A home is one of the biggest investments that a person will make in their lives and potentially one of the most complex and challenging processes they will encounter. Many homebuyers find the process overwhelming and are anxious about the possibility of making a mistake that can end up being very expensive. To help with the process and to help ease expectations, the following is a step-by-step guide on the real estate buying process.
Finding a REALTOR®
When starting the home buying process, the absolute most important thing to do is to find a Realtor. A Realtor can provide you with intimate knowledge of the industry and provide you with the necessary guidance throughout the process. However, it’s important to find a Realtor who understands your needs and expectations, and with whom you can have a comfortable and trusting dynamic. Just because a Realtor has done well for a friend of yours, does not mean that this Realtor may be a good fit for you. Put together a list of questions and interview a few Realtors, before choosing the one who is right for you. With the guidance of the right Realtor, your home buying journey can actually be fun and enjoyable!
- Evaluate your budget – know what you want to spend on a down payment, and consider monthly expenditures (i.e.; maintenance, common charges, real estate taxes, monthly mortgage payments, utilities, parking, etc.).
- Obtain mortgage pre-approval.
- Prioritize your needs – space, light, views, building amenities, etc. Categorize features into needs vs. wants, so you can manage expectation ahead of viewing properties.
- Identify your timeline for moving.
- Explore different neighbourhoods to identify those that suit your your preferences and needs.
- Research schools in the selected neighbourhood(s), if schools are an important aspect of your home search.
- Evaluate access to transportation in the selected neighbourhood(s), if you will be relying on public transit.
- In the case of condos, evaluate building amenities and condo bylaws, considering how they may affect your needs (eg: are washers/dryers permitted, is there a gym in building, is there a pet policy or pet restrictions, are there storage facilities, is visitor parking available, etc.).
- Work closely with your mortgage broker to gather supporting materials for you mortgage application.
- Select an attorney who specializes in real estate.
- Seek pre-approval for a mortgage. You must know how much you can spend before you spend it. Speak to your bank or mortgage broker about the required down payment and determine your purchasing power.
- Find a property. Depending on what you are looking for, the duration of your search will vary. However, you and your Realtor will work together and adjust your search criteria as needed, to find you a suitable home.
- Write an Offer. When you find a property that you like, it is time to write an offer. You and your Realtor will discuss the price you wish to offer for the property, anything you would like included with the purchase, the possession date, and any conditions such as inspection or financing.
- Negotiate. Once the offer is submitted, it is time to negotiate. Negotiations can cover aspects such as price, deposit, conditions, inclusions, and possession date.
- Inspection (if applicable). Once negotiation are complete and a conditional sale is place, it is time to address conditions. A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home. A home inspection is performed by a trained and certified home inspector who will look for major and minor deficiencies.
- Apply for a mortgage and obtain a commitment letter from your lender. Mortgage applications typically cannot be processed without an executed contract. If a property is being financed, the lender will request a number of documents, including the purchase contract, any waivers or notices, financial information such as copies of paystubs, and bank account information.
- Remove conditions, if applicable. Once you are satisfied with your home inspection and have received the necessary financing approval, it is time to remove any conditions that you may have asked to be included in your contract. At this point, your Realtor will draft the necessary documents that you will need to sign, in order to provide notice the other party and make the deal firm.
- Lawyer. The next step in the process is to select your lawyer and get the necessary documents to your lawyer. One of the real estate brokerages involved in the process will typically send documents pertaining to the transaction to the lawyers, for the purpose of completing the sale. However, your lawyer may need additional information and documents from you. When your lawyer is ready, they will have you visit their office to sign the necessary closing documents, and they will ask you to bring any additional funds that are needed.
- Possession. It’s time to take possession of your new home! This is the exciting part of the process. When taking possession of your home, it is important that you check it over with your Realtor. If there are any problems, it is important to call your lawyer right away; what happens following this is governed by the real estate purchase contract. Note that it is important to arrange insurance, utilities, internet, and the like, prior to possession day.
The home buying process can be a confusing process, but it can be equally exciting! Be sure to consult with a licensed Realtor when you are ready to begin your home buying journey.