It’s time. You’ve made the decision. You want to become a homeowner. But now you’re wondering where to start. Buying a home is a big deal - you’re about to make the largest investment you might make in your whole life. Sure it’s serious, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Let’s slow things down and break the process into stages - manageable parts that will allow you to step confidently into the real estate market rather than jumping in with both feet.
First Step: Look online to find what interests you: Realtor.ca is a great place to start because it’s very easy to search and gives you access to every MLS® listing in Canada. If you plan to purchase with a partner or significant other, make sure they get involved at this stage so you’re aware of each other’s needs, wants and preferences. Take your time and window shop for a while. This is the fun part - it’s ok to do some dreaming!
Next Step: Find a REALTOR®: The Nova Scotia Association of Realtors has instructions on how to focus your search for a REALTOR® by province, city and postal code. Remember the old saying, “Never do business with friends or family”? That may be true here. It’s important to remember that even though you may have personal connections in the real estate business, you should interview several practitioners before you settle on the best fit. Sometimes a good personal relationship doesn’t work out to be the best professional relationship.
When Interviewing REALTORS, ask questions such as:
How long have you worked in real estate? Experience is important. You need a REALTOR® who’s worked in the industry for at least two years and has established a professional network.
What are your credentials? In Nova Scotia, real estate professionals must hold a licence with the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission. The majority of residential agents belong to the Canadian Real Estate Association and can therefore use the title REALTOR®. To belong to CREA, a REALTOR® must act in accordance with its Code of Ethics, which ensures competent and ethical service. CREA owns the MLS® system and makes it available to its members.
How familiar are you with the area where I’m interested in buying? It’s important that your REALTOR® is very familiar with the municipality and, more importantly, the neighbourhood where you wish to become a homeowner. Somebody who’s lived and practiced in a specific area will be familiar with aspects of the community that can make or break your experience as homeowner. What are the schools like? How walkable is the neighbourhood? Are the restaurants nice?
Do you work with an Agency? Many competent REALTORS work solo, but belonging to a team has its advantages. Members of a professional agency can share experience and offer support by way of covering for each other when showings overlap.
Can you provide references? Obtain references’ contact info and contact them.
Third Step: Get Pre-Approved for A Mortgage
Once you’ve chosen your REALTOR®, this is the optimal time to obtain mortgage pre-approval. Whether you apply directly with a bank or use a mortgage broker, your home search will be much more focused if you know how much you are qualified to borrow. Your REALTOR® can help you with this step.
Fourth Step: Start viewing homes
Before you begin touring homes it’s important to inform your REALTOR® of your time frame, i.e. a “must close by” date. If you want to be in your home before the school year starts, for example, or if you’re starting a new job and want to be moved in before your first day of work, your REALTOR® can incorporate the appropriate dates into the search. While it’s important to keep an open mind, it’s equally important to give your REALTOR® as much information as possible so that (s)he doesn’t waste time researching properties that are simply out of the question. You may find it helpful to prepare a “Must have” list and a “Nice to have” list to guide you. You can even have a “definitely don’t want” list to help establish your personal boundaries. Just remember: as you start touring homes, your needs and wants will shift. You’ll learn your priorities as you go and your lists will change - and that’s ok.
Fifth Step: Build Your Team
Once you’ve chosen a home, your REALTOR® can use their network of contacts to help you build your team - from lawyers to insurance agents, home inspectors and movers. By all means you are encouraged to use personal connections if you have them, but an experienced REALTOR® can help fill in the gaps by referring people with good reputations.
Final Step: You’re on your way home!
Your entire team - REALTOR®, Mortgage Broker, Lawyer and Home Inspector can answer any questions along the way, so be sure to make use of their expertise. There may be a few little bumps in the road, but it’s nothing you and your team can’t handle.
Here’s your chance to ask more questions: