Tips For First Time Home Buyers
This post is long overdue. Dev and I have been in our new (first) home for two months now. But the information below is based on our experience and I think it will be helpful for anyone interested in buying a house for the first time. I also think it may be relatable for those who have already done so. Because being a first time home buyer is no easy feat. It’s terrifying, stressful and incredible exciting. The end result is definitely worth every penny and every sleepless night.
Find an agent you trust
Fortunately for us, Dev’s sister had gotten her real estate license not long before we decided to get serious. It was perfect because she too wanted what was best for us. Which is how all real estate agents should be. Unfortunately some are only interested in the payout…
It was also great because we could be totally open with our wants, need and opinions. The entire process was incredibly comfortable and I couldn’t imagine going through it with anyone else.
I realize not everyone will have a family member in the business, but chances are a friend may be. Or a friend of a friend.
A common misconception is that you have to pay an agent to help you find a home. This is not true. The seller pays the agent. So as a first time home buyer, a real estate agent is free (kind of…).
Make a wish list
It’s important to write down your wants and needs. Not only will it make filtering through listing easier for an agent, it will help during walk throughs. I cannot tell you how many times we flew through a property and immediately said no because it didn’t have parking or a shed.
This wish list can also contain a desired neighbourhood. I personally was very picky about which area I wanted to live in. So it was pretty easy to say no to any listings that came up outside of that zone. If you’re moving to a new city like we did, I highly recommend going for drives to explore the different areas. During the day and especially at night. And if you’re feeling wild – go for a walk.
Use google maps and street view
Property listings can be extremely deceiving. The photos are professional taken, skewed and angled to capture only the best of a house. I highly recommend using Google Maps and street view to check out the location and exterior of each property. Especially if you’re unfamiliar with the city! You never know if there may be a convenience store next door, a highway or train track running along the backyard, a hoarding neighbour to the left, or a school across the street.
Be patient and picky
Don’t expect to buy the first house you walk into. And don’t settle if a property doesn’t check off all your boxes. Purchasing a home – especially for the first time – is a really big deal. It’s somewhere you may live for the next two, five, 10, 20 or maybe even 40 years. It is absolutely OK to be picky and incredibly important to be patient. There is tons of inventory. And if there’s nothing suitable on the market today, there will be tomorrow. Or next week. Or the week after.
Look at layout, not decor
It’s so easy to stick a nose up to dated furniture, bad paint colours and ugly floors. But it’s important to always remember that those things can be changed. The layout is what truly matters.
Dev’s sister Ashlee gave us a good piece of advice when we were not too sure about one specific property. She said “a good way to judge how much you like a place is to decide how sad you would be if it sold”. And she is absolutely right!
Save (Don’t Spend)
Although it’s extremely tempting to go haywire at Homesense and IKEA, try not to spend too much money before closing day. For us personally, our mortgage wasn’t technically approved right away, so we were advised not to make any large purchases or go out buying expensive furniture. I’m sure everyone’s situation will be different, but regardless, it’s better to have more money in the bank ahead of your moving date.
You’re going to need extra money set aside for lawyer fees and closings costs, which can range from $800 to $1,300. Plus land transfer tax, which will range depending on the price of your purchase. The good thing is, if you’re a first time home buyer you will receive a rebate up to $4,000 to cover this cost.
And don’t forget about the cost of a hiring movers or renting a U-Haul on moving day. I promise, money will disappear quicker than you think…
Accept Donations + Stock Up
For a couple of years we accepted hand-me-down items from family members and friends. Come moving day we were lucky enough to have a couch, a dining room table, a coffee table and appliances. We started buying pots, pans and other odds and ends, whenever they were on sale, well before beginning our hunt for a home. So when we did finally move in we didn’t have to buy a ton of new items.
Collect “Little Things”
Toilet paper, dish soap, laundry detergent, garbage bags, condiments, etc. – these small and inexpensive items will add up quick!
Things we learned…
It’s SUPER important to be accountable and do your due-diligence. Read every sentence in any contract 10 times over and make sure you are satisfied with how everything has been written before signing. In the end, you can only rely on yourself. And from experience, I know that information can fall through the cracks…
If you make an offer on a property and the home inspection (or other condition) does not work out like you had hoped, just know that your deposit money may be tied up for 2-3 weeks. This could impact whether or not you get the next house you like depending on the deposit requirement and the amount of additional money you have saved up.
I hope this post was insightful. If it helps just one reader, I am happy. I wish the best of luck to any of you first time home buyers reading this post and give props to those who have already done so. Purchasing a house for the first time is a huge accomplishment and incredibly rewarding.