Are you thinking about buying a home? Buying a home is a sort of rite of passage. It shows that you’re independent and you’ve reached a point in your life where you have enough financial stability to reach this milestone. Plus, there’s something special about owning your home. You have complete control over your living space, and you can paint any wall any colour you like without asking for permission.
Leaving cultural symbolism aside, buying a new home can also be a daunting experience because it’s such a large financial investment with many practical aspects to consider. Everyone has their own preferences and priorities, the buying process in itself is complex and time-consuming, you may have to make compromises you’re not sure about, and it’s easy to get off track.
Planning and caution are essential, so in this article, we will discuss some of the most impactful things to consider before buying a home.
The first thing you’ll want to decide is where you want to live. This might sound easy enough, but there are actually a lot of factors you need to take into account. You won’t be renting anymore, so you can’t just move out after a few months when you decide you don’t like the neighbourhood or you’ve found a place closer to work. This is where you’ll be staying for quite a few years, so you have to think about both your current lifestyle and also your plans for the future.
Of course, some things still stand, like wanting to live in a neighbourhood with a low crime rate, with easy access to main roads, close to places you like to frequent for grocery shopping and recreation etc. Then you’ll obviously want a commute that’s manageable so your home can’t be too far from your workplace. If you need to use public transport, you’ll also need to make sure it’s readily available. At the same time, you’ll want to consider traffic in that area and other factors that might increase the level of noise.
Maybe you prefer living in a vibrant, fast-paced environment, or maybe you’re looking to settle down and want some peace and quiet. If you have kids or are planning to have kids, you’ll also want to consider the schools in the neighbourhood and if you’ll be close to family and friends that can help you out from time to time.
After you’ve decided on the location, you’ll need to think about size. Do you want a big kitchen? Do you have guests often, so you need a guest bedroom? How many bedrooms do you need? What about bathrooms? Do you want a spacious outdoor area? Are you interested in expanding the property with a garage, home office, granny flat?
This largely depends on how many people will be living in your home. If you have kids or are planning to have them, this will determine the number of bedrooms you will need. Some families like for their kids to share rooms, but as they grow up and have different routines and study habits, it might become difficult to accommodate. As for the spare bedroom, even if you don’t have that many people over, you might still need a home office, playroom or exercise room.
Your new home doesn’t need to have everything the moment you buy it. You can always invest in it and expand it later, but you need to make sure it can accommodate your plans. For example, older homes tend to have fewer bathrooms, and for this reason, they can be cheaper, but if you plan on having more kids and you need extra bathrooms, you have to keep in mind that this is a significant remodelling project that isn’t always feasible.
Thinking about location, number of bedrooms and size of your back yard is usually the fun part. Then you have to figure out if you can actually afford your preferences. How much are you comfortable spending?
Don’t even bother to look at houses out of your price range because there are many more expenses you’ll need to cover, so you don’t want to put yourself in a difficult situation by buying more house than you can afford. Keep in mind that what you can afford might be different from what the mortgage company offers you. If your credit is good, most lenders will offer you a mortgage with monthly payments of just under a third of your gross income, but you’ll also need to pay for realtor’s fees, utilities, real estate taxes, maintenance and your living expenses.
When you’re living in a rental, your maintenance responsibilities and costs are at a minimum. However, once you become a homeowner, you’ll be the one that has to take care of any broken heaters, cracked pipes, leaky roofs and yard work. Remember that the longer you postpone these repairs, the more expensive they’ll get, and they will decrease the value of your home in case you want to sell it or appraise it for a home equity line. As you’re looking for properties you’re interested in, make a mental list of the things that might need fixing. Some are just cosmetic, but others will require substantial investment. You can also get help and insight from your home inspector and realtor.
You’ll also need home insurance. Although home insurance is not legally mandatory in Canada, mortgage lenders will require it, so you might want to spend some time comparing offers to find the best home insurance companies. In some areas, you might need additional coverage for floods or wind damage, but in most cases, you’ll need a policy that covers at least the repairs needed to maintain the property at the same value it was when you bought it.
Timing is another important aspect when you’re making such a significant financial investment. If you’re not sure about the future of your job, it makes no sense to go through the process of buying a home and then have to sell it because you were transferred to another city. You’ll also want to give yourself time to raise as much money for a down payment as possible. First, this will make it easier to get a loan. Secondly, your monthly payments will be lower, and you’ll also pay less in interest over the lifetime of the loan.