For Buyers

Secrets of Savvy Househunters

For most of us, buying a home is one of the biggest emotional and financial decisions we'll ever make. It only makes sense then, that when you decide to purchase a home, that you do so with the assistance of a real estate professional who not only has the necessary training, skill, marketing abilities and experience, but is also passionate about serving in your best interests at all times. Before you get caught up in the excitement of searching for the perfect home, here are some savvy steps to follow:

1. Know how much you can afford

Don’t get caught in that trap of trying to find that "perfect home" only to find out later that the one you like is one you can’t afford. Do your homework ahead of time and define your budget. Consult with your lender and get a pre-approved mortgage first. And, with the help of your REALTOR®, keep your eye on the market since any changes could ultimately impact what you can afford.

2. Determine what kind of home you want

Before you start looking at individual homes, figure out the kind of house that most appeals to you - the type of house (single detached, duplex, townhouse, condo etc.), the style (i.e. two-storey, split-level, bungalow), the size and features you like (your needs and wants), and finally, the location, which is arguably the single most important factor.

Ask yourself the following questions: Do you prefer an inner-city, suburban, or rural setting?  How much do you care about distance to work, schools, shopping or entertainment?  How important is proximity to parks or playgrounds, busy thoroughfares or public transit? These factors all have an impact on your decision. 

When considering a particular home or neighborhood, look for tell-tale signs of neglect or proud upkeep. Your agent can also let you know how well certain neighborhoods are selling, which is a good indicator of where people want to live.

3. Needs vs. wants

As you prepare to buy a home, remember that no home is'll always end up making compromises. Envision your ideal home and then identify all the features that are important to you. Write down all these features on a master list that you can refer to. Divide that list into 'must-haves' - the features that are important to you; the 'would-be-nice' items - those that you can live without; and the 'deal breakers' - those that you won't sacrifice. Carry this list with you so that you can compare potential homes. Remember, finding the right home that's within your budget is really a process of elimination.

4. Know Your Options

Buying a home or other property means you'll be making a number of important decisions, and having a skilled REALTOR® to work with on your behalf is invaluable. However, before entering into any service agreement with a consumer, a REALTOR® in Alberta is required to present a Consumer Relationships Guide which outlines a consumer's rights and responsibilities, and those of the REALTOR®, and what it means to be a customer or client. A representation agreement - for client or customer - also must be signed.

5. Viewing Homes

A few homes that you’ve viewed online may have piqued your interest, and with the required documentation signed, it’s time to go visit them. Unless there’s an Open House scheduled, a private showing is the only way to see inside the home, and that's typically arranged between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent.

Don’t try to squeeze more than four viewings into a single day – it can be more confusing than convenient. Take photos and make note of the pros and cons after viewing each property so you can take a look at the next home without struggling to remember details about the one before.

Be sure to ask about mutual driveways, parking, zoning bylaws and upcoming construction. You may be in a neighborhood that is about to be receiving power line upgrades or road repairs that can wreak havoc on getting from point A to point B after you move in.

6. Get a second opinion

If you’ve found a home that really appeals to you, show it to someone else like a good friend or relative. Let them do all the talking in case they see something you hadn’t noticed. Having someone who isn’t personally vested in the property can give you the objective opinion you need before you make your decision.

7. Making an Offer

When you finally find the home that you want to own, I'll help you prepare a Purchase Contract (offer), which is a formal, legal agreement that sets out transaction terms and conditions. Sellers will either accept, reject, or counter your offer. Sometimes, there may be multiple offers and it's important that you know your options in this situation. This is when having a skilled and experienced REALTOR® working on your behalf, can be a definite asset. When your Purchase Contract is accepted by the seller, the property is generally considered "conditionally sold."

8. Home Inspection

Even before you locate your ideal home, you should have a home inspector at the ready. He or she may even be able to offer you some pointers for things to look out for when you are viewing homes. A knowledgeable and licensed home inspector will be able to tell you if something isn't working properly, needs to be changed or is unsafe; and may be able to identify previous issues such as a leaking basement.

9. Think it through

In a hot market, it can be hard not to make an immediate offer. While that may work in most cases, be sure to step back, pull out your list and carefully gauge if this property meets all of your must-have criteria. Savvy househunters say that when you find the right property, you can feel it down to your bones. If that’s the case for you, see if you can wait a day (or a few hours) before making an offer. The only thing worse than buyer’s remorse is letting a dream home get away.