House Hunting

The process of searching for the perfect home can be both exciting and challenging. While you most likely have a fairly good idea of the things that are most important for you in choosing the right home, it may help to document them. Create a list of items and separate them into two buckets— “must-have” things that you can’t do without and “nice-to-have” features that you’d be willing to forego if necessary, to stay within your home-buying budget.
Here are some key questions to help get you going on your list:

Price: How much home can you afford?
The first thing you need to determine is how much you can afford to spend on your new home. The general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your gross income on your total housing costs (including your mortgage, property insurance and taxes, utilities, plus Mortgage Insurance and condo fees (if appropriate). Factor in any costs for improvements/upgrades that you’ll be making before or after you move in. Also, consider how long you might be planning to live in the house and estimate your income for the next several years.

Location: Where do you want to buy?
After price, location is perhaps the most important consideration. Do you want to be in the city or the suburbs? Can you be flexible based on the housing market and what you can afford? What are the key features you want in your neighbourhood and community? How safe is the area? If you have children or are planning to have them, you may want to check out the local school system and other facilities.

Accessibility and amenities: What does the area offer?
How accessible is the area to the highway, public transportation, your job and your family and friends? What’s the traffic like locally? Are there hospitals, restaurants, shops, and other amenities nearby? How built up is the area and are there plans for additional development? Have your agent ask the seller why they’re moving (i.e., any issues with the area/neighbours?).

Local housing market: What’s the current state of real estate?
What are homes in the area selling for and how competitive is the local market? Ask your agent for a comparative market analysis for a list of active, pending and sold property listings. You may also want to do your own online research and review local newspapers for recent listings and sales. If possible, talk to people who live in the communities and neighbourhoods you’re considering.

Size: How much property do you want?
What’s the ideal square footage you need to be comfortable and fit all your belongings? How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need at move-in and down the road if you’re planning to grow your family? How much outdoor space/yard do you want? Do you want an attic? Full basement? How much storage do you need? Any special features you want, like a fireplace, garage, shed, etc.? How much maintenance are you willing to do? Do you prefer to take care of things yourself, or pay someone to do the work for you?

Style: Do you have a preference on the type of home?
If you have a home-style preference, are you leaning towards a condo or single-family house? Ranch-style or multi-level? Cape or colonial? Are your tastes flexible based on what’s available? Are you willing to look at different styles, if they meet your basic requirements and fall within your price range?

Condition: What’s the move-in condition/renovation potential?
Do you want a home that’s ready for move-in or are you okay with a fixer-upper that you can upgrade and renovate after you move in? If you see a home with potential, do you have the time, money, and resources to turn it into the home you want? If you expand your family, will you need additional space to accommodate them and will you be able to do that easily and affordably? Consider the resale potential for your home should you decide to sell down the road.

Make it yours: What’s important to you in a home?
Keep in mind that your new home is the place where you and your family will be living for several years or more. What will you need to make the home your own? Make a list of specifics but be willing to compromise if you should find a great house that meets most but not all of your wishes.

Before beginning the process of finding the right home, consider finding a reputable local real estate agent and getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Your agent, like your mortgage specialist, can become an invaluable resource for you throughout the entire home-buying experience.

Happy hunting!