How to Buy a Home
Where to begin

How to buy a home is really not that complicated, provided you have good honest guidance along the way. To save a lot of time, frustration and worry, to buy a house with minimal stress, it's a good idea to have dependable representation. Having said this, if you're determined to navigate the market without the benefit of a professional realty agent, you may want to explore this website to improve your knowledge of the intricacies of the process.


Have you a story to tell about buying a home with no agent to represent you? If you would like to share your story, ask a question or compare notes with fellow guests, click here.


Finding an agent who sincerely puts your interest ahead of their own can help you through what may appear to be a complicated process.

You can go the uninformed traditional routes of surfing countless agent websites (not necessarily current), monitoring Realtor.ca, trudging through endless open houses and listening to as many pitches from all the attending agents, and spending evenings and weekends (and a ton of fuel) driving neighbourhoods in search of lawn signs (not all have signs) looking for that elusive and affordable home that meets your needs. Or you can ...

Let an Agent Help You Buy a Home
and Save You Time & Effort

Time is our most precious commodity. Every moment is irreplaceable. Let your agent invest their time to save yours. Before even beginning the search, however, they'll advise you to get all your ducks in a row.

During the initial consultation, your agent should ask numerous questions regarding your wants and needs, including preferred location, style and house size.

Where do you want to live? How many bedrooms? Bathrooms? Do you need a garage or is that something you can live without? School requirements? Flooring? Finished basement? What features would you like to see?

Of course, with every suggestion, you'll have a tendency to say yes. But the longer the list, the moree you'll need to spend. So it's a good idea to categorize and differentiate the list by needs and wants. And last, but certainly not least, you must also determine ...

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How Much Can You Afford?

Aside from the obvious benefits of long term ownership, there's not a huge difference between buying vs renting. It's simply a difference of how you hold possession. It'll be either you or your landlord who gets to enjoy the benefits of home ownership, including capital gain (usually tax-free in Canada) over the years.

It still comes down to what you want, your physical needs and what you can afford. Your agent will recommend that you speak to a professional Mortgage Broker or a bank mortgage representative to ensure that you are fully pre-approved for your mortgage financing. 

The Mortgage Broker will some basic financial questions to determine a target price range.

How much do you have for a downpayment? Is it all yours or from borrowed funds? What's your gross combined income and outstanding debts with minimum monthly payments? They will ask you for proof of income.

From this collected information, they'll be able to calculate your gross and total debt service ratios. In addition to this info from the Mortgage Broker, your agent will advise you on what to expect for closing costs, including the big one - land transfer tax. In some municipalities, be prepared for two of these taxes - a municipal and a provincial tax.

 Your agent may also recommend you ...

Buy Close to Your Maximum Affordability

You may think they're just trying to get you to spend more so that their commission will increase.

This may be true. But more likely, they may not want you to compromise too much to save a little money because the more you compromise, the sooner you'll want to upgrade.

This, of course, will mean moving sooner than later, with all the usual expenses like real estate commission, legal fees and disbursements and land transfer taxes again. And don't forget the cost of movers. So, it might be wiser to buy a home that's maybe a little bigger than what you currently need for your family and ...

Stay Put Longer

... provided of course that you don't buy spent over your budget.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has developed resources you can use to understand some of the trickier financial concepts you might encounter while endevouring to buy a home.

A series of 8 videos covers topics from amortization to mortgage pre-payment to the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP) and beyond. All under two minutes and done in a fun, animated style, the videos break down some of the financial terms and implications you might come across while heading toward home ownership.

The videos can be found here.

There's also a Homebuyers' Road Map, a publication developed in collaboration with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), to help Canadians navigate the home buying journey and learn more about mortgage financing. Check it out here.

Now you're off to a good start in learning how to buy a house, and what an agent can do for you. I invite you to explore more of this home buyer guide and make educated decisions.

Now, get busy, do your research on first time buyer programs and home renovation tax credit plans in your area, and go buy a home.


Have a Great Story About a Home Purchase?

Have you ever been involved in a home purchase without the professional assistance of a realty agent? Do you think you've got the best, worst, funniest or most embarrassing story to tell? Here's your chance to compare notes, share tips and maybe learn from and commiserate or celebrate with other guests.

Why did you choose that route? Did you have any experienced guidance, even a non-professional, to help you through what can sometimes be a complicated and stressful process?

Did you work through the seller's private real estate marketing company? If so, without specifically naming it, how was that experience for you? Do you feel your needs were taken care of professionally?

How did you originally discover that home for sale by owner? Was it advertised somewhere or did you spot an open house? Were there any challenges, any conflicts during the personal viewing or negotiations? Any funny experiences along the way?

Did you succeed in your home quest and buy under your comfortably affordable price limit? Do you feel the price you paid was below market value? How did you determine that price? Did you hire an appraiser, compare to other homes for sale or sold, or did you simply trust the homeowner? If you arrived at this stage, who drafted the offer? What A to Z steps did you undertake to reach your goal?

Do you feel you made any mistakes? Any frustrations? Was there anything you would do differently next time? If your attempt failed, what do you think went wrong? How much time was consumed from the moment you found the house for sale by owner to the conclusion of offer negotiations? How did you handle the defeat?

Did you finally surrender and hire a Realtor to represent you? On what basis did you select an agent? If so, did you find another suitable home fairly quickly?

I invite you to submit your story, article, commentary or questions about your private buying experience - successful or otherwise.

This support forum is not intended as an opportunity to complain. It's a chance to express yourself and hopefully help others who may be faced with a similar challenging situation. Maybe they can learn from your story. Please provide respectful remarks and advice only. Profanity, disrespectful or abusive comments will not be tolerated.

I implore you to treat this as a soft place for friendly people to land, share and learn from each other and maybe share a chuckle. I'll do my best to respond when appropriate in a supportive and encouraging manner, and answer as timely as possible any questions within the realm of my expertise.


Visit REALTOR.ca to start the search to buy a home in Canada and REALTOR.com if you plan to buy a home in the USA.  And if you're interested in a definitive guide to buying and selling real estate, whether privately or with the guidance of a qualified realty agent, check out Ross' book The Happy Agent. It's full of tips and techniques developed during his successful 4 decade realty career. A small investment of your time could conceivably save you thousands of dollars, and help you trade in real estate like a pro.

Available virtually everywhere print and e-books are sold.


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