I bought a house!
Well. I did a thing. A big thing. I bought a house! Okay, technically it’s a semi and I had a little help, but in this market, I’m still considering that a win! So here we go again! Yup, that’s right, I bought another fixer-upper. Is there really any other kind right now though? So, when does this crazy adventure begin? July 5th! But before I go crazy with the home renovation and DIY content, you should probably know the back story.
Am I crazy? I get asked this a lot now that I’ve started telling a few people I bought a house, so I guess the answer is probably. Do I have a pretty sweet setup at my parents? Yes. Living with my parents makes life easy in some ways but can be a challenge in some ways too. For starters, I have no privacy or alone time and parenting my way doesn’t always go well when there’s a seasoned mom in the house that has her own way of doing things. But at the same time, there’s a seasoned mom in the house so I know that if I need help, she’s always there and can look after the girls if I need 5 minutes to finish my workout or take a shower which is really nice. However, being 27 now and still living with my parents I feel like a failure. I know that there are many people my age that still live with their parents and some that like me, have moved out and then back in because sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards, but it still wounds my ego. I consider myself to be a very independent person, I like my personal space and ability to go places, do things, have people over and parent without having a backseat driver (sorry Mom).
Welcome to the living room. Wallpaper and paint est. 1992. Tape on the carpet, purpose unknown, circa 2021
My amazing relator Yvonne Steer, who I would highly recommend, has been helping me keep tabs on the housing market since my separation last year but a single mom’s budget even with a generous down payment still doesn’t go far when you need $500,000 to buy a shed, or at least that what it feels like when you need a house in a good neighbourhood with at least 3 bedrooms. I did put a few offers in by myself that I’d be pinching pennies just to meet the list price only to be outbid by $115,000 by buyers from Toronto. I’m not trying to hate on Toronto, but it would be great if they’d stop driving up house prices here, or at least that was my opinion before getting back in the market. Now you’ll probably see me handing out brochures in Toronto talking about how amazing St. Thomas is for raising a family etc., anything to increase my return on investment when I sell the house. Sorry to those out there that are still looking but I have to hope for the best for myself and the girls and I am no longer in favour of the market crashing.
After several unsuccessful offer attempts and a change in situation for Grayson, I threw caution and logic to the wind and decided to buy a house with my ex. Yup, you read that right, I’m buying a house with my ex, well sort of. He’s agreed to go on title with me to increase my buying power/pre-approval amount because he needs somewhere to live now that his dad has sold his house. We’ve agreed that he’s going to ‘rent’ the basement from me, so he has somewhere to live and to help me cover the mortgage payments while I’m on maternity leave. Is it an unconventional situation? Yup, but so far most of my life has been unconventional so why not add another layer? I think, as unconventional as getting a place with your ex is, it has the potential to be beneficial. With Grayson living there he’ll be able to see the girls and can still be an active part of their life without it being disruptive having to take the girls somewhere to visit him. Which, I think is the main benefit but since he needed a place to live anyway, if he was going to pay someone rent it might as well be me to help me get back into the housing market and move on with my life.
I truly felt that I wouldn’t be able to move forward until I got my own place again. I need to develop my own parenting style; I want to see friends and be able to date and have overnight guests without having to do the walk of shame every time because there is always someone awake at my parents. Getting a place gives me the freedom I’ve been looking for while also still having some help nearby since Grayson will be in the basement and my parents are only 10 minutes away, and we will be visiting frequently! Thalia loves her Grandma, and Grandma has the swing set that keeps her busy most days so we’ll be over almost daily to use it I’m sure.
Someone call the interior design police this washroom is assaulting my eyes
After the offer was accepted on the house I decided that getting back together was not a good idea and Grayson didn't take it well. Rightly so, but those of you that said out loud or internally, that buying a place with your ex is a bad idea, you were right. Although things are amiable for the most part, I'm now in a very unusual situation that many worry my end badly for me. But what’s done is done and I’m stubborn, so I’m determined to make this situation work for me. In an effort to protect my family and my investment, not that I anticipate a problem, but just because I have a tendency to play for the worst while hoping for the best; I’ve spent some time researching and moving money around to make the property all mine. Gray still has to sign the paperwork and be on title, but the property is being purchased completely with my money, it will be renovated completely with my money and my vision and to reflect that, the title of the property will be listed as 99% ownership Brittany Miller, 1% ownership Grayson Dotzert. I also plan to draft a co-habitation agreement just to cover all my bases. I don't think he would ever do anything to put the girls or I in a bad situation but being over precautious can't hurt, right? Is it ideal? Maybe not for my future dating life, but I think there are still a lot more positives than negatives to this new adventure.
And on that note, the main adventure is not getting a place with my ex but the renovation requirements for the house. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that our last house was a time. We went in with the intention of doing some cosmetic updating and we ended up gutting the whole thing. If you’re new here, you can check out my last renovation project here. The good news, this house is only 29 years old so I can say with the utmost confidence that I will NOT be gutting the whole thing it’s actually just cosmetic updating this time, which should decrease the cost, timeline, and overall stress level that comes with home renovations. However, the entire house does need cosmetic updating, I’m 99% sure that they didn’t update anything in the last 29 years and if they did, they definitely don’t have my taste so there is still quite a bit of work to do. The upside, at least cosmetic updating is in my wheelhouse, and I should only require minimal support from Grayson, contractors and my Dad, assuming Mom will let him help me at all. I did promise after the last house that I wouldn’t ask for help with any future home renovation projects since they graciously gave up almost 2 years of their life on weekends, holidays, and some weekdays to help me with the project that never ended. Even when it hit the market there were still things on my to-do list that I wasn’t happy to be left incomplete, but I am a bit of a perfectionist so I’m not sure if I’d ever be completely done with any project.
You can see the smoke stains on the carpet, it's so nasty. Say hello to the master bedroom, aka. Renovation project #1.
The semi had been heavily smoked in so I have to replace all the flooring, which I would have done anyway because I strongly dislike carpet, and it needs to be cleaned and painted from top to bottom to get rid of the smell. Both those are time-sensitive projects as Grayson will be staying in the house as soon as I get the keys. He’ll help install the flooring and assist with the painting, but I’d like to hire a professional for the painting, so it’s done quickly and properly for health reasons. Not let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a Brittany project if I wasn’t doing something drastic, so in the spirit of crazy design plans I’d like to remove a wall in the kitchen to make the main area open concept. In my defence, it’s not a load-bearing wall but it has plumbing and electrical that needs to be moved so I’ll leave that up to the professionals.
Removing a wall means that the house needs an entirely new kitchen because naturally, the fridge is on the wall I’m removing. So, the kitchen needs a new layout to accommodate the refrigerator on the other wall. I had considered just cleaning and painting or refacing the cabinets but some of them are damaged and I’m not confident the smoke smell would ever truly leave. My Mom has a wooden sewing desk that came from my Grandma’s, she smokes heavily in her apartment, it’s been almost a decade and every time I go near it all I smell is smoke. Also, I’m a firm believer in creating beautiful and functional kitchen spaces and for me that means open concept. Am I out of my mind? Probably, but I like kitchen renovations and I think it adds a lot of value to houses, especially in conjunction with an open-concept floor plan. As expensive as a kitchen can be, I always think it’s worth it. We’ll see how much my dream kitchen will cost before I commit to it but I’m hoping it’s in the budget. I also learned a lot from my last kitchen renovation that I’m looking forward to utilizing my newfound design knowledge on the kitchen, really the whole house in general. Ever since I found out my offer was accepted my mind has been going a mile a minute brainstorming how I can put my personal touch on the house.
Hello kitchen, what do I do with you?
I did spend a bit of time considering whether I should turn the house into a legal income property or just flip it. Depending on who you talk to the market is either A) never going back down or B) crashing tomorrow, and once you’ve purchased in this ridiculously inflated market hearing about option B is scary. So, there was a brief time when I did consider just flipping the house but given how much I paid for it and my limited renovation budget, I’m not sure I would actually make much money doing that without keeping the house for a little while. I personally feel I have sound design plans for the house, and it has the potential to make money but again, I’ve had to purchase in a less-than-desirable neighbourhood (albeit, still better than my last one) so I know there will be a ceiling to how much I will be able to sell the house for regardless of how amazing I make it look.
I got smart and am doing purchase plus improvements for this house instead of a regular mortgage with renovations financed on a credit card. For those of you that are unfamiliar with what that means, it means I have lots of homework upfront but the upgrades I’ll be undertaking will be added to the mortgage after the renovations have been completed. There are some loopholes to jump through, like getting quotes for all the work and submitting them for approval in advance of the house closing. This is a requirement because your down payment is based on the price of the house plus your renovations. This is not something I would recommend if you’re going to have a short close or possibly if you’re planning to do the upgrades yourself because you have to think about what materials you’ll need to get an appropriate quote otherwise you’ll be paying for the difference out of pocket anyway and then it’s kind of mot point. Something to note that didn’t even cross my mind.
Covid makes this whole process exceedingly difficult. There’s a limit to the number of people you can have inside which makes bringing contractors through for quotes challenging, and stores are closed for instore shopping so designing kitchens and shopping for fixtures like lights and flooring is a bit like picking things blindfolded because they never look the same in person as they do online. Also, contractors and even stores are experiencing long wait times for items to be shipped so it delays the whole process. If I hadn’t done this all before, I would be very overwhelmed by the number of decisions and timelines required to do this properly.
If I leave the green wall then I won't ever need a green screen in the house 😅
My quotes all had to be submitted by June 11th so I’m out of that phase now, and the official approval came back so I’m almost officially a homeowner so now I can start shopping and planning all my design/DIY projects! Some projects won’t be included in the mortgage, like the accent wall I’m now thinking I want to put in the dining room (thanks Pinterest). I’m all about doing house renovations on a budget. I see no reason to spend $30,000 which was the budget I was given if I can do it for less. Marketplace and Kijiji will be permanently open on my computer now because people get rid of things that are new or almost new for half the price and those are the savings I want for my house! It’s a little more time-consuming but can be fun too so that’s worth it in my opinion.
Wish me luck with my shopping and designing, I’ll be sure to keep you updated and will start posting all about it on here and Instagram because I’m sure you’re going to want to hear about my design yays and my design nays. Comment below and share your favourite DIY project success or failure with me since you’re about to see lots of mine.