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Answers to Common Questions
Over the years, we have learned many helpful tips that can make buying your home go much smoother. Let our experience and expertise work for you. If you have any questions that are not addressed here, you can contact us directly at 604-850-5040 and we will be glad to help you.
What are the advantages of using a real estate agent to help me buy a home?
A good agent has the training, the knowhow, and the experience to help you through each step of the process. They can help to make finding, buying, and moving into your new home as smooth, quick, and enjoyable as it can be. Agents also represent a valuable source of information about market trends and neighborhoods and have access to information about homes for sale throughout the areas in which you are interested.
All of these services are free of charge or obligation. Legally, all real estate agents involved in a given transaction work for the vendor and are paid through commission on the sale of the home with usually no cost to the buyer.
How do I find the right real estate agent to work with?
Choose a real estate agent who has the experience and expertise you need for financing, appraising property values, and negotiating the offer on your behalf.
How do you know how much home you can afford?
Feel free to give us a call and we can help you determine your options. We are committed to honesty and responsibility when working with you to determine an affordable price range. There are many financing options available today and some include low down payments. We will help find an option that fits your budget—you may even be surprised by how much home you can actually afford.
Where do I begin the process of looking for a home?
Are you relocating to a new town because of a new job, or to be closer to your current job? How will the location of schools, shops, and transportation affect your choice of neighbourhood? Our Abbotsford Information page can provide you with some information to help answer these questions.
You should also do a little research of your own: look through magazines for ideas about home styles and features; drive through neighbourhoods that appeal to you to see what is available; read the real estate listings in the newspaper to learn about the features that you are considering; talk to friends about the features that you would really like to have in your home. The more knowledgeable you become, the better your final decision is likely to be.
How can I find out what homes are selling for in a given neighbourhood?
If you are interested in a particular home, we will be able to provide you with a list of comparable sale prices of homes in your area that are roughly the same size and age as the home you are considering. Although there will certainly be some differences between the homes—the house next door may have an extra bedroom or the one down the block may be older than the one you are looking at—it is a good way to evaluate the seller’s asking price.
Where can I get information about local schools?
A good real estate agent is your best source. We know where the local schools are and can provide you with valuable information about school districts, bus services, and more. If you are relocating, an agent may even be able to put you in touch with teachers and principals when you visit the area.
If I am moving a considerable distance, is there any way that I can screen homes before I go to the new city?
The answer is yes. Today’s MLS, which includes up to 98% or more of the homes listed in any given community, has made it relatively easy for buyers to access detailed information on homes for sale practically anywhere in the country. You can assess this information at www.mls.ca.
If I am moving a considerable distance, is there any way that I can screen homes before I go to the new city?
Whether you are married or not, or have kids or not, spare bedrooms can come in handy when family and friends come to stay. In the meantime, spare bedrooms can be used for a library, den, office, or hobby room. Another good reason for selecting a home with extra bedrooms is that these rooms provide extra space, which appeals to a larger number of interested buyers when it comes time to sell.
Is an older home as good a value as a new home?
Some buyers are charmed by the elegance of an older home but are wary because they are concerned about potential maintenance costs. To help ease the fear, a home warranty plan can be purchased which protects you against unexpected repairs in many home systems and appliances for a full year or more after moving in. When considering buying an older home, it is also a good idea to have a home inspection performed to ensure that there aren’t any major problems with the home.
Real estate listings and ads seem to have a language of their own. What do all of those abbreviations mean?
Abbreviations are a necessity in real estate advertising because only so much information can be communicated in a limited space. Here are some common abbreviations and their meanings:
- AC = Acre
- APPL = Appliances
- BA = Bath
- BALC = Balcony
- B.I. = Built-in
- BR = Bedroom
- C/W = Wall-to-wall carpet
- CAC = Central air conditioning
- CDS = Cult-de-sac
- DR = Dining room
- DK/PA = Deck & patio
- FIN (F or P) = Finished (fully or partly)
- FA = Family room
- Frontage = Width of property facing the street
- E/A = Eating area
- F/P = Fireplace
- L/STE = Legal suite
- LS = Listing salesperson
- LR = Living room
- MBD = Master Bedroom
- MTG = Mortgage
- RV = RV parking is available
- RM = Room
- Sep Ent = Separate entrance
- TH = Townhouse
- TE = Tenant
- W/O = Walk-out (basement)
- I.C. = Walk-in closet
- YD (B/Y) = Yard (or backyard)
- 2ST/BSMT = 2 stories + basement
- 3pce BA = Sink, toilet & shower
- 4pce (full) BA = Sink, toilet, bath & shower
When I start visiting homes, what should I be looking for the first time through?
A home can be an excellent investment but, more importantly, it should fit the way you live, with space and features that appeal to everyone in the family. As you look at each home, pay close attention to these important considerations:
- Is there enough room for you now and in the near future?
- Is the home’s floor plan right for your family?
- Is there enough storage space?
- Will you have to replace the appliances?
- Is the yard the size you want?
- Are there enough bathrooms?
- How much maintenance and/or decorating will you need to do right away? Within the first two to three years?
- Will your present furniture work in this house?
What do I need to bring along when I am looking at homes?
Bring your own notepad for note taking. Be prepared to snoop around a little to find out as much about the house as possible. If you need to go back for another look, we will be happy to schedule another appointment. You should also make sure to ask any questions you have about the home during your appointment.
What should I ask about each home that I look at?
Ask any questions you have about specific rooms, features, or functions. Pay particular attention to areas that you feel could become problem areas—additions, defects, and areas that have been previously repaired. If you feel like your questions have not been fully answered, ask until you understand and are satisfied.
What should I tell my agent about the homes I looked at?
Open communication is critical. Tell us everything you liked and/or did not like about each home that you see. Do not be shy about discussing a home’s shortcomings. The more open and descriptive you are, the easier it is for us to zero in and find you a home that you will love.
How many homes should I look at before I buy?
There is no set number of homes that you should see before you decide to make an offer on one. That is why providing us with as many details as possible from the get-go is so helpful. The perfect home may be waiting for you on your first visit. Even if it is not, the house-hunting process will help you get a feeling for what you want.
Sometimes, seeing too many houses can become confusing. An excellent way to differentiate each home is to name the homes. Call it the “cat house”, if there were several cats, or the “deck house”, if the main feature is the deck. This will make it easier to remember and reach a decision.
Home Hunting Tips
When you find a home that you may be interested in buying, make sure your agent asks the owner the following questions:
- How much money do you pay for utilities on a monthly basis?
- Have you had any problems with water or dampness in the basement?
- Are there defects or problem areas that need to be fixed now?
- How old is the furnace and central air conditioning system?
- How old is the roof?
- Have you experienced any leaking?
How do I know that I am getting the best value for my money?
Ask to see the recent comparable sales in the area around the home you like best. This will allow you to determine whether or not the home is priced correctly, what its true value is, and what price you should offer initially.
Most offers are typically conditional upon financing. When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will have a professional real estate appraiser perform an appraisal of the property. This is a safeguard that ensures that you will not pay more than the property’s true market value. Ideally, properties should be listed within 3-5% of current market value.
How can I find out what my property tax bill will be?
The total amount of the previous year’s property tax is included on the MLS listing information sheet for the home you are interested in. Most communities try to keep tax increases to a minimum, but still expect a 2-5% increase annually.
When I have found the home I like, how do I make an offer?
When you have found a house that you want to call home, we are ready to help you. With us, you will write a “Contract of Purchase and Sale”. This is a legally binding contract that declares how much you will pay for the home provided that certain conditions are met. Your offer will have a time limit for the vendor to accept, reject, or make a counter-offer. If a counter-offer is made, you have time to respond. Often, offers go back and forth until accepted or until one party decides to end negotiations.
How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?
Now you typically begin the process of arranging an inspection and applying for a mortgage. Often you can be pre-approved for a mortgage prior to signing an offer.
What is a “deposit” and how much do I need?
When you sign an offer to purchase, a deposit will be required—money that shows that you are serious about wanting to buy. Usually, you will be asked to write a draft for a specified amount. This amount depends on the value of the property being purchased and the norm in the community.
I would like to have a professional look at the home before I buy it. What does a Home Inspector do?
Your home cannot “pass” or “fail” an inspection. Also, your inspector will not tell you whether they think the home is worth the money that you are offering. The inspector’s job is simply to make you aware of the repairs necessary or recommended. A seller may be willing to renegotiate a price to accommodate needed repairs, or you may decide that the home will take too much work and money. A professional inspection will help you make a clear-headed decision.
Should I be present during the inspection?
Doing so will provide insight into the inspection report and any areas that need attention. You can also get answers to many questions and tips for maintenance, as well as a lot of general information that will help you when you move into your new home.
Most importantly, you will see the home through the eyes of an objective third party. We recommend that you arrive about half an hour before the end of the inspection (the inspector will confirm this time with you). When you arrive, the inspector will have had time to inspect the entire property, allowing them to devote their attention to explaining their results, as well as answering any questions you may have.
Are there any other inspections that I need to have done?
In addition to the overall inspection, you may wish to have separate tests conducted to check for termites, septic problems, and signs of a previous grow-op. Talk to your real estate agent for information about these tests and to companies in the area that perform them.
Is there any way that I can protect myself against emergency repair bills in my new home?
Yes. Home warranties offer you protection against many potentially costly problems that are not covered by your homeowner’s insurance. This coverage can save you thousands of dollars in the event of a major mechanical breakdown.
Do I need to talk to an insurance agent?
Yes. Most insurance professionals have a lot of experience in working with homeowners and can offer tips about home ownership—particularly regarding home safety and keeping your premiums low.
Once you have found a home, you will work with your insurance agent to develop a homeowner’s policy that meets your individual insurance needs. You will need to bring your paid policy to your mortgage lender when you go to your lawyer’s office to sign the closing documents.
Do I need to use a lawyer to buy a home?
Due to the legal contracts and other complex paperwork involved in buying a home, people normally hire a lawyer or notary to handle the closing details. The lawyer or notary will review contracts, make you aware of special considerations and potential problems, and will go to the closing to help ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
If you do not know a real estate lawyer or notary, ask us for a recommendation. Real estate agents work with many legal professionals every month and can provide you with a list of trustworthy and competent lawyers and notaries in the community.
There is so much to remember… What do I have to do?
Here is a partial checklist:
- Are all the required repairs complete?
- Is your lawyer satisfied that the title to the property is clear (no one else has a claim on it)?
- Is your insurance policy paid up and ready to go into effect on the day you close? You will need a receipt from your agent as proof.
- Has your lawyer told you the closing dollar amount required?
- What form of cheque should you use (and who should it be made out to) to pay for the closing costs?
- Do you have the receipts for the items you have already paid for, including your deposit and inspection fees?
- Bring your cheque book to the lawyer’s office to cover any last-minute extras that might have been overlooked.
What will happen in the final week before closing day in your lawyer’s office?
- The lender will want a copy of your paid-up home insurance.
- The lawyer will list the closing adjustments. These will include the money you owe the vendor (the remainder of the down payment, any prepaid taxes) and what the vendor owes you (unpaid taxes, prepaid rent).
- You will sign the mortgage document. This gives the lender legal right to the property if you do not make your payments. You will also promise to repay the loan in regular monthly payments.
- Your lawyer will collect the closing costs from you and give you a statement of all the items you have paid for.
On closing day:
- You will get the title from the vendor.
- The deed and mortgage will be recorded in the Registry Office.
Is there anything I should do immediately after closing?
The first thing that you will want to do is consider if you want the locks changed. Also, make sure that all of your utilities have been switched on and are now in your name (electricity, gas, water, telephone, cable, etc.).
Remember to put your deed, survey, and other important paperwork from the closing in a secure place. Even though it is all on file at the registry office, it is smart to know where your copies are and have access to them at all times.
Should I move myself or use a moving company?
In almost every case, you can save yourself time and energy by using a reputable moving company to help you move. If you work closely with the moving company to coordinate your efforts, your move will be achieved with maximum efficiency.