Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

They vowed never to purchase pre-construction. Then they did

By Vaseline May30,2024

photography by allison seto

Tahushree and Nishant emigrated and then traveled across Canada before becoming buyers


May 30, 2024

The buyers

Tanushree Holker, a 31-year-old investment advisor, and her husband, Nishant Kalia, a 32-year-old recruiter

The budget

The backstory

Nishant and Tanushree enjoyed living close to their family and friends in their hometown of Delhi, India. They did not I love the city’s poor air quality, busy pace and high population density, which made everything feel cramped. In 2019, they decided to emigrate to Canada in search of more space, a process that went relatively smoothly but took a year and a half. Their destination was Toronto, a big enough city that would still offer them a slower, quieter lifestyle.

Upon arriving in Canada, they rented an Airbnb, which served as a temporary headquarters while they scoured the city for apartments to rent. After just two weeks of hunting, they landed in a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in a downtown high-rise that cost them $1,650 a month. In June 2021, when they finally settled in, they were eager to host their family and friends from Delhi – and soon realized they had to move again to do it. They decided to upgrade to a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment located on the north side of town (rent: $1,760). Nishant and Tanushree wanted to realize the great Canadian dream of homeownership – or even condo ownership – but financially it was beyond their reach.

When Nishant and Tanushree came across this pre-construction townhouse in Calgary's Sage Hill neighborhood, it had a completion date of just six months and no maintenance costs.

Later that summer, the couple took their first cross-country ski vacation to Calgary, staying with a family friend and taking day trips to Alberta’s many scenic attractions. They were charmed by the Rockies and the sights along the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. Calgary had its own natural charm: hiking and biking trails, small ponds and even wildlife, like the coyote they encountered one day on a leisurely afternoon stroll. “We were terrified,” says Tanushree, “but seeing wild animals in the middle of a residential area was quite amazing.”

For Nishant and Tanushree, home prices were (by far) the most charming factor in Calgary. In Toronto, they would be stuck in apartments along the city limits for the foreseeable future; in Cowtown they could buy a mansion, with an entire backyard, for about $500,000. When they got home, they made a plan to research the Calgary apartments online and talk to their bosses about the possibility of working remotely while they finished their lease in Toronto. In autumn Nishant and Tanushree again found themselves in a new one-bedroom rental in a new city, looking for a larger home. Groundhog Day perhaps, but this time they were much closer to their final destination.

The hunt

Nishant and Tanushree’s rental home in Calgary was in a fairly old building, but centrally located, making it easy for them to travel all neighborhoods in search of ‘the one’. As for the home’s specifications, they were looking for at least two bedrooms – where visiting family and friends could stay overnight – and one and a half bathrooms. Their most specific sticking point was that their new place did not have a garage at the front. “I feel like the alternative is a more inviting design,” she says.

Within a few weeks of starting their hunt, they came across a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom townhouse in Bowness, a former industrial area in the northwest of the city. The price was right at $385,000, but it was close to the railroad tracks and the crime rate in the area was too high for their comfort. Bowness also had a number of recently renovated older homes – and homes where renovations were underway – but they didn’t want to take the risk. “It felt like a gamble, going to a place where the promise improve,” says Nishant. The following January, Nishant and Tanrushree toured a two-bedroom townhouse in Walden, an area on the outskirts of the city. southwest ending, which seemed too far removed from Calgary’s action. Moreover, Tanushree could not drive.

In the backyard there is a garage for two cars, with plenty of room for other activities.

Early on, the couple agreed that pre-construction units were a no-no. Too risky. “People were getting pre-approved for mortgages at certain prices,” says Tanushree, “but when they finally took possession, the property value had gone down.” They were also concerned about delays and the possibility that any cost increases would be passed on to buyers. But then, in March, they saw a great listing in a newsletter from their real estate agent: a pre-construction townhouse in Calgary’s Sage Hill neighborhood, with a completion date just six months away and no maintenance fees. They immediately booked a visit to view the developer’s model home.

Nishant and Tanushree were fans of the unit’s open plan ground floor, where they wanted to host movie nights, cricket watching parties and celebrations for Diwali and Holi. The three bedrooms, all on the second floor, were also a good size. One would make an ideal office, while the other could serve as a guest room. The basement wasn’t finished yet, but they could always renovate it to add more sleeping quarters for visiting family. Importantly, the two-car garage was in the backyard and there was still room for a vegetable garden.

As part of the deal, the couple got to choose a number of finishes for their new home, like these dark gray kitchen cabinets.

They took their time – two whole days – before agreeing to a purchase at the developer’s set price of $499,000. The purchase came with a few perks, like a virtual moving concierge who helped them compare moving quotes. They also got to choose some of the finishes on their unit, such as the color of the kitchen cabinetry (they chose a dark gray shade) and their appliances (they upgraded from a standard electric stove to a large gas model). “Our families cook a lot,” says Nishant.

Nishant and Tanushree are now living happily in their new home - and Tanushree's mother has also come to visit.

The couple was happy to finally plant roots last September, after four moves in five years. Yet their home has been buzzing with activity ever since. They threw a grand Diwali party that doubled as a housewarming, with Ikea lights, flower garlands and scented candles hanging everywhere. “There were games and lots of food,” says Tanushree. “We also invited our real estate agent.”
Tanushree’s mother has also already made the trek from Delhi for a three-month stay, taking over the guest room, lovingly furnished with a large, cozy rug, houseplants and family photos of her daughter. Her mother loved the modern look of the house, but the real highlight of her stay was their daily morning walks around the neighborhood, which she said were a lot quieter than those at home. Nishant’s parents plan a summer visit.

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