Resolutions to help you become a homeowner in 2019

by Jen Buchan

New Year, new pad! That’s right, 2019 is the year you finally make your dream of home ownership a reality. But before you dive into the real estate market, there are a few things you’ll have to take care of.

In addition to committing to getting in shape come January 1, you’ll need to set some realistic real estate resolutions. Buying a new home is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, so let’s look at some resolutions that might help get you there.

It’s all about finances

There are no two ways about it: owning a home is a huge financial undertaking. It’s never too early to get your proverbial ducks in a row; in fact, building good credit, paying off personal debt and saving for a healthy down payment (ideally no less than 20% of the purchase price) can take years to accomplish.

As a first-time home buyer, you’re eligible for the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP), which allows you to withdraw up to $25,000 from your Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) to use towards the purchase of a home. As long as you repay the full amount within 15 years, there’s no tax and no interest.

Next, sit down with a representative from your bank or an independent mortgage broker. A lending specialist will help determine your overall financial health by looking at factors such as credit score, income, savings and average monthly expenses. This will determine what kind of mortgage you qualify for and what the terms of repayment (called amortization) should be.

Check out an online affordability calculator to find out how much you can afford and use our handy mortgage calculator found on our website to determine your ideal amortization period and down payment options. It’s important to secure mortgage pre-approval prior to starting to help narrow your search to homes in your ideal price range.

Save for hidden costs and surprises

Houses and condos are expensive to buy but also expensive to maintain. While it’s tempting to focus on a big ticket item like purchase price, there are other expenses you’ll need to budget for. Don’t forget about closing costs, property taxes, insurance, monthly maintenance fees (if applicable) and setting aside money to care for your new property, particularly when things break or emergency repairs are required.

Choose an experienced REALTOR®

An experienced real estate professional is the most valuable ally you can have on your journey towards homeownership. By hiring a REALTOR®, you get access to unparalleled market insights and expert negotiating skills. Your REALTOR®’s responsibility is to ensure you get the best possible home to suit your needs and budget. Never worked with an agent before? Ask friends and family to recommend a REALTOR® they’ve used in the past or use our helpful REALTOR® search to find one locally.

Do your homework

Once you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage and your finances and budgets are in order, make a list of the things you’re looking for in a home, starting with the “must-haves.” These are your non-negotiables and might include a safe neighbourhood, multiple bedrooms, proximity to transit, good school catchment or a parking spot. Then make a list of things you’d like to have but aren’t essential and commit to being open to a certain amount of give-and-take (we’d love a giant walk-in closet but is that more important than the neighbourhood?).

Understanding your needs and wants before you start the home search will allow you to evaluate properties quickly and efficiently. You can use your “must-haves” as search keywords on to help narrow and filter your results. Lastly, keep a close eye on listings in your desired neighbourhood and, depending on what properties are selling for, adjust your budget and expectations accordingly.

Finding your new dream home will require resources, determination, flexibility and resilience. But if you can commit to these simple resolutions, you’ll undoubtedly be ahead of the game. Good luck out there and Happy New Year!