You’re tired of renting and paying for someone else’s mortgage every month. You’ve been saving for years and decided it’s time to purchase your own piece of real estate.
Great! Investing in real estate can be a very profitable and fulfilling step. But now what? Becoming a homeowner can be a little daunting, especially when you’re as green as they come. And like Heather Smith, who bought her three-bedroom, three-bathroom condo eight years ago, you are likely wondering how to even begin the process. Smith did a lot of research before purchasing that first piece of real estate. Here are a few simple tips she used to get started on the path to home ownership.
Pick Your Price
The last thing you want to result from owning a home is becoming house poor. You may have a roof over your head, but you’ll be eating baked beans and canned ham with no heat or lights on just to meet the mortgage payments. Make sure you budget out what you can afford to pay as a down payment as well as monthly mortgage payments on top of utilities and your regular living expenses. Be realistic. Just because you really like the 3,000-square-foot home down the street doesn’t mean you’re ready for it just yet. Smith chose a place with enough rentable rooms to keep her safely out of the red for the first few years.
Once you have your financial situation calculated, visit a mortgage broker or the bank you deal with to discuss your mortgage options and whether you qualify for financing. This is done by assessing your income, debt and assets to see if a mortgage is a viable option for you. You must qualify for a mortgage before you can delve into the process of buying a home.
Find the Right Agent
Finding the perfect first home is a very personal process, so you’ll want to choose a real estate agent who you jive with. Ask around. Your friends and family may have some suggestions for you and meet with more than one agent to find the one with whom you feel most comfortable. Smith suggests the services of an agent you know or one referred to you by a trusted friend. “I will always go through people I know because they are always interested in doing what is right for me, not the person selling the house,” she says.
Make a List
Now to get to the nitty gritty. What do you want in your first home? Do you want a fixer-upper, a historic home or a condo? Maybe you’re looking for a two-storey, bungalow or sprawling, multi-level design? It’s all in your personal preferences and you need to know what you want before you set out on the house hunt or else it’s like going to the grocery store when you’re starving; you’re bound to end up with things you don’t need or want. Start with the must-haves and then move to the things on your wish list. “I wanted something close to work and I wanted a home with spare rooms but little renovation required,” says Smith, looking back on the process. “I also wanted a good view and a fireplace.” Make sure your agent knows which is which so he or she can prioritize your list when searching for possible homes.
Bring a Buddy
It’s nice to have a second opinion, especially with such a huge investment. If possible, bring along a trusted friend or family member. This way, while you’re looking for all the bits and pieces on your lists, he or she is looking at the bigger picture. “Having someone there who knew me well helped a lot,” says Smith. “Dad looked out for structural issues while mom and I looked at layout options.”
Check Out the Deals
Getting money back is a wonderful thing, especially when you’re spending a big chunk to begin with. Look into these financial returns for first-timers:
1) First-time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit – this is for those who bought after Jan. 27, 2009 and is claimed within your personal income tax returns.
2) Land Transfer Tax Refund – You can receive up to $2,000 of the land transfer taxes paid on your home as a first-time buyer in Ontario.
3) Home Buyers’ Plan – First-time buyers can use up to $25,000 of their Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to buy or build their first home while avoiding tax penalties.
4) GST/HST New Housing Rebate – This applies to newly built homes or substantially renovated homes that are owner-constructed or purchased from a builder. It provides a rebate on part of the GST or the federal part of the HST paid on the home.
Other province-specific rebates are available across the country.