Have you ever purchased a house in a day? Have you ever purchased a house in a few hours? How about in a city that you have never lived in? What if your employer insisted you move to a place where you couldn’t purchase a home (ie. overseas) but then also insisted that you pay to break your existing mortgage.
When we came on our House Hunting Trip to Ottawa (a city in which we had never lived) we had no choice about when we could come. My husband was teaching a course and we could only come during Easter Break. The problem with this is that we lost the Friday and Monday due to the holidays. The bank was not open on either day to complete the transaction so the house had to be found and the paperwork completed within four days. (Remember that this was a city with which we were only vaguely familiar.)
Where to begin? … First:
With a map of the city. We knew that as much as we loved the downtown core, it was not financially feasible. We ended up settling on the West End of Ottawa because of the proposed Military move to Nortel. Next:
With a Fraser Institute listing of schools. You have to start somewhere! As with most military families, the kids schools are one of the most important factors in any move. They already seem to have the deck stacked against them with regards to education. The least we can do is try to find a good school for them. Next:
Build a Binder: My binder is always bright and obnoxious in colour. It has tabs! It has maps! By the time we come on the house hunting trip, I have looked up all the schools. I know each of their boundaries. My husband has mapped out the express bus routes with a firm understanding of how long it is going to take to get to work. We have been watching the market for a few weeks prior to our arrival and have print out of the houses that we are interested in. (there is always one that is beautiful on the MLS that I have my heart set on and it always seems to be JUNK in person) Finally:
Finding a home that isn’t too expensive: We were moving from the United States (where we were not permitted to buy) but had come from New Brunswick prior to that. The housing market in Ottawa is vastly different than the housing market in NB. A $260,000 in Gagetown could easily cost $500,000 in Ottawa. Many military families are also losing a spousal income.
We were set. We arrived on the Saturday, excited about the next adventure. Sunday we met our Realtor and tried to get oriented. We started looking at houses. A lot of houses. A military house hunting trip is precise operation. In an ideal world you should find your new home in the first 24-48 hours. This is important because you have to get the inspection done and the extensive paperwork through the bank. Not to mention signing the kids up for their new schools.
We started at a specific price point and ended up $100,000 more than we had originally expected to spend. On Monday we continued to look at homes of increasing value. Tuesday morning we put an offer in on a home that we could fit into, had good schools, and that we could sell in a couple of years if required. We purchased this house subject to the usual conditions. Tuesday afternoon we had a bit of a chance to check out schools and to take a break. The house inspectors are very busy during this time and we couldn’t get our inspector in until Wednesday afternoon. By that evening we had discovered that the entire deal had fallen through and that we had to start over again. We re-looked at what was on the market and in our price range and it was becoming very evident that we were going to have to make some incredible concessions. I threw out all of our school plans and by Thursday afternoon we found a back up home. Fortunately our house inspector was willing to come out on the weekend and were able to expedite the paperwork before we had to return to our home in the States.
Do I like home? It’s ok. We fit into it. Are the kids schools good? They are ok. Is this a home I would choose if I had more time? Absolutely not.
If you are a long service member of the Canadian Armed Forces you are entitled to a ‘retirement’ move. Often this allows a person who ends a career in Ottawa to move back to Newfoundland if that is what they would like. It also, however, allowed people who purchased a home in the frenetic manner described above to move into a place that they actually like. In October 2014 it was reported that General Andrew Leslie submitted a retirement moving claim for $72,000. While I understand that this is an excessive bill for the Canadian tax payer to pay, I also believe that a final move to a house you like, in an city that you know, after a lifetime of service and sacrifice, isn’t unreasonable. Unfortunately after the media sensation in October the Federal Government changed the rules and we are no longer allowed to take that final move within the city in which we are currently living.
This feels like a stone in my shoe.
Have you purchased a home? What was the process like? Do you think that the government should foot the final move bill for long service military members? Would you support this if there were a monetary cap on the benefit?