What to look for this home buying season

This is the time of year most Canadians come out of their winter shell and begin their quest for their new home.

They’ve been dreaming of buying their new home all winter, they’ve checked out all the free real estate magazines and have even test-driven a couple of mortgage calculators to see what fits in their budgets.

But alas, with this frenzy of activity in the market one has to slow down and make sure you don’t get trapped in a situation you don’t feel comfortable with; after all this is likely your largest purchase in your life thus far, and you don’t want to leave it to chance!

#1: Confused buyers – don’t start looking before you figure out what you are looking for! There may be a big difference between the kind of home you want and the kind of home you need. Realize that it’s important to satisfy the needs first and the wants last.

#2: Shortsighted buyers – don’t forget to factor in your future needs. What will you need in five to 10 years? Try to estimate your future needs as well as your immediate needs.

#3: Unrealistic buyers – how much can you afford, before looking. Determine what you can realistically afford to pay for a home, remembering that there is a myriad of costs that you probably haven’t even considered (i.e. closing costs).

#4: Unapproved buyers – get pre-approved for a mortgage. Many sellers want to know that you can really afford the home before they will take your offer seriously. You can go through the application process for a mortgage and have financing in place before you even start looking.

#5: Cash poor buyers – you may not be as poor as you think! Consider every possible source of cash – RRSPs, life insurance policies, gifts from family members, work bonuses.

#6: Bank bound buyers – don’t take “NO” as your final answer! Shop around for the best mortgage. Many of us think ‘bank’ when we think mortgage, but there are dozens of other options available through a mortgage agent and they all have various rates, terms and repayment options, usually better than your banks up-front offerings.

#7: Uninformed buyers. There’s a lot of information on the local & national housing situation; check online, attend seminars offered by real estate professionals. Check out books, magazines and web sites.

#8: Do it yourself buyers. Get a realtor, but get a good one. They are paid from the seller, and will work on your behalf.

#9: Sloppy buyers. Get a home inspection. The inspector’s job is to check the property and tell you what defects if any need to be repaired or replaced. This will provide you with peace of mind.

#10: Buyers who don’t do their homework – check the zoning for the surrounding area, and research possible restrictions. You don’t want to see a shopping mall going up behind you.

#11: The emotional buyer – emotional buying can lead to disasters and losing control of your deal. You can end up paying too much, buy a poorly built home or end up with an airport in your back yard, if you end up letting your emotions control your buying decision.

#12: Location. Location. Location! — did I mention location? Location is the key. The value of your home is affected by those around you. The home may be perfect, but look carefully at the neighbourhood too. No home is an island (usually) and the value is affected by the homes that surround it.

#13: Screwing up the offer – it’s not over once you’ve found the house you want. Now you have to make an offer. Some common mistakes at this stage include; low-balling, paying too much, being afraid to negotiate, being pressured into a quick deal and not asking the seller to pay for extras.

Jean-Guy is an accredited mortgage professional with Dominion Lending Centres-Regional Mortgage Group.