Buying a home is one of life’s biggest milestones. Yet, the process can feel overwhelmingly complex with its many decisions and challenges, regardless of whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned home buyer.
With the expertise of a REALTOR®, purchasing a home doesn’t have to be so daunting. Whether you need advice on your choice of property, or someone to look to for insight on the market, a REALTOR® can guide you every step of the way.
Tom Storey, a REALTOR® and Toronto-based sales representative with The Storey Team at Royal LePage Signature Realty, shares his take on how a real estate professional can help you to prepare to buy a home.
Make sure you’re ready
Many people share the dream of homeownership, but amidst the rosy prospect of having your own front door, there’s a lot of responsibility.
To determine if you’re financially ready to take on the duties of owning a home, Storey says to start with working out how much you can afford and what you want to spend. Have a conversation with your bank or lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage. While a pre-approval doesn’t guarantee financing, the quote will give you an idea of how much house you can comfortably afford. This way, your REALTOR® can share listings that fall within your budget.
If you’re learning about mortgage financing for the first time, your REALTOR® can provide you with invaluable access to a vast network of brokers and lenders to assist you, as well as other industry professionals like home inspectors, real estate lawyers and home stagers.
“The analogy I always use is [that] there’s no reason to see properties until you’re pre-approved — it’s like trying to get on a plane without a plane ticket,” said Storey.
Saving for a deposit and a downpayment is one thing, but the monthly and annual expenses of homeownership will also have a significant impact on your lifestyle. The type of property you purchase will influence the kind of costs you could anticipate; condominiums will have a monthly maintenance
fee, while freeholds will require regular upkeep. Your REALTOR® can help to outline some of these expenses for you and what you can expect.
REALTOR.ca is also piloting a new feature, the Cost of Living tool, currently in Halifax, Ottawa and Edmonton, which estimates monthly costs based on the location of each residential listing. The estimations cover common expenses like mortgage and taxes, utilities, transportation and entertainment.
While you may have worked out the numbers and understand what you can afford, Storey says pinpointing the perfect time to buy is nearly impossible with markets constantly in motion. Instead, owning a home should be seen as a long-term investment outside of any short-term market fluctuations.
The end of August and during the end-of-year holiday season are usually opportune windows for buyers to scoop up properties, as listings in these markets must sell, explains Storey. However, he believes your gut will tell you best if now’s the right time for you to make a move on purchasing a home.
Narrow down your options
Between townhomes, condos, or a detached two-storey, there’s a lot of choice when it comes
to choosing the type of property you want to buy. A REALTOR® can assist you in deciding what communities you and your family will love, and narrow down a selection of homes that best fit your needs.
When helping his clients determine their ideal home, Storey asks them to grade each listing on a scale from zero to 10. A property that falls below a six is usually worth skipping over, while ones that score an eight or higher could be a potential fit and require additional information. Storey also makes a point of consulting clients on what their must-haves and absolute deal breakers are before getting too far in the process.
“Even before we start viewing properties, if there’s a property that a client likes, we ask them to rank it out of 10, because we need them to feel good about this purchase,” said Storey. “We never want them to feel like they made the wrong decision.”
If you’re confident in the type of property that you want, but aren’t sure of the location, your
REALTOR® can highlight the amenities and features available in every community. Storey and his team help their clients by preparing a personalized booklet about a property’s neighbourhood with information about transportation, schools, and more.
With access to the most up-to-date market statistics, trends and the MLS® Home Price Index,
REALTORS® are your go-to source for learning about local market conditions in new neighbourhoods. When you’re putting an offer, or listing your home for sale, your REALTOR® will use their market knowledge to determine the most competitive price to go with.
Determine what to do with your existing home
Every homeowner faces the issue of what to do with their current property when it’s time to move — do you sell your current home and then buy a new one, or purchase first and then list your existing home?
For Storey, solving this classic real estate conundrum involves analyzing current market conditions and his clients’ preferences. He plays out the worst-case scenarios with each of his homeowners to gauge if they should buy or sell first.
“I find that people have different risk tolerance levels and it’s our job trying to figure out where they’re trying to go and it’s also extremely important with what’s happening in the market,” said Storey.
Comparing the market where you currently own a property with the market that you hope to move into is crucial to answering this question. For instance, Storey explains that buyers who want to sell their downtown condo and move to the suburbs may want to sell their city property first, as condo units are taking longer to sell in most urban areas during COVID-19.
“It really depends on what market you are selling in, and then what market you are going to, because the micro markets are extremely important,” said
If you’re a current homeowner, your REALTOR® will be able to strategize with you on whether selling or buying your property first is the best course of action.
Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. Make the process smoother by recruiting the services of a REALTOR® who can be a trusted guiding hand.