Home Buying Guide

Buying a House ? Here are some valuable tips to help you ...

  1. Advantages of using a real estate salesperson to help me buy a home?
  2. Where do I begin the process of looking for a home?
  3. How do I find the right real estate salesperson to work with?
  4. How do I know for sure which home I can afford?
  5. How does buying compare to renting?
  6. Where can I get information about the neighbourhood schools?
  7. How can I find out what homes are selling for in a given neighbourhood?
  8. Can I find out what my property tax bill will be?
  9. When I start visiting homes, what should I be looking for the first time through?
  10. How many bedrooms should I be considering?
  11. Is an older home as good a value as a new home?
  12. What do I need to bring along when I am viewing homes?
  13. What should I ask about each home that I view?
  14. What should I tell my real estate salesperson about the homes I view?
  15. How many homes should I view before I buy?
  16. How do I know whether I am getting the best value for my money?
  17. Do I need to use a lawyer to buy a home?
  18. When I have found the home I like, how do I make an offer?
  19. How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?
  20. What is "option money" and how much do I need?
  21. Remember before I close a deal to buy. What do I have to do?
  22. What should I look for in my final walk-through inspection?

 

1. Advantages of using a real estate salesperson to help me buy a home?

Buying a home is certainly one of the most rewarding experiences most of us ever have; it's also one of the most challenging. If you're buying for the first time, the process may seem overwhelming. And even if you've been through it several times, every move is different, and presents new challenges.

So one clear advantage of enlisting the help of a real estate salesperson is simply that you don't have to "do it alone." A good real estate salesperson has the training, the know-how, and the experience to help you through each step of the process, and make the process of finding, buying, and moving into your new home as smooth, quick, and enjoyable as it can be.

Another advantage is that a real estate salesperson represents a valuable source of information about market trends, communities, neighbourhoods and especially, homes for sale throughout the area. A real estate salesperson is therefore able to offer you access to complete, regularly updated information about every home listed.

As you will observe in the following questions, a real estate salesperson's expertise and efforts can indeed be of considerable help throughout the buying process. 

 

2. Where do I begin the process of looking for a home?

The first thing you should do is to start focusing on what you're looking for in a home. You can start by establishing priorities in the following three areas:

Location: Are you relocating to a new housing/residential area because of a new job, or to be closer to your current job? How will the location of schools, amenities and transportation affect your choice of neighbourhoods?

Personal tastes: How large a home do you need? Do you prefer a condominium with full facilities or would you and your family be happier with a landed property?

Budget: Would a landed property be a financial burden, or would an apartment be more suitable for your budget?

As you consider these areas, do a little research of your own. Look through magazines for ideas about home styles and features. Drive through neighbourhoods that appeal to you to see what's available. Go through the real estate listings in the newspapers to learn about current prices in the areas that you're considering.

Talk to friends about the featres that you'd really like to have in your home. The more knowledgeable you become, the better your final decision is likely to be. Then sit down and consider carefully all the things you're looking for in a home.

Our Home Buying Guide worksheet is a good starting point. When you've filled it out, you'll begin to get a good idea of what you'd like your dream home to be. 

 

3. How do I find the right real estate salesperson to work with?

The key word here is "right". It's important that you find a qualified real estate salesperson who can fully understand your wants, needs and individual tastes, and whose personal and professional judgement you respect.

That's why we suggest you talk to several different real estate salespersons before choosing one. We've included a few guidelines on about the kind of experience and service capabilities you should be looking for. Above all, look for someone who makes you feel comfortable.

You may wish to sign a buyer's exclusive service agreement to engage the service of a salesperson. 

 

4. How do I know for sure which home I can afford?

We've found that affordability is probably the single biggest concern of today's first-time home buyers. Given the wide range of media coverage regularly devoted to the issue, it's not surprising that many young families wonder how long it will take them to afford their first home.

Our advice: Don't sell yourself short. Talk to a real estate salesperson. A good real estate salesperson is committed to honestly and responsibly working with you to determine your affordable price range. There are many financing options available today, and some include low downpayments.

The real estate salesperson will help find an option that fits your budget, and you may be surprised at just how much you can afford. 

 

5. How does buying compare to renting?

Renting offers a lifestyle that's nearly maintenance-free. That may appeal to you, but consider that renting offers you no equity, and most likely no protection against regular rent increases.

If your rent has averaged $2,000 a month for the last 10 years, you've spent $240,000 with nothing to show for it. Considering that your home would also have appreciated in value over the same period, isn't it time you invested in yourself instead of your landlord?

A month for the last 10 years, you've spent $240,000 with nothing to show for it. Considering that your home would also have appreciated in value over the same period, isn't it time you invested in yourself instead of your landlord?

 

6. Where can I get information about the neighbourhood schools?

Again, a good real estate salesperson is perhaps your best source. He will know where the neighbourhood schools are, and can provide you with valuable information about these schools including their rankings, extracurricular activities, bus services and more. He may even be able to put you in touch with teachers and principals when you visit the area. 

 

7. How can I find out what homes are selling for in a given neighbourhood?

An easy way is to ask your real estate salesperson. If you're interested in a particular home, a real estate salesperson may be able to provide you with a list of comparables ~ sale prices of homes in your area that are roughly the same size and age as the home you're considering.

Although there will certainly be some differences between the homes - the house next door may have been extensively renovated, or the one across the road may be older than the one you're looking at it's a good way to evaluate the seller's asking price. 

 

8. Can I find out what my property tax bill will be?

Simply ask to see the seller's latest property tax bill or alternatively, check with a real estate salesperson with access to the computerised Valuation List search system in the Internet. 

 

9. When I start visiting homes, what should I be looking for the first time through?

The house you ultimately choose to call home will play a major role in your family's life. A home can be an excellent investment but more importantly, it should fit the way you really live, with spaces and features that appeal to everyone in the family .

As you look at each home, pay closer attention to these important considerations: - Is there enough room for you now and in the near future?
- Is the home's floor plan right for your family?
- Is there enough storage space?
- Will you have to replace any fixtures and fittings?
- Will you have to do any major renovation?
- Are there enough bathrooms?
- How much maintenance and/or decoration will you need to do right away?
- Will your present furniture fit in this home?
- Do you like the orientation of the home?
- Is there any water seepage problems?

 

10. How many bedrooms should I be considering?

Whether you are married or have kids, spare bedrooms come in handy when family and friends come by to stay. And when you're not having guests, extra rooms are useful as a study or TV room.

Another good reason to choose a home with extra bedrooms: Extra space will make your home more appealing to a larger number of interested buyers when it comes to selling time. 

 

11. Is an older home as good a value as a new home?

It's a matter of personal preference. Both new and older homes offer distinct advantages, depending upon your unique taste and lifestyle.

With the combined problems of land scarcity and population growth, today's homes are usually built on smaller plots, unlike most homes built years ago, which offer more living space. The emphasis for older homes was on the interior layout unlike new homes which focus more on the external design.

For instance, a new condominium comes in a smaller living unit averaging 1,100 sq. ft. compared to an older condominium unit which offers as much as 1,600 sq. ft. 

 

12. What do I need to bring along when I am viewing homes?

Bring your own notebook and pen for note-taking and measuring tape for checking room sizes, clearance, etc if floor plans are not available.

Be prepared to "snoop around" a little. After all, you want to know as much as possible about the home you buy. Sellers understand that because their home is on the market, it will be looked over pretty thoroughly.

If you need to go back to a home for another look, your real estate salesperson will be happy to schedule an appointment. Also, be sure to ask any questions you have about the home, even if you feel you're being nosy. Remember, you have the right to know! 

 

13. What should I ask about each home that I view?

As a thumb rule, ask any questions you have about specific rooms, features, or functions. Pay particular attention to areas that you feel could become "problem" areas ~ additions, defects, areas that have been repaired.

And above all, if you don't feel your question has been answered satisfactorily, ask until you do understand and are satisfied. Ask also about any announced changes in the neighbourhood such as road widening, new developments, amenities or facilities that are being planned for the locality.

In most cases, your real estate salesperson will be able to provide you with information about each home you see. In addition, you can use the Home Features Worksheet to help you evaluate each home. 

 

14. What should I tell my real estate salesperson about the homes I view?

Tell your real estate salesperson everything you liked and didn't like about each home you view. Don't be shy in talking about a home's shortcomings. Is the home too small for your needs? Let your real estate salesperson know. Is the home perfect except for the floor finishes? Let your real estate salesperson know that, too.

The more open and descriptive you are, the easier it will be for your real estate salesperson to find the home you'll love. 

 

15. How many homes should I view before I buy?

There is no set number of homes you should view before you decide to make an offer on one. That's why providing your real estate salesperson with as many details as possible upfront is so helpful.

The perfect home may be waiting for you on your first visit. Even if it isn't, the house-hunting process will help you get a feel of the homes in the neighbourhood and narrow your choices to a few homes that are worth a second look. 

 

16. How do I know whether I am getting the best value for my money?

In most cases, a valuation is the best way to tell if a home is priced fairly. It's an unbiased opinion of a property's value based on its age, location, size, design and other factors.

The transacted prices and asking prices of comparable properties nearby are used as a guide to determine its value. When you apply for a mortgage loan, the lender will have a professional real estate valuer perform a valuation of the property. 

 

17. Do I need to use a lawyer to buy a home?

Yes, for private properties. It is a requirement to work with a lawyer because the legal contracts and other paperwork involved in buying a home are complex, and can be confusing to the general public. Your lawyer will review contracts, make you aware of special considerations and potential problems, and help make everything go as smoothly as possible. If you don't know a real estate lawyer, ask your real estate salesperson for help.

 

18. When I have found the home I like, how do I make an offer?

When you've found a special house you want to call home, you'll probably feel excited and a bit nervous. Your real estate salesperson is ready to help you through this important period. With your real estate salesperson, you'll write an "offer to purchase" ~ a written document that declares how much you will pay for the home provided that certain conditions are met.

Your offer should have a time limit for the seller to accept, reject, or make a counter-offer. If a counter-offer is made, you will have some time to consider and respond. 

 

19. How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?

There is really no hard and fast rule in calculating a realistic offer. Naturally, the buyer wants the best value and the seller wants the best price but negotiations can be influenced by many factors, such as a seller who may be changing jobs and wants to sell quickly, or a buyer who really wants a specific home.

After you've looked at the home's features, asked questions, checked comparables, and talked about it with your real estate salesperson, you should have a good idea of what the home's value is in the current market.

Consider what you can afford, and make an offer that you consider fair. Most buyers and sellers negotiate on price, with both sides "giving" a little until both agree. When the price is agreed upon, the paperwork should be signed by both parties. 

 

20. What is "option money" and how much do I need?

When you sign an offer to purchase, your real estate salesperson will ask you for option money ~ that is, money that shows you are serious about wanting to buy. Usually, you will be asked to write a cheque of 1% of the sale price.

If your offer is accepted, your option money will be included as part of your downpayment. If your offer is not accepted, you'll get back all your option money. However, should you back out, you will forfeit the full amount of your option money. 

 

21. Remember before I close a deal to buy. What do I have to do?

Your real estate salesperson can help you with many of the following items: - Are all the necessary inspections complete?

- Are all the required repairs complete?
- When will you conduct your final walk-through inspection?
- Is your lawyer satisfied that title to the property is clear.
- Have you confirmed a completion date and time for you and your lawyer?
- Are all the necessary documents completed?
- Have the property tax/quit rent and maintenance fee been paid up to the date of completion

 

22. What should I look for in my final walk-through inspection?

In most cases, you'll be given the opportunity to inspect the home prior to completion. At this time, it's important to check on any work the seller agreed to have done in response to your initial inspection.

You should also carefully check the condition of walls and ceilings from which window treatments, pictures, or any other attached furnishings have been removed. If you find any problems, don't hesitate to bring them up prior to your completion. It's the seller's responsibility to correct them.