The Long Game: 50 viewings and 15 offers later, this 34-year-old found a three-bedroom house in Ajax
“House hunting this long has definitely been exhausting. But I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason”
Kayla Carson, a 34-year-old associate director of e-trading at a bank, had been looking for a home in the GTA since the spring of 2021. After upping her budget, viewing more than 50 homes and putting in at least 15 offers, she finally landed the three-bedroom house of her dreams in Ajax in April 2022, just as the market was beginning to cool.
—As told to Andrea Yu.
I’m originally from Markham. After university, I lived in Toronto for a few years before moving to London, UK, for work in 2015. I stayed there for four years, then came back to Toronto in August 2019. I rented a one-bedroom condo in Riverside for $2,000 a month with the intention of eventually buying a home. I wanted to get my bearings in the city, and I needed to save up for a down payment since I spent a lot of my savings when I lived abroad. I thought a quieter place in the suburbs would be ideal. Living in big cities was wonderful when I was younger, but I was ready to be somewhere less crowded.
In November 2020, I moved in with a friend who owned a house near Main Street station, paying $1,500. It was nice to have more space and access to a backyard. Then, in February 2021, I adopted a rescue dog, a two-year-old white Lab mix named Harley. I began to think of how nice it would be to have a place of my own with outdoor space where Harley could run around.
Come springtime, I was ready to start my house search. I had replenished my savings over the pandemic. The Covid lockdowns helped—I didn’t have much to spend my money on, so it was easier to stick to a budget. My parents were also willing to help out with the down payment. I set a budget of $600,000. I was hoping to buy a home with at least two bedrooms and a backyard, and I wanted it to be move-in ready as opposed to a fixer-upper. I also wanted a big yard for the dog and to be near some trails, a waterfront, or good outdoor walking areas. And it had to be a safe neighbourhood because I would be living alone. Since I’d still be commuting to my office downtown once or twice a week, I wanted to live somewhere on the GO Transit lines. I looked north of the city in Markham and Newmarket, east to Pickering and Ajax, and west to Mississauga.
I was out viewing homes at least once a week. My parents usually joined me. It was exhausting. We’d see places listed around my budget of $600,000 that ended up going for $800,000 or more. A three-bed end-unit townhouse in Ajax that was listed for $699,000 sold for $930,000. By the end of 2021, I must have viewed around 40 places and put in offers for about 10 of them. I can’t even remember some of the places I wanted to buy. There was one that I lost out on by just $2,000, which was brutal. Other times, the sellers came back and asked if I could up my bid, but I held my ground. I wanted to go into home ownership being comfortable with my payments and not being stressed about pushing my budget too far. I considered buying a condo, but it was less appealing to me since the yard and extra space was really the key draw.
By 2022, I started thinking maybe I should wait another year to buy. The market was still quite intense. I felt like I was never going to be able to compete unless it slowed. I wasn’t willing to overbid just to have a place. But I was pretty keen and set on finding a home. At the end of 2021, I got a promotion at work, so I was able to extend my budget to $720,000. I also expanded the search to Hamilton because properties were more affordable there. Even though Hamilton was farther from the core, it was still connected to Toronto, and I liked that it was a bigger city where it would be easier to make new connections and friends.
The market in Hamilton was still really heated. One place, a three-bedroom bungalow in Ainslie Wood listed at $549,950, received 52 offers. I was shocked. By that time, it wasn’t unusual to see a place get 20-plus offers. My parents were now willing to chip in about $100,000, up from their original $50,000, on a home we really liked. It would be an investment for them in addition to a gift to me. With this strategy, I’d buy them out with a return or they’d get a cut of the profit when I sold.
Around mid-March 2022, I started to notice a change in the market. Properties were selling at their listing price or even slightly below instead of way over asking. Homes were staying on the market for a bit longer before they sold. There were fewer places withholding offers to entice bidding wars. More sellers were accepting offers anytime, which would make the sale less competitive. That gave me some hope. Prices never went down significantly, but they started to plateau a bit.
In early April, I saw a listing for a three-bedroom home in central Ajax—the asking price was $697,900. I remember my mom saying, “This is the place.” It was two storeys with vinyl siding, built in the 1940s. The main floor had an open-concept kitchen, a living room, a TV room and a bathroom with a shower. There was a sunroom in the back that was a big selling feature for me. It was nice and bright. I could picture myself having my morning coffee there, watching Harley run around the backyard. Upstairs, there were three bedrooms, one of which I’d use as my office, plus a full bathroom. The basement had a rec room with a gas fireplace, a laundry room and plenty of storage. The backyard was spacious and fenced in. It had a large deck where I could host friends for barbecues. There were gardens landscaped all around the edges of the backyard, and there was also a separate garage in the back with a work room. You could tell that the home was lovingly maintained, and it was move-in ready.
My parents were willing to pitch in even more for this place because they loved it so much. However, my realtor found out that the owners had turned down an offer of $800,000. He thought we should submit an offer of $870,000, but my parents and I only felt comfortable going up to $850,000. The sellers countered my offer with $880,000, but I held my ground and said $850,000 was my best offer. If the sellers had said no, I might have offered $2,000 to $5,000 more, but really I would have stuck to my budget. I would have been upset about losing the place but would have moved on to the next one. If I lost, at least I would know I’d given it my best shot. Thankfully, they agreed, and the house was mine with a closing date in mid-July.
When I found out the offer was finalized, I was over the moon. I knew this was exactly the kind of place that I was hoping to find. I moved in shortly after the closing date. It’s been so fun watching Harley run around the backyard, and I’m looking forward to putting my own touches on the place. I love woodworking, and I plan to expand the back deck and refinish the kitchen cabinets. I’d like to update the bathrooms too at some point. The community is really nice. It’s a mix of families, seniors and young professionals. On one of my viewings, just prior to the closing date, I got a flat tire, and one of my new neighbours across the street came out to help me fix it.
There have been some small hurdles along the way. I back onto a main road, which can be a bit noisy, but I’ve gotten used to it. Ajax doesn’t really have a main street with shops and cafés to wander around, so I have to travel a little farther to find that. But, given that this house checks most other boxes, I’m not too fussed about it. You can’t have everything, right?
Had the market not slowed down in mid-March, the sellers might not have accepted my offer. They could have withheld offers to encourage a bidding war instead of accepting offers anytime, or maybe there would have been more buyers out there that would have put in more competitive offers. House hunting for a year was definitely exhausting, but I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason.
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