5 Must-Know Tips for the First-Time Homebuyer

Buying a home for the first time can be an overwhelming, comprehensive and emotional process, with a number of factors to consider from budget to neighbourhoods and amenities. To help put your mind at ease, here are the top five things to know when kicking off your home search.

Get Qualified for a Mortgage

The first step when beginning your home search is getting qualified for a mortgage – this will tell you how much you can or cannot afford. Knowing what you can afford frames the rest of your search and helps you avoid wasting time looking at something that is over your budget.

Consider Presale and Resale

There are a few key differences when considering a presale condo, the largest being that since the home isn’t built yet, you won’t be able to move in right away. That means your mortgage doesn’t begin until the home is built. If you’re not in a rush to move in and need some time to save some extra cash, this can benefit you.

Think Ahead

Be sure that your first home will be suitable to your lifestyle for at least five years. If you’re considering a small space, think about where you’ll be in five years time – are you considering living together with a partner or starting a family? If so, you’ll want to make sure there’s ample space when that happens.

Hidden Fees: Closing Costs and Strata Fees

Hidden fees associated with closing costs are often overlooked. These include things such as mortgage insurance, appraisal fees, lawyer/notary fees, GST and Property Transfer Tax (PTT). These costs can vary depending on the type of home you choose.

10 Things to Consider when Purchasing a Condo

With seemingly endless options, purchasing a condo can be daunting; however, with the right guidance, it can be an exciting experience. We’ve rounded up ten tips to help guide you in the right direction before purchasing your next condominium.

More square feet does not mean more livability. Be mindful of the layout of the suite and assess the functionality of the floor plan – for example, long hallways mean more square feet, but can take away from functionality. A well-laid out 800 square foot condo can be more livable than a 900 square foot condo with wasted space.

Consider the residents of the building. A building that comprises of mostly renters could mean more parties, or the building could see faster wear and tear. In general, buildings with a majority of owner-occupiers are well taken care of.

Find out how much condominium fees are. Fewer amenities do not mean lower condominium fees. Large buildings with luxurious amenities, like a pool, hot tub, and fitness center, mean that the cost can be spread out over more residents. Smaller boutique buildings with fewer building amenities could have fees that are equally high.

Explore the neighbourhood. Consider neighbourhood amenities, the places you’ll visit regularly and proximity to work. Neighbourhoods change throughout the day, so be sure to visit at different times. Your neighbourhood is where you’ll want to spend the majority of your time, so it’s important to choose one that best suits your lifestyle.

Look at the strata management’s budget. Check the building’s budget for a surplus or a deficit. If the budget is at a deficit, you may be required to contribute money to the strata, which could be thousands of dollars. A surplus means there are extra funds to contribute to the maintenance or repairs to the building.

Rental or pet restrictions. If renting out the condo is a consideration, it may be a good idea to check rental restrictions. Some strata corporations restrict rental suites to a certain number or percentage. In addition, there can be restrictions on the number, weight, or type of pet in a building. If you have a pet (including reptiles), be sure to double-check for yourself.

Check out parking and storage lockers. Some condos don’t come with a parking stall or storage locker. If you need a parking stall or storage locker, ensure they come with the condo. Parking stalls can be sized for a small car or have a ventilation system hanging above. Take a look at the size of the parking stall and storage locker to make sure your car fits and the storage locker is large enough.

Look at how much other suites in the building have sold for. Looking at comparable suites will give a good idea of the value of the condo. Factors that can play a part in the price of a condo include square feet, direction, and floor level.

Determine your budget. Speak with your bank or a mortgage broker to determine how much you can afford. This will narrow down the type of home you’re looking for.

The best part – professional advice costs nothing for a buyer. The seller of a home pays a Realtor’s commission, so a buyer can seek professional advice at no cost.

7 Tips to Prepare Your Home For Sale

Ready to sell your home? Minor home improvements can maximize your financial return and increase the chance of it selling faster. These guidelines can help you prepare your home for sale and leave a lasting impression on potential home buyers.

1. Clean thoroughly and clear clutter. Give your home a thorough clean. Be sure to dust on top of mirrors and baseboards, polish and wipe down cabinets and appliances. Take the time to de-clutter. Those looking to buy a home scrutinize every little detail.

2. Apply a coat of paint. A little paint goes a long way. Touch up the paint in your home to keep walls looking fresh and clean. Not everyone loves bright yellow walls and could turn off potential buyers. If you are to re­paint, go for neutral colours like tan, white, and beige to appease the masses.

3. Renovations that provide ROI. Certain home renovations provide a higher return on investment. Replace faucets and doorknobs in outdated kitchens and bathrooms. The front door typically sees the most wear and tear. Replacing your front door creates a grand first impression. Click here to see our full list of the best home renovations that pay off on resale.

4. Stage your home. Small upgrades to décor can make a big difference without breaking the bank. Brighten up your kitchen with fresh flowers. Refresh your living room with new decorative pillows. Place succulents on bedside tables for extra warmth. Create a spa­like bathroom with artisan soaps and crisp white towels. For places to shop, stores like Homesense Canada and Ikea are great for staging on a budget.

5. Eliminate lingering odours. Scents are one of the first things that make an impression on your guests. In fact, certain smells have been said to be effective in selling homes faster. The smell of cookies has been proven effective in selling older homes faster. In newer homes, it’s the smell of white tea and fig. Diffusers, like the ones found at Saje, are great options to clean the air and provide a sense of relaxation.

6. Organize your closets. Storage space is a big selling point for most homebuyers. Declutter your closets to make storage space look bigger. Make sure your clothes are pressed and put away neatly – every nook and corner could be scoured! Go the extra mile by matching all of your hangers and reorganizing your wardrobe by colour.

7. Prepare documents. If you’re selling a condominium, you’ll also need to prepare a number of documents that relate to your suite and strata corporation. These include a title search, registered strata plan, financial statements of the strata corporation, property disclosure statement and strata minutes for the past two years.

8. Choosing the right Realtor®. A professional Realtor® guides you through the entire selling or buying process of your home. The right Realtor® will know how to establish a plan to attract the highest selling price for your property by analyzing sales data, know real estate trends in your neighbourhood, prepare design-savvy marketing materials for all Buyer inquiries, provide feedback from showings and open houses and are committed to your best interest.

10 Things to Know When Choosing the Best REALTOR® for You

Here are 10 considerations to bear in mind when you speak with an agent.

1. Know your needs first

Is your timeline urgent or more relaxed? Do you have kids or pets to schedule viewings around? Have you already sold your home or do you need a new home quickly?

When you understand your needs, you can ask the right questions. If agents have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, everyone starts on the same page. Then, you can learn how each agent will adapt their real estate services and process to work for you.

2. Agents must be tech savvy

A REALTOR®’s success depends on how well they find and market homes. Online advertising and property websites are now a basic requirement in modern home buying.

Will your agent harness social media outreach? Do they use professional photography or drones to give listings visual appeal? You want an agent who understands how to use the latest technology and marketing to ensure your home sale succeeds.

3. All REALTORS® aren’t equal

Although agents become certified in the same foundational program, this only covers the theory and foundations of the business. Real estate changes daily because of new laws and market trends. Ask REALTORS® what additional training, experience and local connections they maintain to make sure their knowledge is always up to date.

4. Communication is key

The real estate process goes through several stages. A good agent will guide you through each one, from scheduling viewings to helping you understand every legal document you sign. How will they keep you in the loop with changes? How quickly do they respond to emails or calls? Select an agent who communicates well to eliminate confusion.

5. Hire a specialist

Real estate is a massive industry, especially in major urban centres like Vancouver. Markets differ daily based on new laws, developments and housing trends. You want a REALTOR® who knows the ever-changing neighbourhoods inside out, and who has worked with homes just like yours. Their specific experience will give you an edge in finding or marketing your home.

6. Ask for their strategy

Agents need a plan and should have tried and true marketing strategies on hand. What is their timeline for promoting properties? Might they be able to show you new listings before they even hit the market? Will they host open houses and will they provide staging services? What price negotiation tactics could help with your situation? If they have a solid strategy, it’s a good sign.

7. Hear what others have to say

The best way to know what it’s like to work with a REALTOR® is to hear it from someone who already has. Real estate is a people-centred business. Good REALTORS® often have repeat clients and will gladly provide testimonials. See if they’ve won any awards.

8. Make sure they’re supported

Some agents work with big chain brands, others with local offices. The most important thing is that they have the team and resources behind them to ensure your success. Find out how their office and community connections will benefit your home search or sale.

9. Home price isn’t everything

Everyone wants to get the most value, but the highest possible price isn’t always the best one. If a listing is over market value, it can linger, causing it to sell for much less in the end. Don’t select an agent solely based on how high they price your home; make sure to understand their method. When a home is priced right, it sells fastest for the most value.

10. Go with your instinct

Buying or selling a home is a major decision. You need to like and truly trust the REALTOR® that you work with. Personality and character are important traits to consider that don’t show up on paper.

When it’s time to buy or sell a home, choose a few agents to interview and keep these questions in mind. The right agent will give you the most positive real estate experience possible.

If you’re looking to find a REALTOR® that’s your perfect fit, Contact NAREIG with your questions.