Starting to Buy a House

There is nothing so responsible, so adult, as trying to buy a house.

Okay, there’s that kid thing, but we’ll just ignore that for the moment.

I’ve decided I need a permanent address. For the last 10 years or so, I’ve been living in apartments of one form or another, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the rent, of noisy neighbours, of the “smell of the day”, of rent that disappears out of my hand and goes nowhere, of the desire to rearrange walls and the frustration not to able to follow through.

Chris is going to Japan, that much is certain. It’s a matter of when, specifically. Best estimates are July. That’s another reason why I’m starting to look. And because I’m being really picky about where I buy and what I want, there’s a lot to deal with.

For example: In my ideal world, I get my hands on a two-story home (one level for entertaining, another level for bedrooms, etc.) in Sunnyside (directly north of downtown, across the Bow River). It’s not in the best of shape (though fine, structurally) and an ideal candidate for renovation. And under $225,000 list. (Combined with shrewd negotiating and a down payment, that would put the price within range.)

So far, no luck. At least within Sunnyside (not many houses are up for sale there at the moment), though there are others in the surrounding area. There’s lots around the city, but I don’t want to get too far out of downtown — no fun in that.

There’s one house I’ve seen that’s been on my mind for a couple of days now. This is what I did on Saturday and part of Sunday (I spent the rest of Sunday visiting with my friend Neall, who was out in Calgary to teach a video game programming course at UofC).

It’s a 1913 two-story home in Bankview, just southwest of the downtown. It’s a little on the ugly side at the moment (someone thought that teal was a good colour for a house), and in need of repairs (the front porch in particular, though most, if not all the windows need replacing). On the interior, it’s currently “liveable”. But far from its former glory. It would take about $40-45,000 to get it into good shape, and that’s a pure guesstimate.

The previous owners have inflicted some pretty poor renovations on the house in years past, including covering all the hardwood floors, half-finishing a kitchen, really bad paint jobs (the moulding looks like there’s about 12 layers of paint on them) installing a loft for no real reason, and decimating the basement.

That said, I think it would be a huge amount of fun. It would be a long project — I’d say at least three years (inside during the winter, outside during the summer), most of which would be saving money for the next round of tearing something apart.

It’s one of those cases where I’m actually torn. Part of me doesn’t want to do it — the location isn’t what I want, and I’m a little afraid at just how bad the house might be. But on the other hand, there’s a large part of me that things this would be great experience, and a total love affair with restoring a house to good condition again.

I’ve even had offers of assistance not only from my father, but also from one of my co-workers (Dennis) who used to work for a company that renovated houses. It’s not like the skills wouldn’t be available. (And I did spent the first 20 years of my life helping dad fix up the family homestead.)

Well, it’s not something I’m trying to do overnight. There’s much to consider before I can make up my mind. But be prepared for the inevitable website chronicling this will slice of life.

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