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Buying My First Home... During A Pandemic

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

This is going to be more of a general post about how I was able to close on buying a home, just when the pandemic was starting to take over North America. We all know that the Coronavirus had a huge effect on the Asian countries (ie. China, Japan, Korea) from January to mid March. However, just when it started to cool off on the other side of the world, it suddenly got all too real here in North America.


I still remember clearly the days leading up to quarantine. Things got a little crazy on the news, and unlike SARS in 2003 (which didn't affect North America as much), this Coronavirus thing was actually REAL and it was coming our way.


Despite having a solid case to learn from in the Asian countries, the virus had spread to North America and, now, we are in the desperate situation of being in a lockdown. Who knows how much longer this is going to last? Not to mention, this virus has officially affected more people in the US than in its originating country, China.


Obviously, with businesses closing their doors and not being able to operate normally, this results in so many aspects of our life being in a standstill. Almost, as if someone pressed the big STOP button. Of course, there are going to be consequences and it's starting to show up now - unemployment rates going up, businesses going into bankruptcy, and people losing their pre-approvals to mortgages (and the chance to own a home).


I was one of the lucky ones who was able to actually take advantage of the situation, despite almost going mad a couple of times during the process.


My Story as a First Time Home Buyer

I had moved back from my secondment in Korea at the beginning of 2020. My goal all along was to buy my first home in Vancouver and finally settle down. I saw value in establishing roots in order to really get my life going - as much as I loved traveling and being a nomad.


So I started my search, and it was no easy feat. I went to open house after open houses, and put in multiple offers to homes I was interested in to test the waters. However, the housing market has always been very hot here in Vancouver. I had my offers overbid, and I started to worry whether the real estate market was starting to pick up again after a slow 2019.


Though persistence really does triumph. After spending hours on www.rew.ca looking for homes out on the market, and going to on average 2 to 3 open houses every week, for TWO MONTHS, I was able to find one that I thought was THE ONE.


Even before going to the open house, somehow I felt like this is the home just from looking at the pictures and virtual tour posted online. And going to see it in person, it did not disappoint. I have to admit, it wasn't my dream home, but all around, I thought it was a good choice for me for the current stage in my life. Most importantly, it ticked off all the things I was looking for, and I'm a very picky person.


Often in life when there are choices you need to make, you would find yourself at a cross-road between two paths. And sometimes when you're so busy trying to figure out logically what would be the best decision, you forget that how you feel is equally as important. And from past decisions I had made, I also learned to trust my gut when it comes to making sure the decision makes me feel at ease. And with that, you also need a little bit of luck and fate to bring it all together.


For this home, I got that wholesome gut feeling and felt the stars aligning on this one. Lo and behold, when I had put in an offer, I got a call later that night from my realtor saying I got it! There was a one week condition period, where I had gone through the ups and downs and even cold feet on going through with the purchase.


I finally bit the bullet and decided this was what I wanted. It made the perfect sense considering I had no where to live after April, and my only other options were to rent or to buy a place in a couple of months. But by this time, I was pretty exhausted with house hunting and didn't want to throw my money away in rent if I didn't have to. Besides, I believed that I got a decent deal (and not some crazy inflated, rip off price), and saw the value of the property going up in a couple of years to help me build equity.


After I removed subjects on my deal and delivered all the deposit cheques, exactly 10 days after, Canada started to enter into quarantine and close off its borders for travel. As the situation got worse, more and more people started to work from home, including essential services like mortgage specialists at banks. I need to finalize my mortgage and I only had two weeks left. Did I mention that I had also switched banks in the middle of this mess?


The Silver Lining

To back it up, let me explain why I switched banks right before I almost closed my mortgage with my original bank. It was a little crazy but the Bank of Canada (BOC) had dropped their interest rates THREE TIMES in the month of March 2020.

So the BOC rates were initially 1.75%, and had three decreases of 0.5%, ending at now 0,25%. The Bank's prime lending rates had decreased from 3.95% to now 2.45%. During these times, it is wayyyy more beneficial to have a variable mortgage rate than a fixed rate. And there were insane mortgage promotions going on after the BOC reduced their rates the second time. I had to shop around.


So needless to say, I switched to a different Bank since they were providing a prime rate - 1.11% promotion (yes, my mortgage rate is now 1.34%). Just the next day after my mortgage rate promotion was secured, the rates started to go up to prime rate + %. Banks were possibly anticipating a third decrease in rates (which did happen) and, at the end of the day, they're a business and they needed to make money on the mortgages they're giving out. So on the contrary to what is going on in the market, Banks had actually started to increase their mortgage rates.


Anyways, after having been transferred to, like, 5 different mortgage specialists, I followed up on each one relentlessly. I needed my documents ready for my Notary Public sooner than later, and I was scared out of my mind that closing date was not going to be met (at the pace the Bank was getting back to me, apparently they were operating at one-fourth their capacity). I made sure I was on their radar and was able to push them to finally get the bank documents ready a week before closing date.


Closing

After the bank documents and instructions were sent to my Notary Public, the rest is smooth sailing. The completion and possession date is fast approaching, and I can FINALLY get the keys to my new home!


I can't wait to get all my stuff from Korea moved into my new home and finally, finally settle in. Yes, this is not the end and there is going to be more work to be done. Not only will I be moving during a time when the country is in quarantine, but I would also need to unpack my stuff, do some minor DIY renos, and hunt for good deals on furniture.


At least at the end of the day, I have a place to call my own.

 

#adultinghard #buyingmyfirsthome #somanyresponsibilities #obstancesduringquarantine



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