Tips for Buying a Home

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You are ready to take the plunge! You have your finances in order, and you are confident that you can afford not only the mortgage payments but also the costs of ongoing maintenance and repairs. You are committed to fulfilling the responsibilities associated with upkeep, and you are looking forward to being a conscientious homeowner. So how do you find the ideal home?

First, examine your needs and preferences. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • How many bedrooms, bathrooms and parking spaces do you need?
  • Are you interested in an environmentally friendly home?
  • Are any special features – a swimming pool, patio, fireplace or deck – must-haves on your list?
  • Do any of your family members have special needs?
  • What size yard will fulfill your needs for leisure activities?
  • Would you like to live close to neighbours or have more privacy?
  • Are you expecting any major life changes, such as having children or taking in an elderly parent?

Once you have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for in a home, surf the Internet, check your local paper or talk with a real estate professional to identify homes that might fit your needs.

Here are some tips to help ensure you select a home with solid potential:

Make sure the location is right.

You can renovate your home, but you can’t move it! Look for a neighbourhood that’s safe (well-lit streets, light traffic, visibility among neighbours) and comfortable to you. Also consider the time you will spend commuting to work and the distance to shopping, restaurants, friends and family, leisure activities, etc.

Look for home security features.

Of course you can add a security system or security devices throughout your home, but it’s a plus if they are already in place. A burglar alarm, sprinkler system, deadbolts, fire extinguishers and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors not only make your home safer but also might earn you a discount on your home insurance. (Some home insurance providers also offer a premium discount if your home is located near a fire hydrant and if your neighborhood fire department employs professionals rather than volunteers.)

Get a professional inspection.

You can inspect the house yourself, but professional inspectors know exactly what to look for, and are generally well worth their fees. The inspector should:

  • Make sure that the roof, doors, walls, windows and foundation are sound, and sturdy enough to  withstand severe weather conditions
  • Check the electrical, plumbing and heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems 
  • Check for water damage 
  • Inspect the home’s exterior for decay, cracks or other damage
  • Look for evidence of pending trouble areas

If you are looking at a home in an area where pests might be an issue, hire a pest management professional to do a thorough inspection as well.

Don’t be too impressed by cosmetic upgrades.

Look more deeply than the colour of the walls and the newness of the carpeting. Is the fresh paint hiding any flaws that you will ultimately have to repair? Does the new carpet cover the fact that the padding lacks durability? Sometimes the aesthetics are right, but they cover underlying issues that will cost you money in the near or long term.

Sources: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, HGTV.ca, Homebuyer.ca