Daily Life, House

Starter Stories: Tips for finding and buying your first home

Entering the big world of Real Estate can be an incredibly overwhelming and super exciting time for anyone! We were blessed by having family and friends who were able to walk us through the process, which made it a little less terrifying. I wanted to share with you a few little tips and tricks that we learned along the way.


  • Meet with your financial planner, bank, parent or Mr. Excel and really hammer out your budget. Keep in mind the closing costs, any renos you want to do right away, moving expenses (including boxes, tape, packing paper, pizza, movers, days off work). Some people like to change the locks when they move in, so price that out.
  • Get a real estate agent you trust. DO NOT work with the selling agent. Just don’t. Ask friends and family for recommendations and then do some sleuthing online. Don’t sign anything until you are sure you are comfortable with your agent and that they respect your budget and parameters.
  • Find a lawyer. You will need them for closing.
  • Don’t feel rushed into buying a place. TV tells us that we should be able to choose after seeing three houses, but that’s just not true.
  • Don’t skip the home inspection. Unless you are a contractor with good knowledge of building code, don’t skip this. It is so worth it. Trust me. We walked away from two houses that we LOVED because we discovered over 100k worth of issues during home inspections that needed to be done just to make the houses safe and functional.
  • Make a list of what you NEED in a house, what you’d like to have but can live without and then talk to your agent. You may not have a realistic list for your budget. They can talk you through this. It can suck really bad to hear that you can’t afford the house you grew up in, or even a tiny one bedroom in the area that you want, but that’s life kiddo. It’s better to be in the know so that you can make a decision about moving forward.
  • Having a hard time making your Must Have list? Think about how you live. Do you take a bath every night? Having a soaker tub may be a good thing to add. Don’t have a car, but would like one in a year or two? Look into parking even if you don’t need it right now.
  • Balance your gut with your brain. If a house ticks all the boxes, but doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right.
  • Look at the neighbours and the neighbourhood. Is there light? Are the houses and lawns maintained? Do you hate gardening? If so, you may not want to buy in a super groomed row of houses.That said, you probably don’t want to live next door to the hoarder with the 15 rusted cars beside the playstructure your kids will be using.
  • Be real with yourself. Don’t buy to impress anyone but you and don’t get stuck on the things you can change. Hate the floors? You can fix that. Hate the wallpaper? Take it down. Think you can handle a fixer upper but have no skills? Make sure you have the time and the budget to hire if you get in over your head.
  • Are you moving from your parents place or from a shared apartment? Factor in the cost of having your own set of cleaning supplies, shower curtain and other bathroom stuff (bath mat, small garbage can, a soap holder), a plunger (for the love of all that is holy, do not forget to buy a plunger). Other things that you might need that you didn’t have before: Microwave, toaster, coffee maker, kettle, iron and ironing board, hangers, lamps, cookware, Definitely have a small home tool kit, for those basic fixes.
  • Remember that this isn’t a race. Most people don’t go from closing to OMG THE PERFECT HOUSE in seconds. It’s a process. Honestly, I recommend living in the space with your hand-me-downs for a bit before racing out and buying new stuff. You want to get a feel for how your new place works and what needs aren’t being met by what you have.

This is NOT Sarah's House

“Do you like my chairs? They are the only furniture I have.”

  • No one expects you to be Sarah Richardson with an insane budget. Make your house functional and then start working on making it home.
  • Take advantage of the free classes offered by places like Home Depot. Learn to fix things on your own so that you can save your hard earned cash for Big Issues (like electrical. Don’t touch electrical) or for pretty things (mmmm, custom light fixtures).
  • Educate yourself on your home. Does it have a septic system? Learn about that.

I hope you found this helpful. For those of you who have already been through this, what tip or trick do you wish you had known before buying your first place? Thanks to Urban Compass for asking me to be involved in Starter Stories. Check them out for more inspiration!


Putting the Home in Starter Home.

Over the past couple of years I’ve talked about our plans to move, to find a bigger place with a bigger yard. We have made several attempts at this plan, and yet each time something happens that takes us down a different path. Life has a funny way of changing things even when you aren’t ready to hear it or see it.

We bought this home almost 7 years ago. We weren’t even engaged yet, and had both just finished school. We bought for the “now” instead of the future and as a result the house isn’t exactly what we expected to be in for nearly a decade. So, how does one take a house and make it a home, after they have already decided to leave it behind? Much like you can make any space, big or small, a home. It’s a process, that’s for sure. Today, I’m going to share an overview of what we’ve shared so far here on IAtH, with updates coming in the next few days. Later in the week I will share tips to help make your own space more homey. This is our starter story, as inspired by Urban Compass, a New York City real estate platform who invited us to be a part of their collection of blogs sharing their own starter stories.


outside1Our place was built in the early 90s, the time when pink was Queen. This was definitely a challenge when we looked at the exterior of our home. Pink brick is something we had to work around. The windows and doors were all wood and showing their wear, so we knew they had to be replaced too.

outsidenewWe chose a dark bluey grey for all of the wooden trim that we were keeping, as well at the garage door and the front door. The storm door, main door and front window were replaced by one larger door and window, each with a panel of stained glass. We touched up all the white paint, and replaced the mailbox. I hope to replace the light fixtures this coming summer.

Liam’s Room

cr1  The previous owners of our place had used the smallest of the three   bedrooms as a craft room. I did the same for a little while, but once Liam was born we knew he was going to need his own space. I wanted to keep the larger guest room as a multipurpose room, so we decided that the little guy would get the little room. I wanted something bright, fun and with a mix of decor. We ripped up the nasty teal carpet and replaced it with a plush beige carpet. The dark teal blinds had to go too, so we replaced them with black out curtains. The pink walls were painted something much more fun and suitable for a toddler’s room.

lr5  We went with a bright leafy green for the walls. All furniture and frames are a mix of light and medium woods. with accents of white and bright colours. While it may not be super pretty, we have a dark green lazy boy in the room, as I am still nursing my big guy. The room is set up with a montessori approach in mind. This means that everything is designed for Liam’s perspective and appreciation. The art is low, the toys and books are accessible, and everything in the room is safe for him.


The Man Cave

The Basement, before Oh, the basement. It was important to us to have a space for hanging out. Ours was a huge fixer-upper. The previous owners had cats and smoked, both of which did major damage in the basement. We tore up the gross carpet, and discovered water damage. We left the space unfinished while we saved up and started to do work ourselves. Unfortunately, the pipe that had burst in the past did so again and we had to start over.

The only thing that we kept was the drop ceiling, which was still in good condition.

BasementThe basement, like most, was cold and dark. We added pot lights, and decided on floating laminate floors. We painted the walls a rich taupe to warm up the cool space. We chose a huge comfy couch that was on sale with plans of many movie and video game nights. The basement is large, so we have a few different area. Across from the seating area, we have our entertainment system and our desks. Both my hubby and I like our tech, so we put it all in a place where Liam can’t get to it without supervision.

Basement We chose darker colours and accents to create a more cozy and adult space. We wanted a place where people would feel comfortable hanging out for hours on end.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little round up. I look forward to sharing our home with you :)