Working with an agent
Let your real estate agent do the searching for you. The best buys aren’t in the newspaper ads; most great opportunities are on "hot sheets" that are available every morning to salespeople with access to MLS information.
An agent’s job is to:
- Provide information on the property and the area
- Negotiate a price and terms that are agreeable to both buyer and seller
- Help arrange a source of financing
As a homebuyer, you must work with your agent to find the home that’s right for you. Communication is key - tell your agent what you want, and be specific.
- Offer a detailed description of your property needs and wants. If you will absolutely not consider a house without a hardwood floor, say so. And if air conditioning is a "nice to have" rather than a "must have," communicate that, too.
- Be specific about where you want to live. If you refuse to live outside a certain area, it might take longer to find you a home, but your agent will know not to waste your time with anything not in your chosen neighbourhood.
- Tell your agent what you can afford. He or she can help you get a pre-approved mortgage so you know for sure what your price range will be.
- Communicate your likes and dislikes for each property you see. It will help your agent narrow down the possibilities.
- Commit to one salesperson.
- Respect and perform the terms of the purchase agreement.
- Keep an open mind. Agents know about those charming little areas that you’ve never even heard of. You might find your dream home in a completely unexpected place.
Qualifying for a mortgage
Your Royal LePage agent can arrange to have you pre-qualified for a mortgage before you start shopping for a home. It’s easy, and you’ll avoid possible disappointments down the road if you fall in love with a place, then find out you can’t afford it. Plus, once you do find the perfect home, it will mean you can make an offer immediately.
Here’s how mortgage approval works: the amount of money you qualify for, plus the amount of cash you can put down equals the amount you can afford to spend on a home. Most lending institutions won’t allow more than about 30% of your income to support a mortgage. If you have other debts, they usually won’t allow your debts and your mortgage to exceed 40% of your income.
Finalizing your mortgage
Once you’ve found the home you want to buy, you’ll need to finalize your financing. You’ll need to provide your lender with the following documents:
1. A copy of the real estate listing of the property. If the home is still to be built, the mortgage lender will need to see the architect’s or builder’s plans and details on lot size and location.
2. A copy of the offer to purchase or the building contract, if this document has been prepared.
3. Documents to confirm employment, income and source of pre-approval.
4. If you have a pre-approved mortgage, it’s a simple matter of finalizing a few details with your mortgage specialist.
Choosing a neighbourhood
You’re not just buying a home - you’re buying a location. And even the most perfect house won’t feel right if you’re in the wrong neighbourhood. Educate yourself about the area so you’ll choose wisely - and end up being happy with your decision.
- Are you close to shopping and recreation? Being close to stores, parks, recreational facilities, a post office and dry cleaners will save you time.
- Do people in the area take care of their homes? Explore the neighbourhood, keeping an eye out for signs of neglect (overgrown lawns, houses in need of paint, trash and junked appliances littering yards). A run-down neighbourhood can drive down your property value.
- Are there schools nearby? If you have children, the proximity and quality of schools is key. Some schools will provide data (i.e. average test scores) that can determine quality. Talking to neighbours with children can be helpful, too.
- Is there good access to transportation? Living near public transport and/or major highways can mean an easier commute to work.
- Is it safe? Check with the local police department - they may be able to provide statistics about break-ins or other crimes.
- Will the home increase in value over time? Homes in some neighbourhoods appreciate faster than others. Research the selling prices of homes in over the past decade or so to predict future trends. Your agent may be able to provide helpful data.
- Is it quiet? Listen for traffic noise, barking dogs, airplanes and any other noises that might bother you. Return to the neighbourhood at different times of the day to get an accurate impression.
Protect yourself with a home inspection
That gorgeous house on the corner lot may look great, but it could be hiding all sorts of expensive, annoying problems, from a leaky roof to faulty wiring to a mouldy basement.
Make sure your home is solid and secure inside and out before you buy it. A home inspector will determine structural and mechanical soundness, identify problem areas, provide cost estimates for any work required, and generate a report. It’s a great way to avoid headaches and costly problems that can turn a dream home into a money pit.
If you decide to go ahead and buy a home with issues that have been flagged by your inspector, you can base your offer on how much potential repairs and upgrades may cost.
Home inspection costs range according to size, age and location of the home. Your Royal LePage sales representative can recommend a reputable home inspection service or arrange for an inspector to visit your property.
8 things to look for when you buy
When you fall in love with a home, the things you like about it can blind you to its problems. Next time you go to an open house or tour a property with an agent, keep your eyes open with these top tips:
1. Take a look at general upkeep. Is it clean? Are lawns left uncut? Do walls need paint? If the small stuff hasn’t been taken care of, there’s a good chance that bigger issues have been ignored as well.
2. Test it. Try out lights, faucets, toilets, air conditioning and major appliances.
3. Check for water damage. Look at ceilings and drywall for stains and bulges. Water that works its way in through a leaky roof or a cracked foundation can rot wood, create mildew and destroy possessions.
4. Watch for "spongy" floors. Take note of soft, springy sections, squeaky or uneven areas - these can be a sign that costly floor repairs are needed.
5. Check doors and windows. Make sure they fit snugly in their jambs and operate smoothly. Feel for drafts. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking - if wood isn’t protected from moisture, it will rot.
6. Look at the foundation. If you see deep cracks or loose mortar and bricks, there may be a significant structural problem. Soggy areas near the foundation are also a warning sign.
7. Make sure there’s enough storage space. If you are moving from a home with large closets and a shed, make sure your new house is able to store an equivalent amount of belongings.
8. Measure. Make sure your furniture will fit into your new house.
These tips are for your own first (or second) look at a home. For true peace of mind, you should always hire a certified home inspector before you buy.