21 Millbrook – Love At First Sight

Never did I ever dream that I’d be a home owner at the age of 25. Well, of course, I’d dreamed – we’re all allowed to imagine the seemingly impossible, right? Okay. I’ll be honest. I’d more than dreamed about it. I had allocated more than a handful of Pinterest boards towards my future home. I Googled the crap out of DIY home improvements. I watched hundreds of YouTube videos and television shows on it, read books about it, and flipped through magazines advertising it while sitting in the doctor’s office…or the car dealership…or the line at the grocery store before check-out. If you haven’t gotten the picture quite yet, let’s just say I had and have an obsession with home renovations. In fact, I had even attempted to go to school to become an electrician – if only I had been more mathematically inclined.

So instead, I stayed far, far away from the numbers, received my bachelors in English and somehow landed a job in real estate. Now I suppose I’m utilizing all of those skills I learned in school by blogging about what I’ve wanted to do all along – fix up a fixer-upper.

Welcome to 21 Millbrook, our new home. The first time I walked into this Riverdale semi, I fell in love with the potential of it. It’s a little more than a little rough around the edges, I’ll admit. Its got holes in the walls, dirt coming through the cement in the basement and wires hanging out of the ceiling. There’s an old lamp shade that’s being used a chandelier in the master bedroom and boarded up flooring in the cellar that I believe could either lead to never-never land or hidden treasure that’s been secreted stashed underground. But it’s got a lot of character. It has red exposed brick extending from the front door to the kitchen and a beautiful backyard oasis with a raised parking pad off of the laneway. Not to mention, it’s a one-minute walk to Riverdale Park which offers one of the most beautiful views of the city.

It’s a great house in an amazing, well sought after neighbourhood, and Aaron and I are nothing short of thrilled to be able to take this renovation adventure – together. Being able to live a reality that seemed so far out of reach, and being able to share it with someone who means everything to you is more than I could have ever hoped for.

Get down and dirty and follow us on our journey of remodeling our first home – from learning how to choose a home that’s perfect for you, to mortgage application tips to selecting a layout that sells. There’s so much to learn along the way and we’re excited to share the process with you, raw and real, and especially the hiccups and mistakes so that you’ll know all of the how-to’s and what-not-to-do’s when you decide to invest in real estate yourself.

“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”
Hebrews 3:4


The Truth About The Truth

Working in real estate, it’s no surprise to me that this is a very difficult time to purchase property. Bidding wars are the norm, and I’ve experienced the disappointments of the marketplace through many of my clients. Recently my boyfriend Aaron Davis and I purchased a property downtown together which, to my amazement, was the first house we offered on. It’s a work project, and I was all too excited when I found out the seller had accepted our offer. My boss represented me as a buyer. Here’s a little long story behind this purchase, and the lessons I’ve learned about trusting God in our everyday decisions.

The first time I walked into the house that Aaron and I ended up purchasing, I fell in love with the potential of it. Our real estate team works in the flipping business, and I’m in and out of houses on a daily basis. In general, I’m a very particular person. It takes a lot to tickle my fancy, and I can honestly say that I’ve only come across 3 houses that I’ve truly loved since I started working in real estate. This was one of them.

It was a very spontaneous decision, as many of my decisions usually are. I had only discussed the potential of purchasing, but had never been very serious with actually following through. So, as you can imagine, when I told my boss, “I want this house,” he was quite in shock. But he entertained I’m sure what he thought was wishful thinking, and we proceeded with creating an offer for it a few days later.

The night of offer presentations, I decided to write a letter to the seller telling him a bit about myself and why we wanted his home so badly. Someone suggested I make the letter a bit more “flowery,” towing the line of deceit, in order to give ourselves a better chance at securing the property. I’ll admit it, I changed my letter around at first – but then I decided, and in fact felt led to, keep the transaction as honest as possible. I felt God tugging at my heart, urging me to do so, and I truly felt honesty would be the only way He would bless me with what my heart was set on.

So, I risked it. I wrote a truthful letter, and told my boss, “God is in control. If it’s meant to happen, it will happen. Just you watch. I’m not worried about it.”

It was a crazy night in real estate that night. As a general rule, offer presentations typically fall on the same nights of the week. We put in offers on multiple homes for clients that night, so many, in fact, I didn’t have much time to think about my own. Certain clients of ours were in competition with 15-20 other potential buyers, and, for some reason, Aaron and I were only up against 4. “This is strange,” I remember my boss said to me. But I had a peace about it that was almost unnatural – I felt that it was important for me to allow God to take the lead.

We ended up securing the deal that night, somehow. I knew, for some reason, God was giving me this house as a blessing, and also as a test of character. How would I handle prosperity if I were given it? Would I do anything and everything to ensure that I was successful, or would I be willing to sacrifice anything and everything to stay true to who I am and who He ultimately wants me to be?

Fast forward a month. As a couple of 25 year old kids trying to purchase a property downtown – let me tell you, it’s a bit challenging to secure a mortgage. In addition, it’s a work project and not many lenders are willing to take on the risk of a major renovation. I was terrified we wouldn’t be able to close the deal and so, my lack of faith got the best of me, and I towed the line of deceit, taking matters into my own hands because I was scared God wasn’t really big enough to finish what I truly had believed He’d started. But, every time I towed the line of deceitfulness, an overwhelming conviction came over me and, in the back of my mind, I knew that the mortgage approval would fail yet again. The initial closing date passed, and we were forced to request for an extension. The extension date was fast approaching, and all of my mortgages were falling through – each and every one, time and time again.

I remember talking to my mom about it, telling her I knew that God couldn’t honour the blessing He had given us if I decided to act against His character within it. What was even more of a discouragement to me was the fact that I felt that I couldn’t handle blessing if God literally placed it in my lap – it was a hard pill to swallow.

And so, I had to make a decision – a decision to stay truthful no matter the cost. Let me tell you, it was the hardest thing to do, especially with so much money at stake. The likelihood of the deal going through, while being honest, and without God’s help, was impossible. I submitted our paperwork to a Schedule A bank, honest as I could be, who told me it would be a miracle if our deal was approved. I told my financial advisor, “Well, I hope Jesus loves me a lot today.” I explained the situation to my boss, who also stated it would be a miracle if it were to go through. “Just you wait,” I told my boss. “Good thing my God is in the miracle-working business. Watch. It’ll go through, and if it does, you have to come to church with me.” He supported my decision, only after reiterating he’d set up a back up plan – just in case.

It’s been a stressful few months, but somehow, God came through. I think everyone, including myself, was utterly surprised. My boss told my boyfriend, “Well, you know Aaron…I’m starting to have a bit of faith in the power of prayer.”

Aaron and I now own a house in Riverdale, and it’s taught me a lot about trusting in God, staying true to who God wants me to be no matter the cost (which, in my case, was a heck of a lot of money!), and using everything I do to glorify Him and be a witness of my faith. I’ve also learned, after feeling like a failure and somewhat defeated that I had failed God by making some of the decisions I did along the way, that my God is a God of second and third chances, so long as we submit to His will.

I’m not sure what other ways God will use this home to glorify Himself – I don’t think we were blessed with this home just because I wanted it. But I’m excited to see what God has in store, and what other lessons I’ll learn along the way.

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”
1 Chronicles 29:17