5 things to consider before you buy

5 things to consider before you buy

Buying a home – whether it’s for the first time or the fifth – is definitely exciting. But it can be stressful, too: there's a lot to think about, and a lot of stuff you have to know before you start. But whether you're looking for a condo or house, deciding on resale or pre-construction, thinking of living downtown or in the 905, there are 5 basic things you can do to set yourself up for success.

1. Do your research.

What kind of property are you hoping for? Condo? Semi? Townhouse? Detached house? What location do you want to live in? So many people start their search before really nailing that down, which can add a lot of stress, time and hassle to a search.

So do your homework, talk to your partner, and figure out the answers to those questions as a first step. Then, once you know the what and the where, figure out the “how much:” head over to condos.ca to see if what you want lines up with how much you have to spend. Based on what you find there, you may need to make some compromises, like going with a smaller unit to build equity for that “someday house,” being open to neighborhoods that are more “up and coming,” or looking further out to get more square footage for your buck.

Once you’ve determined what you’re (realistically) looking for, you won't waste time looking at properties that aren't right for you, and you’ll have the confidence to make decisions, especially in a multiple-offer situation.

For research, you really can’t beat condos.ca. It has everything from neighbourhood profiles (scroll to the bottom of each page for a neighbourhood description) to seeing what units in a particular building/neighbourhood have sold for recently (just select “sold” instead of “for sale” in the search area). You can also talk to a realtor you trust to get some help navigating the housing market...it can be a lot to take in!

2. Figure out your budget before you start looking.

Illustration of budgeting

Get pre-approved for a mortgage to see how much you’ve got to work with, and don’t forget to factor in other costs like maintenance fees, property taxes and closing costs. That way, you can stick to places in your price range, and you won't waste your time falling in love with properties you can't afford.

3. Use a mortgage broker.

It surprises me how often buyers will just turn to the bank where they’ve got their chequing account to get a mortgage – without even looking into what other banks might have to offer. As great as your relationship with your bank may be, they can only offer you their products. Another financial institution could have something better.

But don’t worry, you don't have to shop around on your own...getting info from all the banks and credit unions out there is a ton of work. A mortgage broker will do it all for you, and negotiate the best option for your needs. They have established relationships across lenders, and their job is to find you the best rate and product out of ALL of them, not just the one. It’s truly the easiest way to get the best deal. I recommend connecting with one before you start your search so they can help you get pre-approved.

4. Take advantage of first-time buyer incentives.

Illustration of government incentives

If you’re new to home ownership, the government is on your side. They have a number of programs in place to help buyers get into their first homes. You can borrow up to $35,000 tax-free from your RRSP to use for your down payment, get rebates on land transfer taxes (which can really add up, especially in the City of Toronto), and more to help make ownership a bit more accessible.

5. Work with a knowledgeable realtor.

Whether you’re trying to figure out where to start or you’re an experienced buyer, you need a partner who can help you get the best value for the least amount of hassle. Working with a realtor means you've got an expert in your corner, helping you navigate one of the biggest decisions of your life.

Want to know more about buying your first home?

Visit our first-time buyers’ hub – it's got loads of resources on everything from figuring out if you're ready to buy to navigating the world of bidding wars and bully offers. And if you have questions, please feel free to get in touch with me anytime. I'm always happy to help buyers find a place they can call home.

About Cameron Miller

Cameron has been with condos.ca since 2014 and is a top-performing agent in the downtown Toronto market. He believes in the properties he sells and is passionate about delivering the highest level of service to each and every client. You can reach him at cameronmiller.ca.

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