What are the advantages of using a real estate agent to help me buy a home?
If you're buying for the first time, the process may seem overwhelming. Even if you've been through it several times, every move is different and presents new challenges. One clear advantage of enlisting the help of an agent is simply that you don't have to "go it alone." A good agent has the training, the know-how, and the experience to help you through each step of the process, He or she can help to 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 an agent represents a valuable source of information about market trends, neighbourhoods, and especially, has access to information about homes for sale throughout the areas in which you're interested. Please see more in my Good Reasons to Use a Realtor.
A final advantage is that, in general, all of these services come to you free of any charge or obligation. Legally, all real estate agents involved in a given transaction work for the vendor, and thus are paid through commission on the sale of the home; there is usually no cost to the buyer. It puts you in a "win-win" situation. As you'll see in the following several questions, an agent's professional expertise and effort can be of considerable help throughout the buying process.
Where do I begin the process of looking for a home?
The first thing you should do is begin focusing on what you're looking for in a home. You can start by establishing priorities in the following three areas:
Are you relocating to a new town because of a new job, or to be closer to your current job? How will the location of schools, shops, and transportation affect your choice of neighbourhood?
How large of a home do you need? What style of architecture do you prefer? On what type of lot? Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of homes in dozens of styles, sizes, and settings.
How much home is it wise for you to own OR how much do you want to spend on a monthly basis without sacrificing your regular comforts?
As you consider these things, 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. Read the real estate listings in the newspaper to learn about the features that you're considering.
Talk to friends about the features that you'd really like to have in your home. The more knowledgeable you become, the better your final decision is likely to be.
How do I find the right realtor to work with?
The key word is right. While there's certainly no shortage of qualified agents to choose from, it's important that you find one who can fully understand your wants, needs and individual tastes, and one whose personal and professional judgment you respect.
A good place to start is by talking to friends, neighbours, relatives - anyone whose recommendation you trust. Many realtors build a major portion of their business from referrals. To do this, obviously they must provide an extremely high level of caring service to the people they deal with. This should be your first choice in choosing a qualified realtor.
Here are some important points for you to consider...
Choose an agent who is familiar with the community! Pick a Realtor who can point out the features of the neighbourhood and who knows where not to purchase.
You want an agent who can provide all the services you need! Choose a Realtor who has the knowledge and expertise you need for financing, appraising property values and negotiating the offer on your behalf.
You want an agent who has expertise in the property type you’re interested in buying. Different realtors focus on different types of realty, ie - commercial, bare land, regular residential, etc. Pick a realtor whose experience matches your needs.
You want an agent who listens to your needs... and responds as a friend... someone who is looking at your home purchase as the first step in a long and happy relationship! Choose an agent who really listens, and shows as much interest in your satisfaction as in making the transaction. Are you a person who makes quick decisions, or requires a lot of time for consideration? Make sure you work with a realtor that understands and respects your unique decision making process.
Qualify your realtor!
How do you know for sure how much home you can afford?
Naturally, affordability is usually the single biggest concern of today's first-time buyers. Given the wide range of media coverage regularly devoted to the issue, it's not surprising that many young people wonder how long it will take before they can afford their first home.
My advice... don't sell yourself short. Feel free to give me a call and I can help you determine your options. A good agent 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 down payments. I will help find an option that fits your budget, and you may be surprised at just how much home you can afford!
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, no tax benefit, and no protection against regular fee increases. If your rent has averaged $1,000 a month for the last 10 years, you've spent $120,000 with nothing to show for it. Isn't it time you invested in yourself instead of your landlord?
Several financing options hold special advantages for first-time home buyers or families with limited cash reserve. CMHC insured mortgages can minimize your down payment. You may also consider borrowing cash for a down payment from life insurance, an RRSP or even your parents.
Let's say you'd like to buy a home that costs $150,000. After a down payment of as little as 5% ($7,500) you'll finance $142,500. On a 6.5%, 25 year mortgage, your monthly payments for principle and interest will be about $990.29. And if you have a home business or rent out part of your house, you could also realize additional tax deductions that may offset the cost of real estate taxes, insurance and home maintenance. And best of all, you'll be on your way to owning your piece of the Canadian Dream.
What should I consider when I'm deciding which community I want to live in?
Good city services, nice parks and playground facilities, convenient shopping and transportation... these are just a few considerations that are important to people when they choose a community in which to live.
As for individual neighbourhoods within a village or city, there is no better source of information than your real estate agent.
Agents know the people and the communities they serve and chances are we can help find a neighbourhood that fits your family's needs.
Where can I get information about local schools?
Again, a good real estate agent is perhaps your best source. I know where the local schools are and can provide you with valuable information about school districts, bus services and more. If you're relocating, an agent may even be able to put you in touch with teachers and principals when you visit the area. Check out my links to find websites for local post-secondary schools and the official for the Tricities/
How can I find out what homes are selling for in a given neighbourhood?
Home sales are a matter of public record. You can get all the information you want about recent sales, including prices and time on the market, by asking your realtor.
If you're interested in a particular home, I will be able to provide you with a list of comparable sale prices of homes in your area that are roughly the
How can I find out what my property tax bill will be?
The total amount of the previous year's property tax is included on the MLS listing information sheet for the home you're interested in. Most communities these days are trying to keep tax increases to a minimum but still expect a 2-5% increase annually.
You'll find that taxes will vary from municipality to municipality and even between homes on the
If I'm moving a considerable distance, is there any way I can screen homes before I go to the
Yes. Today's Multiple Listing Service, which includes up to 98% or more of the homes listed in any given community, has made it relatively easy for buyers to access detailed information on homes for sale practically anywhere in the country. You can access this information at www.mls.ca.
I am associated with Realtors across
Real estate listings and ads seem to have a language all their own. What do all those abbreviations mean?
Abbreviations are a necessity in real estate advertising because so much information must be communicated in so little space. Some common abbreviations and their meanings:
If you run across any abbreviations or terms you don't understand, don't be embarrassed - after all, you don't buy a home every day. For a quick translation, simply call our office today!
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, of course, but more importantly, it should fit the way you really live, with space and features that appeal to everyone in the family. As you look at each home, pay close 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 the appliances?
Is the yard the size you want?
Are there enough bathrooms?
How much maintenance and/or decorating will you need to do right away? Within the first 2-3 years?
Will your present furniture work in this house?
How many bedrooms should I be considering?
Whether you are married or not, or have kids or not, spare bedrooms come in handy when family and friends come to stay. When you're not having guests, extra bedrooms are useful as a library, den, or hobby 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 time to sell.
Is an older home as good a value as a new home?
Definitely, but it's a matter of lifestyle preference. Both new and older homes offer distinct advantages, depending upon your unique taste.
New homes generally have more space in the rooms where today's families do their living, like a family room or active area. They're usually easier to maintain, too.
However, many homes built years ago offer more total space for the money, as well as larger yards. Taxes in some older homes may also be lower. It's usually affordability and location closer to jobs or other amenities that attract people to homes in the older areas of the city.
Some people are charmed by the elegance of an older home but sometimes shy away because they're concerned about potential maintenance costs. Consider a home warranty to get the peace of mind you deserve. You can purchase a home warranty plan to protect yourself against unexpected repairs in many home systems and appliances for a full year or more after you move in.
What do I need to bring along when I'm looking at homes?
Bring your own note pad for note-taking. Be prepared to "snoop around" a little as if you were searching for "lost treasure". 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 agent 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. You have a right to know.
What should I ask about each home that I look at?
As a rule of thumb, 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 questions have been answered, ask until you do understand and are satisfied.
In most cases, your real estate agent will be able to provide you with detailed information about each home you see. Steve will provide you with worksheets to note room sizes, features that need a second look, and other comments.
What should I tell my agent about the homes I looked at?
Open communication is critical. Tell us everything you liked and didn't like about each home that you see. Don't be shy about talking about a home's shortcomings. Is the home too small for your needs? Let your agent know. Was the home perfect except for the carpeting? Let your agent know that too. The more open and descriptive you are, the easier it is for us to "zero in" and find a home you'll love.
How many homes should I look at before I buy?
There is no set number of homes you should look at before you decide to make an offer on one. That's why providing your agent with as many details as possible up front 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 feeling for the homes in each community and narrow your choices to a few homes that are worth a second look.
Sometimes seeing many houses can become confusing! An excellent way to differentiate each home is to name it! Call it the "cat house" if there were several cats or the "deck house" if the main feature is the deck. This will make it easier to remember and reach a decision.
Home hunting tips
When you find a home you may be interested in buying, make sure your agent asks the owner the following questions:
How much money do you pay for utilities on a monthly basis?
Have you had any problems with water or dampness in the basement?
Are there defects or problem areas that need to be fixed now?
How old is the furnace and central air conditioning system?
How old is the roof?
Have you experienced any leaking?
How do I know I'm getting the best value for my money?
Ask to see the recent comparable sales in the area around the home you like best. This will allow you to determine objectively whether or not the home is priced right, what its true value is, and what price you should offer initially.
Most offers are typically conditional upon financing. Then, when you apply for a mortgage, the lender will have a professional real estate appraiser perform an appraisal of the property. This is a safeguard that ensures you won't pay more than the property's true market value.
Ideally, properties should be listed within 3-5% of current market value!
I'd like to have a professional look at the home before I buy it.
What does a Home Inspector do?
For your own safety, and to make sure you're not going to have any surprise repair expenses, using a professional home inspector is highly recommended. A home inspector will check a home's plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical systems plus look for structural problems, check the basement and roof for water leakage and look at the exterior and interior finishes throughout the property.
Usually you call an inspector immediately after you've made an offer on a home. However, before you sign any written offer, make sure that it includes an inspection clause or other language which says that your offer is conditional upon having a satisfactory home inspection.
Your home cannot "pass" or "fail" an inspection, and your inspector will not tell you whether he or she thinks the home is worth the money you are offering. The inspector's job is to make you aware of repairs that are recommended or necessary. A seller may be willing to renegotiate a price to accommodate needed repairs, or you may decide that the home will take too much work and money. A professional inspection will help you make a clear-headed decision.
In choosing a home inspector, look for one who's a member of the Canadian Association of Home Inspectors and who has errors and omissions insurance! Ask us for a brochure about one of the most professional inspectors in your neighbourhood.
Should I be present during the inspection?
Absolutely! It's not required, but it is very much to your advantage. You'll be able to clearly understand the inspection report, and know exactly which areas need attention. Plus, you can get answers to many questions and tips for maintenance and a lot of general information that will help you when you move into your new home. Most importantly, you'll see the home through the eyes of an objective third party. We recommend that you arrive about a half an hour before the end of the inspection (the inspector will confirm this time with you.) When you arrive he will have had time to inspect the entire property, allowing him to devote his attention to explaining his results, as well as answering any questions you may have.
Should I bring anyone with me during the inspection?
No! Although the inspector won’t turn anyone away, there are a few good reasons why it is advisable for only the purchaser(s) to attend the inspection. This is your time with your inspector. You want to stay focused on the task at hand – understanding your home. Bringing others with you can distract your attention to showing off various features of the house, or comparing notes on renovation. Often friends and family members may try to “help” you by pointing out faults in the home or property. This can ad needless frustration and confusion at a critical time. Remember that those friends and family members haven’t seen the other homes available to you in the current market. They may not realize that this is the best deal for your budget. Also, friends and family members may be tempted to show off their own knowledge, and may interfere with the inspector’s work. Clearly they have your best interest at heart, but extra inspectors don’t help anyone. You have hired a professional. You can rest assured that his final assessment will be comprehensive and all you need. We recommend that you book a separate time to bring friends and family members to the home. Then you can focus on showing off the home, and enjoying the anticipation with them.
Your professional home inspector will visually examine all parts of a house and property on both the interior and exterior!
Items on your inspection report will include...
FOUNDATIONS, BASEMENTS AND STRUCTURES
Basement floor and walls, proper drainage and ventilation, evidence of water seepage.
EXTERIOR SIDING, WINDOWS, DOORS
Exterior walls, windows, and doors; porches, decks, and balconies; garage.
Roof type and material, condition of gutters and downspouts.
INTERIOR PLUMBING SYSTEM
Hot and cold water systems; the waste system and sewage disposal; water pressure and flow; and hot water equipment.
Type of service, the number of circuits, type of protection, outlet grounding, and the load balance.
CENTRAL HEATING & COOLING SYSTEM
Energy sources, heating equipment, age, capacity, and distribution.
INTERIOR WALLS, CEILINGS, FLOORS, WINDOWS AND DOORS
Walls, floors, ceilings, stairways, cabinets, and countertops.
Structural, insulation, and ventilation information.
Notes about chimney, damper, and masonry and cleaning.
Doors, walls, floor, opener.
Including a wide range of built-in and other home appliances, smoke detectors and television/cable hook-ups.
Ground slope away from foundation, conditions of walks, steps, and driveway.
Are there any other inspections I need to have done?
In addition to the overall inspection, depending upon the neighbourhood where you're buying, you may wish to have a separate test conducted to check for termites. Talk to your real estate agent for information about these tests, and to companies in the area that perform them.
Do I need to use a lawyer to buy a home?
Because the legal contracts and other paperwork involved in buying a home are complex and can be confusing to the general public, people hire a lawyer to handle the closing details!
The lawyer will review contracts, make you aware of special considerations and potential problems, and will go to the closing to help everything go as smoothly as possible.
If you don't know a real estate lawyer, ask me for a recommendation. Realtors work with many legal professionals every month and can provide you with the names of several competent and trustworthy lawyers in the community.
Do I need to talk to an insurance agent?
Yes, and the sooner, the better. Most insurance professionals have a lot of experience in working with home owners, and can offer useful tips about home ownership, particularly regarding home safety and keeping your premiums low.
Once you've found a home, work together to develop a homeowner's policy that meets your individual insurance needs. You'll need to bring your paid-up policy for your mortgage lender when you go to your lawyer's office to sign all the closing documents.
Ask us for some recommendations for insurance agents... realtors have dealt with several in their years of experience.
When I've 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. We are ready to help you through this important time. With me, you'll write an "Agreement of Purchase and
This is a legally binding contract that you will sign and date. Your offer will have a time limit for the vendor to accept, reject, or make a counter-offer. If a counter-offer is made, you have time to respond. Often, offers go back and forth until accepted or one party decides to end negotiations.
Be prepared to encounter a phenomenon called "buyer's remorse". This occurs after you make a large purchase of anything, even a house. You will ask yourself "Did I make the right decision?". The answer is "YES"... consider this self-analysis to be entirely normal!
How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?
There is really no rule to use in calculating a realistic offer. Naturally the buyer wants the best price, but negotiations can be influenced by many factors. After you've looked at the home's features, asked questions, checked comparable sales in the neighbourhood, and talked about it with your agent, 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's 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 will be initialled by both parties. Our skills are in negotiating a fair price for you... so use those skills to the fullest!
Now you typically begin the process of arranging an inspection and applying for a mortgage. Often you can be pre-approved for a mortgage prior to signing an offer.
What's a "deposit" and how much do I need?
When you sign an offer to purchase, a deposit will be required... that is, money that shows you are serious about wanting to buy.
Usually, you will be asked to write a cheque for a specified amount, typically from $1,000 to $10,000 or more... depending upon the value of the property being purchased and the norm in your community. This cheque will be held by your lawyer until you have an accepted offer.
Therefore, your deposit funds must be made readily available before you consider signing an offer. Once the offer is accepted your deposit money will be held in a special trust account. Once your offer becomes firm, your deposit will be included as part of your down payment. If your offer is not accepted, you'll get back all of your deposit, usually without interest or any deductions depending on the wording in your offer.
Keep in mind, though, that if you back out of an offer once it's accepted and all conditions have been removed, you forfeit the full amount of the deposit and may be liable for other costs incurred by the vendor.
Is there any way I can protect myself against emergency repair bills in my new home?
Yes. Home warranties offer you protection against many potentially costly problems not covered by your homeowner's insurance. They've become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason: the coverage can save you thousands in the event of a major mechanical breakdown, at a time when your cash reserves have been depleted by your down payment and moving expenses.
There's so much to remember... what do I have to do?
Your agent can help you with many of these things and a good realtor will keep in close contact with you right through the closing period!
Here's a partial checklist...
Are all the necessary inspections complete?
Are all the required repairs complete?
Is your lawyer satisfied that title to the property is clear (no one else has a claim on it)?
Is your insurance policy paid up and ready to go into effect on the day you close? You'll need a receipt from your agent as proof.
Has your lawyer told you the closing dollar amount required?
What form of cheque should you use (and who should it be made out to) to pay for the closing costs?
Do you have the receipts for the items you have already paid for, including your deposit and inspection fees?
Bring your cheque book to the lawyer's office to cover any last minute extras that might have been overlooked.
What will happen on the DAY BEFORE closing day in your lawyer's office?
The lender will want a copy of your paid-up home insurance.
The lawyer will list the closing adjustments. These include the money you owe the vendor (the remainder of the down payment, any prepaid taxes) and what the vendor owes you (unpaid taxes, prepaid rent).
You will sign the mortgage document. This gives the lender legal right to the property if you don't make your payments. You also promise to repay the loan in regular monthly payments.
Your lawyer will collect the closing costs from you and give you a statement of all the items you have paid for.
On closing day...
You will get title from the vendor in the form of a signed deed.
The deed and mortgage will be recorded in the Registry Office.
Is there anything I should do immediately after closing?
The first thing you'll want to do is consider if you want the locks changed. Also, make sure that all your utilities have been switched on and are now in your name (electricity, gas, water, telephone and cablevision).
Check the Moving Checklist for more details!
Remember to put your deed, survey and other important paperwork from the closing in a secure place, preferably a safety deposit box. Even though it's all on file at the registry office, it's smart to know where your copies are and have access to them at all times.
Should I move myself or use a moving company?
In almost every case, you can save yourself time and energy by using a reputable moving company to help you move.
You can ask me, as well as friends, family, and neighbours for recommendations, then get estimates from several companies. Don't choose a mover based on price alone - consider the reputation and professionalism of the company, too.
Work closely with the moving company to coordinate your efforts and your move will be achieved with maximum efficiency.
And remember... you can always call or email me with any questions!
We work with home purchasers on a consultative basis... that is, we will provide you with special treatment... educate you, look out for your interests, guide you along the way, answer all your many questions and overall, be your complete source of real estate information.
In return, we expect your commitment... to purchase a property through us and, because you will be impressed with our high level of service, provide us with an excellent reference to other friends of yours who might be interested in buying or selling a home in the future.
We realize that just helping you with the transaction is not enough. There are often emotional needs to be met at the