Whether you're looking for a starter house or you're hunting for the home of your dreams, being a first-time buyer can be both exhilarating...and terrifying.
But after going through the experience myself over the last few months, I decided to share 5 things I wish I knew before I started my home search.
1. Shop Around
When you think about getting a loan, where is the first place you think to look? For me, it was my bank. Sadly, despite having your financial history on record, your home bank may not offer you the best interest rates on your new mortgage. So, before making any sort of commitment, take the time to explore all avenues. Call around to different lenders to find out who has the best rate and protection policies. Play around with their affordability calculators to get an idea of what they would lend you and what your monthly payments would be. Then make a decision based on the monthly mortgage rate that works best for you.
*Just make sure you don't initiate any pre-approvals at this stage as they may affect your credit score.
2. Check Your Credit Score
If you plan to put a down-payment of less than 20% on your new home, you'll likely need default insurance in order to finance your home. This protects your lender if you can't make your monthly payments. To qualify for insurance, mortgage insurers typically require at least one borrower on the application to meet specific credit score requirements. For example, The Canadian Mortgage and Housing and Corporation (CMHC), typically requires a minimum score of 680.
So why not get ahead of the curve? Get your free credit report online from Equifax, or if you feel comfortable, sign up for a soft check with a website like Credit Karma or Borrowell. These resources will give you a snapshot of where you stand so by the time you get to financing stage, there are no surprises.
3. Get Pre-Approved Before Hand
When you're looking for a home, it's easy to get wrapped up in the search. What's hard is finding "the one," and getting your bid accepted -- only to realize that you can't actually afford it. That's why it so important to get pre-approved before you even meet with a realtor. While these pre-approvals don't guarantee smooth sailing when it comes to actual financing, they do lock-in your interest rate and give you a good idea of the max. amount your lender will give you toward your home. Having this in hand will keep you on budget and help your realtor guide your search!
4. Pick A Realtor You're Comfortable With
While it may seem like realtors simply help you find listings, believe it or not, they can actually become the closest people to you during your home search. From the heartache of your first bid getting rejected to the pure bliss of finally getting your new keys, your realtor sees and experiences everything with you. That's why it's so important to choose someone that makes you feel at ease to help you through this process.
5. Stay Within Budget
Many homes, especially in this market, are selling for well over asking-price -- but don't feel obligated to bid more than you're comfortable paying. You should be satisfied with your purchase after all.
Buying a home is a huge investment and even though you may find a home within your price range, you should only make an offer that you can comfortably afford. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean the amount that the bank says you can afford. This means an amount that you are happy paying each month.
When considering the amount you want to offer (especially if it's over-asking), consider factors like: - How much you want to save after paying your bills each month
- How much you think the house is actually worth
- How much you will be able to re-sell it for (should the need arise)
You never want to over-pay or go into debt for your home, especially if it's just a starter. So set a budget around what you want to offer on the home and look for options in a price range that allows you to bid what you want.
I know how overwhelming this process can get, but I hope these tips make your journey go just a little more smoothly! If you have any question, need advice, or just want to vent, don't forget you can always send us an email or dm us @thechampagneseries on Instagram! Cheers