Are you a first-time home buyer preparing to enter the market? If so, you might be feeling excited, nervous, or even a bit confused about where to start. One of the most useful ways to begin your journey is to create a home buyer’s to-do checklist. This helps you keep track of all the important tasks you need to complete along the way. Let’s explore some key items!
Evaluate your budget and down payment
One of the earliest steps you need to take as a home buyer is to figure out how much you can afford to spend on your purchase. If you’ve never bought a home before, this might take some extra time, but it’s essential. Without an accurate budget, you’re shopping blindly, and this can land you in financial trouble. The last thing you want to do is buy a home you can’t afford, and end up feeling overwhelmed by mortgage payments. Buying a home within your budget will make the experience much less stressful, and more enjoyable. Creating your buying budget can be a little complicated, as it depends on your unique financial situation. You will have to consider your employment and income. You will also evaluate your regular expenses to find out how much income you really have to contribute to a home purchase. It’s hard to know how much is enough, which is why you should also bring a mortgage broker into the picture (more on that below!).
Your budget will likely impact your down payment too. Depending on how much you have saved up, the size of your down payment might vary from five to 20 per cent of the purchase price of the home. Of course, the size of your down payment will then affect the size of monthly mortgage payments, and potentially interest rates as well. If you need some help learning how to save for your down payment, you can visit this previous blog.
Make a list of your needs
Another big item on a home buyer’s to-do checklist should be making a list of all your housing needs. This seems pretty standard, but it’s worth having these items written out so you can keep them top of mind when viewing potential homes. Your housing needs will be things you really require in a home or neighbourhood, and things that would prevent you from making the purchase if they didn’t exist. This can include a variety of requirements, depending on the buyer. If you have a growing family, you might require a house with three or more bedrooms. If you don’t drive, you might need to be close to public transport. Some things are non-negotiable, and it’s best to be aware of what those things are for you. It will save both you and your real estate agent time and prevent you from viewing homes you do not want.
A pre-qualification is pretty essential as a first-time home buyer, and really as any buyer! Getting pre-qualified means you have a general idea of what mortgage products and rates you may secure, which allows you to budget and shop accordingly. How do you know this information? During your pre-qualification, your mortgage broker will examine your finances and give you an estimate of where you stand in terms of mortgage approval. You can use this valuable information to guide you through the buying experience. If you are able to keep your situation, and your finances, the same throughout the process, you are more likely to secure the mortgage products based on your pre-qualification. In general, this means not quitting or changing jobs, no drop in income or credit score, and no major purchases that will impact your borrowing abilities.
Find a real estate agent
We briefly mentioned real estate agents above. Don’t try to go through the buying process without adding an agent to your buyer’s to-do checklist! Sometimes, people think they can represent themselves in the market, but this can create a big mess. You are less likely to attract sellers, and you won’t have any guidance on putting in offers. A real estate agent is a big part of guiding you through the market and representing you for sellers. They are professionals in the industry, and provide you with too much value to skip out on. Choosing an agent who knows the area you’re exploring will give you a boost in the market and help you find the perfect property for your budget.
Remember those closing costs
Let’s revisit the importance of budgeting for a moment. Remember that buying a home is about more than budgeting for your down payment and mortgage payments. You also need to consider closing costs. These costs are in addition to your home’s purchase price, and they can often equal one to two per cent of that price. Closing costs are items like legal fees, land transfer taxes, moving costs, home appraisals, and title transfers. Individually, these costs don’t seem like much, but when you put them together they add up to a considerable amount. In addition, you just can’t complete your purchase without them!
Visit a broker early
If any of these steps made you feel a bit intimidated, the good news is you don’t have to do any of it alone. Home buyers greatly benefit from using a mortgage broker! Brokers like myself can assist you with everything, from working out your budget to finding you the perfect mortgage lender. We do lots of work for you, and we support you through every step. If you’re entering the market for the first time, make sure you make a broker part of your experience.
If you have any questions about your mortgage, get in touch with me!