Buying your first home in the Okanagan can be daunting. It’s a major milestone and the world of real estate can be hard to navigate on your own, but don’t despair! This checklist should help you on your journey to homeownership.
There are several steps to take when buying your first property. Knowing where to start is challenging enough, let alone properly completing each step of the process. There’s a lot to do, so let’s get started!
Before you begin the search for your ideal home, crunch the numbers to see how much you can afford to put down on your new home. There are more considerations than one might think.
For instance, it’s important to be aware that there will be a variety of fees and taxes to be paid throughout the process, such as property transfer tax, legal fees, home inspection fees, home appraisal fees, moving costs, and more.
You should also consider the ongoing costs you’ll have to assume after you find your perfect home, some of which may vary depending on the property. Knowing what your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and other regular costs will be will help you budget accordingly.
As a side note, it’s also extremely important to have an emergency fund in your budget. You never know what might happen and when you own a property, any and all repairs are your responsibility.
Now that you’ve considered what costs are associated with purchasing a house, who do you talk to first?
Likely, you will need to finance your home. There are a number of professionals out there, including banks, credit unions, and mortgage brokers, whose job is to assist you in picking a mortgage product that best suits your needs. They can explain the different types of mortgages, interest rates, and the term and amortization periods, which is how long it would take to pay off your mortgage.
This process will help you find out themaximum possible mortgage amount you can afford and the lenders are willing to lend you, based on how much you have for a down payment, your monthly income, and credit score. With luck, you’ll get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Now that you have met with a lending professional, it’s time to enlist a REALTOR®.
Think of a REALTOR® as your professional advisor. They are experts in their field, know the market inside and out, and most importantly, know how to interpret important real estate data to make sound decisions.
Start by figuring out what you need or want nearby. Your REALTOR® can help with this. Does travel time top the list? Or is it proximity to a grocery store or schools? Perhaps hiking is your passion? Or mountain biking? If so, being situated near the trails may be a priority. You’ll also want to consider what you want in a home. Do you want a large yard, patio, eco-friendly appliances? A deck? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
Once you’ve got your wish list together, it’s time to match your requirements with available homes in the area. This is where a REALTOR® can really make the difference. They have easy access to extensive neighbourhood data, specific property history, and they will know whether a specific house is overpriced or underpriced and what neighbourhoods will be the best for you based on your needs.
Helping you find your ideal home is just one part of what a REALTOR® has to offer. REALTORS® can advise you on how to make an offer, what conditions to include, and how to protect yourself. They are also professional negotiators, and will help you seal the deal and make sure that everything goes smoothly. Once the offer is accepted, the REALTOR® can take care of any issues that arise by working with your lawyer, lender, the local municipality, the strata management company, the utility company, property inspectors, and so on.
Having an expert at your side every step of the way makes the process of buying your first home much less intimidating, time consuming, and increases your chances of success.
Now let’s discuss some first time home buyer programs in British Columbia for which you may be eligible.
If you are eligible for the First Time Home Buyers’ Program, you can save up to $7,500 in property transfer taxes. That’s fantastic news!
To qualify you must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident who has been living in B.C. for 12 consecutive months or filed at least two income tax returns as a B.C. resident in the last six years. You also must have never been an owner of a principal residence anywhere in the world.
Some other restrictions may apply. For more details check out the full program here.
Another program you may be eligible for is the Home Buyers’ Plan. This allows first time home buyers to withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSPs to put towards their first home, tax-free.
A couple restrictions do apply — the amount that was withdrawn must be paid back within 15 years, and minimum payments will be required each year. You must also live in the home for at least one year after purchase.
With some planning, determination, and the help of a REALTOR®, securing your first home is not only a possibility, but has the potential to be a fun and exciting experience.
Whether you are just starting to save or you are ready to go, know that there are professionals out there who are ready to help you achieve your goals. Good luck on your venture to homeownership!