Buying your first home can feel like sprinting an entire marathon while spinning three plates. It’s a long journey. And for many, it’s a complex process replete with unfamiliar paperwork, numerous deadlines and to-the-cent budgeting.
But don’t be dissuaded. Purchasing real estate remains a powerful way to build equity and pour your monthly living expenses into something you own. Moreover, with the help of some nifty online tools, governmental resources and a quality agent in your corner, the process is far simpler than it sounds.
In this post, explore a few tools and resources that will help streamline your homebuying experience and empower you on the road to your dream home.
The Basics: A Quality Real Estate Agent
Is a real estate agent a “resource?” Absolutely – they are eminently knowledgeable in the various agreements, deadlines, terms and conditions that pepper the homebuying process. Is a real estate agent a “tool?” Absolutely (in the non-derogatory sense of the word!). They can help you pursue listings, view homes, crunch numbers, win bidding wars, or walk away if it makes more sense.
A quality real estate agent is your first and last line of defence in real estate, duty-bound to finding you the right home, within your budget and on your terms. For an example of a quality real estate agency, check out the Harvey Kalles Real Estate website; their consumer-centric approach is the gold standard for North American real estate agencies.
The Fun Stuff: Listing Websites
With quality representation behind you, you can move on to the fun part of the process: dreaming of your new life.
In all likelihood, your real estate agent will use their own MLS platform (multiple listing service), which links to the available properties in your chosen area. They might even send you curated listings based on your stated budget, areas of interest, etc. Additionally, you can conduct your own research on listings websites like REW, Zillow, realtor.ca, etc.
In your spare time, peruse these listings; look at the pictures, read the specs, and even take a walk through the neighbourhood (in-person or on Google Maps). Envision your new life in these listings. Dream about what you might do with the space.
The Not-Fun-But-Essential-Nevertheless Stuff: Affordability Calculators and Market Indicators
Very few people like thinking about money. Even fewer like crunching the numbers and devising budgets. Nevertheless, it’s an essential step on your first-time homebuying journey, saving you from overleveraging – or, worse, falling into foreclosure.
Thankfully, a few online tools make this process simple. Take an evening to tinker with an affordability calculator. It will ask you to input basic financial information (net household income, etc.) and monthly expenses. Then, it will calculate what you can afford based on current interest rates and other considerations. Next, consider exploring “market indicators” or “market conditions reports” for your area, which can tell you if you’re in a buyer’s, seller’s or balanced market.
The Relief: Exemptions, Incentives and Rebates
Lastly, you should know what you’re entitled to as a first-time buyer. Talk to your trusty real estate agent about local, regional and national exemptions, incentives and rebates.
For instance, in some areas, first-time homebuyers can waive the typical land transfer tax (or receive a rebate), draw down payment money from their RRSP without penalty, put down less than 10% (not always a strong idea) and enter a shared equity mortgage with the government. Utilizing these kickbacks and assistance programs can help alleviate the financial burden of buying.
Before you start throwing your down payment at the first home you see, leverage these essential tools and resources. With them, homebuying can be straightforward, safe and even empowering.