The Search … Resumes.

I could hardly believe my eyes.

Through the window, I could see the sunlight glinting off of Lake Ontario below. A lone hot dog stand sat close to the water’s edge. Next to it, cars whizzed down Lake Shore Boulevard.

To the left of the building, cars and trucks sped along the Gardiner Expressway. Just beyond it was a smaller body of water – likely Grenadier Pond.

I was standing in a condo that was up for sale, on the 7th floor of a building that had been registered for a year.

You entered by way of key card – not a key. There were hardwood floors and double closets. The kitchen, bathroom and bedroom was a decent size for one person. It had a small balcony. Even the size of the living space wasn’t terribly tiny.

It was, quite literally, the nicest unit I’d seen so far, since resuming my real estate search a month ago.

Yep, you heard me.

That talk back in January about sucking it up and getting on with it? Well, I guess I was lying to myself. Again.

I HAD been looking at rental listings, trying to get a feel for I could expect for less than three zeroes. In fact, I still am.

But it was a phone call in March, to an agent I’d spoken to last fall, which set the wheels in motion again.

So, about the nice condo near the water: it was close, but no cigar. I did seriously consider it. But the location was the issue. If I was a driver with a car, there’d be no problem. But as a pedestrian, commuting would be a bit awkward. Plus the only thing immediately in the area was the low-rise hotel next door. And as a single woman, I had my reservations, especially travelling after dark. So my search continues.

I’ve been at this newest attempt for just over a month. I’ve seen eight units so far this time around. Not surprisingly, the prices of properties have jumped in the six months I took a break, and they continue to climb.

I fully realize what I’m getting into – a seller’s market, where people are listing and selling for as much money as they can get. So “tiny” now applies to square footage, not cost. I’m not kidding myself by any stretch of the imagination.

Do I think I’ll be successful this time? I’ve got absolutely no clue. But I’m trying to prescribe to a slightly different philosophy.

I’m trying to be more proactive in telling my agents which units I’m interested in looking at. But I’m trying to treat this as the search for my first place as an adult, rather than an investment. Perhaps that’s a foolhardy way to look at it. But that’s frankly how people are treating their houses and condos – as investment properties that are used to try and make large monetary gains.

And prices aren’t going to be like this forever – they’ll take a drop. But then again, experts of all stripes have been saying that for at least the last six years.

And frankly, I really don’t want to spend the remainder of my young adulthood, living with Mom and Dad, waiting for this to happen.

Yes, I could rent. But I’d rather give this option another spin of the wheel than putting this quest on hold.

The truth is, I’m cautiously optimistic at best, realistic/pessimistic at worst. I’m keeping my expectations very low and give this latest go-round until June or July. And then I’ll re-evaluate.

But for now, I’ll put the condo near the water out of my mind, continue to exercise some patience … and hope that when the time is right, I’ll pounce and hit my target.

What’s Behind Door # 3?

As I mention repeatedly, I commute between my place of work downtown and my home (with my parents) in the suburbs. And I’m not going to lie – lately, it’s really been getting to me.

In January, I made moving out one of the things I wanted to accomplish on my yearly wish list.  

So I started scouring the MLS listings. I’d go through the weekend condo sections in my newspaper. I’d pick up those free condo guides … and the resale home guides. And I’d look. At the houses … and the prices. And I’d sigh.

And then I’d look at some of the online listings for rentals. And I’d look at the prices. And I’d sigh again.

Last week, it really stressed me out. 

I’d already been putting pressure on myself because of the declaration I made on New Year’s Eve. And the commutes as of late had been taking a toll. On top of that, my friends have constantly been saying, “You’re going to move out this summer.” Trying to make the case for renting. Adding to the pressure I’ve already been putting on myself.

This past week, it was almost too much. I was talking with a co-worker, who is always kind enough to give me a lift halfway home, and I just blurted out how tired I was and how I was thinking of just sucking it up and renting a place. Understandably, she said why that wasn’t a good idea. I almost had a meltdown in the van.

That was when she suggested I should really sit down and talk with someone with financial expertise, to try and figure something out.

So yesterday, that’s what I did. I went to see a mortgage broker to have some questions answered, and finally get some hard numbers to determine if I could make goal # 6 happen this year, once and for all. 

The good news? I have awesome credit.

The not-so-good news? I cannot buy this year.

And the not-much-better-news: I could move out. But if I did, I’d probably be paying the equivalent of the mortgage I can not yet afford. And do I really want to move out, only to move back home six months from now because I can’t afford rent, utilities, food, etc.?

Friends – do you know what’s more “humiliating” than living at home with parents at the age of 31? Moving out because the pressure is too great, and then moving back home within a year because I can’t manage my money and pay the bills.

There is nothing wrong with renting. I went away to school, and although for shorter periods of time, I’ve lived in three apartments in two cities. (It was also cheaper than it is here in Toronto.)

But moving into an apartment, when I’m stressed and frustrated, would probably be the worst decision for me to make right now. I’d be even more frustrated and constantly worried.

(And it doesn’t matter how money you make. There are people out there with salaries in the high-five-figures, even six figures, who are practically bankrupt because they’re financially irresponsible. Moving out and renting will not instantly make me fiscally responsible. You have to be like that going in. If you’re not really good with money going in, that’s not going to immediately reverse itself when you get yourself a landlord.)

The mortgage broker did suggest one other option, one I’ve been staunchly opposed to: 

Learn to drive. Buy a car.

Anyone who knows me knows that I haaaaate driving.

I am the person who did not wake up on her 16th birthday and run out to the Ministry of Transportation to write the learner’s permit test for her 365.

I am also the person who, when everyone found out about the impending graduated licensing program in 1994 and ran out to get their full licenses before the deadline, didn’t bother to run with the crowd. 

Oh yeah – did I also mention that I’m the person who (a) failed her computerized testing once before getting her G1, (b) waited until almost a month before said G1 expired to take the exit test and passed by the skin of her teeth, (c) did the same thing almost three summers ago, went to take her G2 exit test, only to fail, and then by the same stroke of luck got the exact same examiner on her second attempt, and really failed?

That is the history between me and driving. Since my spectacular, humiliating failure, I’ve never again gotten behind the steering wheel.

However my pride is starting to make me pay.

Actually it started last year, when I kept looking at my expired licence (which still can be used as ID, so long as the Ministry of Transportation lovingly affixes a “official ID only” sticker onto the card before they hand it back to you). Back then, I was still getting by as a pedestrian. But that sticker was getting on my last nerve. So I thought, maybe I’ll just get a new one, just in case I do decide to give this driving thing another go.

So last June, I read my old-and-falling apart driver’s handbook, took a couple buses down to the Ministry, did my multiple-choice written test (they’re back to pencils and paper, folks) and got my ID. I thought that would do for now.

But in the last six months, Life decided to up the ante.

The number of transportation situations in which I’ve ended up saying to myself, “I could have avoided this, if I had a car”, have been multiplying. Transit that doesn’t work. Friends having functions in suburbs I never travel to.

And it’s really annoying me big-time.

Okay, people who have been saying to me, “learn to drive” … you were right. Okay? You were right. Consider this the first and last time you read me saying this, because it won’t happen again for a long time.

(I guess the only silver lining from failing my driving tests is that I wouldn’t have to wait a year to take my G1 exit test.) 

I’m still not entirely convinced yet that buying a car will be the remedy to the situation.

Amid all these thoughts swimming in my head, I’ve been reminded of the conversation a couple weekends back that I was having with a  pro-renting friend. She told me about friends who, like me, were also saying that they’d stay home and save money, until they could buy. And she said something to the effect of:

“They say that. But where’s the money going? It has to be going somewhere.”

That’s what I have to figure out. This is what is fueling my frustrating decision.

So in the meantime, I now have to set my goal and develop my plan. Crunch some numbers. Then take a deep breath … 

And suck it the hell up.