There was a time not too long ago when I didn’t think I would ever own a home in Toronto, the city I had lived and worked in since 2001. My husband, a public relations executive, and I loved our sunny two-bedroom rental and happily welcomed our firstborn there in 2013. Three years later we were expecting again and our two-bedroom gained an expiry date. When the dream of home ownership dangled before us—two professionals with well-paying jobs, small savings and a standard student loan debt—we grabbed hold. We called a real estate representative recommended by a close friend and started the search.
Priced out of the neighbourhoods we loved, we trusted our representative to take us to parts of Toronto we hadn’t considered and bought a small, three-bedroom semi in an unfamiliar part of town. We called it our “starter home” because the third bedroom was newborn-sized and had no closet. “When she’s older and needs more space, we’ll buy a bigger house,” my husband and I agreed. “We’ve got lots of time.”
But we were wrong.
In Canada, 2016 was a record year for the real estate market; over 536,000 residential properties were sold, up by 6.3 percent from 2015. The average house price in Toronto climbed past $730k in January 2017 and by then our upsizing plan started to seem less like a possibility and more like a pipe dream. But after I was laid off, we decided to accelerate Plan Give the Baby a Real Bedroom by widening our horizons, just like we had when buying the first time. So we left Toronto for Hamilton, a city located about an hour’s drive away from many of our friends, where my husband had grown up and a four-bedroom home in our budget was practically guaranteed. Plus, Hamilton offered us closer proximity to almost everyone in our family, as well as more financial freedom due to lower cost of living.
Since we had a positive experience with our real estate representative as first-time buyers, we asked her to help us sell our Toronto home. For our Hamilton search, we decided to work with a wonderful representative based there. We were lucky to have friends in Hamilton who we relied on for recommendations, but what if you move to a city where you know no one? How do you find a trustworthy representative?
The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) offers insightful resources and tools to help people become better informed about their rights and responsibilities when buying or selling a property. Did you know that all real estate representatives, brokers and brokerages much be registered with RECO, who enforce the rules and code of ethics that must be followed? Asking friends or family is a great place to start, but don’t end there. The RECO search tool is a valuable resource where you can look up a representative, broker or brokerage to confirm if they are properly registered and in good standing. So do your research on those recommendations.“It’s always a good idea to meet with at least a few different real estate professionals before selecting the one you’d like to work with,” says Joseph Richer, registrar of RECO.
When researching representatives, there are five key questions you should ask: What type of homes do you typically sell in what area of the city? What’s your buying/selling approach? What services are included (staging, photos, advertising)? What commissions or fees do I have to pay? Can you share two references? If you ever have a complaint about a representative, RECO can help with that, too—a fact every home buyer or seller should know.
Searching for a home is personal, but when upsizing there are a few things to consider. Are you done growing your family? What type of space do you need? Do you need more than one full bathroom or will a half bath do? In the end, our family found a forever home in Hamilton with plenty of room for everyone. Leaving Toronto was one of the biggest decisions we’ve had to face thus far in our lives, but we couldn’t be happier. Our two-year old daughter gained a beautiful bay window and a huge closet, but the real score? Our “newborn-sized” fourth bedroom is destined to become the closet of our dreams!