By the Sweat of Ones Brow

By the Sweat of Ones Brow

After our first year of marriage, we made the decision to buy a house.  Nancy and I were living in Regina and were looking at our future with a lot of hope and anticipation.  We had scraped up some money for a small down payment and went to the bank to see if we could qualify for a mortgage.  Because of our savings and our solid employment histories, we qualified for a $70,000 mortgage.  The bank’s offer was an open mortgage for 20 years with a 5-year term at 22%!  Fortuitously, Saskatchewan was gearing up for an election and the government at the time decided to launch a program to assist first time home buyers.  This incentive, the brainchild of the Conservative government of Grant Devine, had at its core the requirement of the new homeowner to work on the house.  This labor component, called sweat equity, helped those of us with modest means get our new home.  We decided to participate in the program because Nancy would be the general contractor and I would provide the labor after work and on weekends.  Thankfully we were young, bold and had some experience in construction because of my experiences on the farm.  Another important feature that made this plan work for us, was that the government helped all qualifying participants reduce the cost of interest by 6% which resulted in our interest rate being lowered to 16%. 

 The home package that we purchased was a prefabricated home from Nelson Homes out of Lloydminster, Alberta.  The sweat equity that we provided was in putting all the pieces together, insulating the home, nailing down the shingles, construction clean up, hanging the doors, installing the windows, painting, laying the baseboards and door trim, building the deck, and landscaping the yard.  The total cost of our house and yard in 1982 was $67,000.  The labor or sweat equity component worked out to approximately $20,000. 

During our construction period, Nancy and I did not have any time off for any leisure activities.  The one luxury that we did embrace was going to church and enjoying a Sunday brunch with our friends.  After brunch, we would go back to the construction site to clean up and prepare for the contractors that we needed to hire, such as electricians, plumbers, concrete finishers, and cabinet makers.  Sometimes, we had help from friends and relatives.  On one weekend in August, my father took a weekend away from the farm at Asquith to help us insulate and vapor barrier the ceiling.  The temperature that weekend was around 35 above (90 degrees F).  I still marvel at how we worked with the pink insulation in the heat and the sweat!

We moved into our house in October of 1982 after the final inspection.  Our housewarming party was a terrific celebration with all those who helped us.

Al’s nuggets:

  1.  If you have more time than money or opportunity, physical hard work is usually good for the pocketbook and good for the soul.
  2. Take advantage of what is available to you.  Sometimes there are incentives from governments or corporations that work in your favour.
  3. Negotiate the terms of an agreement as well as the price of things.  For example, the open mortgage worked in our favour because the extra payments reduced the principle that we had to pay interest on. 
  4. Enjoy this movie clip!
  5. The movie, featuring Anthony Hopkins, is based upon a true story!  Check it out!