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Thread: Buying a House in Ontario

  1. #1
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    Buying a House in Ontario

    House hunting for the single gal in a wheelchair is a hugely frustrating process. I've been looking to buy a house on/off for the past five years.

    I earn enough to buy a 2bdrm (like others who walk my age), but not enough to build. So then I'm stuck with a 2bdrm that I have to renovate, more specifically, the bathroom, kitchen and a ramp. Then my single person's home of anywhere from $90,000 to $120,000 gets turned into only-gawd-knows-how-much. I am at my wits' end. This is hugely unfair .. I know that life is unfair, boy do I know .. but I just wanted to vent a little and find out what others do!

    I can afford a condo, but I've lived in a one-bedroom apartment for the past eight years and don't want to live in a multi-storied building anymore. I want a backyard which actual trees and grass! The only luxury I ask is a carport or garage that's attached - so I can get out in the dry and not have to scrape or shovel in the winter anymore. I'm getting too old for that crap.

    I have no family to depend on. In fact, my brother in speaking for him and his father (yes I said HIS father) said that I should not expect them to come down to cut the grass or when I need help. They're an hour away anyway. I say: I've never asked in the 13yrs that I've moved out, why would I start asking now? Idiots. Anyway, so you get the idea. The brother who said this is the eldest and was given the family farm and house with contents, so I'm not going to respect much of what he says anyway. I have another brother that I can ask to help me go look at houses (up the stairs) but he is completely financially fragile and I expect him to be tossed out soon and knocking on my door since he helped me look (one weekend). I'd like to ask him to come and help me look this weekend, but I notice his phone has been cut off. lol

    There are the cops at work who have said numerous times that all I have to do is ask, but they all have families and I don't want to be bothering them on weekends, really. Even the Mortgage Broker offered her 6', 200lb son to help me go and look. lol! He is an acquaintence.

    I met a residential architectural consultant at a medical seminar I went to in London last September - but he said he was used to dealing with those who had won settlements, not on a budget. He said he would come look if I asked, but I would be paying for his gas and time and he's almost four hours away from me.

    Blasted!

    So if I approach my local construction association, I'll more than likely be referred to someone who has NO IDEA what wheelchair accessibility is. I need someone I can communciate with, someone who understands my needs, someone who'll be honest and upfront with cost and willing to be creative enough to tackle my accessibility problems.

    I have found a wonderful, beautiful bachelorette house that I can't stop thinking about (would only need a carport and ramp in the back with concrete flooring and a wall torn down inside, bathroom redone and new kitchen countertop lowered and with double sink, not one) but it is in a questionable area I'm not familiar with at all. Closer to work though. A gentleman bought it with his girlfriend and the realtionship soured. It's been all completely redone and is almost like a brand new home. He has already come down $22,000 in his price to unload it, citing bad memories. Low taxes.

    There's another house that's down the street from a good friend and in a MUCH BETTER area and her family has been more like a family to me anyway, but I'm sure the house would have to be gutted to be made open concept. It costs $104,000, I was approved for $130,000 so I can afford a bit of flexibility with renovations. Higher taxes though.

    What to do? What have others done? It really peeves me off that all the accessible housing in Windsor seems to be co-op or welfare housing! The houses they build anymore are all cookie-cutter split levels. What does this say!? Sheesh ...

    [This message was edited by lynnifer on 04-02-04 at 06:12 AM.]

  2. #2
    Senior Member mk99's Avatar
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    Hi Lynnifer,

    I empathisize with your situation. I assume you are in Windsor right? I live in Toronto so I don't know how useful this will be for you but here goes anyway:

    The company that did my modifications was very good. Not cheap but this is all they do. They are:

    Adaptable Design
    owner: Jeff Baum
    (416) 781-3335

    We struggled with the housing issue for a while too and ended up buying a large 4 bedroom 2 story house, putting in an accessible bathroom and an elevator. That was about it... still cost a ton of money. Of course, I have a wife, 2 kids and Mother-in-Law who often stays with us so we needed the space.

    A smaller bungalow sounds like the way to go for you. Have you checked mls.ca for listings?

  3. #3
    Senior Member dogger's Avatar
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    Lynnifer , i don't know anything about buying houses , when i bought this one i chose it for the block it was on [ 20,000acres] . and as for renovations etc , i still haven't finished unpacking after 4 years . however any experts in housing always seem to say ''buy the worst house in the best street , not the best house in the worst street '' . don't be backward in coming forward about accepting the offers to help you look [ though your brother sounds like the best bet , and it could be sort of a deposit for later accomodation ] , they offered , you didn't beg and plead for help . just make sure where ever you buy is close to a pub and got a quiet corner in the backyard . because one day when the financial gods smile on me , i am going to do a trip through North America and will be looking for places to roll out my swag .
    best of luck house hunting ,
    dogger

    every day i wake up is a good one .

  4. #4
    Senior Member Jeff B's Avatar
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    "I met a residential architectural consultant at a medical seminar I went to in London last September - but he said he was used to dealing with those who had won settlements, not on a budget."

    That is a major problem with accessibility consultants. They are so used to dealing with big insurance settlements that they don't know/want to work within a budget. Many also just contract out the work anyway so you end up paying 10-15% extra just to cover their project management fees.

    I will be having a house renovated this fall and have to go with an accessibility consultant in order for my insurance company to agree to a renovation plan. However, it was/is a battle trying to keep the costs to a reasonable level. I'm sure that some things are being overpriced just because people are used to sucking lots of money from big insurance settlements (which mine is not). In fact I already had insurance reject the proposed renovations on an earlier house I was considering buying because the consultant had been way too extensive/expensive.

    You could probably get a better deal working with an ordinary contractor. I would suggest that you try to find a reputable one before you buy a house and discuss your needs with him first. Then before you make an offer on a house have him/her go through the house to make sure that it can be renovated for a reasonable cost. You don't want to buy a place and find out later that the wall you wanted to move to make the bathroom bigger is a wall that can't be moved, or that you need major plumbing or wiring upgrades.

    Once you buy a house I would also try to get the ramp built early in the renovation process so that you can easily get in to keep a close eye on the rest of the work. That way you can regularly make sure that things are being done to your specifications (counter heights etc), rather than find out too late to fix it without extra costs.

    Good luck.

  5. #5
    Senior Member mk99's Avatar
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    From my own personal experience I would highly suggest buying an existing home and renovating UNLESS you find an excellent builder who has done Accessible Homes before and is reasonable. We bought our house through Minto Developments and they were awful. Ended up buying a brand new "stock" house and then ripping it up to put in elevator, roll-in shower, etc. It was much cheaper than what they wanted to build it right in the first place. Bastards.

    Hey Dogger, what are you doing in the Canadian forum anyway? maybe a little bit of Kanuck envy?

  6. #6
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    Okay, now I'm really peeved.

    I booked a local contractor to come and look at the house with me on the 20th. I called the local Homebuilders Association who referred me to this business which has done this type of work before. I made it very clear that I wanted someone who would listen to me, not construct what they thought was best.

    I was working under the 'silly' assumption that I could do the renovations and include them in the cost of my mortgage. Not so.

    I don't qualify for the RRAP (a program offered through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) because the income limit is $25,000 - where are these people living? Mobile homes? Talk about another redundant program. Through March of Dimes, there is more funding available but you have to own the home first. I ask how one in a wheelchair can own the home they can't access? Some ACTUAL questions in the application say, 'How is the person accessing the area you would like modified now?' Ummm duh ...

    I would like to see it available that renovations CAN be included with the mortgage ... I see GIGANTIC loopholes here with regard to the disabled and home ownership. I'm actually considering visiting my Member of Parliament about this. I'm not asking for a handout or for someone else to pay - I want the rules changed so that *I* can pay for the renovations.

    The only problem I could foresee with this change is that every Tom, Dick and Mary would be claiming that they're disabled ..

    Am I asking too much?

  7. #7
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    To anyone injured young (me at age 12):

    You will never be able to afford a home. Better count on help from the parents or hope that someone leaves you something.

    I hired a contractor to walk through the house I'm interested in for $75/hr ... $25,000+ worth of renovations on a house that's only worth $95,900. So it isn't going to happen. I never accounted for THAT MUCH in renovation costs. That only covers a ramp, a cement pad to park the car, laundry hookups, widened doors and the bathroom fixtures replaced. It was less when we spoke, more when I got it in writing. That doesn't account for when they're halfway through and 'find something' that will cost $10,000 more.

    I'm hugely disappointed. I'm not used to failure. It appears this f'ing wheelchair gets in the way of my life .. yet again.

    Housing in this province is hugely unfair. I wanted to take a job in London (two hours away) last year but couldn't because I couldn't find a place to live. If you're independent and work for a living, you can't live in those 'specified buildings for wheelchairs,' because they save them for those who need attendant care. I'm glad that there are places like that for those who need it, don't get me wrong, but where does that leave the rest of us?

    The contractors and realtors I dealt with had absolutely no clue that someone like me isn't allowed to live in places like that.

    It's impossible.

  8. #8
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    lynnifer, I feel your pain. I can understand your frustration completely, trying to find an accessible home is not easy at the very least, but don't give up yet. Right now is probably the best time to get into home ownership, as interest rates are about as low as they're going to go, the cost of borrowing is almost free these days. Although I don't know any details pertaining to your financial position, I wouldn't hesitate to guess that it would be in your best interest to lock into a 5 to 7 year mortgage. If you are dealing with a "mortgage specialist" at a large financial institution/Bank, move on. I have found big banks to be far too stringent when it comes to getting the cash you need for what you want, not to mention their rates are usually about 2 points higher and admin fees/penalties are higher than you can do elsewhere. Don't let anyone tell you that renovations can't be included within your mortgage, because they can! (people from all walks of life do this everyday).
    First find yourself an independent mortgage broker, or go to somewhere like Invis or ING, they will find you the lowest possible rates from the same lenders that are available to you trough your bank, (lower cost of financing means more available to the principal). Explain your situation thoroughly, you'll probably be surprise as to what options are available. Once you find the best mortgage and best rate for yourself, lock in with a pre-approval (usually good for 90 days). Also, be sure to ask about benefits available to 1st time home buyers right now, you will probably get in with zero down.
    Second, make your realtor work for you, he/she wants you to make the purchase as soon as possible (time is money), so get creative and make it happen. If you need to, write the renovations into the agreement as a subject, or a subject of financing the renovations. The possibilities are really endless, you just need to get together and work it out. Perhaps you may want to bring the contractor into the agreement, maybe giving a deposit on the work to be done, or have the lender pay for the renovations in stages (as it is part of the deal).

    No matter what, don't give up. This is probably the best time to get into home ownership if you are borrowing, so don't pass it up. Don't be fooled by the perception of everyone doing you a favor by lending or getting the appropriate financing, or by getting the best deal on a home. In reality, you are doing everyone a favor by purchasing. For every dollar that you borrow, the lender can leverage at least twice that, so by lending you money they get to make money on top of your interest. Keep that in mind when someone pretends to be doing you the favor. Good luck lynnifer.

  9. #9
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    Hello neighbors to the north!

    I'm a real estate agent in the US (Boston) who is focusing part of my business on working with mobility-impaired buyers to help them find accessible homes/condos.

    I'm putting together a one-stop home buying service that provides clients with a database of accessible properties (such as it is), referals to home modification contractors and modification funding sources (loans and grants), videos of property to cut down on unnecessary trips, info on ADA specifications and peer counseling from a disability advocate (and former client) who is a c-4,5. I'm also a PCA part-time so have a basic understanding of issues facing people who use wheelchairs.

    This is in addition to the usual real estate services. I'm hoping there is sufficient demamnd for this type of thing. I'm curious as to whether you would find this type of service helpful. I'd appreciate your thoughts, feedback, suggestions, etc.

    Thanks!


    Dave

  10. #10
    Senior Member Sh0rty's Avatar
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    I dont know if any of this helps, but I just built a house outside of London, and it was really expensive (sometimes I think too expensive) but I was looking into some things while building and there are programs out there that assist people in wheelchairs. They only help though to modify an already exsisting house to make it "wheelchair friendly" So they would eat some of the costs for you such as the ramps and things. Also have you tried March of Dimes? I thought they did stuff like that. I know here in London there is a real estate agent that deals only with accessable housing, maybe you have something like that in your area??

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