As your agent, I pledge to take full advantage of the knowledge and experience I have gathered in my 25 years in the real estate industry. And here goes...
I am asked lots of real estate questions everyday, but when I meet with a client for the first time, the single question that comes up most often is, "What do I need to do in this market to purchase a home/condo that meets my needs?" So, I’ve composed a step-by-step guide that organizes the buying process into an understandable overview. It won't delve into all the details and intricacies that will arise, but it will give you a good grasp of the process and an overall starting point.
Step 1: Decide to Buy
Before you rush headlong into searching for a property, you'll want to genuinely understand your needs and wants. What do you really need in a home and neighbourhood? Are you looking for a downtown loft with minimum maintenance, a close walk to work, and an urban neighbourhood at your doorstep? Do you want to be away from the downtown core, but close enough for a short drive or TTC into the city, all the while living in a house with a yard and garden, in a quieter neighbourhood, and with more space to move around in? There are a plethora of other options out there. Ultimately it boils down to your lifestyle and what makes you happy. Decide well. This is perhaps the most important decision you will make.
Step 1a: Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
It's of extreme importance to know you are qualified and able to obtain a mortgage to purchase your new home.
You will want to know:
- How much home are you qualified to purchase?
- What type of mortgages are available to you and how they affect interest rates and payment amounts?
- Do you want a fixed rate or variable rate mortgage?
- How much down payment is needed and what will your closing costs be?
- What purchase price will fall into your desired monthly payment amount and budget?
Getting your financial house in order and consulting a mortgage expert, prior to searching for your new home, saves you time, money, and potential heartache.
Once this is done, you will feel confident and comfortable as you move into the home searching process.
Step 2: Hire an Agent
There are tens of thousands of real estate agents to choose from. How do you chose one that’s right for you?
You have to pick carefully. They will be acting as your representative and looking out for your best interests. You will want someone that you can place your faith in, who truly understands what you are looking for, and who is willing to commit their time and energies to you. Basically, someone you know, like, and trust.
A few things to consider when choosing your agent:
- Are they experienced and knowledgeable about the neighbourhoods and properties you are seeking?
- Do they have a proven track record of success with other clients?
- Do they give good advice and insight into the searching, negotiation, and closing process?
- Do you get along with them? (You will be spending a lot of time with them.)
- Are they able to provide testimonials and past client references?
Oftentimes, the best agent for you will meet all of the above criteria AND come highly recommended from a friend or family member. Again, know, like, and trust.
Step 3: Find your Home (let's go shopping)
This is the fun part!
You and your agent will devise a search criteria and parameter to identify all the properties that match what you want and need. Once you have chosen the ones you want to see, your agent will set up the showings and off you go to physically inspect the properties.
Each property you look at will give you a better understanding of what your money will and won't buy. Education is the key to everything. The more properties you see, the better educated you become.
You may find that perfect home on your first time out or it may take weeks and even months, but eventually you will find "the one".
Step 4: Make an Offer to Purchase
Once you have found "the one", you need to enter into formal written negotiations with the Seller to purchase "the one". This is where you (your agent rather) present a written offer to the Seller who either accepts, rejects, or counters that offer, going back and forth until both parties agree (and you now have bought a home) or agree to disagree and everyone walks away. Not all offers are the same and here’s where your real estate agent's knowledge and expertise come highly into play.
What you offer (in both price and terms) and how you negotiate that offer, often becomes the difference between obtaining or losing the home, especially in a multiple offer situation. Price, terms, dates, and conditions all become negotiable items and how your structure and present those items is the key to a successful offer process. The goal, as always, is to get you your desired house/condo at the best possible price, terms, and conditions that meet your specific needs and wants.
Each property and situation requires a different negotiation strategy. Your agent will help devise a strategy specific to you and the desired property. (Again, know, like, and trust.)
Step 5: Close the Sale
Once all the conditions are cleared in your purchase agreement, then your lawyer takes over and physically closes the transaction. The closing process from start to finish often takes 30-90 days, but can be shorter or longer as the case may be. The physical closing will take place in your lawyer's office where you actually sit down, sign all the closing documents, turn over your down payment, closing costs, and mortgage, and then collect your keys. There are closing costs associated with the purchase of a home that need to be paid at closing. These may include mortgage application fees, legal fees, land transfer taxes, title insurance, HST, etc. But once all the documents are signed and the money changes hands, then you have purchased your new home and can move in immediately.
And that's the long and the short of it. Your agent (hopefully me) will fill you in on all the rest of the details.