I’ve been meaning to write a post along these lines since we bought our home last July as I did a bit of research while we were in the thick of the hunt and couldn’t find the advice I was really looking for. Now that I’ve had some time to settle and adjust, I thought it’d be helpful to share some of my very best tips and tricks. Because, somehow, the first anniversary of our first home purchase will be here before I know it, and I want to make sure that the experience is still fresh in my mind. Following are 4 things I wish we knew when we bought our first home.
I tend to be dramatic by nature, and my life-long battle with anxiety hasn’t exactly helped. So you’d think I would have prepared myself for the emotions that came along with buying our first home (or any home, for that matter), but I wasn’t even a little prepared. Everyone tends to paint a picture about the process: it’s all butterflies and rainbows, casually walking through a home or two, latte in hand, until you find the one. But that’s not
exactly at all the case. The reality is that though you try your hardest not to get emotionally invested in a home, you legitimately need to if you’re going to be able to justify the kind of money that goes along with it. If you can’t picture babies and their first steps, Christmas with the whole family, or attending street parties with the neighbours next door, there’s no way you’re going to be able to convince yourself that this home is the one. Take it from me and just prepare yourself emotionally. It’s a wonderful process, but it definitely has its highs, and its lows.
Your Realtor Will Be Your Lifeline
This may be filed under the whole “well, duh” thing, but I really didn’t realize how intimate your relationship with your realtor would become until we were in the thick of things. Thank god we picked someone we really and truly liked (he actually popped by just last week to catch up over a glass of wine), because otherwise it would have been a game changer. Our realtor was absolutely our lifeline throughout the whole process. He patiently fielded all of our many (many) first-time home buyer questions without batting an eye. Talked us down from the ledge when we were getting in over our heads. And celebrated with us over pints of beer and chicken wings (true story) when we finally found our home. So take it from me, and make sure you pick someone you genuinely enjoy and connect with from the start.
Pretend You Have a Mortgage Long Before You do
Justin and I didn’t do this, though we were advised by a few to do so. And while it all turned out in the long run, it did make the whole process a little more stressful. Though we were well aware that going from a low-rent condo to a full blown house would mean that our expenses were going to almost double, it took us a few months of re-calibrating once it became a reality to adjust and get everything back on track. If I could go back, I definitely would have started living my life as if we were carrying a full mortgage well before it was our reality. It would have simply significantly reduced the stress resulting from the transition, and that extra money would have been handy as things inevitably popped up once we made the move.
Peace of Mind, No Matter the Cost
First time home buyers will definitely agree that the whole process can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many decisions to be made, so many unknowns up in the air, that peace of mind, no matter the cost, is essential for your sanity. Our home is almost 120 years old, which added a whole new level of stress when we considered placing our offer. We made sure to dot our i’s and cross our t’s by paying for a thorough home inspection before we even made our offer. It cost us about $600, and it hurt to spend that kind of money before even knowing if the home was ours, but in retrospect it was the best decision we made. We were able to determine that our sloped floors and crooked doors (things that probably scared other folks away, giving us a leg up in the crazy Toronto real estate market) weren’t a result of any structural issues. They were simply bumps and bruises that come with a home built in the 1800’s.
If you’re buying a brand new condo or home in Ontario, you have a terrific leg-up on this kind of peace of mind. My cousin, who literally just moved into her new build, has informed me that all new builders are legally obligated to be registered and that every home they build is protected under a warranty program. You then have the benefit of your investment being protected for up to 7 years, covering many things from electrical issues, to defective plumbing systems, to shoddy workmanship, to closing delays, to structural issues and beyond. So if you are buying a newly built home or condo, please make sure you discuss the warranty with your builder before you sign anything to fully understand your rights and responsibilities. That way, if you ever do have issues, you have peace of mind knowing there’s someone else out there who’s on your team.