Before you go shopping get pre-approved for a mortgage. Add your down payment to the mortgage amount and now you have a maximum budget that you can spend.
Step One: Neighbourhoods
Where would you like to live? Measure your commute time to work and access to public transportation. Living outside of a big urban centre may allow you buy a bigger house for less money. Check out what is important to you like; access to schools, shopping, parks/playgrounds, day care, doctor/dentist, hospitals and closeness to family & friends.
Step Two: Type of House
Look at your lifestyle; will you be happy in a condo, townhouse, semi-detached or detached house. What features are important to you (size of living space, number of bedrooms, bathrooms …etc.)? Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and buy a fixer upper or do you prefer new?
Step Three: Get some help
Find an experienced real estate agent. Hire a lawyer to look after legal issues and review contracts. Hire a home inspector if you plan on buying a resale. Look at the recent selling price of properties that have been sold in the area. Talk to friends and relatives regarding their house buying experiences.
Step four: Make a checklist
- How old is the house
- In-law apartment or potential rental space
- Lot size, back yard, patio, deck
- Is it on a quiet street
- Updated kitchen & washrooms
- Exterior finish – brick, stucco, aluminium siding, wood siding
- Type of heating – oil, natural gas, electric
- Has plumbing & electrical been updated
- Air conditioning, alarm system, wood or gas fireplace
- Private or shared driveway, garage or carport
- Unfinished or finished basement
- New roof or needs replacing
Step Five: Avoid Paying Too Much
Bidding wars on the same property can be fabricated. The listing price is set below market. The rooms are painted in a light or natural colour and furniture has been removed to make the rooms look bigger. A good real estate agent will know if the house is listed below market. Be patient, wait for the right house and buy for the right price.