Tips for a stress-free home buying experience: The purchase process

By Nathalie Rivard

Buying a house is a huge decision that can send you on a roller coaster of emotions. However, proper preparation and working with a knowledgeable Realtor can go a long way towards reducing the stress that comes with this big purchase.

In this series, we’ve examined two other topics: budget and house hunting. The following useful tips and tricks will help you take on this milestone life event with more confidence. 

Tip 1: Negotiations are more of an art than a science.

Found your home? It’s now time to negotiate. Your Realtor will have a wealth of excellent advice for you but there are things you can do to prepare, as well.

Your offer needs to be realistic. Put yourself in the seller’s shoes and make a reasonable offer that won’t break your budget. If your initial offer is too low, the seller may make a counteroffer or refuse your offer altogether. If you really have your sights set on the property, you may have to compromise.

In markets where demand outstrips supply and bidding wars abound, offers higher than the asking price are common. You’ll have more negotiating room if the seller is motivated and the property has been on the market for a while, as the seller will often want to sell quickly rather than wait to get his or her price. If an inspection reveals work or repairs that need to be done, use that as leverage to negotiate a lower price to make up for the additional costs. Speaking of inspections…

Tip 2: Get an inspection done. No, really.

Found the house of your dreams? Wonderful! Before sealing the deal, have it inspected by a certified home inspector who’s not affiliated with the seller to make sure there are no hidden defects and to avoid surprises after moving in. Ask your Realtor for their recommended home inspector(s).

Inspections invariably turn up issues. Your inspector will give you feedback on essential and non-essential repairs and replacements. Use that feedback to negotiate a reduction in the agreed price because you’ll have to fork out money for those repairs and replacements.

Some properties are sold without a “legal warranty” and often listed well below market value. Before making an offer on such a property, make sure you have all the facts because you could end up with hidden defects or have to do extensive work after the purchase.

Tip 3: Home insurance is not a luxury; it is a necessity.

Remember, you’ll need to include your insurance premium in your monthly costs. Home insurance gives you peace of mind should your property be damaged by severe weather or by other means because you’ll be able to use the insurance payout to cover the cost of repairs. Do your homework when shopping for home insurance because, depending on the area, your policy may contain additional clauses or refuse coverage in a floodplain, for example.

Some lenders require mortgage loan insurance in addition to home insurance. Mortgage loan insurance will cover your mortgage payments in the event of a prolonged disability, job loss or spousal death. It’s doubly important for the self-employed who have no group insurance.

Tip 4: Get a quote on that fix-me-upper.

It happens all the time. You fall in love with a superb, well-priced home in need of extensive renovations — like a new kitchen, bathroom, roof or even foundation. At first glance, it looks like the deal of the century. Before jumping in with both feet, ask yourself if you have the time, know-how and money to do the renovations yourself. You should assume that the work will end up costing you more than planned because there are almost always surprises. If you won’t be going it alone, can you afford to hire pros? Will you be able to complete the renovations before moving in or will you have to find a place to stay while the work is underway?

Unless you’re a building contractor, electrician, HVAC technician or plumber, some work — like the roof, foundation, plumbing, HVAC and electricity — is best left to the pros in order to respect building codes and for your safety. Don’t be caught off guard by a leak or a short circuit. Get a quote and factor it into your offer.