10 things to keep in mind as you buy a home

conductorBuying a home is a demanding and complicated process. It often strains relationships and puts an enormous amount of stress on buyers physically, mentally and financially. Many people start the home buying process on their own and learn a few things along the way. However, as over 90% of real estate transactions involve the assistance of at least one real estate agent, sooner or later the ten items below will become apparent to you.

10 things to keep in mind as you buy a home:

1. Get your financing in order

The seller wants to know that if they do accept the offer, that barring catastrophic title issues or inspection issues, the deal is going to go through. Get pre-qualified and then pre-approved for a mortgage.

2. Understand your time horizon

As a shorter-term buyer, you might consider whether the place is a good investment, and if it’s the kind of property that’s going to be attractive for the next buyer…A house near train tracks, for instance, is probably not what most people are looking for. But for someone who’s planning to stay longer, a good school system or larger lot size might make up for the trains thundering past.

3. Know the overall market conditions

Investigate what comparable properties have sold for over the past three to six months. If you working with an agent, he’ll be able to provide you with a list of sold comparables.

4. Search and buy within your means

If the housing crisis in the USA has taught us anything, it’s that buying with the expectation that prices will continuously go up is sorely wrong. Don’t speculate. Don’t become “house poor”. Buy what you can afford today and be conservative.

5. If you’re waiting for prices to go lower, think again

Real estate is a bit like the stock market. It’s unpredictable. Though some people might be waiting on the sidelines for housing prices to go down, it will take more than RIM laying off a few hundred people for that to happen. In the past decade Waterloo Region has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs. Yet our home prices have nearly doubled in the same period

6. Don’t get too sucked in by appearances

Buyers should keep in mind that many sellers will try to present their homes in the best possible light. If the house has been staged, what potential buyers forget is that all that stuff is going out when the sellers leave. Sometimes you’re better off buying something that needs a little decorating, because it’s going to take on your own look anyway.

7. Have questions prepared

Sellers and their agents should be prepared to answer questions including how old the roof, heating system, hot water heater, and windows are; if the basement has taken water in the time the seller has been there, and if there’s a sump pump; and what utilities and homeowner insurance generally cost… If there’s been recent renovation work, buyers should find out of all building permits have been signed off and if all of the contractors and sub-contractors have been paid in full. If there’s a pool, buyers should ask if the seller has a permit from the city.

8. If you’re thinking of buying a brand new house…

Consider that a home that’s been lived in has been tested. The seller will be able to tell you if the basement takes on water in a rainstorm, for instance. People will pay a lot of money for a brand new house. It’s only new once. It’s like a car — you drive it out of the lot, it’s not new. In the opinion of many realtors, lawyers and new homeowners, the Tarrion Home Warranty Program was written by builders, for builders.

9. If you’re buying a condo, know the rules

Condo lending rules have become more stringent, making it difficult for some would-be buyers to get financing. Many lenders want buildings to be at least 50% owner-occupied. If you’re moving in yourself, you do too!

10. Think about a home’s intrinsic value

Buying a home has always been a consumption decision and an investment decision. In recent years, we moved that dot along the continuum, and it became an investment decision… Questions such as ‘Is this where I want to raise a family’ and ‘Is this close to the things that are important to me’ should factor more into the decision.


Keith Marshall is a real estate agent with Prudential Grand Valley Realty, serving Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. If you’re thinking of buying or selling your home, please give me a call. I aim to take the stress and mystery out of the home buying and selling process. If you have real estate questions, you can chat with me live on my homepage or contact me by phone or email. Sign up for my newsletter.


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