Prime Edmonton Real Estate -The Ultimate Edmonton Home Buyers Guide - I have put together a comprehensive guide for you to consider when buying a home, based from more than 15 years of guiding Edmonton home buyers through prospective homes. The one thing that stays the same about the home buying process it is that it is always changing! There are tons of different things to think about, and it can become overwhelming if home buyers are not planned and prepared. Even the most seasoned home buyers can be surprised by a new development, services, or gadgets that can help them save thousands when they purchase their first or newest Edmonton dream home.
Being planned and prepared for the home buying journey is such an important factor in how satisfied a home buyer is with the end result. It is very similar to a long, rewarding road trip. But, just like a road trip, being too rigid within that plan can also cause issues along the path as well! They can span many months of preparing and getting ready to buy a home, or can be very simple, quick tips. I can tell you that in my experience selling real estate that I have had clients of mine use some or all of these tips, and in the process save thousands of dollars, hours of time, and immeasurable amounts of stress and worry.
I will be expanding on each tip in future blog posts. If the title you are interested in learning more about has a link on it, please click to get more information. If there is no link yet, please check back often as I will be hard at work expanding on these ideas in future blogs. Here are a few other reliable home buying websites that you will be familiar with that may help with your experience as well:
These tips are split up into what I consider the 9 stages of home buying: Pre-Qualifying, Pre-Shopping, Shopping Online, Shopping in Person, Selecting the 'Right' Home to Buy, The Offer, After the Offer is Accepted, Between SOLD and Moving Day, and Beyond the Moving Day. It is important that these stages are done in the proper order, because doing them out of sequence is usually results in more money out of your pocket, more time wasted, and more stress and worry added to your life!
Pre-Qualifying - This is the stage where you qualify for yourself whether it is a good time to buy a home. It is important that right from the beginning that you surround yourself with a network of professionals that know all aspects of the home buying process so that you can be an expert buyer when the time is right!
- Finding the right Realtor to help you - everybody has different personalities and different views on how to approach home buying. Although all realtors are trained using the same standards, it is important that you feel comfortable with the Realtor™ that you choose.
- Use a Mortgage Broker vs. My Bank - It is important to know the difference between using a mortgage broker - an independent worker not affiliated with any financial institution, or your local bank's mortgage expert. there are benefits and challenges to both, and so knowing which is the best choice for you could save you thousands in interest!
- The Best way to save a Down Payment - A minimum down payment of 5% is needed for the purchase of most properties. However, there are guidelines for the down payment as well that go beyond the actual amount provided.
- Creating an Effective mortgage payment plan - with your mortgage expert and some quick questions about your lifestyle and you may be able to devise a home payment plan that can make you many thousands of dollars. Making the minimum payment should not be the goal - just the absolutely least you do!
- Learn More About CMHC - The Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation, or CMHC, is a federal organization that assists Canadians who have less than 20% down payment to buy a home. This assistance does come at a cost and does have regulations. It is important to know what the function of CMHC is so that you can see if it something worthwhile to utilize in your home purchase!
- Learn about Other Home Costs - Buying a home is not as simple as your down payment and mortgage payments. The types of extra costs will depend on the age and type of property you purchase. Make sure that you know about all costs before you buy so that there are no budget surprises after you buy!
Pre Shopping - Before you even start to look at homes, you want to make sure that you have a good beginner grasp on what you are looking for, and more importantly, what you are not looking for. Remember that you have to say 'no' to many homes before you say 'yes' to the right one. It is a good idea to have a set of guidelines as far as area of the city, type of property you want, type of monthly payment you want and/or are comfortable with, and the type of lifestyle you want your home will afford.
- Creating a needs/wants list - Creating a needs/wants list is a great way to get the home buying process going. It is important that you have a clear number of wants and needs on the list, and that there are the right number of each. Having too few or too many may complicate the process later on!
- Understanding Your Lifestyle When Buying - It is important that you know the type of lifestyle that fits you when buying a home. This will both help you with the needs/wants list mentioned above as well as making sure that you buy a home that fits your lifestyle, rather than you having to change your lifestyle to fit your home after its too late!
- Knowing how Edmonton real estate sales statistics can help - Sales statistics can be a vital tool when learning more about the areas of Edmonton you would like to buy your dream home in.
- Knowing how Edmonton Real estate statistics can hurt - Making sure that statistics alone are not the deciding factor on whether or not you buy a property.
- Reading the Documents involved in buying a home - There have been a tenfold increase in the number of documents necessary in the home buying process. By knowing more about these documents you will feel more comfortable when it comes time to write an offer!
Shopping Online - The goal of shopping for a home online before beginning in person showings is to save you time and help give you ideas as to what is out there in the market. It is incredibly convenient for you and can be done any time of day, any day of the week! Having a few different tools and guidelines when searching for Edmonton homes online will help you become better informed and get you closer to the end goal.
- Where should you go look for real estate information - The internet is a vast resource for information....and misinformation. There is no exception when it comes to home buying websites. There are great informative sites (like www.primeedmontonrealestate.com) that will provide great information on communities, property and ownership types, financing and inspection tips, and more. But there are also websites out there strictly created to 'sell' you on something. Knowing which sites are best for your time and energy will help you learn a lot!
- Online Home Buying Tools - There are many different online tools, from youtube videos to online mortgage payment calculators to tax assessment guides. Having these at your fingertips are a valuable help in your home buying experience.
- Walkscore - This free online tool is a valuable resource in finding how your new area stacks up when it comes to nearby shopping and services. A great tool that is often overlooked!
- Crime mapping - For those who believe in having a secure home in a safe neighborhood, the crime mapping data provided by local Police Service can put your mind at ease or alert you to potential issues in an area in regards to the instances and types of crimes that occur in a neighborhood. It is important to note that no matter where your dream home is located, there will be crime in the area!
- Google Maps - Using the various features in google maps - street view, traffic flows, and others - is something I have been doing for years to help answer questions that home buyers may have.
- Knowing what to for in MLS listing photos - With the increase in easy to use photo editing software, many home listing photos have been lightened, stretched, and manipulated to the point where they are more an artistic rendering rather than a snapshot of the condition of the home. Knowing which photos are real and which photos are retouched will help you avoid disappointment later on at the home viewing stage.
- How to read a real estate listing - Have you ever tried to read the developer's section of a webpage? It looks like it is in a completely different language. Yet it produces a webpage that is clean, simple, and easy to understand. Many real estate listings can be similar in nature. Knowing all of the real estate acronyms and nicknames will help alleviate confusion as you look for the facts of a listing.
- How to 'read between the lines' of a real estate listing - Often when we read an advertisement it is important to 'read between the lines' to understand what is really being offered by an advertiser. Real estate ads are no different - and often what is said in a listing description - or more importantly, what isn't said - can help determine if the property should be looked at more closely as a possibility for purchase.
- Days on Market - what does it mean? - One of the biggest questions people ask me when they get listing online or in paper form is "what does DOM stand for?". This acronym stands for Days on Market - or how long the property has been listed. Knowing how long a property has been on the market can be a key indicator to its desirability if a home buyer knows how to correctly interpret it!
Shopping In Person - This next phase of home buying can be very exciting as well as. After going through the proper pre-shopping and online shopping steps it is exciting to enter a property that could end up being 'the one'. Knowing what to look for, and what not to look for, is vital to having a productive home viewing experience.
- How home showings work - Knowing the ins and outs of home showings - the protocols, what preferences a seller and/or buyers have, and how they are booked - will help a home buyer to organize their time and energy better so that you don't waste your time on looking at homes that are not a right fit!
- What to look for when entering a home - Just like a first date - the first impressions of a home can make a lasting impressions on how you like or don't like a property. There are a few very important things to look for when entering a home that will help guide you along viewing that home.
- The most overlooked sense when viewing a home - Everybody is aware of the 5 senses - taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. But there is one sense in particular that home buyers don't pay attention to that can help you eliminate or select that perfect home - your sense of smell!
- How to avoiding the 5 biggest mistakes home buyers make when viewing a home - The excitement of home buying can cause you to make one or more of the five biggest home viewing errors: 1) - Looking at every home possible 2) Not knowing what to look for when viewing a home, 3) Spending too much or not enough time in a home when viewing it . 4) Not making the best of a bad home viewing, and 5) Looking at personal artifacts inside of a home.
- Saving time = saving money when viewing homes - The 3 most important things when buying real estate is time, energy, and money. They often roll into each other in one way or another. It is important for home buyers to know how they can save their time when viewing properties - and how saving this time will save you energy and money in the long run!
- Knowing how many homes you should view before you buy - When I bought my first home, I had seen thousands of homes in my life as a Realtor. This experience helped me to know decisively that the home I was in was the home for me. But is it possible for you to view that many homes as part of your home buying process - of course not! So how many is 'the right number' of homes before it's time to make a decision? As a home buyer you should have a pretty good idea of a range before you start viewing homes.
- Should you listen to anecdotes - home shopping - When you start telling your friends, family, and work colleagues that you are looking to buy a house, it seems that they all have an opinion or a story to tell you about what to do, what not to do, or what areas to avoid. How do you take into account their experience when home shopping - or should you at all?
- How Needs/Wants can change when home shopping - The biggest surprise that home buyers have after they start looking at homes in person is how it influences their needs/wants list that they created at the beginning of the home buying process. It is completely normal that some of the items you thought you needed or wanted no longer seem important as they once were. This is the conflicting ideas of theory vs practicality. But what happens if most or all of your list has changed? There may be bigger issues that need to be addressed if this is the case.
Selecting a Home to Buy - This is the stage when things start to get very real. It is when all of the time and energy you have spent preparing for the purchase of your dream home comes to fruition.
- Back to the Beginning - Needs Wants Checklist - Now that you think you have the home you want to write an offer on, there may be a few lingering doubts. By looking back at your Needs & Wants checklist for concrete support of your gut instinct may be the deciding factor to help you decide to write an offer. On the other hand, if the home meets only a very few or none of the needs and wants on your list, it is a good time to take a step back. Don't let your emotions alone make such a huge decision for you!
- Understanding how "Paralysis by Analysis" can cripple your home buying progress - Many years ago Craig MacTavish, the then coach of the Edmonton Oilers, used the phrase "paralysis by analysis" when describing the way the organization had focused so much on getting the right information that they were paralyzed to do anything with the information. This phrase was something I instantly connected to, as I have seen it time and time again with home buyers. Remember - that information is not the goal, getting the right information so that you can make the best decision for you is the goal!
- How am I sure this is the right home for me? - This question goes hand in hand with the idea of 'paralysis by analysis' - how do you know when it is time to make an offer? The key to this answer is your preparation and all the work you have put in before this decision. I would like to compare it to a long distance road trip. If you have your map and your route in hand, but are you driving down a road you have never been on to a destination you have never been to, how do you know you are on the right path? The answer is in the work you have put in beforehand to make sure you get to the right destination. The same is true when buying a home!
The Offer - In order to have a an offer properly completed, negotiated and accepted, knowing the ins and outs of the forms involved will be a great benefit. There is also a protocol involved in the presentation, counter offering, and final acceptance of an offer that is to be followed. It is not like on TV - well most of it, anyways. By knowing what to expect in the offer scenario you will be best prepared to make the right decision to negotiate a favorable deal that is acceptable to all parties.
- Pre- offer preparation - it is important that you have everything needed for your offer ready to go - especially in the area of the deposits(s) and down payment. If you are using a gift from a family member or an RRSP, this is especially important to have the funds accessible and ready to be used as part of the down payment. Having your mortgage qualification up to date is also vital before getting the offer process going - especially in the busier periods of sales in the summer months. Making sure that you are familiar with the purchase contract and related documents will allow the process to go more smoothly.
- How the offer is written up - often I see on television shows that focus on real estate that a 'verbal authorization' from a client to begin the offer process is often what happens. This is not the case in Alberta. There is a specific process that should be followed, as well as personal preferences that each Realtor will have in the offer stage. Make sure you know what they are ahead of time so that there are no surprises that make you feel uncomfortable! Also - remember that you can always get outside professional opinions from a lawyer on the contract if that is what makes you comfortable.
- What are the main areas of negotiation? It is important that you know that unlike the commonly viewed belief that "everything is negotiable", there are only a few things that are actually negotiable. The primary negotiation tools that buyers have are 1) price 2) conditions and conditions dates 3) possession day and 4) appliances to stay in the home. There is also an area in the contract to write in secondary terms. But be careful what you ask for in your negotiations - what you ask for may end up costing you a lot more than you think!
- How offer presentations have changed from the past to now - I remember the first time I tried to fax an offer to a fellow Realtor. It was sometime in the late 1990s, and I was using the curly carbon type paper that was used in those 1st generation styles of fax machines. Before that I only presented offers in person, sitting down over a kitchen table of the seller to discuss why my buyer's offer was worthy of their acceptance. My has times have changed! In this high tech, fast moving, international world that we live in today, there are very few of those face to face sit downs to talk about an offer anymore. Instead, much of it is down online, through fax, and over text.
- How to make the right initial offer - Gone are the days where a buyer can make an initial offer of 85or 90% of list price and even get a response back from a seller. Why? Because in Alberta, the real estate market is hot and sellers know that it is easier than ever to simply say 'no' to an offer and wait for the next one coming down the bend. This makes it vital to make an initial offer that is competitive yet protects your interests as a home buyer.
- Counter offers - how does that work? Having an offer that is accepted with no counter offer is extremely rare. What usually happens is that there is a few counter offers back and forth. Knowing what your priorities are within your negotiation terms of the contract (price, possession day, condition day, and appliances included) will guide you through this process.
- Final acceptance - now the work begins! Having an offer accepted begins the next stage of home buying. This is where things start to feel a lot more real - where the bank want specific numbers and documents, and where inspectors can get an up close look to verify that the home you want to buy is a good investment condition wise. For condo buyers this is also a vitally important time where you receive the condo documents and can get a good idea as to the financial and structural state of the complex you are intending to buy into. Not taking a serious look at condo docs is the number one mistake I see home buyers make at this stage of the process.
After the Offer is Accepted - This is when a lot of work by our partners in real estate are completed, property inspectors, mortgage brokers, legal advisors, and more. Working together as a team, the buyer, the realtor, and these professionals all work hard to turn the deal from 'pending' to 'sold'.
- The Deposit Cheque - The deposit cheque is a gesture of goodwill that is placed immediately in trust and is used towards the down payment of a home. This can be a cheque or money order, but most real estate brokerages do not want it to be in the form of cash. There are also conditions on the depositing, refund of, and timing of the deposit cheque that have been set out by the contract as well as by individual brokerage office policy. Don't be caught having to rush to the bank last minute to make sure these funds are in place on time!
- Working Towards Removing Conditions - There are certain conditions that you are not in as much control of satisfying - such as financing, and others that are in your direct control, such as inspection. Knowing which ones to focus on and when to do so will help immensely in the 7-10 day period most home buyers have to remove conditions.
- What is expected in Home Inspection condition - The home inspection is the condition that gives most home buyers anxiety - but there is really no need for it. It's as simple as the inspector providing information and you responding with a 'yes' and 'no' or a 'yes - but at this price' answer. Knowing what to expect from the inspector - and at what cost - will also help you to make a simple choice.
- Bumps in the road with condition stage - Sometimes there are issues with getting exactly what the mortgage broker wants or an unforeseen discovery occurs during the home inspection or condo document analysis. The most common response for a home buyer when this occurs is to panic - but this isn't always necessary. Knowing those most common hiccups during the condition phase can possibly turn getting a lemon into lemonade!
- To Waive conditions or not to waive conditions - There are always two forms I bring when I meet with my home buyers on condition day. One is a Condition Waiver Form, which tells the seller that the buyer(s) are removing all conditions and the home is sold, and the other one is the Condition Non-Waiver Form, which explains that 1 or more of the conditions cannot be removed, and that the deal is terminated. To feel comfortable signing either one of those forms, you should consider all of the alternatives as well as the 'worst case scenario' so that you can sign either form with confidence.
- What Happens if I can't waive conditions? - Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the seller and the buyer, sometimes it is not possible for the home buyer to waive the conditions set out in the contract by the condition day. Your options in this scenario are to either ask for an extension on the condition day set out in the contract or to sign the Condition - Non Waiver form and terminate the agreement in good faith.
Between SOLD and Moving Day - The home is sold, you are excited and relieved, and there is plenty of packing to do. But what other items must be completed by the buyer to make sure that the transition into the new home is as smooth as possible?
- Who do I need to contact? - The list of people to contact after your have officially bought your home can extensive, and may include your bank, your lawyer, your utility providers, Canada Post, a moving company, contractors, new neighbors, community people, friends, family, and more. All of these people and businesses have a role to play in helping to get you moved and settled in.
- What are the timelines - Depending on the time of year and the amount of time between the day you lift conditions and possession day, you will need to make sure that your financial, legal, and moving commitments are established well before the actual moving day. this will involve a lot of meetings and more than few signatures. Creating a list in order of time and importance will help you from missing any vital steps.
- What does possession day look like? - The day has arrived and you wake up ready to start your move. But a series of things need to take place before you can meet me and receive the keys to your new home. Lawyers must receive funds from the bank, courier them over to the seller's lawyer, and make sure that all adjustments for taxes and other things have taken place. And don't forget that the contract itself states that possession should take place at noon - although these other things must fall into line before it can.
Beyond the Moving Day - I see this most often when people buy new homes. Two or Three years later I go back to the home and the owners have lost the lustre of the purchase, the paint has begun to peel, and the home has lost a lot of value. On top of that the owners have begun to 'feel the pinch' of home ownership with their other financial and lifestyle obligations. This is not what the joy of home ownership is meant to be!
- How to Secure Your Home Investment - After moving in it is very easy to fall into a routine and become comfortable. There are many things you can do with your bank, with your utility providers, and with your home and landscaping upgrading that can put thousands of dollars in your pocket. My top 3 suggestions are to 1) Arrange an aggressive mortgage repayment plan with your bank that will not negatively affect your lifestyle or make you feel 'house poor', 2) Make sure to shop around your utility providers to make sure you find the best company to serve your utility needs at the best rate possible, and 3) establish a home and yard maintenance and renovation schedule and budget so that you can increase the value of your new home as you live in it!
My hope that this ultimate home buyers guide helps you in your Edmonton home buying experience. Whether it is your first home or your 21st home that you are buying, having the right information always makes the purchase go easier!