the same week that our toronto house was for sale, a listing came up in the victoria west neighbourhood of victoria — a 100-year-old bungaloft about 500m from the montessori preschool where frankie rose is waitlisted. offers were being reviewed on the same night that we were reviewing offers, but we felt we had to go for it; it was exactly what we wanted: two bedrooms and one bathroom on the main floor and a staircase up to a small, skylit loft, a perfect playroom. we put together a referential offer, which basically means we offered to outbid everyone else. to our shock, we didn’t get the house. we were competing with three other buyers and, in the end, had the best offer by $3,500, but the seller chose to go with the buyer who could take possession of the house immediately. we were disappointed, but, more than that, we were nervous. we had assumed, with the confidence that comes from selling in toronto and buying… anywhere else, that the most difficult part of finding a new home in victoria would be the inventory (it’s very low) and our timeline (less than three months to find a new place and close on it). but we came to the sobering realization that we could find the perfect place and the right time — and lose.
the morning after our sale, we were having brunch at maha’s and we were celebrating — but we were also mourning the life we would not have because we didn’t get the little bungaloft on mccaskill avenue. when you think about it, getting — or not getting — a house actually changes the course of your life. the location of your house determines the neighbours you will meet, the school to which your child will go (and the friends they will make), the community of which you will be a part. the reality is, we didn’t get that house and now frankie won’t be going to that preschool and she will have different friends because of that. but i have great faith in god’s plan and in that everything happens for a reason, so i knew there would be a different house, which was meant for us.
two weeks went by and, in that time, we managed to get ourselves tangled in a real real estate mess. a bungaloft our agent had highlighted for us several weeks before was still sitting on the market and she convinced us to offer on it. when she’d first sent me the listing, it was a hard “pass” for us. it was about $100,000 over budget, on a busier road and we didn’t like any of the interior finishings. (let’s just say that, if we had ended up buying it, it’s blog name would’ve been “tile house.”) but the seller had reduced the price to something that was sort of in our wheelhouse and i was really fretting over the lack of inventory. since we’d lost the mccaskill property, we hadn’t seen anything else that was at all like what we were looking for. against our better judgement, we ended up making an offer on this house (which was accepted), but we attached several conditions to the offer and, after a stressful week (of our own making), we ended up asking for a release from the sale. we were granted the release on a saturday morning and we flew to victoria that same day, armed with exactly two addresses that interested us and a handful more that we were willing to see, but were not very likely to be contenders.
the very first property that we saw was this hundred-year-old one-storey home in the oaklands neighbourhood, a fantastic family neighbourhood that rivals our current neighbourhood and, frankly, might even be better. as soon as we walked in, i felt like it was the house that was meant for us — the reason we lost the mccaskill property and learned a lesson with the fairfield property. it is on the most adorable street, with a yoga studio, hipster general store and coffee shop about 50m away and with a community centre that hosts a weekly farmers’ market and reggio-inspired childcare centre just up the street. the hardwood floors, brick fireplace and stained glass windows are in great condition and the layout is fantastic for us: two huge bedrooms, a piano room (the stained glass window in this room opens to the street so that passers-by could enjoy the music), a large four-piece bathroom and open-concept kitchen/living/dining. the main floor is 1,177 square feet and there’s interior access to a haunted, unfinished basement, which is the same size roughly. the yard is large and sunny and our backyard neighbours have 11-month-old twins, perfect playmates for frankie rose.
the bedrooms and bathroom are off the kitchen, but there’s a spacious hallway there that contains a linen closet and a telephone table. and some very old wallpaper. i was excited. but offers were being reviewed the following morning and it seemed a little manic to offer on the first house we saw in person. so we spent the day looking at some other places, but it was clear this was the place for us. we decided to have a home inspection done that afternoon so that we could have an understanding of our max purchase price. the house is over one hundred years old and it’s been vacant for some time as the elderly owner had been moved to a care facility. in the words of the home inspector, the house needed “an immediate investment of time, energy and money to extend its useful life.” yikes.
we had high hopes, but, after losing on the first property, didn’t have the same confidence we’d had earlier in the month. we knew there would be other offers and that our budget might not stretch far enough to win us the house. our agent sent us a market analysis for recent sales in the neighbourhood and we used the metric of average list price versus eventual sale price (103.9%) to determine our opening bid. we also decided that we would not go above 113% of the list price, since that was the maximum sale price in the neighbourhood. i wrote a very nice letter to the seller (you never know!) and we crossed our fingers.
fifteen minutes after the offer time, we got a phone call from our agent. she asked if we were sitting down and then told us that the house was ours! no sign-backs or counter-offers, even though there had been three other offers on the house. apparently the seller read our letter and decided that it didn’t matter what the other offers were, he wanted us to have the house. it had been his mother’s house and his childhood home and his mother had just passed away the previous weekend, so he was probably feeling pretty sentimental. according to our agent, the other potential buyers were pissed that they didn’t even have a chance to up their offers and try and outbid us. (i have no idea where we ranked out of the four offers.) we couldn’t be happier with the purchase and have spent the last several days drinking coffee in our new neighbourhood and doing slow drive-bys.
we’re thrilled and also a little bit terrified. we bought the house for much less than our toronto house sold for, but this house needs a lot of work. cosmetically, it needs fresh paint on every surface, new light fixtures throughout, new appliances (most are broken) and window coverings. there is garbage to be removed from the basement and from underneath the porches. but structurally we have water issues in the basement, poor insulation and a bow in the roofline. we’re moving to a province where we know no one, have no friends or family to call on to help fill a dumpster or watch frankie rose so we can paint the bedrooms. we believe this might be a long term home for us, so we hope it’s going to be worth our time and energy and that we haven’t bitten off way more than we can chew.
i’m so pleased to share this first glimpse into our new home with y’all. and now it needs a name! i don’t think “little bungalow” is accurate and, even if it was, that’s really the name of our first house, which is pretty irreplaceable. this house needs its own name! any suggestions?