Buying a House in Montreal – Closing

Once the conditions have been fulfiled and the notary has all the documents, all that’s left to do is wait for “closing day”.

Before closing day, you’ll probably have an appointment with the notary to review all the documents and sign most of them. This includes the deed of sale, the mortgage agreement, and some other agreements.

Also before closing day, the notary is likely to request you give him the cheque for the downpayment. This has to be a certified cheque or money draft, so be sure to ask the notary and get the cheque well in advance.

My notary told me he likes to do things this way since it means a shorter appointment on the actual closing day, but some notaries may choose to do everything on closing day, which will mean about an hour at their office.

Finally, on closing day, the sellers and buyers meet at the notary’s office, the essentials of the purchase agreement and deed of sale are read and confirmed by all parties, money exchanged (the notary gives the sellers a cheque for the full amount of the purchase, this is made up of your downpayment plus the money the mortgage lender deposited in the notary’s account). Then signatures made (at this point we signed the deed of sale, meaning we own the house), and that’s pretty much it. You walk out of the ceremony being the owner, on paper, of the property you chose.

It may be that you’ll get the keys to the house during the closing; in our case, we had to wait an extra 2 weeks for the sellers to vacate the house (we all agreed to this in the promise to purchase), after which we met them at the house and received the keys.

Congratulations, you’re now a homeowner!

Buying a house in Montreal – Fulfilling the conditions of the offer

Our offer to purchase contained two main conditions: an inspection within 7 days of the acceptance, and obtaining an approved mortgage loan within 15 days of the acceptance.

Since we’re going for a renovation and extending the mortgage to cover that cost, it’s usual to add another condition to allow for a contractor to visit the space to provide the required work quote. In our case, we rolled the contractor visit the same day we did the inspection, so there was no extra visit required. The inspection had to be performed within 7 days of the offer’s acceptance, and we did it on day 5. We got the quote for the renovations on day 8. We sent all the documents for the mortgage beginning on day 1, completing them on day 8 with the renovation quote.

The lender sent us two “letters of commitment” to sign. The first one about 4 days after we had the accepted offer, then a second one about 3 days after sending the renovation quote (so 11 days into the process). We signed and returned them as soon as we received them, and then the lender sent the final approval letter 2 days before our 15-day deadline for completing financing was up, which was a bit nerve-racking. So my advice would be:

1- Do the inspection as soon as possible. If possible, within 3 days of the offer acceptance.

2- Fulfil all of the lender’s requirements as soon as possible. Don’t drag your feet; get a notary well in advance.

3- Ask for a slightly longer time to get financing. We asked for 15 days because of the extra renovation quote time required.

Our agent and mortgage broker were very helpful during all this process and mostly we only had to sign documents and collect some information. Most of this had already been pre-screened by the mortgage broker so in reality, things went pretty smoothly.

Once you get the letter from the lender or mortgage broker, send it to your agent (our broker actually sent the letter to the agent for us – mortgage brokers are really helpful), this should fulfill all the conditions of the offer.

Most of the next steps will be done by the real estate agents, the lender/bank and the notary. At this point I did call everyone to ask what I had to do next, and the main response was “nothing” and “wait for the notary to call you”.

Buying a house in Montreal – Making an offer

After visiting 4 houses we decided on making an offer on the fourth one: it’s well-located, has a large front yard (and no backyard!), and two levels, the second of which has a very weird layout.

Apparently the no-backyard thing is a deal breaker for most people, but it wasn’t for us because the front yard is a pretty good size. The second odd thing is the layout; this may have put a lot of people off, but our realtor suggested it could easily be remodelled into something more traditional and fitting to our needs.

So after coming home and sleeping on it, we decided we could renovate the space before moving in, and that would make the house good for our needs. So then you call your agent and tell them you want to make an offer to purchase the house.

The offer is called “promise to purchase” in Québec, and it’s a very standard format, but it made a lot of sense for the agent to help us with that. She asked for a beginning price we’d be willing to offer, and offered advice on whether to modify this (she actually suggested we go lower than our initial idea, so we went with her advice).  She’ll also help decide which conditions to add to the offer. In our case, it was conditional to getting the financing, and on having an inspection performed on the property.

The seller can either reject your offer, accept it as-is, or send you a counter-offer. In our case we got a counter-offer, with a higher price (but still below what I’d wanted to offer in the first place – this validated our agent’s criteria about the initial offer). Since this was well within what we were expecting, we accepted the counteroffer. This starts the clock ticking to fulfil the conditions, the main ones being financing and the inspection. Talk to your agent and ensure you allow enough time for all this to happen.

 

Buying a house in Montreal – Visiting houses

Once we identified a few houses we might be interested in, we asked our Realtor if we could visit them.

First we sat together and looked through the pictures, checking the descriptions and the locations on the map. Since location was one of our main criteria, we discarded a bunch of houses that, while in our desired neighbourhoods, were too far from places of interest. Some others look terrible in the pictures; a few were discarded simply because the pictures showed them to be in bad condition, meaning they’d need lots of renovations before being usable.

We divided the remaining houses into “top picks” and a secondary list of “maybe”s which we didn’t outright discard. But we decided to focus first on the top picks.

Depending on how active the market is, some of the houses may be sold before you get a chance to see them. Three of our top picks were in this situation, narrowing down our list.

We send the listings to our realtor who then arranges for the visit which is done in the presence of your realtor; the house may be shown by the current inhabitants or by the selling agent. Having the realtor there was a good advantage because she pointed out many aspects we could have overlooked: potential for expansion, whether the doors/windows look new, any superficial evidence of damage or poor construction, things that may need changing or considering, and so on.

Once you’ve visited a few houses and formed a mental picture of what you liked and disliked about them, you can think about whether any of those are convenient for you. After seeing them, you have all the facts (and the subjective opinion you may have on each of them) and can do an analysis to see if any of those satisfy your criteria. If none do, then just keep waiting! One thing we observed is that new listings pop up almost daily (and the good ones are snapped up quickly), so don’t feel too rushed if you don’t find a house you like among current candidates. The houses you do see will allow you to clarify your needs and desires, so that when the right one comes along, you’ll be ready to move quickly.

We looked at 4 houses:

    One had a very nice garden and lots of land and potential, but had a lot of moisture and foundation problems and was really really far.
    Another was move-in ready and had a very convenient layout, as well as a dog-friendly and big garden, but it was at the very top of our budget plus was quite far from most of the amenities we like.
    A third one was beautifully renovated and move-in ready, and was quite close to transit and favoured amenities, but it had no room for growth as it had only a small front yard.
    A fourth one was relatively well-kept and renovated,  close to amenities and transit and while it had only a front yard, it was quite large and left a bit more room for growth. But the spaces were very untraditional and tailored to the specific needs of the inhabitants (which didn’t necessarily match our needs).

As you can see, all houses have their pros and cons. If you find one that has no cons and is within your budget, by all means go for it! But more often, it’ll be a game of compromise and deciding which aspects are more important to you and which ones can be overlooked or postponed.

Remember there are two things you can’t change about the house: the location, and the plot of land it sits on.

There’s one thing that’s difficult to change: the general structure or “bones” of the house (although if sufficiently motivated, you can always tear it down and build anew).

Most everything else can be tailored to your needs, given enough time and money.

 

Bisecting Python unit test errors to find test interdependencies

 

Many of our test runs use parallelization to run faster. Sometimes we see test
failures which we can’t reproduce locally, because locally we usually run
sequentially; and even then, the test ordering seems to be somewhat
unpredictable so it’s hard to reproduce the exact test ordering seen in our
test runner.

Most of the time these failures are due to unidentified test interdependencies:
either test A causes test B to pass (where running test B in isolation would
fail), or test A causes B to fail (where running B in isolation would pass). And we have seen more complex scenarios where C passes, A-B-C passes, but A-C fails (because A sets C up for failure, while B would set C up for success). We added some diagnostic output to our test runner so it would show exactly the list of tests each process runs. This way we can copy the list and run it locally, which usually reproduces the failure.

But we needed a tool to then determine exactly which of the tests preceding the failing one was setting up the failure conditions. So I wrote this simple bisecter script, which expects a list of test names, which must contain the faily test “A”, and of course, the name of the faily test “A”. It looks for “A” in the list and will use bisection to determine which of the tests preceding “A” is causing the failure.

As an example, I used it to find a test failure in Ubuntu SSO:

 

 

Buying a house in Montreal – Purchase plus Renovations Loan

We were initially reluctant to consider non-move-in-ready properties, reasoning that we preferred to devote money to a down payment and not have to contend with either moving delays or  construction crews around the house. But if the occupancy dates allow for it, considering a renovation job may be worth it, because it could allow you to snatch a more affordable property (perhaps one that buyers are overlooking because of quirky layouts or being in bad condition, needing a kitchen or bathroom renovation, and so on) and use the saved money to renovate, which instantly raises the property’s value.

If you’re concerned that this will leave you somewhat cash-strapped, there’s an option called “Purchase plus Improvements mortgage”. Essentially it allows you to borrow an extra amount (up to 10% of the value the home will have after the improvements) which will be added to the mortgage.

The rules are somewhat complex, particularly the part where you need a quote from a contractor before finalizing the purchase and loan, and the fact that the money is not advanced to you, but paid after the work is done and an appraiser has verified it’s done as requested, meaning you may need to pay for it upfront – it does defeat the purpose a bit, but consider that you could pay for this work with consumer credit or a line of credit, repay that once the extra mortgage amount is released, and then benefit from the very low mortgage interest rates.

In any case, it’s an option which opens up a good set of properties you may pass over because they need renovation.

I suggest googling for “Purchase plus Improvements mortgage” for more information on the rules, process and limitations.