Thursday, March 4, 2010

House-hunting Stress

We're moving back to Ottawa this summer. Or at least, that's what we've been told, and that's what we're telling everyone. That's what we're planning on. The hitch is we don't have anything on paper yet -- no official "posting message." A posting message is the official document from the Department of National Defence (DND) that permits us to make commitments -- such as carrying out a house-hunting trip or, for that matter, buying a house. (We are fortunate that DND pays certain expenses associated with purchasing a house.)

The upshot of all this is that we can't actually do anything yet. Well, if I'm honest, we can do something: we can browse online real estate listings for houses. Which I've been doing, and it's only serving to exacerbate my impatience.

Ottawa is currently a seller's market, we've been told. And it shows in the listings. Several of the houses we've been interested in have already vanished from the listings. Others have notes in the listings that say things like, "Open house on Saturday; all offers will be presented on Monday at 6 p.m." It also is apparent in the fact that there really aren't very many houses available that fit our bill. This is because Ottawa is a government town and therefore has sailed through the current economic downturn with barely a shudder.

In case you're interested, here's our wish list (with the acknowledgement that "something's going to have to give"):
  • Short drive to downtown (less than 20 minutes)
  • Short bus ride to downtown (less than 45 minutes)
  • 4 bedrooms
  • At least 2 baths
  • Garage
  • Inground pool
  • Ensuite for master bedroom
  • Updated kitchen
  • Good school
  • Low crime
  • And, of course a certain cost threshold

In the "something's going to have to give" category are questions like:

  • Does a short commute outweigh zero crime vs. low crime?
  • Are we willing to give up a pool if the house has everything else?
  • Is a one-car garage enough? Or will we just end up fighting over it?
  • Is this house only for the next 10 years? Or is this our "forever" house (i.e., until we need ramps, ventilators and Depends)?

These are all questions with price-tags attached, of course. And, like most couples, price-tags tend to induce a certain amount of friction. Steve was the kind of kid who saved up all his allowances for years and loaned his parents money for a down-payment on their first house (I'm not exaggerating). I was the kind of kid who searched the coat-pockets in the front-hall closet for loose change and spent it on candy at the corner store (Sorry, Mom). I never, ever had money saved. Neither of us has changed much.

Fortunately, we each love the other enough to realize that this, like so much else in marriage, requires a compromise. Steve knows I won't be happy living in an ugly house. I know he won't be able to sleep with outrageous debt hanging over his head. The bottom line is that there is a very narrow range of houses that will satisfy both of us.

But houses there are. I'm impatiently watching them appear and disappear from the online listings. We've been told that posting messages won't be issued before mid-March. Of course, in my current state, I therefore expect to have document in hand no later than March 16. (I'm being generous.) I'll keep you posted as the saga continues. If nothing else, this blog may help assuage some of my pre-posting turmoil.

Oh, by the way, in the course of my online house-browsing, I came across this interesting tool that tracks crime by address in Ottawa (possibly elsewhere, but I only used it for Ottawa.)


  1. Patience, patience my love!

  2. Hope you find the house you want, at the price you want in the place you want. And if everything works out, we'll be visiting so be sure there's a guest bedroom!

  3. @Mary - we'll have room for you guys even if it means kicking out a couple of the kids!

  4. @Steve - I have no patience. None. Call your posting manager and ask him to write that message NOW! :-)

  5. I did up a list of all the stuff we need to do before we move. Very intimidting!


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