Buying a home is a big deal.
I know, I’ve done it three times already! The gut-wrenching feeling you get before making one of the biggest purchases of your life is scary, especially if you are buying your first home.
I still recall those overwhelming feelings I had going into my first big purchase. With no experience to fall back on, the homebuying process seemed so complex and intimidating. But the good news is you can make it easier on yourself. A little preparation can go a long way. Here are my 5 best tips to help you approach this major decision with more confidence.
Tip #1: know your budget
It goes without saying that in any market, particularly a competitive one, you need to have your financials in check. Sellers won’t wait for a prospective buyer to figure out if they can afford the property or not.
Knowing your budget is vital before you make any leap. Not only do you want to prepare yourself with a pre-approval but you also need to figure out how much money is coming in and out of your bank account. I always create my own budget analysis using a spreadsheet on Excel. This basically lists out how much money is coming in, all my current expenses, along with, my estimated expenses associated with owning a new home (i.e.: mortgage payment, home insurance, property taxes, utilities, groceries, etc.)
It’s nice to believe you can swing the monthly mortgage, but it’s another thing to know that you can. Understand where your paycheque goes and how much might be leaking into unknown places.
Tip #2: define what you want and need in a home
House hunting can get pretty discouraging if you can’t zero in on what exactly you are looking for. Prepare yourself by making a list of your absolute necessities and a second list of your wants; together, these will become your guide on which houses you’ll look at in your price range.
If you find yourself not really knowing what you want in a home or you are letting your imagination run wild (which, I tend to do a lot), try a different approach. I find that while most of us don’t always know what we want, we are pretty certain about what we don’t want. Make a list of things you want to avoid and after some head scratching, it will become evident on how you can easily convert your negatives into a positive “wants” list.
Tip #3: find a savvy real estate agent
Once you are clear on your parameters, it’s time for the fun part—touring homes! Get in touch with a real estate agent who knows the area. One way to find an agent is to start looking at listings in your preferred location and see what name keeps popping up; they are likely the local experts. Another way is through word-of-mouth. What real estate agents have your family and friends used? Listening to their personal experiences and recommendations could be very helpful.
Tip #4: do your own homework as you go
When I started my first home search years back, not only did I rely on the pros, but I also made sure to take notes and conduct my own online searches as I went along.
Knowledge is power and technology has come a long way since my first purchase. Free mobile apps like Home to Be offered by The Co-operators can help you stay organized, while giving you insight into the housing market, all in one place.
With a quick address search, you can find information such as how much the home is worth vs the asking price, you can estimate monthly mortgage payments, understand neighbourhood trends and impacts, uncover hidden costs you wouldn’t have otherwise thought about and so much more. But I must say my favourite feature of this app is the ability to take your own notes for each property you search. It is a great way to list anything you notice, both positive and negative, while viewing a home. You can also attach your own photos for reference, so you can easily remember it.
I know touring a ton of houses in a short amount of time can make things feel like their blending together. With the right tools and guidance, comparing each home to the previous one can be easily done with an app like Home to Be. This will help you when it comes time to eliminate what homes are not right for you.
Tip #5: return for second visits to your top contenders and don’t be afraid to negotiate
The first time you visit a home, you may react with more emotion. So, it’s definitely important to return to your top contenders for that second visit. With less emotion, you can be more analytical and spot things you didn’t catch the first time.
It’s also great to bring along family and friends to gage their reactions, but remember, this could work for you or against you. Think carefully before you get other’s opinions.
Finally, when you found something you love, don’t be afraid to negotiate, especially if you have no competition. Worst case? They counteroffer. Best case? You get exactly what you wanted.
Buying your first home is not easy, simple or quick. It can be stressful at times, on top of being an educational and emotional decision, as well.
Planning in advance, doing your research, using technology and surrounding yourself with the right support team, will position yourself for success. Whether you are looking for a starter house or a forever home, the journey of home ownership is both exciting and rewarding.
Happy house hunting!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The Co-operators. The opinions and text are all mine.