backyardI’m looking for my very first house – an experience that’s proving to be both exhilarating and frustrating. Tired of the tiny apartment experience, I’m ready to plant some roots and take the homeownership plunge.

Going in, I thought my ideal house would be easy to find. I want three bedrooms in a relatively new house, with a small backyard and a garage in a nice area.

Of course, I got ahead of myself and immediately started scouring websites for furnishings and stylish light fixtures to fill this dream home that I don’t have yet. I have accounts on and, where I’ve bookmarked area rugs because soon I’m going to have beautiful laminate wood floors that need rugs, right?

I figured there would be a profusion of houses in Vancouver that fit my criteria; it would only be a matter of picking the best of the best, yes?

Nope. There’s a reason it’s called “house hunting.”

At one point, when I asked my real estate agent to send me more house listings, she told me we had already looked at everything in my price range and in my desired neighborhoods.

“Really? Hmm…”

She seemed a little perturbed. Then again, I’ve lost count of how many showings she’s taken me to.

I’ve learned that being on a budget means I can’t get everything I want in a house. After finding something wrong with every house I’ve looked at, that fact is becoming more apparent.

My favorite location is Vancouver’s walkable and charming Hough neighborhood. These homes tend to be more expensive, and they’re also older and quirkier. Many of them don’t have garages (a deal breaker) and some are situated next to the railroad (too noisy). And, I’m not a fan of the low basement ceilings (my friends are tall).

But the location! Wouldn’t walking to downtown restaurants and events be just great?

To get more inside my price range, I looked at older homes away from downtown that need updating. In pictures online these homes look cute enough, but in person I’ve found creaky floors, old cabinets and popcorn ceilings. Spend my weekends scraping off the ceiling? No way.

Sensing my disinterest in these old homes, my real estate agent suggested a newly built house. I quickly found out these homes aren’t in neighborhoods I like and don’t have much of a backyard…assuming they have backyards at all. I toured a new house next to state Highway 500. It had no yard, just a back patio that overlooked an old home with a couch on the front porch.

“Why would I buy this when I could get a townhouse for less?” I asked my real estate agent. She said I was right, and that builders are cramming as many houses as they can into new developments. Detached single-family homes also have better resale value, apparently.

Thing is, I really want a backyard, at least I think I do. I have this running daydream where I picture myself gardening while my cat scampers through the grass after a butterfly.

So far, the homes I’ve liked the best are older homes that have been renovated. They’ve got the good-sized backyard I’m looking for, along with newer features to make it more efficient and appealing. It wasn’t until I started hunting, that I realized features like modern heating systems are actually a big deal to me.

No matter what kind of house I buy, there’s going be at least some sweat equity required to make it my own. No home is a perfect fit.

While I probably spend way too many nights perusing the RMLS website and texting my agent, it’s been the best way for me to feel like I’m making progress in the search. I want to find “the one” or the closest I can get to “the one” within my budget. I’m getting better at taking fastidious notes on houses I tour.

Though at times my real estate agent seems annoyed, she says I’m figuring out what I really value in a house.

Before too long, perhaps, I’ll be a skilled house hunter.

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