For most of us, a home is the single largest asset a family will own in their lifetime. So it’s no surprise that buying the right home can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task.

Where to start?

First things first – establish a budget. Consider speaking with a banker or mortgage specialist to be informed of your financing options and establish a realistic price that you are comfortable with. Keep in mind the additional costs you may incur on closing.

Narrow your scope by deciding on an area where you would like to live

Take a little time to define what kinds of amenities are important to you.

Do you want to be near an elementary school for your kids, or close to a University? Is public transportation accessible? Are there grocery shops and other creature comforts nearby? Is there a hospital within close proximity?

Decide on which amenities you can’t live without, and use that as the basis for choosing which area to begin your home search.

Do your homework – Choosing the right realtor

A little research goes a long way. Ask friends or neighbours if there is an agent in the area that they particularly like and trust. Meet with a few, ask the questions that matter to you most, pay attention to personality as well as professional experience, and decide who you are most comfortable working with.

Your realtor will explain the level of service they provide and ask you to sign a Buyers Representative Agreement when you’re ready to become their client, ensuring that they will act in your best interest at all times.

Arrange some time with them to take you on a drive through an area that appeals to you. There may even be some homes currently on the market for you to pop in and visit. Be upfront and direct with your realtor about your likes and dislikes – this will help them carefully select the properties that are most suitable for you.

Making the deal

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for in a home and made the decision to buy, your realtor will explain all of the details and legalities of making a formal offer. If you and your spouse are purchasing the home together, both signatures will be required on all documents.

Your realtor will present the offer to the seller of the home, who may come back with changes. While discrepancies are usually easy to remedy, be aware that some negotiation may be involved. Set realistic limits and stand by your decision. Be prepared that the offer may go back and forth several times before an agreement is reached.

Once the offer has been signed and accepted by all parties, you will receive a signed final agreement, which you can then take to your lawyer for review.

If you have included conditions, such as financing or a home inspection, the document will clearly specify how many days are allotted to meet these conditions, at which point you can choose whether or not to waive them. Your realtor will be there to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have every step of the way. This may include how to find a quality home inspector that will go through the home with you and explain their findings in detail.

Closing on your new home

Your lawyer will speak with you about obtaining title insurance. Simply put, title insurance insures that your property, on possession of title, is clear of any encumbrances and that your property lines on that deed are accurate. While your lawyer can explain the specifics to help you decide whether title insurance is right for you, most homeowners do elect to obtain it, since it is relatively low cost and payable upfront on closing.

Closing costs are often the biggest surprise to homebuyers, particularly when purchasing a brand new condo direct from the developer. Make sure that your purchase contract includes a maximum amount of closing costs that the developer may pass on to you. Your portion of the payment is the cost the developer is permitted to pass on to you for his development costs, including roads, sewers, parkland allocation, electrical installations and taxes.

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