Ready to buy a home, you need to be prepared and I am here to help you!
Here are a few things to consider:
Define your needs and wants – make a list of the things you simply can’t live without, like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms your family needs, proximity to schools and work, or storage needs. Then list some nice-to-haves: maybe a pool or deck, finished basement or mud room. This will help you further down the road when you start looking at homes.
Brush up on types of home ownership – make sure you know the difference between "Freehold" (it’s all yours), "Condo" (you take care of the inside and pay fees to an association to look after the common areas and maintenance).
Understand market conditions – supply and demand can change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, getting to know the market can help you get more bang for your buck.
• Educate you about the current market conditions
• Discuss and analyze your wants and needs against your budget
• Guide you to homes that fit your criteria
• Coordinate the work of other professionals you’ll need during the process
• Negotiate with the seller on your behalf
• Make sure all the required paperwork is fully completed, accurate and that deadlines are met
•Work with you to resolve any challenges that may arise
And while your agent will likely be a great source of advice on financing, it is ultimately your responsibility to understand and secure it. So, let’s move on to financing…
Like many things in life, planning ahead is the key to success. So, you should know the price range you can afford before you start shopping. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Down payment – this is usually the percentage of the total cost of a home that you’ll need to pay. The more money you put down, the more money you’ll save on monthly payments and, in the long run, interest paid
• Knowing what you can afford – how much house you can afford comes down to 3 factors: your monthly mortgage payment, your down payment and the amortization period or length of time it will take to pay off the loan
• Getting pre-approved – this will really help you figure out what you can spend on a home because you’ll know before you start shopping. And you’ll be protected against rising interest rates as well
So now it’s time to get out there and find your dream home. Most people start off by having a neighbourhood in mind but a great agent may suggest options that you may not have thought of. Here are some considerations as you set out to house hunt:
• Choosing the right neighbourhood – Do you need to be close to schools, public transit, highways or where you work? Those can be huge factors when choosing an area to live. And let’s not forget proximity to other amenities like parks, grocery stores, doctors and recreational centres. Drive around and check out the appearance of other homes in the area. Are they well taken care of? Of course, your agent will be able to inform you of property values in the area and how they’ve changed over the years.
• House hunting – the hunt can be a lot of work but it can also be a lot of fun. So when you visit homes, go with a partner – spouse, parent, friend – because two sets of eyes are better than one. Don’t be shy about asking some tough questions regarding the home. Take some pictures or video on your smartphone so you can reference it later. And remember that checklist you made? It will come in handy now
• View open houses with open eyes – curb appeal is one thing but try not to focus on the bells and whistles. Keep a lookout for things like doors and windows (are they new/old?), water leaks, squeaky floors, soggy areas around the yard that indicate poor drainage and could lead to a wet basement, missing shingles, lighting, etc. You’ll be getting a home inspection later, but it doesn’t hurt to start with your own observations
And when you finally find the home you can see yourself living in, it’s time for the next step…
You’ve fallen in love. But it’s important that you don’t let your emotions get the better of you when making an offer.
Remember, real estate is an investment. Fortunately, your real estate agent is there to help you put together an Offer to Purchase and discuss all the details.
Here are a few things you should know:
• Not all offers are the same – the main factors on most offers will include price, deposit, terms (which includes financing details), conditions, specific items that are included or not with the home and the closing date. From there, you can decide to make a “firm” offer which means that you’re willing to buy the home exactly as it is. Or, you could make the offer “conditional” on things like a home inspection, approval of financing or the sale of your existing home
• Negotiating may come into play – the seller will either accept your offer, reject it or make a counter offer based on things like price, closing date or other conditions. While receiving a counter offer may be unsettling, know that your real estate agent has plenty of experience to help you. Some good tips for negotiating are: making sure what you’re asking for is fair and equitable; be polite and collaborative; hold fast to your “needs” and be flexible on your “wants”; and know when to walk away no matter how hard that may be
After agreeing on terms and signing the offer, it’s time for the next step…
In addition to your real estate agent, you will now need to bring in a few pros to help get you to the finish line and make sure the investment you’re about to make is sound. Your real estate agent can put you in touch with these people and make recommendations. Here are a couple of key people you should be talking to:
• A home inspector – an absolute must in saving you from some unpleasant surprises later on. A home inspector will check your property for any structural damage; perform a thorough examination of the heating and cooling system, plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement and more; then prepare a complete written report detailing all their findings
• A legal professional – when it comes to complex legal documents, it takes a lawyer experienced in Canadian real etsate law to help make sure that you and your investment are protected. A real estate lawyer will review the agreement of purchase and sale, do a property title search, check that your home complies with current building and zoning codes, ensure utilities and property taxes are paid up, review the mortgage agreement, and get all the paperwork ready for closing
You’re almost in the home stretch now. Just a couple more steps…
If you find the perfect home now, don’t risk losing it because you’re trying to guess where the housing market and interest rates are going. Those factors usually don’t change fast enough to make a difference in an individual home’s price.
If it’s in the right location, the yard may be a bit smaller than you had hoped. The kitchen may be perfect, but the roof needs repair. Make a list of your top priorities and focus in on things that are most important to you. Let the minor ones go. Also, accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will most likely pass.
Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price or refusing to budge may cost you the home you love.
Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house itself that you forget about important issues such as noise level, access to amenities, and other aspects that also have a big impact on your quality of life.
Don’t wait until you’ve found a home to get approved for a mortgage, investigate insurance, or consider a moving schedule. Being prepared will make your bid more attractive to sellers.
A home is still considered a great investment, but its most important role is as a comfortable, safe place to live.