photography by allison seto

They Vowed Never To Buy Pre-Construction. Then They Did Anyway

Tanushree and Nishant immigrated then apartment-hopped around Canada before becoming buyers

BY ANDREA YU

May 30, 2024

The buyers

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

The budget

$500,000

The backstory

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

Upon their arrival in Canada, they rented an Airbnb, which functioned as a temporary headquarters while they scoured the city for rental apartments. After just two weeks of hunting, they landed on a 450-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in a downtown high-rise that cost them $1,650 a month. By June of 2021, finally settled in, they were itching to host their family and friends from Delhi—and soon realized they’d have to move again to do it. They decided to upgrade to a 750-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment located on the city’s north end (rent: $1,760). Nishant and Tanushree wanted to achieve the great Canadian dream of homeownership—or even condo ownership—but, financially, it was out of their reach.

When Nishant and Tanushree came across this pre-construction freehold townhouse in Calgary’s Sage Hill neighbourhood, it had a completion date just six months away and no maintenance fees.


Later that summer, the couple took their first cross-country vacation to Calgary, staying at the home of a family friend and taking day trips to Alberta’s many scenic sites. They were enamoured with the Rockies, as well as the sights along the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. Calgary had its own natural charms—walking and biking trails, small ponds and even wild animals, like the coyote they encountered one day on a leisurely afternoon walk. “We were scared out of our wits,” Tanushree says, “but seeing wildlife in the middle of a residential neighbourhood was pretty amazing.”

For Nishant and Tanushree, Calgary’s most charming factor (by far) was its housing prices. In Toronto, they’d be stuck in condos along city limits for the foreseeable future; in Cowtown, they could buy a townhouse, with a whole backyard, for around $500,000. When they returned home, they made a plan to research Calgary apartments online and chat with their bosses about the possibility of remote work while riding out their Toronto lease. By fall, Nishant and Tanushree again found themselves in a new one-bedroom rental in a new city, looking for a bigger place. Groundhog Day, maybe, but this time, they were much closer to their final destination.

The Hunt


Nishant and Tanushree’s Calgary rental was in a fairly old building, but one that was centrally located, which made it easy for them to schlep out to all of the neighbourhoods in search of ‘the one.’ In terms of house specs, they were angling for at least two bedrooms—where visiting family and friends could crash—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 couple of 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 city’s northwest end. At $385,000, the price was right, but it was close to train tracks, and the area’s crime rate was too high for their comfort. Bowness also had some newly renovated older homes—and ones where renos were in process—but they didn’t want to take their chances. “It felt like a gamble, going into a place that had the promise of improving,” Nishant says. The following January, Nishant and Tanrushree toured a two-bedroom townhouse in Walden, an area at the city’s southwest end, which felt too far from Calgary’s action. Plus, Tanushree couldn’t drive.

The backyard houses a two-car garage, with plenty of space remaining 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,” Tanushree says, “but when they finally took possession, the value of the property had gone down.” They were also concerned about delays and the possibility of any cost increases being passed onto buyers. But then, in March, they saw a good-looking listing in a newsletter from their realtor: a pre-construction freehold townhouse in Calgary’s Sage Hill neighbourhood, with a completion date just six months away and no maintenance fees. They immediately booked a visit to tour the developer’s model home.

Nishant and Tanushree were fans of the unit’s open-concept main floor, where they envisioned hosting movie nights, cricket watch parties and celebrations for Diwali and Holi. The three bedrooms, all on the second floor, were a good size, too. One would be an ideal office, while another could serve as a guest bedroom. The basement was unfinished, but they could always reno it to add more sleeping quarters for visiting family. Importantly, the two-car garage was situated in the backyard, and they’d still have space for a vegetable garden. 

As part of the deal, the couple got to select some of their new home's finishes, like these dark grey kitchen cabinets.

They took their time—two whole days—before agreeing to buy at the developer’s set price of $499,000. The purchase came with a few perks, like a virtual moving concierge that helped them compare quotes for movers. They also got to choose a few of their unit’s finishes, like the kitchen cabinet colour (they opted for a dark-grey hue), and their appliances (they upgraded from a standard electric stove to a large gas model). “Our families cook a lot,” Nishant says. 

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

The couple were happy to finally plant roots last September, after four moves in five years. Their home has nonetheless been brimming with activity since then. They hosted a blockbuster Diwali party that doubled as a housewarming, stringing up Ikea lights and flower garlands and scented candles everywhere. “There were games and a lot of food,” Tanushree says. “We invited our realtor, too.” 
Tanushree’s mom has also already made the trek from Delhi for a three-month stay, taking over the guest room, lovingly decorated with a big, cozy rug, houseplants and family photos by her daughter. Her mom loved the home’s modern look, but the real highlight of her stay was their daily morning walks around the neighbourhood, which she made a point of saying were a lot more peaceful than the ones at home. Nishant’s parents are planning a summer visit.

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