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What You Should Know Before Buying a Home:

Buying your first house can be exhilarating but it can also be challenge. What you don’t know can hurt you, so brush up on these home-buying tips and tricks to make the most of your search for the space of your dreams.
Licensed to Sell

Before hiring any real estate agent, ensure they’re legally licensed and associated with a reputable real estate broker. Seek out someone with whom you are comfortable, who is interested not strictly in their commission, but in getting you what you want. Your agent should be familiar with the neighbourhoods you’re contemplating, because each area has its own idiosyncrasies. Ask for references from other buyers-not sellers-who’ve employed your prospective real estate agent in the past.

Write a Wish List
Make a list of all the items that absolutely must be part of your home. Figure out where you’ll be spending the most of your time, and ensure that those spaces — like a kitchen if you love to cook, or the office if you work from home-are suitable to your needs. Does the home offer coveted elements like a yard, sunroom or garden terrace? Have you always wanted an eat-in kitchen? A wraparound veranda? A bathroom off each bedroom? To maximize your options, decide what’s critically important to you versus what you are flexible on, and convey this to your real estate agent early on.

Location, Location, Location
Contemplate the pros and cons of your new home’s geographical situation. Is your prospective pad close to all the amenities you desire, like public transport, schools or green spaces? Are the neighbours mainly single young professionals, middle-aged families or retirees? Is it smack in the middle of a commercial centre, an industrial area, or a desirable area of town? If you’re looking uniquely for detached, 2-bedroom properties in the city centre, you’ll be paying a pretty penny more than if you were looking for semi-detached 3-bedrooms in an up-and-coming neighbourhood.

Do the Math
Figure out what percentage of your take-home pay will go to your mortgage. As a general rule, no more than roughly a third of your monthly salary should be spent on this expenditure. Then, factor in your living expenses, and determine how this potential purchase will impact your lifestyle. If you need to recoup costs and happen to have a large property, consider getting a tenant or a student rent a room to defray some of the weight of the mortgage.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts
Size does matter-when it comes to the square footage of your new digs, that is. Think about the day-to-day running of the house: if all the appliances, electricity and heating systems are older or outdated, they’ll be less efficient and in turn more costly to maintain, plus may need replacement earlier. Also, dimensions of doorframes, hallways, and stairways can affect whether you’re able to get that heirloom armoire up the stairs, or your new King-sized bed into the guest bedroom.

Hidden Costs
When buying a home, there are lots of extras over and above the cost of the property proper that seem to come out of the woodwork. These costs can add up quickly-as well as those that’ll come up post-sale, like homeowner’s insurance and annual property taxes. Remember that the final price tag on the home you’ll buy likely won’t include services like a home inspection, land transfer tax, and even standard fees for lawyers’ costs. Investigate whatever additional fees might be applicable to your particular home-buying situation, and account for these in your total budget.

Room to Renovate
If you intend to renovate part of your home, make sure you’re aware of your lot space and the legalities around building up or out. Equally important is to be aware of your neighbours’ building rights and forthcoming projects. You don’t want to buy a house next to a development that will become a 10-storey high-rise, blocking the light from your patio’s afternoon sun. If condominium living speaks to you but you want to renovate the interior, check potential restrictions, especially when it comes to construction that affects any wall bordering on a corridor or neighbour’s condo.

Avoid a Money Pit
Is the house good to go with a few DIY renovations, or a fixer upper in need of more major repair? If it’s newly built or has recently renovated interiors, you’ll need to spend a lot less on getting it shipshape. Still, even after your house is given the inspection thumbs-up, pricey, unforeseen home repairs can crop up at a moment’s notice. Build a cushion fund and set it aside for just such unexpected problems.

Consider the Resale Value
If you don’t plan to live out your days at this address, think about how long you might like to stay, and what the real estate forecast for that area might be like in a few years. If it’s in an up-and-coming area of town, you’ll likely get a bigger return on your sale years from now. Weigh factors like whether the house in question is on a corner lot, which will get more traffic and be that much less desirable to future home buyers.

Closing the Deal
Before you start making offers on homes, take a trip to the bank to pre-approve your mortgage. Save yourself time, trouble, and potentially lots of money by making your purchase contract conditional upon two clauses: the home passing a satisfactory inspection by a certified and experienced home inspector, and financing approval. Finally, always make any offer subject to your lawyer’s approval, not just that of your real estate agent.