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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Our House Hunting Trip to New Brunswick is Successful and Major Developments in Sales

After looking at residential properties for over three months, Steph and I decided that it was finally time for us to go out there to view the properties we liked. We didn't want to stay in Toronto past November 30, as it would consume far too much of our cash and we would be faced with moving in winter, which just didn't make sense to us. Steph had been looking at every area in New Bruswick that you could possibly imagine: Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, and all the smaller towns. After that long, and that many properties, you are able to tell pretty quickly whether a property is a good deal or not. One thing that is very apparent to us is this: although the maritimes have historically been a "have not" region, with depressed economies, and low real estate values, it is very difficult to see how this trend can continue, especially when one sees how expensive houses are in every other major city in the country, and how many businesses now can operate independently of geographic location.

To conserve our resources, which are limited right now, Steph went ahead and found us an Airbnb for two nights at a cost of $220. The place had a kitchenette, so Steph made some hard boiled eggs, some chicken salad, toasted some bread and then packed a large cooler bag with fresh fruit, nuts, bread and the food that she prepared. The idea was that we had all meals prepared except for dinner on Friday and Saturday night. I tell you, Steph is the most amazing partner in this regard. She knows how to economize like nobody's business, and while we both appreciate the finer things, we are equally at home eating peanut butter sandwiches on the hood of the car, by the side of the highway for dinner if need be.

The drive to Saint John is about 15 hours from Toronto. We decided, as with all our trips out that way to do it in just one day. So we set out at 6 am on Friday morning and arrived there at about 10:30 at night, with Steph and I switching back and forth every four hours or so. She drove through Ontario, which is about 4-4.5 hours. I drove through Quebec half way, then Steph drove the other half of Quebec to Edmunston in New Brunswick, which is at the border. We stopped there and had some decent and cheap buffet food and then I drove the rest of the way to Saint John, which was primarily through moose territory, which was a bit scary. We actually did see a moose cub crossing the road at one point. However, our high beams are pristine because we have never used them in the city, so they worked absolutely perfectly for the entirety of the drive through New Brunswick.

What we both found striking during the drive over, is how vast and how beautiful this wonderful country of ours is. Ontario east of Toronto is very green and dotted with charming, small towns, while Quebec has both a very varied landscape. Finally, New Brunswick is the most beautiful province of all, with rolling hills, rivers, and forest as far as they eye can see. In contrast to British Columbia, where the trees are generally only evergreens (spruce and pine), in New Brunswick, there is a much wider variety of trees and vegetation. The best part from a driver' perspective though, is the high speed limit - 110km/h, which is the highest posted speed limit that I know of in the country.

We arrived in Saint John at 10:30 and proceeded to our accommodation, which was right off the highway. We were greeted by an older woman who I would guess was in her 60's. She seemed to be drunk, and even joked about appearing so and made out like she had a problem walking. We made our way in and yeaaahhhh. It was, how shall we say? A bit like you would expect a university student's apartment to be: tidy and almost clean, but by no means impeccable. But it gets creepier. We get to the end of the hall and notice a glass door with a curtain over it right across from our room. Steph opens it and the old woman calls out "Hello!". OMG! It is her bedroom! and the door has no lock, so she can just come in and out. No big deal, we thought. I mean we can always lock our bedroom door right? Well not so much. No, our door had no lock. So basically we both spent the next hour wondering if we were about to become murder victims in the middle of the night. Eventually we realized that this was probably a trusting east coast thing and that we posed as much of a danger to her as she did to us. So reluctantly, after trying to wedge a chair under the door, unsuccessfully we settled for placing the tin garbage can in front of the door, so that we would wake up if she came in. The bed was extremely comfortable and clean though, and soon we were asleep. Just before we went to sleep, our realtor called to confirm our meeting time in the morning and gave us some bad news: one of the houses we had really liked was sold and could not be viewed.

We woke up in one piece in the morning and after a quick breakfast, set off to meet our realtor at the first of 9 properties we were scheduled to view on Saturday. We arrived at the first house located in a small town called Norton. It was a nice house downstairs and had two very friendly cats, which we appreciated. But the upstairs needed a lot of work, and we weren't sure how good the internet out there was. Still, we left feeling that this house was a 6 or 7 out of 10. The second house was just gorgeous: an 1870's home in Hampton, with beautiful tin ceilings, huge cast iron radiators, and wainscoting on every wall. It was split into two very large apartments, which would work well for the business. However, it had issues with the roofing and the windows, which would easily cost $50,000 to upgrade. This was just what we could see! So as grand as it was, we moved on to the next house.

The third house in the same area, looked great online and was in the same area as the second house. We went inside and immediately felt claustrophobic. Although it was "done", it reminded me of one of those "pioneer" homes, with super low ceilings. Someone over 6'2 would have to duck in places. Our realtor was really taken with it, but we weren't. So onto the fourth house nearby, which again looked good online, but was a real disappointment when we got in. It smelled of pets and stale fried food and was just not that great. The surprising thing is that it was $230,000 and we were told that an offer would be coming in that day. We told our realtor to "let them have it".

Then we headed into town to the fifth property, which was a beautiful brick appartment building with 3 units. OMG! It was just breathtaking with the most amazing architectural details. At $259,000 it was at the outer limits of our price range, but it was fully rented and with two good rental suites it looked very promising. However, it had no land and the maintenance on the property had the potential to be very, very crippling. So we concluded that we were not ready to be landlords and moved on to the sixth property.

Our realtor needed to meet another client for a few minutes. So we took our time and drove around the neighborhood to get an idea of what was around. It looked very much like East Vancouver in the 1990's: not upscale, but clean and safe. We arrived at the house and were amazed by what we saw. This was a house that had caught our eye at the very beginning of our search, but we had hummed and hawed about it because it had no dishwasher. I'm so glad that we decided to view it, as it was even nicer in person that it appeared online, and seriously, how often does that happen? Steph and I both knew that we had found our house! The price was incredible - $137,900 for a 2,400 square foot house, with 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, situated on a double corner lot in town. So we immediately made an offer and were countered up to $132,000, which we accepted. However, there was a snag: we had to close November 30, 2016. We knew that if we had to put 30% down to qualify for a mortgage, that we would not have the money until sometime between October and January, so there is a chance that we won't have it by November 30. So our challenge now is to come up with some bridge financing until the funds for our down payment become available. However, with two full months to come up with the money, I am confident that we can do it.

 I wanted to post pictures of the house initially, but I don't want to jinx the deal, so I will post them in a separate post, once we are certain the deal will close. However, I was able to get some nice shots of Saint John:

Downtown looking toward the harbour

Downtown looking up from the harbour

The central park downtown, called King's Square. The plaque on the left states that it was established in 1785

Steph standing on the pier near the harbour and looking out. 

Another view of the harbour from the pier.

The pier looking up toward town. 

Another view looking up toward downtown from the pier

Steph standing in front of the lighthouse on the pier. 

After a lovely dinner at the pier, we went back to our B&B and went to bed early. We woke up early Sunday morning and set out for home. I decided to try and drive the entire way just to see if I could do it. All went according to plan until we got to Ontario, where a huge accident shut down both sides of the 401 and we had to detour, which cost us 2 hours. But we made it home by 11pm and both Viktor and Meeko were thrilled to see us. 

This month has seen a huge spike in engagement from readers of the blog, and we have now obtained 3 customers from the blog. A fourth potential customer for Nigeria has surfaced from reading the blog. Finally, we received a major referral yesterday, which may result in thousands of dollars of sales over the next several months. I worked for 2-3 hours on a quote and just sent it to the customer today and am now waiting to hear back. 

So all in all, a very exciting time! My next post will be about the sales statistics that I have complied this month, which will allow us to do a complete analysis of our customers for August-September 2016. 

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