How to navigate the current real estate market in Nanaimo


Another showing, another bid and another rejection. This was how October 19 week started for the Hamori family. House Hunting in Nanaimo is not for the faint of heart, but neither was Budapest or Capestang to be fair. No matter where you end up buying, it comes with stress. Add in the hottest market Vancouver Island has ever seen, and it is a mixture that only a certin type of people can stomach. Crazy!

We would get a listing sent to us via email from our realtor in the morning that seemed promising, contact him to arrange a showing, run as fast as we could to see it, put in an outrageous offer way over bidding and each time, pretty consistently, we ended up the runner up in a bidding war that took all of one day. This was our first three attempts at buying a home in the Nanaimo market.

Where is all this investment money coming from? The mainland? Are people retiring? Does that mean people are downsizing? Whatever the reasons, large amounts of money are coming over the water, and the majority of times we ended up being outbid by no subject, cash offers from investors. Yup those first three beautiful homes with rental suites downstairs went straight to investors as rental revenue properties.

What we learned from those first few tries is simple. You need to have all your ducks firmly in a row ready to go before ever viewing your first house.

Step one is visiting the bank. We called our Royal Bank banker when we first arrived in Nanaimo and established a relationship in the local branch. We sent all our funds here into a high interest savings account so that while we were waiting, our money could accumulate interest. Then we set up the kids savings accounts, got our paychecks sent in right away, created RRSP accounts, and got a Gold Visa credit card in my name too to establish a credit rating for myself. Alfonz was lucky as he kept his going from when he owned Alpi’s VW, before we moved to Europe. As new visitors to Canada, or in our situation, gone for a decade, this was important for the three months in a new job to show a good credit score and gain the ability to have a mortgage.

Step two. At the three month mark of consistent income stubs, we were ready to ask the bank to run our numbers to see what we qualify for. We did not want to use all our cash to buy a home, or even a large amount as a down payment on our new home. We had the idea of putting down as little as possible so we could make other investments. The thinking was that this would be our last attempt at a full 25 year mortgage being that we are nearing 50, and plan on retiring in our early seventies if all goes according to plan. We need the maximum loan the banks would allow, and the most savings to act as a cushion in our lives. We did not want to be cash poor, and equity rich, but to find a balance of savings and living with a little more freedom.

At first we were putting in bids subject to finance, giving our bankers a little cushion to ensure pre qualifications were readily in place without any hiccups. I was left untrusting from all the red tape and bureaucratic systems of living in the EU (European Union) and all the different laws for each individual country which we have lived. We heard horror stories of couples buying a home and the banks would not guarantee what they had proceeded in the pre qualification period. People lost large deposits. Even after the banks assured us to put in a no subject offer, it was against every single fiber of my being. I am not a net free trapeze artist after all. My life is based on logical, and planned out, methodical decisions. Yah sure, I make lots of them, all the time, and quickly, however, I am not spontaneous when it comes to spending money, especially the long hard earned variety. Perhaps when I win the Lotto I will be more frivolous, but for now, I like to keep my money in secure investments. Hubby would agree. He’s even more conservative than I am when it comes to spending, and together we always search and work for every penny saved. It is so automatic after two decades together, it is just how we operate. But these subject to finance offers were not getting us the win; it was however pushing up the prices, which was not in our best interest at all! With each failed attempt we pushed up the market prices, and in turn the house that would have sold for $749,000 last year, went for over $1,150,000 million! Over 30% increase in prices since we started looking in February! CRAZY! We had to dance to the beat of their drums. When in Rome as they say…

We went back to a house in the North end of Nanaimo where the financing fell through in the 11th hour for the buyers. My first reaction was to ask if they lost their entire deposit. I mean imagine, you save $50,000 and try to buy a home, and something goes wrong and you lose the whole pot?! Seems like gambling to me. To my surprise, if the sellers can reasonable and/or easily find another buyer, which in this market would be like fishing in a bucket, then yes they would eventually get their deposit back in full! I find this remarkable, because usually, and in the past, and in other countries, a deposit holds the deal, an offering to secure everything like glue in place. If you back out, you lose it. It could be like a renter leaving your rental unit giving 30 days notice but perhaps leaving before term ends. As a landlord you have the obligation to try and find another renter. If you make no efforts, then the tenancy agreement is null and void. You cannot claim compensation from your tenant, if you were counting on no one filling unit. In this smoking hot market, of course you can find another buyer, but probably get more for your house too!

This house was three years new, red and on the very busy Hammond Bay Road. I asked Alfonz if he would consider this one again. I said maybe its fate that the offer fell through. He said, there is probably something wrong with the house if the bank won’t finance it. At least he agreed to take a closer look. You have to understand the kitchen was perfection; white subway tiles on the walls, it was an alley style kitchen so the entire centre of the upstairs was open plan, and enormous with the dining leading to the back yar and the front opened to the large living room. It was simple and functional. The shiny new cupboards, the stainless steel appliances, the plank wood finish grey/brown floors, the island with seating, it was nothing short of a dream kitchen. The other issue was putting the kids down stairs, which meant kicking out a renter. Not always great for karma. He said, he could not live with the idea of coming home to a house he loves, but in a location that was less than ideal. I was hesitant to agree, but agree we did. I tried to image the long drive up Hammond Bay Road each day in rush hour, the endless battle to get up to the North End when I worked in the south. It seems that you have two choices here, either go up and down or over and down but there is no direct route. It took me 30 minutes to get there in the middle of the day. After all the contemplation, he was right, it wasn’t ideal, and the downstairs was completely cut-off from the upstairs which made the space less than perfect with teenagers. Encouragingly he said, Come to one more, I like the look of this one and it is in the area you love; Westwood Lake. This one just came up today, let’s go tomorrow first thing.

As I walked in the Westwood Lake house I had a feeling. I was very quiet; totally out of character, especially when excited about buying a house, but a silence fell over me. This house had a very happy life, full of love and it was very much cared for. It was pretty, everything in great shape if a little dated, but somehow that was even comforting. The weather was mad outside with massive amounts of rain, so we really did not see the views, and just had enough time to quickly see the inside. After a few minutes of checking everything out, I asked Armando our realtor and Alfonz what they thought I was thinking. Both thought I hated it. I then said;

No, you will be surprised, but this is my house. I do not care what you need to do to make this happen, but make this happen boys!

They laughed and asked, Really?? This one?? Yup I had a feeling. They asked, You don’t want to see the other one up the street? Nope. The house had me at hello!

I did not need to see anymore homes. I was certain this was our forever home.

It reminded me of the scene from he movie or chapter in the book The Time Traveller’s Wife where the husband simple walked into the house and straight out the back door and said yup this is it. It was that quick. You know when you know.

That evening we made our first and only COURAGEOUS subject free offer. I was sick to my stomach. Never have I ever bet all on black and the strangeness of it did not sit well physically or mentally with me. It was a bully offer, $50,000 above asking, a short window of time for them to respond and a large $100,000 cash deposit to seal the deal. We paced the floor and waited for our realtor to reply. Five hours later, they had accepted our offer. Eureka we struck gold!

Step Three, Paperwork

Armando send all the paperwork to the bank so they could prepare the mortgage details, and to the insurance agent to arrange house insurance. Both places sent everything virtually and with a few clicks of the mouse, we were signed up and ready to go.

Step six, furniture

The next step was to find furniture to fill the house. Three thousand square feet is enormous after living in a tiny one bedroom cottage for four months. This was super tricky. COVID-19 not only stopped international shipments from arriving, but with the atmospheric river dumping enough water on the Island for the entire year, the floods damaged highways and roads stopping ferries from bringing stock this way. It actually was the first time in my life that it felt like armageddon. The world was off kilter.

Daniel and I decided to visit Grandma and physically go to IKEA in Richmond to place an order. The online IKEA was not working correctly. We were told that the warehouse only shipped 50 order to the Island and you had to keep trying until it worker. The order kept prompting me to come back later. Of course we tried different search engines, and in the end, we did finally get through, but there was no stock. We were advised on the phone with customer service to see what was in store, and kindly ask they try to get us some furniture before moving day. Happily, I was already going over to see my girlfriends and extended it by a couple of days, so we detoured towards my favourite store and went straight to an agent in the beds department and put in a very large order!

Once home, we noticed that every so often the IKEA warehouse would have more items in stock, so I called the service line again and the first time they added Angelina’s bed and some tables to the order. When the items reached a number that was far too much to even image a pick-up, I called back and they cancelled the order, and replaced it with a home delivery order! Now, everything we wanted with the exception of three sets of dresser drawers, are arriving on Saturday, moving day! Perfect, the stars are aligning, if with a few long calls to IKEA service desk! They were great!

I also put in an order at Costco for a bed and mattress for Alfonz and I. We had the best bed ever in Hungary. It was a splurge but now I am spoiled and can only sleep on the most incredible mattresses known to man. Well not quite, but close enough. Last night I slept on the mattress topper, so I am not actually spoiled but it makes a better story for sure. I did get it on sale!

We did manage to move moving day from the first week of December to the last week of November. This is perfect because Sunday is Daniel’s birthday and we will be in, with furniture two days before, TODAY! What a lovely birthday present to be in the house.

We moved on Friday. We thought we didn’t have much stuff in the Cottage, but Angelina and I during the course of day packed the 4Runner full to the ceiling twice and then Alfonz, Daniel and I managed to pack it again along with Daniels Mazda!

We did manage to buy a few items for the kitchen, appliances and bedding, mattresses and kitchenware. Angelina, her boyfriend and I did all the unpacking before Alofnz and Daniel finished work at 17:30. Three days before this I got very sick and we couldn’t even start until noon on Friday, and we still managed to finish everything planned. We ordered pizza from Alibaba’s and we opened a bottle of champagne. Funny, no matter how sick, the bubbles always go down! right? We sat in the living room, chatted about plans, the kids set up their room as best they could without the IKEA delivery. Everyone was all smiles. We finally managed to fall asleep after midnight to the strange new house sounds and smells. Soon this will be our home.

I woke up very early. 5:30 to be exact. The house it built so well, I didn’t even hear the storm outside our window. I can’t see the view today either, but I managed to take one shot for my girlfriends across the water. I will share it with you.

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