Finding the right agent
You want to find the right home, in the right location, at the right price - and you want to do it quickly, with minimum hassle. The best way to do that is to work with a professional realtor who understands your wants and needs, your time frame and your financial boundaries.
Why work with an agent?
- You’ll save time. An agent can pinpoint homes that fit your needs and dismiss those that don’t.
- You benefit from an experienced negotiator. Your agent will manage your offers and counter-offers, ensuring that you get the best possible price for your home.
- You’ll get the right information. Your agent knows the neighbourhood and can give you accurate information on local real estate values, taxes, utility costs, services and amenities.
- You can always count on great advice. Because your agent is familiar with the entire home purchasing process, he or she can advise you of your legal and financial options, and recommend appraisal, home inspection and contracting services.
Choose an agent who understands your needs
Here are a few questions to ask to help you determine if an agent is right for you:
- Will you be representing my interests?
- Do you have access to MLS information?
- Will you provide market evidence to support the price?
- Will you look after closing and possession details?
- Can you be contacted at any time?
Qualifying for a mortgage
Your Royal LePage agent can arrange to have you pre-qualified for a mortgage before you start shopping for a home. It’s easy, and you’ll avoid possible disappointments down the road if you fall in love with a place, then find out you can’t afford it. Plus, once you do find the perfect home, it will mean you can make an offer immediately.
Here’s how mortgage approval works: the amount of money you qualify for, plus the amount of cash you can put down equals the amount you can afford to spend on a home. Most lending institutions won’t allow more than about 30% of your income to support a mortgage. If you have other debts, they usually won’t allow your debts and your mortgage to exceed 40% of your income.
Finalizing your mortgage
Once you’ve found the home you want to buy, you’ll need to finalize your financing. You’ll need to provide your lender with the following documents:
1. A copy of the real estate listing of the property. If the home is still to be built, the mortgage lender will need to see the architect’s or builder’s plans and details on lot size and location.
2. A copy of the offer to purchase or the building contract, if this document has been prepared.
3. Documents to confirm employment, income and source of pre-approval.
4. If you have a pre-approved mortgage, it’s a simple matter of finalizing a few details with your mortgage specialist.
Choosing a neighbourhood
You’re not just buying a home - you’re buying a location. And even the most perfect house won’t feel right if you’re in the wrong neighbourhood. Educate yourself about the area so you’ll choose wisely - and end up being happy with your decision.
- Are you close to shopping and recreation? Being close to stores, parks, recreational facilities, a post office and dry cleaners will save you time.
- Do people in the area take care of their homes? Explore the neighbourhood, keeping an eye out for signs of neglect (overgrown lawns, houses in need of paint, trash and junked appliances littering yards). A run-down neighbourhood can drive down your property value.
- Are there schools nearby? If you have children, the proximity and quality of schools is key. Some schools will provide data (i.e. average test scores) that can determine quality. Talking to neighbours with children can be helpful, too.
- Is there good access to transportation? Living near public transport and/or major highways can mean an easier commute to work.
- Is it safe? Check with the local police department - they may be able to provide statistics about break-ins or other crimes.
- Will the home increase in value over time? Homes in some neighbourhoods appreciate faster than others. Research the selling prices of homes in over the past decade or so to predict future trends. Your agent may be able to provide helpful data.
- Is it quiet? Listen for traffic noise, barking dogs, airplanes and any other noises that might bother you. Return to the neighbourhood at different times of the day to get an accurate impression.
Protect yourself with a home inspection
That gorgeous house on the corner lot may look great, but it could be hiding all sorts of expensive, annoying problems, from a leaky roof to faulty wiring to a mouldy basement.
Make sure your home is solid and secure inside and out before you buy it. A home inspector will determine structural and mechanical soundness, identify problem areas, provide cost estimates for any work required, and generate a report. It’s a great way to avoid headaches and costly problems that can turn a dream home into a money pit.
If you decide to go ahead and buy a home with issues that have been flagged by your inspector, you can base your offer on how much potential repairs and upgrades may cost.
Home inspection costs range according to size, age and location of the home. Your Royal LePage sales representative can recommend a reputable home inspection service or arrange for an inspector to visit your property.
8 things to look for when you buy
When you fall in love with a home, the things you like about it can blind you to its problems. Next time you go to an open house or tour a property with an agent, keep your eyes open with these top tips:
1. Take a look at general upkeep. Is it clean? Are lawns left uncut? Do walls need paint? If the small stuff hasn’t been taken care of, there’s a good chance that bigger issues have been ignored as well.
2. Test it. Try out lights, faucets, toilets, air conditioning and major appliances.
3. Check for water damage. Look at ceilings and drywall for stains and bulges. Water that works its way in through a leaky roof or a cracked foundation can rot wood, create mildew and destroy possessions.
4. Watch for "spongy" floors. Take note of soft, springy sections, squeaky or uneven areas - these can be a sign that costly floor repairs are needed.
5. Check doors and windows. Make sure they fit snugly in their jambs and operate smoothly. Feel for drafts. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking - if wood isn’t protected from moisture, it will rot.
6. Look at the foundation. If you see deep cracks or loose mortar and bricks, there may be a significant structural problem. Soggy areas near the foundation are also a warning sign.
7. Make sure there’s enough storage space. If you are moving from a home with large closets and a shed, make sure your new house is able to store an equivalent amount of belongings.
8. Measure. Make sure your furniture will fit into your new house.
These tips are for your own first (or second) look at a home. For true peace of mind, you should always hire a certified home inspector before you buy.
Credit checks explained
A credit check is a routine part of qualifying for a mortgage. If you don’t have a good credit history, getting financing for your home can be a challenge.
Here’s how a credit check works:
Your personal credit history is compiled by credit bureaus, which create a credit report by collecting information from banks, retailers and other public records. The report generally goes back 6 or 7 years, and shows your credit and debit cards, bank accounts, personal loans, mortgages, etc. It shows creditors’ names, account numbers, current balances - and a detailed payment history. The report will also show public information like marriage, divorce, liens, judgments that have been entered against you, bankruptcy, etc.
The lender uses the credit report to determine whether they will lend you money. If they have concerns about something in the report, the lender will ask you for an explanation.
The lender will also use the report to verify other information on your mortgage application, like employment status and address (including the name of your landlord and perhaps rental payment history). They will also be able to see inquiries made by other creditors over the period of the report. (This information can be useful to a lender to show what other avenues of financing you might have tried and may raise questions about why another creditor declined to lend it to you.)
Honesty is the best policy
If you think there might be any credit problems, tell the lender up front and ask about their policies before you apply. There’s no point in trying to hide something that will show up in your credit history. Get a copy of your credit report before you apply for a mortgage - you may be able to avoid surprises and possible delays.
Take a look at your credit report
Because the report contains information about you, you have a right to see a copy of it. Equifax, one of Canada’s largest credit bureaus, will mail consumers a free copy of their personal credit file on request. For more information, call Equifax at 1-800-465-7166.
If you disagree with something in your credit history, you have the right to challenge it and ask that the information be corrected. For example, perhaps the report shows that you were over 90 days late paying a bill but does not indicate that you withheld payment pending a settlement of a dispute with the creditor. Or perhaps you were late with a particular payment because you were away. Whatever the explanation, contact the credit bureau to clarify the matter.
Options for empty nesters and retirees
The kids have grown and retirement is just around the corner. You’ve decided it’s time to move to a smaller home with lower costs and less maintenance.
Figure out what you need
You have a number of decisions to make before you start looking for your new home:
- Do you want to stay in the same neighbourhood? If not, remember that moving away means you may have to build a new network of acquaintances, find a new doctor, get to know a new area, etc.
- If you decide to move out of your neighbourhood, where would you like to go? A better neighbourhood within the city? A community outside a major center? Someplace closer to your kids? Somewhere warm?
- What type of property would suit your lifestyle? Is it a condo that needs no upkeep or a bungalow that would still allow you to garden?
Condos - less work, more rules
Short on maintenance and long on amenities, the condominium lifestyle is a favourite of empty nesters and retirees. Condominium apartments and townhomes are available in almost every neighbourhood and price range. Many offer pools, tennis courts and fitness areas - some even include golf courses. It’s an easy, hassle-free arrangement.
However, owning a condo means you’re governed by the rules and regulations established by the condominium board. Generally, these rules are necessary to ensure the enjoyment, safety and cleanliness of the building; when you’re doing your research, you may want to find out about the condo bylaws, especially if you have a pet.
Bungalows - small homes with big rewards
Bungalows offer the best of both worlds - a detached house and a yard, with less space to take care of. It’s a great way of preparing for the future, since living with fewer stairs makes it easier to get around should you slow down a little.
Retirement communities - a neighbourhood of friends
Adult lifestyle communities offer smaller homes, amenities often associated with condo living, and the opportunity to live with like-minded people. They tend to be resort-like in nature, and are built in rural areas that are close to large urban centres. Units range from apartments to detached homes. The focal point is the clubhouse, where you’ll likely find fitness facilities, tennis courts, games rooms and swimming pools. Some areas also feature golf courses.
If you’re not sure what option is best for you, please contact me. I’d be happy to talk to you about the possibilities that are available to you.
Determine what you can afford
Buying a home involves both one-time costs and more regular monthly expenses. It’s important that you take both into account when you’re figuring out how much you can spend on a home.
The largest one-time cost is the down payment, which usually represents upto 25% of the total price of the property. Then, in addition to the actual purchase price, there are a number of other expenses that you may be expected to pay for.
Typical One-Time Expenses
- Mortgage application and appraisal fee (paid at time of application)
- Appraisal fee (paid at inspection)
- Property inspection (optional) (paid at closing)
- Legal fees (paid at closing)
- Legal disbursements (paid at closing)
- Deed and/or mortgage registration (paid at closing)
- Property survey (sometimes provided by seller) (paid at closing)
- Land Transfer, Deed Tax or PropertyPurchase Tax (in Quebec within3 months following signing) (paid at closing)
- Mortgage interest adjustment andtake over fee (if applicable) (paid at closing)
- Adjustments for fuel, taxes, etc. (paid at closing)
- Mortgage insurance (and application fee if applicable) (paid at closing)
- Home and property insurance (paid at closing and on-going)
- Connection charges for utilities such as gas, water and electricity (paid on date of move)
- Moving expenses (paid on date of move)
Other costs may include landscaping, decorating, furnishings, appliances and repairs. Typical monthly costs include mortgage payments, maintenance, insurance, condo fees, property taxes and utilities.
Understanding market conditions
The real estate market is always changing, and it helps to understand how market conditions can affect your position as a buyer. Your agent can provide you with info on current conditions and explain their impact on you.
The supply of homes on the market exceeds demand.
- High inventory of homes
- Few buyers compared to availability
- Homes on the market longer
- Prices tend to drop
- More time to look for a home
- More negotiating leverage
The number of buyers wanting homes exceeds the supply of homes on the market.
- Smaller inventory of homes
- Many buyers
- Homes sell quickly
- Prices usually increase
- May have to pay more
- Must make decisions quickly
- Conditional offers may be rejected
The number of homes on the market is equal to the number of buyers.
- Sellers accept reasonable offers
- Homes sell within an acceptable time period
- Prices generally stable
- More relaxed atmosphere
- Reasonable number of homes to choose from