Date of lunch:
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
April Williams is a real estate agent in Toronto. She works with a partner and has a regular newsletter that was forwarded on to me. I had looked through her newsletters a few times and checked out places online so I figured she would be a good agent to ask for lunch to gain insight about buying a first home. April has been an agent just over a year, after working in advertising and the film industry. She has always been interested in real estate and finally decided to make a career out of it. She was hooked after selling her first property after only three days on the job. Also, it turns out she is friends with my sister and they used to work together – fun! Small world.
April and I ate at the new(ish) Jack Astor’s at Yonge and Bloor. Believe it or not, I have never been to Jack Astor’s. First impressions – it’s a pretty nice lunch spot if not a bit cookie cutter. I had the Mediterranean Chicken Focaccia sandwich with a side Caesar salad and April had the Opa half pizza and we both drank Diet Coke. My sandwich was delish. The staff at Jack Astor’s actually brought everyone in my office a free boxed lunch a couple of weeks ago to drum up business for their new location. I didn’t even realize until after I was half done my sandwich that this was the same one I had at work – goat cheese and chicken – can’t go wrong. April seemed to enjoy her pizza. And best of all – free re-fills! Total bill was $30 with tax.
The lunch lesson:
Where do I start? This lunch was all about practical knowledge that I am almost embarrassed I don’t yet possess. But I would say my big lesson was the first few steps I need to do to start the buying process. First, I need to go to my bank (or mortgage broker) and see what I amount I can get pre-approved. Second, I should look at some neighbourhoods and choose where I might want to live. Next, just start playing on MLS and seeing what’s out there (I already do this) in my pre-approved price range. And once I have an idea of what I want – call April and start checking out some places! I guess I already knew this stuff, but it’s always helpful to have it spelled out by a professional, so I know I am on the right track.
April is super friendly and was very easy to talk to. She was actually quite helpful and made me feel re-assured about moving into the world of ownership. Considering that when I bought my car in October, I almost had a panic attack at the dealership – I was near tears and needed fresh air and thought I was going to be sick – I can’t even imagine buying a house. But April made some great points that I already know but sometimes need to hear… such as paying rent is just giving money away and real estate is a pretty safe investment.
April pointed out that even if you only stay in a place for a year or two, you get to take the equity from that property and apply it to your next one.
April also spoke about the very favourable mortgage rates happening right now. She told me about her monthly mortgage payment that has gone down almost $500 due to the reduced interest rate. When this happens, she has the choice to pay the lower amount or continue paying the same amount and pay her mortgage off faster. So fixed or variable rate – another thing I have to think about… Because is it really going to go lower than it is now and what if it goes up? I am confused. I guess I need to take a mortgage broker out for lunch next.
There is also a lot of talk about the state of the real estate market. Is it crashing? Will the prices go lower? April thinks the Toronto market is pretty hot. The past few deals she has worked on have had multiple offers. She says that the King West area is really popular right now with a lot of young professionals. I do like that area but can’t imagine taking the King streetcar every day. I guess these are the types of things I need to think about.
So anyone who knows me knows that I am bad at making major decisions, I always over-analyze and over-stress about EVERYTHING! I think that is why I have been avoiding getting into the market. This lunch was just what I needed to push me. I feel like I have an ally in April and I might just be ready to take the plunge. I just hope she keeps paper bags handy for when I start hyperventilating at an open house.