Searching for your first home is so exciting, but it can also be stressful. If you are ready to start your journey into home ownership, here are 10 tips to help you get started!
1. Know how much you can afford
This is the first and most important thing you need to consider before embarking on the search for your first home!
Banks and other lenders have formulas to determine how much you can afford to borrow, but they don’t always have your best interest in mind. Just because the bank approves you for a certain amount doesn’t mean you can actually afford to carry a mortgage of that amount. Your dream might be to purchase a character home in an established neighbourhood, but you might only be working with a budget for a condo.
This is why it's so important to do your own research and crunch the numbers yourself to make sure that you feel confident that you can afford the payments. Don’t forget to factor in child care expenses, retirement savings, and the cost of your lifestyle, as well as any other expenses you may have or that you anticipate having. Start by using this mortgage calculator!
Once you've done your research, speak with a mortgage broker and get at least two quotes for your pre-approval. Getting pre-approved for your mortgage gives you an edge over other people who might be interested in the same property as you. The seller will know that you are a serious buyer, and you are able to confidently negotiate the purchase of a home.
However, don't make the mistake of overbuying on your first home. You would be better off with smaller payments on a starter home so that you have the freedom and flexibiliy to save and spend how you'd like. Remember that you can always move up to a larger property later on!
2. What’s on your wish list?
Before you start seriously shopping for your first home, you should determine what your needs and wants are. Create a list of features that you are willing to compromise on, and prioritize the ones that you need to have. By doing this, you will be able to narrow your house search down to properties that truly fit your needs, and will make your decision much easier.
3. Be flexible!
You should of course have fun with the home buying process, but remember that to be successful, you need to be realistic and open-minded. You may not be able to find a home with everything you're looking for within your budget, so be prepared to prioritize and compromise if necessary. Being flexible to the possibility of exploring other locations or types of homes will go a long way in helping you land the home that's perfect for you.
4. Understand your different payment options
You can pay for your mortgage in a variety of ways, including monthly, bi-weekly, and weekly payment options. Paying off your mortgage sooner will save you thousands of dollars in interest costs, while a longer amortization period will reduce your regular payments and frees up cash in your budget. You can use this online mortgage calculator to help you decide what payment schedule is right for you.
Some mortgages also give you the ability to make extra lump sum payments, or the option to skip a payment. Make sure you understand what your options are, and that you are comfortable with the terms.
5. Aim for a 20% down payment
Your down payment should be at least 5% of the price, but it is highly recommended that all first time home buyer aim to put down 20% of the value of the home in order to qualify for a conventional mortgage. If you have money in your RRSPs, you can use up to $25,000 towards the purchase of your first home.
If you want to buy a home with a down payment of less than 20%, you’ll need mortgage loan insurance. Your lender pays an insurance premium on mortgage loan insurance. It’s calculated as a percentage of the mortgage and is based on the size of your down payment. Your lender will likely pass this cost on to you, which you can pay in a lump sum or add it to your mortgage and include it in your payments.
Also it is crucial to remember that what you have saved for a down payment isn’t necessarily the amount you will end up using. You will want to keep back a little cash for closing costs, minor repairs or furniture for your new home, and moving expenses. Which brings us to our next tip...
6. Keep a budget for closing and incidental costs
Closing costs can range anywhere from 1.5% to 3.5% of the total cost of your home. You can expect to pay for some or all of the following:
• Home inspection fee
• Legal fees
• Property transfer tax
• Appraisal fee
• Land transfer tax
• Title insurance
• Interest adjustment
• Moving costs
• Property and fire insurance
• Another month of rent (in case the closing date is extended)
• Renovations you may want to make before moving in
If you'd like to get a better idea of what each of these costs may be, please reach out to me, I'd be happy to walk you through this.
7. Find your own Realtor
So you've been scrollng through listings online and come across the one that looks absolutely perfect. You decide to hit the Contact Me button to connect with the listing agent. Stop there! Why, you ask? Because the listing agent's obligation is to the Seller and they work for their best interests, not yours as the Buyer.
It's so important that you find a Realtor that you connect with and that represents you, as the Buyer, in any transaction. It's the job of your Realtor to look after your needs and to negotiate on your behalf. So don't make the mistake of going with the listing agent of that property you love - always do your research and find your own Realtor, no matter what you may hear!
8. Request a home inspection
While it's true that including a condition for a home inspection (if it's not already available) may affect your offer being accepted in a highly competitive market, the risks truly outweigh the consequences in this situation. If you have a tight budget with limited allowance for necessary home improvements (no matter whether it's an older home or a newer build), it's important that you don't blindly commit without understanding what you're getting into. This is a surefire way to prevent buyer's remorse.
9. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions
There are no silly questions when it comes to buying your first home! If you're not sure about something, need more information or need clarification, always ask. As with anything, it's always better to ask lots of questions, especially when it comes to one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.
10. Once you find your home, stop looking!
It’s the golden rule for choosing anything from a car to a wedding dress to a life partner – once you’ve found what you are looking for – stop looking! The same goes for a house. Once you’ve gotten the keys to your home, instead of looking for something better than what you have, focus your energy on making the space your own.
If you found these tips helpful, please share this blog post with others!
Questions about any of these tips, or about the home buying process? Please reach out to me, I would be happy to help!