welcome to the small family home blogger network’s second post! this month we’re providing backstories to our journeys into small home ownership. when you’re done reading here, be sure to follow some of the links at the bottom of this post for more stories.
if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that our journey into small home ownership was purely accidental. we bought our first house (795 square feet) not because it was small, but because it was detached, in our budget and in our desired neighbourhood. detached was key because we planned to add on — to make our small home very large. it ended up being finances/common sense that swayed us to scrap our plans for a big house and live indefinitely in a small space. in our mid-twenties we had spent our life’s savings on our down payment and added about $350,000 in mortgage debt to our names. by the end of our first year of home ownership, we had realized that adding another $200,000 to our bank loan just so we could have a larger bedroom, an ensuite bathroom and a yoga loft was idiotic. we became small space dwellers and stayed that way for seven years quite happily, even as we added a pet and a child to our family.
in early 2017, pierre accepted a transfer within his company that would allow us to realize a dream of ours, which was to live on the west coast. it was bittersweet, but we realized we would have to sell our little house in toronto in order to be able to afford to buy a new one in victoria, itself home to a crazy competitive real estate market. (we had tossed around the idea of renting out our toronto bungalow initially, knowing we’d never be able to buy back in to the toronto housing market should we ever wish to return.) we sold our little bungalow in march of this year and then hopped on a plane to victoria the following week to try and find a new small house for our family to call home.
the difference between home prices in toronto and victoria meant that, when we moved, we wouldn’t have to squeeze ourselves into 800 square feet or less. in fact, many people asked us if we planned to buy a bigger house this time around, the implication being that we were a little odd for choosing to live in a small house with a small child, especially now that affordability wasn’t as much of an issue. but, no — over the past seven years we had grown to love what living in a small space meant for us beyond affordability, so we asked our victoria realtor to find us a detached character bungalow between 600 and 1200 square feet. ideally something with two bedrooms, one bathroom and close to a beach — pretty much exactly what we had in toronto. the first time we bought a small home it was an accident; the second time around, we did so on purpose.
the first bungalow that we fell in love with was on a dead end street in mayfair. it hit the market about a month before we planned to fly to victoria for our house hunting trip, but pierre saw it pop up online and we decided to pursue it, sight unseen. it was 630 square feet, two bedrooms, one bathroom and had a finished basement, but the basement wasn’t accessible from inside the house. the lot size was itty bitty — just 50′ x 60′ — and i was pretty excited about having just a little patch of land to maintain. unfortunately, the offer date fell on a holiday in ontario and — while we liked the house enough to pay $500 to have a home inspection completed — we ultimately just didn’t have enough time to organize financing (we would’ve had to arrange bridge financing in order to buy before we’d sold) and get an offer together. listed at $499,000, it ended up selling for $565,000 on its offer day.
the next place we loved was a bungaloft in victoria west. it hit the market the same day that our toronto bungalow did and the offer date was on the same day at the same time as ours, too. with the lofted attic space — a perfect playroom — this house was about 1100 square feet. it had two bedrooms and one bathroom, beautiful fir floors, an unfinished basement and a small, detached garage out back with rear lane access. we had the highest offer by about $4,000 but required a longer closing and the sellers went with the next best offer.
the morning after we lost out on the bungaloft in victoria west, this cute blue bungalow came online for $499,000. it didn’t have a basement, so total square footage was around 900 square feet. our realtor turned us off this house, calling the neighbourhood “a little tough.” but, now that we live here — well, i don’t think i’ve encountered any residential neighbourhood that i would consider “tough,” so i guess that’s all relative. (the listing agent described the neighbourhood as “funky” and i’d say that was a more accurate description.) this little house is actually really close to the one we ended up buying and might have been a good fit for us, but the floors were all laminate and replacing all the flooring with a toddler and cat wouldn’t have been much fun.
the next house we were serious about was a bungaloft in fairfield, on fairfield road, so a pretty busy street. it had two bedrooms and one bathroom on the main floor plus a lofted bedroom and ensuite bathroom in a small 300 square foot attic for a total of about 1000 square feet. worried we wouldn’t find anything in time (we had sold our house by now and had a date by which we had to be out), we ended up getting an accepted offer in on this house, for more money than we had wanted to spend, started second-guessing the busy location and then a property line dispute gave us an out and we were able to walk away from the deal.
at this time, we flew to victoria and started to see some houses in person, finally! we saw this mossy bungalow on our first morning in victoria. built in 1940, it reminded me a lot of our toronto house. but it was next to a high school and priced a little high for us, especially as we were noticing most of the homes we were interested in were selling for $50,000 or so over asking. it was listed at $725,000, which was already more than we wanted to spend, and so we decided to focus our efforts on…
… our house! we also saw this bungalow on our first day in victoria, which was a sunday. the offer date was the following morning. budgeting for a multiple offer situation, this house was at a better starting price for us and on a quieter street so it became our first choice house. we figured if we lost out, we still might have a chance with the mossy bungalow or we would just keep looking. thankfully, we didn’t have to do either of those things, because we beat out three other offers and oak house (as we named it) became ours that monday afternoon.
our new house has just two bedrooms and one bathroom, just like we wanted, but it’s 1177 square feet, so it’s definitely roomier than our toronto house. (you can see the floor plan here.) it also has an unfinished basement, which is completely empty except for our power tools, laundry and a broom. we don’t have a garden shed or a garage, so the basement is handy for a little bit of storage, but we’re more than comfortable living on just the main floor. in fact, that’s just how i would describe living in 1177 square feet — comfortable. i wouldn’t say we were cramped in our old house, but it is really nice for all our things to be easily accessible (e.g., all our clothes, jackets, shoes and accessories are in our bedroom instead of spread all over the house; all our cookware is in the kitchen instead of in the kitchen, basement and mudroom).
so that’s how we ended up here, in our new smallish house! i’d love to hear about your own small home story in the comments and be sure to check out minimalist meg, fourth and west, tiny ass camper, 600 sq ft and a baby, fancy pigeon, the streamlined life, this lovely day, justice pirate and family pedals for more stories.