We asked our top Realtor’s (between them they have over 100 years of experience) to share some words of advice for first time home buyers. Here’s what they said.
“Surround yourself with a team of professionals who will help guide you through the process that you trust. When you have an entire team working for you comprised of a Mortgage Broker, Lawyer, Real Estate Broker, Home Inspector, Insurance Agent, and Movers you will soon learn that buying a home for the first, or tenth time, doesn’t need to be stressful. It is my personal belief that stress associated with Buying and Selling Real Estate occurs when the client (you) don’t have all the information you need in order to make a confident decision, this leads to indecision and second guessing.”
“Now you might be thinking, I don’t know someone I trust in all of these different areas, and you don’t need to, yet! If you know ONE person, in ONE of those fields, start there. Speak to them and see who it is they would recommend you consider working within the other areas. If you are feeling completely lost and don’t have someone at all you can go to who already operates in any of these areas, ask a friend or family member who you trust, who they used when they last moved, or refinanced. As an extreme case when you don’t know anyone, have no one to ask, you can call us.”
-Alun Evans, Broker Royal LePage
“The number one tip I would give to a first time homebuyer is: Do your homework!” “Just like any other service you would need, such as finding a hair salon, mechanic, dentist or great new coffee shop, shopping around for a Realtor and asking your friends and colleagues who they would recommend is a very important part of the process. After selling real estate for 8 years in the GTA it is more common than not for clients to tell me that they just went with the first person they met. One thing the public needs to understand, like all professions, is that there are varying degrees of excellence in this profession. Think back to high school…we can all remember that amazing teacher who was so vibrant and funny and really made a positive difference to us…then there are all the rest …or worse, the one teacher you couldn’t stand! Realtors are no different.
“My advice is to take time in the beginning: interview a handful, get to know them, find out if your personalities even work, ask them lots of questions about the process, see how they present themselves, are they on time to meet you? This interview will tell you a lot about how your experience with them may go if you are not able to hear about the experience of a friend or colleague about this person. Buying or selling real estate is likely your biggest investment. Don’t rush it. Know (and like) the person who you chose to help you achieve your goals!”
-Amy Gilmore, Real Estate Broker Re/Max Ultimate Realty
“I would say that the most important thing for the first time home buyer should know is where they want to live and why.” “Home buying is an emotional and costly endeavor with an investment component attached to it.When buyers are out shopping for a home much consideration should be made to the area in which they are planning to move to–proximity to schools, shopping, work, family and attractions should all play in the decision making process.”
“New home buyers can get caught up in the excitement of buying and specific features each home might have to offer. Items like upgraded kitchens and baths, decor and finished basements. While these are great features in a home do not let the passion of prestigious objects persuade you to over look proximity and practicality. Basements can be completed as you grow into the home. Kitchens and bathrooms have a lot to do with personal preferences. You might pay extra for someone else’s work only to figure out in two months after living in the place that it’s really not your taste or that the space is unworkable for your family.”
“Buy the right home and your life and your investment will grow richly.”
-Kit Ward, Sales Representative Re/max Escarpment Realty Inc.
“Before beginning the search for the perfect home, I advise clients to seek out and speak to a mortgage broker. This gives my clients and I an idea of where their budget is, and how much home they can afford. Many agents have been in a position where they’ve come to an agreement on their clients’ dream home, only to have the deal fall through due to financing. This can be a very discouraging feeling for all parties involved.”
“Having a pre-approval ready: 1) shows the sellers and their agent that the you are a serious prospect; 2) saves you from the disappointment of not being able to afford your dream home; 3) breaks down monthly mortgage payments (which will include taxes and fees), so you know what to expect; and 4) allows your agent the opportunity to find you the best possible home, in an area with the biggest potential, and with the most bang for your buck.”
-Branko Miskovic, Sales Representative Century 21 Insight Realty Group Inc.
“My number one tip for a first time buyer is to know who you are.” “How does that relate to buying Real Estate? When you know who you are, you know what your financial position is as well as the type of home. Financially, do you know how much you can afford? Have you spoken with a mortgage professional and been preapproved? Do you know what all the closing costs are? Closing costs will include the deposit with your offer, the remainder of your down payment, legal fees, land transfer taxes and adjustments (which can include prepaid property taxes and rental costs etc.)”
“When it comes to knowing the type of home you need, this is a little more straightforward. The basics would include knowing the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, parking spaces you need as well as other features that you cannot live without and those which are “nice to have”. One question to also ask yourself is, how long do you plan on staying in this home? By knowing yourself here, you can better evaluate your “nice” to haves and your “need” to haves.”
-Nathan Bradford, Sales Representative Woolcott Team – Re/Max Escarpment Realty Inc.
“Purchasing your first home is a big decision. Always start with a clear budget in mind. Get pre-approved before actually going out and looking at places so you know exactly what you can afford. We all want the dream house with all the bells and whistles. Unfortunately we all don’t have infinite budgets, so it is important to realize that you will need to make compromises along the way. Try and keep things simple. Break-down your search into ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves.’ Then try to prioritize your search criteria. One thing I see a lot is the compromise on size of living space vs. location, or quality of finishes vs. price. Remember, some deficiencies can be fixed over time, while other characteristics like location are things you will have to live with. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Decide what you are willing to compromise on ahead of time and ensure that your needs are realistic and attainable for your budget. There is more than one perfect home out there that will have the features that you want. Make sure you have your priorities in order and go after the attributes that are crucial to you and your happiness. Have fun with your search and pick a Realtor who is a good listener and has a compatible personality.”
-Jeff Johnston, Sales Representative RE/MAX Condos Plus Corp.
“The most important rule is to buy what you want. Don’t buy a house because your parents think it would suit grandchildren (unless you’re married with a child on the way), don’t buy a house because it has a cooler basement than your best friends place, buy the home that connects with you. Whether it was because it had a funky layout, or you just felt at home when you walked in. That’s the first major piece of advice, next is buy within your budget – or even on the lower end of it. There’s nothing worse than loving your home but being house poor. If you keep these two tips in mind while looking for your house you’re bound to be happy in whatever home you choose to be number one.”
-Garrett Metzler, Sales Representative Ipro Realty Inc.
“I especially impress upon my first time home buyers how critical it is to get as much information as possible before we start the house hunting process. Knowing what your mortgage options are and how much you are pre-approved for can greatly affect decisions down the road when we find a home they would like to put an offer in on. Being pre-approved is the key element when house hunting and being able to act quickly, if necessary, in this fast paced market.”
“I have a step-by-step guide to purchasing a home I offer to all of my buyers. It lays out everything from getting pre-approved for a mortgage, looking for homes, the offer and conditions process, and everything up to the actual closing. Purchasing real estate is a huge investment and can be stressful for many people. I find having knowledgeable people on both the mortgage and real estate side of things can help make this process less daunting and even fun!”
-Stacey Gillespie, Sales Representative Re/ Max Garden City Realty Inc.
“CALL A REALTOR! GET EDUCATED. Ask around, check with friends and relatives to find a trusted real estate agent who can dedicate time for YOU. Ask them if they have a “buyer package” or any type of first-time buyer system in place where you can meet and get to know each other. Don’t be afraid to ask what their system would look like. If they don’t have time for a meeting, they don’t have time for you. You want the Realtor to educate you in the home buying process, and the first thing he/she will likely do is ask if you have visited with a trusted financial person — namely a qualified mortgage professional. If not, that would be the next step in getting prepared to venture into the home-buying market. Until you know what you can afford without over-extending yourself, you cannot make a good purchasing decision. Once that is established, your real estate agent will sit down with you and begin your search. At this time, he/she will explain, in depth, how it all works. You need to be totally educated as this is your largest financial purchase and it’s important to know every detail before stepping into the ring. If you have been properly advised, the process will be smooth and seamless. “
-Lynn Fee, Sales Representative ReMax Garden City Realty Inc
“Education Education Education: Buying your first home will be the largest financial decision you make in your life. Many first time buyers do not take the time to educate themselves on all the important variables that go into making an educated decision.”
“There are the main areas where buyers need to educate themselves: How much can I afford? What is the real estate process? What price should I pay for this home?”
“But it is the other variables which are just as important which buyers do not take the time to consider for example on average people move every 5 years so it is important to look at: What will this neighbourhood be like in 5 years? Will I be able to live in this property for 5 years? Is this a property that other people would be interested in 5 years? What are the additional costs associated with the property? How will you get to work now and in the future? Do the demographics of the area meet your lifestyle?”
-Alex J Wilson, Sales Representative Re/Max Condos Plus Corp.
“My #1 tip to first time home buyers has always been these three words: ‘Know your budget’.”
“The excitement of the process of home ownership may sometimes be overwhelming and lead to an emotional purchase. This is why using services of a local real estate professional to guide you through the process is always recommended and will assist you to stay within your budget. Before starting your home search, meet with a mortgage professional and then take some time to review your finances while taking into account your income, monthly expenses, amount being put aside for savings etc. Then, decide what mortgage payment you are most comfortable with, just because you are pre-approved to a certain amount doesn’t mean you should purchase a home to that maximum amount.”
“There would be nothing worse than purchasing a home that you loved only to find out a few months later that it is a financial burden. So, always ‘Know your budget’!”
-Tim Gerrior, Broker Royal Lepage Meadowtowne Realty
“Keep Your Feet On the Ground” We are very blessed in this country where the standard of living is much higher than in many other places in the world. It often comes with good paying jobs and a sense of security. Canadians can also appreciate their solid banking system where they have the opportunity to purchase real estate with as little as a 5% down payment.”
“Today’s generation needs to learn from the past and understand that nothing lasts forever. Everything in life occurs in cycles, including the economy and their jobs. Therefore when you purchase your first property, don’t try to keep up with the Joneses and buy your dream home right away. You will have 50 more years to do that. Rather when you have your down payment ready, purchase a smaller type home and make sure that you can weather the storm WHEN it comes. Ideally you may want to keep enough savings set aside to carry you for 6-12 months even if you didn’t have any income during that time. Are you prepared for any unexpected surprises?”
-Joe Samson, Associates of CIR Realty
“Our #1 tip for all first time home buyers is to live within your means and don’t over extend yourself.”
“Do you live like the rich and famous? Do you have a champagne taste on a beer budget? If you are the type of person who enjoys eating out regularly, then you may find yourself biting off a more than you can chew if you are not properly prepared for the purchase of your home.”
“Planning ahead by establishing a budget and setting goals will help guide you in maintaining a comfortable lifestyle.” “Things to consider when budgeting for your purchase would include your income, existing monthly payments (i.e., car, cell phone, etc.), added cost of the purchase (i.e., hydro, gas, property tax, etc.), maintenance (i.e., furnace, roof, etc.). Sitting down with a mortgage professional is always a good idea before considering buying a home. Their expertise in planning your financial future will help safeguard your assets and maintain living within your means.”
Making sure you can afford your payments is the first step when looking into buying a home. If you can, then you won’t have any problem sleeping at night!
-Cathy Carpenter & Marlo Drennan, Sales Representative Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate
“Like many things in life I believe it comes down to preparation & knowledge. Let’s face it, buying a home for anyone for the first time would be at least a little bit stressful even to someone who had ice water running through their veins.”
Preparation: getting a financial approval & going through a VERY detailed need analysis with the client to understand what they want and more importantly why they want it. When you understand someone’s “why” you can often come up with other solutions other than the one they think they need. Often times, the new solution is even better.
Knowledge: Being led while blind is not a great feeling at all. Sitting down with the buyer before you start to look at homes so they know more about how the “game” works and what to expect can go a long way in helping them feel confident and excited so they are ready when the right home comes along. Nothing worse than missing a great opportunity or not doing the best you could due to a lack of preparation. It is completely avoidable.”
-James Benson, Sales Representative Keller Williams Advantage Realty
“As a first time home buyer it is crucial not to get in over your head and be ‘house poor’. Purchasing a new home has both its pros and cons. The pros are quite attractive. I mean who wouldn’t want a new home that’s never been lived in before, comes with a HST rebate/discount, and has no flaws, right? Well not exactly true, as you will see, the cons of a new home can add up financially in a hurry. New homes need window coverings, new paint, AC, front and back landscaping, a backyard fence and the list goes on and adds up quickly. Don’t forget the builder has the ability to delay closing for significant periods of time.”
“On the other hand, there is no miracle when purchasing a re-sale. There could be issues that arise after closing that were not seen when purchasing. From moisture in the basement to poor insulation in the attic, or the neighborhood isn’t what you had hoped for. But on the up side if you work with a local Realtor who knows the area well, if you have a professional inspection done, then you have the opportunity to find your dream home without those financial surprises and you will be ahead of the game.”
“Those added costs are what first time home buyers need to avoid if they want to eventually move up the ladder in home purchasing and grow their real estate portfolio from a condo or townhome to a detached and so on. So as a first time home buyer do your research before you sign on that dotted line.”
-Danny Latincic, Sales Representative Re/Max Aboutowne Realty Corp.
“When I sit down with First Time Home Buyers, or any Buyer for that matter, one of the first questions I ask them is who else, other than the people in the room with us, are going to be involved in helping you find your first or next home. Often times, it is Mom and/or Dad, other times it is another family member or a close friend. It is imperative that if you are going to rely on their input, they need to be with you at the beginning and every step of the way. Too often, I have seen a First Time Home Buyer look at multiple houses and eventually find the one that is the right fit only to have their enthusiasm squashed once they bring in someone else to see the property on a revisit. Comments about the kitchen being too small, it being priced too high and concerns about the location are just some of the things that are often shared.”
“The problem is, if they haven’t been with you for the entire process they aren’t giving you an informed opinion. It is rare that you end up purchasing the first house you see with a Realtor, purchasing a new home is a process. If you are engaged in the process, and your Realtor has done a good job educating you, you should have a good sense of the fair market value of a property and will certainly know when a kitchen is sufficient in size based on what else you have seen. The problem is, if all decision makers aren’t part of the process from the beginning, their uninformed opinion is going to lead to some animosity. If they haven’t checked out all the other
options with you, how do they know whether or not a house is overpriced? Purchasing your first home is a team effort, it involves a Mortgage Broker and Real Estate agent you can trust and if your gut tells you that you can’t trust them, move on! Beyond that, a strong personal support system is vitally important. If it is not possible for everyone involved in the process to see every property, take the time to brief them on the properties you have seen so that they are better informed when they give their opinion. That way, their opinion will carry more weight and hopefully avoid a lot of frustration for you at your end.”
-Richard Scott, Sales Representative Royal LePage Burloak