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Reflections on first time home buying

In the last several years, I have noticed that many people are very proud to call Hamilton home. The arts scene is alive with a monthly art crawl and galleries all over the place. Independent coffee shops are popping up, there are unique music venues, big festivals, fancy greenhouses, and historical architecture. I have been fortunate to declare “Hamilton is home” my whole life. My husband and I have been married since 2016 and have been renting a basement apartment ever since. We are ready to officially declare “Hamilton is home” by purchasing a house but it seems we have missed the boat.

The reality is that we are now competing with the GTA for a piece of Hamilton. As people move out of Toronto into Hamilton to save money, us Hamiltonians are paying for it. Real estate prices are soaring so much so that it’s near impossible for first time home buyers to save faster than prices rise.

My husband and I both work full time, have no kids, and are wise with money. We budget, plan, and save a significant chunk of our income. After two years, we thought that surely we could afford a house of our own but the truth is that we’re still a long ways off. Every day, we survey realtor.ca praying for a miracle of a house we can actually afford to live and grow into.

We are part of a church community in Dundas so at first we looked with the sole intention of staying in Dundas. Quite quickly we realized that is not really an option because of the steep prices.

Turning to West Hamilton, we realized is even more expensive because of all the student rental opportunity. Then we moved our hopes to Strathcona, Kirkendall, and the North End. Even those prices have soared in the last few years.

Fresh Brick, one of my favourite Facebook real estate pages, sometimes features articles of houses that were listed a few years ago for significantly less than they would be now. Sometimes we check out these articles and have a little cry to ourselves.

So that leaves us here in our basement apartment, working hard, apologizing to our upstairs neighbours for the future screaming baby. That also leaves us to get creative — to think about communal living, buying houses with friends, looking at new neighbourhoods, etc.

We are not alone in this struggle and quest for creative living. Maybe this is an opportunity to rethink how we are doing housing; to reduce our footprint, and to share resources in a new way. There’s many people in our city already doing this — moving past the traditional, now unaffordable, option of buying a house for their family. It’s an opportunity to get creative. We had friends approach us recently and proposed buying a house together — us living on the main floor and them owning and renting out the basement for students. It’s undoubtedtly an avenue more couples will consider going forward.

Creative ideas, rethinking what it is to be a homeowner, and producing opportunities for others to thrive are things that can change the culture of Hamilton and how we do life here together.

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