Buying your first home? Here’s what you do

1. Location, location

First things first, identify the area you like, the desirable amenities in the area, and perhaps more importantly, the undesirables that could affect your buying decision. What do I mean? No old dumps in the area, no commercial malls to be built right next door, or whatever else you might consider a “con.”

Visit the local municipal office and check with the planning and zoning departments to ensure you know exactly who and what your neighbours will be.

2. Mortgage matters

Next, visit a mortgage specialist at your bank, and also consult a reputable mortgage broker. Find out how much money you can borrow and what your deposit requirements are. This will allow you to focus on homes that are within your budget. Get a pre-approval in writing so you have something to rely on, because it is critically important that you do not get caught up in the rush of buying a home beyond your budget.

3. Housing type

Determine the type of home that makes sense for you and your family. Consider the pros and cons of condos, attached or detached lowrise, and options in between.

VERSUS… Condo living provides a carefree lifestyle – someone else cuts the grass and shovels the snow – but you pay condo fees and sometimes others determine how the amenities, if not your unit itself, can be used. Traditional detached homes provide the freedom to do what you want but maintenance and upkeep fall on your shoulders

4. Lawyer up!

Real estate lawyers are next. Check magazines and newspapers, listen to radio and watch real estate TV for potential lawyers. Go online and check out their websites. Do they give good, informative advice? Do they give you pricing up front? Do they make you feel comfortable? Call the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lawyer Referral Service, which keeps lists of lawyers and refers requesting members of the public to lawyers who practice in the area requested. This just gets you someone in your area. You need to really check them out when referred. Speak to friends who have used a lawyer for the type of service you require and ensure they did the job professionally, courteously and for the price quoted

5. The agent advantage

Find a real estate agent. Be careful, you want someone who will work for you within your budget and desired area – not their’s! Drive around, check out signs, read the papers and speak to your lawyer.