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Our Minimalist Home Buying Process – Part 1

July 11, 2018
Our Minimalist Home Buying Process | Tiny Ambitions

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. There is nothing ‘minimalist’ about the home buying process. It’s fast and slow all at the same time (and it’s never slow the way you want it to be). It can be overwhelming and anti-climatic all at once. And, my goodness, it is not even remotely simple. A house is a massive purchase and most likely the most expensive and time-consuming ‘thing’ you will ever buy. So, from that perspective, it is not a minimalist process at all. (Also, the fact that I’m going to have to break this post into two doesn’t help. Come on, Britt, get it together). 

But, in a couple of ways, I would consider our recent home buying experience to be minimalist. For the record, minimalist in this scenario is neither good nor bad. It’s just the way it was.

To some of you reading this, the way we went about our house purchase will be cringe worthy. To others, it may seem like a dream. I’m not placing a positive or negative value on the ‘minimalist’ nature of our experience. It was what it was. This might also have more detail than necessary. But, I knew literally zero things about buying a house before we jumped in and did it. So, I’m including as much as I can for the benefit of anyone out there who is considering taking the plunge.

And this is how it went.

Step One: Decide to Look at Houses

I sort of went into this in the home buying announcement post, but we only looked at two houses before putting in an offer on the house we now live in.

Which, for a perfectionist person like myself, is a woefully small number. I know people who have looked at dozens and dozens of houses before they find one they like (if they end up finding one at all).

I had trolled pretty much every day for weeks, but only ever found a handful that fit into what we were looking for in terms of budget, part of town and overall design.

Step Two: Freak Out When You Miss an Open House

I found out house online on a Thursday, and there was an Open House on the property on the Saturday. The only problem was, we didn’t find out about the Open House until Sunday. Whoops. Thank you, very confusing realtor website.

Our house is in a fairly desirable area of town, so I knew it was going to get a lot of offers and traffic from that one open house alone. And it did. Four offers were received on the property on that Saturday. Ours was not one of them.

Our Minimalist Home Buying Process {Pin} _ Tiny Ambitions

Step Three: Check the Budget

Our house was listed low for the area it’s in. The sellers rejected all four offers they initially received from the Open House and raised the list price by $20,000. That probably seems like a shady move, but it really was underpriced for the area. In my opinion, we still paid less than what it was worth (which is obviously a win for us).

After the price hike, we were the only offer that was submitted on the property and it was accepted – the same night. Literally two hours after we put in our offer, we got the call that it was accepted.

See what I mean about slow and fast?

Step Four: Find a Realtor

Our home buying process was unique in that we just used the selling agent to represent us. Since we weren’t ‘really’ looking, we didn’t have an agent of our own. This didn’t really bother us since it’s perfectly legal for an agent to represent both the buyer and the seller in Ontario (this may be different depending on where you live). We just had to sign some paperwork, as did the sellers, and we were good to go.

From an efficiency perspective, this saved us time and probably helped us clinch the deal since the seller really only had to deal with their own agent. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing this is the seller’s agent was sketchy, but I’m a pretty good judge of character, so I felt secure making that choice.

Step Five: Get a Mortgage

It was at this point that we realized that we should probably, you know, get a mortgage approval. Ha! As you can probably tell at this point, we did our home buying a little backwards to the norm.

However, getting a mortgage wasn’t a big deal for us. We were approved for more than double that total purchase price of our house (I’m still undecided if this is a good thing or a bad thing), so we were set to go. I know some people struggle to get approved for financing, so I was very grateful this part was mostly a breeze for us. For the nerdy of you reading this, we decided to go with a credit union rather than one of the big five banks in Canada. We dealt with them almost exclusively online or on the phone (no local branches, thanks, northern Ontario). They were truly amazing and went above and beyond to make sure that we got exactly what we were looking for.

We settled on a five-year fixed rate of just over 3%, with a 20-year amortization. Wow, I never thought I’d type those words. Anyway, our interest rate probably seems high to my fellow Canadians and low to my American pals. I’m fine with sitting right in the middle. Going for the 20-year rather than a 25 or 30-year amortization was important to me. It obviously made our monthly payment higher, but will end up saving us close to $15,000 in interest.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, steps 6-10 of our minimalist home buying process!

Do you own a home? What’s one thing you’d change if you had to buy all over again? Let me know in the comments! 

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Tread Lightly, Retire Early July 18, 2018 at 9:17 am

    We looked at homes every single weekend for six months before we finally bought ours and are now permanently scarred from the home buying process and hope never to have to do it again 😂 Looking at just two homes sounds like the better deal to me!

    • Britt July 18, 2018 at 9:19 am

      Oh my goodness! I wouldn’t have survived a house hunt like that. I would have given up and called it quits. We lucked out when this house came on the market. Otherwise, we’d definitely still be renting!

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  • Lisa July 11, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    An interesting behind-the-scenes insight, Britt! I’m so impressed how you went from knowing nothing about buying a house to being completely on top of the process. It’s amazing what initiative and a positive attitude towards a steep learning curve can do when we are suddenly faced with a completely new situation. Looking forward to reading the next part! 🙂

    • Britt July 11, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks, Lisa! I definitely don’t think we were on top of the process by any means. But at a certain point you just go with the flow. The people taking your money know how the process works! Haha

      • Lisa July 11, 2018 at 9:36 pm

        Well, from a non-home owner’s perspective, you did really, really well! That’s very true, though – the people taking your money always do seem to be rather helpful. 😉 Haha!

  • Erin | Reaching for FI July 11, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    This is fascinating since I also know nothing about home-buying but am not going to be buying a home anytime soon so I can learn for myself. Thanks for sharing!

    • Britt July 11, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks, Erin! Hopefully it’s helpful. There were so many things I literally knew nothing about. It was a “why doesn’t anyone tell you this stuff?” moment.

  • theluxestrategist July 11, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    This is so exciting, Britt! I’m going to live vicariously through you, because I’m nowhere near buying a house–at least, not in the city where I live. It sounds like you guys got super lucky with those four offers that got rejected. You must have been ecstatic when you heard the news! Can’t wait to see the house tour 🙂

    • Britt July 11, 2018 at 6:32 pm

      Thanks, Luxe! Luck was definitely on our side through this whole process. I’m hoping to do a house tour at some point- once we stop living out of boxes haha

  • Leigh July 11, 2018 at 11:17 am

    I think everyone’s house buying experience is a bit of a roller coaster! The first place I tried to buy (as in offer accepted, notice given on my rental, closing papers signed) turned out to not have foreclosed on properly, so I instead had to find a new rental apartment on a week’s notice. This condo? I didn’t even intend to look at it because the front of the building was so ugly, the staging style was SO not my style (it was very brown), and it was slightly above my budget (about 5%), but I wanted to look at a nearby place and my realtor suggested this one too, lol.

    I know what you mean about freaking out about missing open houses! I have this problem all the time. I would feel super weird using the seller’s agent. I used an online brokerage to buy my condo and that was a great experience since I was as knowledgeable as you are. I would rather use a human realtor to sell the place though as I’ve noticed places sell for about 5% more when using a human realtor as the selling agent. Credit unions are awesome! I got my first mortgage through one as well and it was a great experience. And yay for 20 year amortization! We’re at 3.09% fixed for 5 years with a 10 year amortization now and it’s so nice to have a shorter amortization!

    • Britt July 11, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      Oh my gosh! What a crazy first buying experience. That would have put me off the whole process for sure. I think Realtors definitely have their place, and we will certainly use one when we sell. It was wasn’t super necessary for us when we bought.

      Congrats on the 10 year amortization. That’s so awesome!

  • Mrs. Adventure Rich July 11, 2018 at 7:24 am

    I can totally relate to #2! Honestly, we had a pretty smooth buying process when we purchased 2 years ago. I think the biggest thing for us was trying not to get too picky, but also not getting into a “oh, we’ll live with that” mentality” when there were real dealbreakers in the home (locaiton, set up, upkeep). Good luck!

    • Mrs. Adventure Rich July 11, 2018 at 7:26 am

      Oh, and we also bought one of the first houses we actually looked at 🙂 Definitely made the process easier. I hope the rest goes smoothly!

      • Britt July 11, 2018 at 7:33 am

        I’m glad we aren’t the only ones who didn’t look at a ton of houses! Sometimes, the first one is the right one!

    • Britt July 11, 2018 at 7:32 am

      There’s definitely a sweet spot! We weren’t terribly picky but were pretty set on a certain location and having an open concept. Other than that, we were pretty flexible. Thanks so much!

  • Jennifer T. Chan July 11, 2018 at 7:24 am

    1) Credit union ftw!
    2) Would you have considered using a realtor if you didn’t feel satisfied after looking at the two homes?

    Looking forward to reading Part II!

    • Britt July 11, 2018 at 7:31 am

      If I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a house, I definitely would have used a realtor! Or if I lived in a place with a ton of different neighborhoods to navigate, it also would have been a good idea. Good question, Jennifer!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.