me I couldn’t do it: “That’s like running from here to Hope! You think you can do that?”
(He was wrong, of course. Hope, BC is 154 kilometres from Vancouver. I only wanted to run 42 kilometres.)
So after I dumped Mr. Negativity, I signed up with Joints in Motion to raise money for the Arthritis Society while training for my first marathon. I showed up for our first group run of five kilometres, determined to do this.
It wasn’t easy. I was slow, I was out of breath, and at times I wanted to stop putting one foot in front of the other. But I did it. I ran five kilometres! That accomplishment felt like I had run a marathon already!
During the course of my four months of training and then running the actual marathon itself, I learned that marathons are often more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
The same can be said for buying a home in Vancouver.
Many people either think they can’t do it, or when they start to consider it are told by others that it’s impossible.
Once they decide to try, looking at dozens of properties can soon become exhausting.
You may get confusing advice from ill-informed sources, such as parents who may live in a small town far from Vancouver and don’t understand this market.
You may fall in love with a place that that you can’t buy because it’s already sold.
You will probably lose out on a bidding war (or five!) because your offer wasn’t strong enough to beat the other twelve offers on the condo that you imagined as your first home.
You are going to look at sale prices that are thousands of dollars over asking prices.
I compare buying real estate to training for (and running) your first marathon. In either scenario, you are going to go through the following emotions:
Despair. You’re going to feel overwhelmed. You’ll think “I can’t do this.” You’re going to get excited about a place, only to get disappointed. Other people are going to tell you that you can’t do this, or give you their opinion about why you shouldn’t do this.
Hope. At other times, you are going to feel very confident in your decision. This might occur after your mortgage broker informs you that you qualify for more than you expected. This may happen after you fall in love with the perfect condo in the perfect location and start planning your housewarming in your head. Or it may happen after you talk with a coworker who recently sold their first condo for $175,000 more than what they paid for it three years ago. (Or, depending how you look at it, this one might just lead you back to “I can’t do this.”)
Fear. Taking on the responsibility of home ownership is going to feel scary. Having mortgage payments, along with paying property taxes (and usually strata fees) feels a lot more scary to some people than paying rent. And you might be nervous about the thought of living in the same place without the ability to give 30 days’ notice and move on.
Excitement. Finding the perfect home in the right neighbourhood, the place where you know you would be very happy living, is exciting. Actually buying that home is even more exciting!
Disappointment. Finding that your perfect home was also perfect for other people and losing out in a multiple offer for it can be a crushing experience. If you’re lucky, (and have the right realtor), you won’t have to experience this multiple times.
Frustration. Not being able to find your perfect home in your budget and having to make allowances in location or features can be intensely frustrating. So can finding your perfect home again and again and losing out again and again.
Nervousness. When you finally purchase your home, you’ll probably start feeling seriously nervous. You might be worried about making higher monthly payments than you did previously. The thought of packing and moving may feel daunting. Being the one responsible to fix your own toilet (or pay for the plumber), instead of calling the landlord, can be an unnerving change.
Guilt. You may feel guilty about moving from being a renter who once viewed the Vancouver real estate market as “a game I don’t want to participate in” to being on the other side as a property owner.
At every emotional stage you go through on your journey to buying real estate, remember what motivated your decision to do so in the first place. Allow yourself time to deal with the feelings that will inevitably come up—the positive ones and the negative.
You don’t wake up one day and run a 42 kilometre marathon without spending months training for it. During your months of training, there will be days when you want to stop putting one foot in front of the other, when the goal seems too far away and too difficult to achieve.
But once you cross that finish line and finally purchase your own piece of Vancouver real estate, you’ll have an incredible sense of accomplishment—and your very own place to call home.