Home search: Condo changes perspective on where an immigrant truly belongs

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      Glee Todio will always remember the summer of 2017 with fondness. On July 22, she and her young family moved into a Surrey condo that she and her husband bought. It was their first home purchase.

      A couple of weeks later, Todio took her oath as a Canadian citizen.

      Reflecting on what happened last summer, Todio says that these two milestones made her more rooted in her new country. “It felt like I’m home; I finally belong,” Todio told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Todio and her husband, Laurence, are both 34 years old. They have a three-year-old son. She recalled that before they became homeowners, she would wonder at times what would have happened if they had stayed in the Philippines.

      “But once we bought the home, and then I got my Canadian citizenship, that question mark wasn’t there anymore,” Todio said. “So it was that moment that…it finally sank in my mind that Canada is my home and, you know, I’m a full-fledged Canadian now.”

      Todio works as a business analyst with a professional-services company. Her husband is a freelance drafter. Before moving into their Surrey condo, the young family were renting a basement suite in the same city.

      According to Todio, owning a home was one of the priorities she and her husband had set for themselves. She explained that they were raised in families that value homeownership. When they were ready, they asked for help from her husband’s family to augment the amount they had saved for a down payment.

      Todio recalled that they made offers on three other properties but were outbid by other buyers. Looking back at these unsuccessful tenders, Todio said they were lucky to have Tony Lim as their realtor.

      He counselled the couple not to go into bidding wars because this would cost them more.

      “One of the lessons we learned from Mang [Mister] Tony is, ‘Do not feel pressured, because there’s always that one unit that is meant for you.’ ”

      They later found a one-bedroom condo in the Guildford area that was listed for $280,000. Their offer below the asking price was accepted.

      In 2016, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation issued a report that looked at the experiences and expectations of first-time homebuyers. Entitled Newcomer First-Time Home Buying Experience, notes that all purchasers have basically the same reasons. They want to stop paying rent and build equity. They also feel financially stable enough to carry a mortgage. “Unique to newcomers was the notion that buying a home was an important step towards ‘getting settled’ in a new country and city,” the report says.

      Todio’s husband arrived in Canada with the rest of his family in 2009. His mom came ahead as a caregiver for the family of her sister (Laurence’s aunt). Todio and her spouse have known each other since childhood. They got married in the Philippines in 2011, and Todio moved to Canada the following year. Their son was born in Canada.

      Todio’s only misgiving is that they waited too long to make a purchase. “Three years ago we wanted to buy a home, and we keep reading articles saying that the market will burst…and…prices will drop,” she said. It didn’t happen, and prices kept rising.

      Todio said they could have bought a place bigger than the 619-square-foot condo they got. “It’s still a blessing that now we’re in the market.”

      According to Todio, they may have started small but it’s a step toward owning a bigger home later.

      Homeownership and citizenship have made a difference for her.

      “Last year, if you ask me where I’m from I’d most probably respond with ‘Philippines’,” Todio said. “But now if you ask me the same question, I’d say ‘I’m from Canada.’ ”