Preparing to buy a home?
Make sure you’re readyBuying a home is likely the largest financial move you’ll make in your life and being prepared means understanding how much you can afford. Before you begin making your list of wants and needs, try our affordability calculator to get an idea of your potential price range.Ready for next steps? —where to start, how to get pre-approved for a mortgage, government incentives, finding a mortgage broker, additional home-buying costs, and more.
Find a REALTOR®A REALTOR® is not just a licensed or registered broker or real estate agent. A REALTOR® is a member of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and adheres to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, which requires high standards of professionalism and expertise. You want to make sure you’re working with a REALTOR® who’s aligned with your needs, wants and goals.
How your REALTOR® can help youA REALTOR® is your No. 1 resource and support to help you smoothly navigate the home buying process. They can help you:
- determine if you’re eligible for government homeownership incentive programs;
- assess mortgage products and different types of lenders to see what fits;
- get a feel for the neighbourhood you desire by sharing details about nearby schools, parks, and other amenities;
- find the right home to suit your needs;
- negotiate a purchase price and contract terms, and direct you through complex contracts;
- find qualified industry professionals, such as real estate lawyers, home appraisers and home inspectors; and
- plan for closing costs and other related expenses.
How to find a REALTOR®:
- Looking for a REALTOR® in a certain area with a specific designation? Our Find a REALTOR® page lets you sort by location, name, and office, as well as choose from a variety of language preferences, designations, and specialties.
- As you drive through prospective neighbourhoods, jot down the names and numbers of REALTORS® you see on local advertising and yard signs. Open houses are also a great way to meet REALTORS® face-to-face.
- Maybe your friends and family members have worked with a REALTOR® they love! Ask them to pass your name and contact information along.
- Many REALTORS® are active on social media and can be reached out to directly through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. When you’re browsing properties on REALTOR.ca, you can also contact REALTORS® directly through the website or a specific listing.
Decide what you wantBefore starting your home search, you need to determine what kind of home you’re looking for, where you want to live, which home features are must-haves, and what ones you can be flexible about. Your REALTOR® is a local expert who can help you find the home that suits your lifestyle and needs.
Where are you looking to buy a home?Home types and affordability will look different depending on where you’re looking to buy. The Canadian housing market is not one-size-fits all. Your REALTOR® will have a finger on the pulse of the local real estate market in the region of your choosing. Generally, you can expect home prices in urban and suburban areas to be higher, while smaller cities, towns and rural areas may offer more moderate home prices—with exceptions, of course.
What type of home do you need?There are many types of properties you can call home. Here are a few of the most common types:
- Single-family detached—as the name implies, the home is freestanding and not attached to any other homes.
- Semi-detached or linked—these are two distinct houses (with separate owners and lots) that are built side-by-side and share a common wall.
- Duplex—a building on a single lot, but it’s zoned for two occupants (each with independent access).
- Townhome—also known as townhouses or row unit, a townhome is identified as units featuring a common style and joined in a row. They usually share common walls on both sides.
- Condo—with this type of property, you own 100% of your unit and a share of the common areas. Common areas can include the necessary plumbing, electrical systems, hallways, and elevators. They may also include amenities like a private gym or pool. On top of the mortgage and property taxes, condo owners also pay a monthly fee to operate and maintain the common areas.
What features do you need?Consider your needs and wants in a home and share them with your REALTOR®. Below are some common features most Canadians consider.Indoor:
- number of bathrooms;
- number of bedrooms;
- number of levels;
- separate dining room;
- separate family room;
- air conditioning;
- walk-in closet(s); and
- move-in ready
- size of yard;
- swimming pool;
- landscaping and maintenance;
- lot size and location- for example, proximity to neighbours (for detached homes), or corner lot;
- siding and roofing;
- number of windows; and
- direction the home faces.
Which neighbourhood(s) should you consider?Your dream home isn’t just about its rooms and features. Choosing your neighbourhood is equally as important when deciding whether a home is right for you. Remember: location, location, location! Here are some things to consider when deciding what neighbourhoods to look at:
- Commute time—What’s the proximity to your place of work, schools, daycare?
- Transit options—Is the area car friendly? What’s the availability of transit, walking paths, and bike paths?
- Amenities—What’s the proximity to grocery stores and other shops and services?
- Atmosphere—What are the demographics of the area? Is it more vibrant, or quiet?
Looking for HomesAs you begin your home hunt, you will likely view many properties—on REALTOR.ca and in person at open houses. Now that you have an established relationship with your REALTOR®, they will help you narrow your search, saving you time, effort and hassle.
Stay in the knowYour REALTOR® will keep you up to date on listings in your area that align with your criteria.
Open houses, viewings, and virtual toursSearching for your home can take time. Your REALTOR® will inform you of open houses and can also arrange property viewings with the seller.
Be flexible in your home searchIt’s likely not all homes—even the home you buy—will completely check off all your needs and wants. You can rest assured knowing your REALTOR® will help you find the home that best suits your life situation, within your budget.
Making an OfferOnce you’ve found the perfect home, you’ll need to submit an offer.
The offerAn offer is submitted by your REALTOR® on your behalf to the seller or seller’s representative. Your REALTOR® can help you prepare your offer and is your advocate through the negotiation process.
Home offer terminology
- Purchase price: This is what you’re willing to pay for the home.
- Deposit: The deposit is the cheque you write to the seller or the seller’s representative which can contribute to your down payment. This is your way of saying, “my offer is serious.” Your REALTOR® can advise you on the amount. Learn more about deposits and down payments.
- Chattels and fixtures: Moveable items like microwaves and window blinds are chattels. They’re not automatically included in the sale, but sellers will often include them to sweeten the deal. Fixtures are permanent improvements to a property, like central air conditioning, installed lighting and wall-to-wall carpeting. Fixtures are assumed to be included in the sale of the home. Be sure you know which chattels and fixtures are included with the house.
- Irrevocability of the offer: This is the length of time you give the seller to consider your offer, usually less than 48 hours.
- Completion date: The day you take possession of your home.
- Clauses particular to this agreement: Every transaction is unique, and you may want to add conditions that are important to you, such as a home inspection.
- Conditional offer: This means your offer is only valid if the seller meets conditions set out by the buyer, or vice versa.
Writing an offer letterWhile not usually required, including a personal letter with your offer lets the seller get to know you better, and can help you stand out from competing offers.
Submitting the offerYou’ve signed on the dotted line and your REALTOR® has provided your offer to the seller. This is it! This is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking parts of purchasing a home. A few different things can happen now:
- The seller rejects your offer. It’s not common for an offer to be completely rejected. Your REALTOR® can investigate why and see if there was a misunderstanding.
- The seller “signed back” or “counters” your offer. This is the most likely scenario after your offer has been submitted. The seller will often want to alter some part of your offer (most likely the price but can also include closing date and stipulations in certain clauses). Your REALTOR® is there for you to guide you on whether or not to accept the counteroffer or negotiate any changes you’d like to make.
- The seller accepts your offer. It’s time to close! It’s recommended to do this with the help of your REALTOR® and a real estate lawyer.
Closing on a HomeBuying a home involves many legal documents. You need to consult an expert to ensure your best interests are protected; you need to add a lawyer to your team.
Finding a lawyerThere are many experienced real estate lawyers in Canada. Like choosing any other professional, ask your friends, family, and co-workers for their recommendations. Your REALTOR® can also give you the name(s) of experienced real estate lawyers in your area.
How will your lawyer help?There are many legal steps to transferring ownership of land from one person to another. They’ll be searching for pitfalls such as fraud, government legislation, zoning issues or unpaid taxes. A typical transfer of title will require two weeks to complete.Tip: Be sure to ask your lawyer how they structure their fees and get an estimate of the costs you can expect. And remember, your lawyer is here to help you. Ask questions if you don’t understand anything. Explaining legal jargon in plain language is a big part of their job.
Close the PurchaseYour offer has been accepted and you can’t wait to move in … don’t break out the bubbly just yet; you still must close the deal! The closing period is usually about 90 days after your offer is accepted. You technically do not take possession of your new home until the closing date. Your REALTOR® and lawyer will do most of the closing work, but here’s a checklist to follow:
- Immediately begin satisfying any conditions of the agreement that require action on your part. Your REALTOR® can fill out the documents confirming the conditions have been satisfied.
- Ask your lawyer to begin searching title to the property. This can take a while, so make sure you allow ample time.
- Well before closing, arrange your homeowner’s insurance to kick in on your closing date. Your insurance broker will give you a “binder letter” certifying that you’re covered. You can’t get a mortgage without this letter.
- Contact your lender and have them finalize your mortgage documents. Make sure your lawyer reviews them before you sign.
- Your lawyer will transfer essential utilities, like hydro and water services, but you’ll have to make sure telephone, internet, and cable companies switch their services to your new address.
- If you rent, be sure to give the required notice to your landlord or sublease your apartment.
- Begin planning your big move. (Where are those cardboard boxes?)
- Send out your change of address information and fill out a card at the post office. Contact the appropriate provincial agencies about changing your other identification cards.
- Walk through your new home one more time with your REALTOR®. Don’t forget the measuring tape to start planning your furniture arrangement.
- A day or two before closing, you’ll meet with your lawyer to sign the closing documents. Your lawyer will tell you in advance what certified cheque(s) you’ll need to seal the deal.
Move inMoving day will come sooner than you think, so get planning now!It’s likely you won’t get the keys to your new home until late on the day of closing. It will make more sense to schedule the actual move for a day or so after closing.If you can, start packing early and spread it out over many days. Label all your boxes by room (and especially if the boxes carry anything fragile) so the movers know where to put them and how to treat the boxes. If you intend to move at the end of the month, contact a moving company or truck rental company well in advance.Tip: Set up mail-forwarding from your previous address, and ensure to change your address in your records, especially for banking, the Canada Revenue Agency, and government accounts.
Home sweet home!The boxes are mostly unpacked and you’re settling in nicely. You will now feel a strange urge to begin making changes and improvements right away, but slow down! Take the time to get a feel for your new home and, more importantly, your new budget. Take a deep breath and enjoy what you have: your new home.
The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. *article written by Tamara George and realtor.ca
ABOUT: Tamara is a Toronto-based freelance writer who works with real estate brokerages, REALTORS® and condo developers on everything from market insights posts and buyer and seller resources to fun neighbourhood profiles and serious tips for smart real estate investment. She’s a bit of a real estate nerd – one who gets a kick out of scrolling through listings, checking out new developments, and even heading to the occasional open house.