Buying Your First Home – What You Should Know Now

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Buying your first home is such an exciting time but it can be filled with questions and if you aren’t fully prepared, there can be unexpected problems to deal with.

We polled some of our favourite bloggers and asked them, “What do you know now that you wish you had known before you bought your first home?”

Brittany of The Modern Mommy and Jennifer of Mom vs. the Boys both stress hiring a reputable home inspector as they shared similar stories of home inspections gone wrong. A home inspector who seemed credible was hired but he missed all the cracks in the foundation. Within 2 months of moving into the home, the entire basement flooded. They sued the inspector for damages and won but wish that they had looked further into his credentials and references.

Stacie of Simply Stacie echoes their thoughts and says to always be sure to make the sale conditional on the home inspection so you can walk away if needed.  She also says to be sure to find out how much the property taxes are so you can add that into your budget. And, if you rely on the internet (for example, if you work from home), be sure to look into services available ahead of time. Some regions aren’t as technologically established as others.

Kathryn of Mommy Kat and Kids spoke of many friends who were in for a big surprise when they bought their homes because they weren’t prepared for many of the costs of home ownership. Utilities are expected but having to pay homeowners’ insurance and property taxes on top of the mortgage payment can come as a shock when you’re not used to it.

Paula of Product Junkie wishes that she had known more about the pros and cons of buying a new home in winter. The backyard of her home was covered in snow and when the spring thaw came, there were surprises back there that they hadn’t know about before.  Cathy of Cathy Thinking Out Loud agrees with Paula. She says if considering a purchase in the winter, don’t let the snow deter you from checking the outside of the house as thoroughly as possible. Go in the backyard and look around!

Julie of Sober Julie was that she was lucky. She was looking at a century home and was able to find a reputable home inspector who actually specialized in homes of this type. He caught some issues with the foundation that were hidden and could have been missed by a regular home inspector. This issue would have cost them $40,000. She also advises, based on her experience, that you should assume anything you can’t see could be an issue. So, along with hiring a good inspector, be sure to have check the lot plans with the town to see any sewers and other such items you might not be aware of.

She also stresses the importance of checking not only the house, but the neighbourhood as well. Look into local school performance ratings and the number of police calls in the area.

Margarita of DownshiftingPRO suggests you drive by the property at all times of day. Is it a well lit street? What does the house look like at night? What do the other houses in the area look like?

She also says she never thought about all the closing costs – the cost of lawyers, home inspection, bank costs for home appraisal, the cost of the deed transfer and so on. These can really add up and you need to be prepared.

Shari of The Knit Wit by Shair says to look at everything. Look up and check the ceiling, carefully check the paint job, and question any inconsistencies you see. Open up appliances and look inside.

She also suggests that you get pre-approved for a mortgage but then, look for a home under that amount by as much as you comfortably can. Her family was pre-approved by $50,000 more than what they spent – if they had gone with the pre-approval amount, they never would have been able to handle the mortgage along with all the other expenses like property taxes and home maintenance. Note: Remember to plan ahead for other possibilities like a loss of job or unexpected medical expenses that could affect your ability to afford your home. 

Shannon of Shasher’s Life says that before buying a brand new build, you need to factor in the cost of landscaping. Trees, fences, and decks can all be expensive. She also suggests that if you’re purchasing a home in a new development, you should check the plans for future development. Friends of hers purchased a home on a dead end street not realizing that the city had plans in place to open it up as a main artery.

Deanna of Maple Leaf Mommy suggests that you ask to see the hydro bills for both winter and summer. Her family bought a home with a pool but had only seen fall and winter bills. She says, “Imagine my surprise when I discovered just how much the summertime bills were, with the air conditioning and pool pump. I about fainted.”

Kim of Tales of a Ranting Ginger suggests you look into local building permit laws before buying. She bought a home with plans to add on, not realizing permits would have so many hoops to jump through and so many restrictions on them.

Melanie of MBA Mama Musings suggest that there can be problems with buying the biggest/nicest/most expensive home in the area as property taxes can increase rapidly and resale becomes quite difficult. She also advises that you become familiar with MPAC and the house valuations in the area to make sure the house you’re buying is assessed fairly.

Ann of Kick-Ass Living says she bought a condo on her own and unknowingly broke 3 rules within the first month she lived there! She stresses the importance of reading through all of the condo rules carefully before purchasing. And don’t forget to factor in those condo fees!

Cyn of Creative Cynchronicity echoes Ann’s ideas and adds on that as with buying any home, it’s crucial that you have a budget set aside for home maintenance. She had planned ahead for the condo fees but didn’t realize that the condo corporation was just in the process of adding an additional assessment to take care of a much needed roof replacement for the whole complex. Her condo fees for the first two years that she lived there were three times what she had anticipated.

Jennifer of One Heart One Family says, “Don’t buy for now. Think of the future.” She says that their two bedroom home looked like plenty of space until they had two kids. Note: according to Trulia, 34 per cent of homeowners wished they had chosen a larger home.

Carla of Working Mommy Journal says that when checking out the neighbourhood look for all the things you’ll need while living there. How close are the schools and day care centers? Is there a bus stop nearby? What about grocery stores, fitness centers, libraries, or walk-in clinics? Anything of importance to you should be considered. Note: According to Trulia, 15 per cent of homeowners wish they had chosen a home closer to work. 

Merry of Merry About Town says to make sure to get a real property report. A seller who is reluctant to do one is a big red flag. Also, know that if there’s a “future school” listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will build a school there in a timely manner.

Kyla of Mommy’s Weird wishes she knew that she could negotiate more with her mortgage.

Julie of Coffee with Julie reminds us not to let those rose coloured glasses and excitement of purchasing a first home get in the way of a careful, detailed look at each and every room in the house. They were so over the moon about buying a home that they didn’t realize until after they moved in that none of the bedrooms had doors on them! Note: RECO found that 21% of home owners wish they had looked at more options before choosing to buy. 

Bottom line – Be as prepared as you possibly can and build in some contingency plans because surprises do happen.  One of the best ways to ensure that you are informed buyers well prepared for what’s ahead is to start by choosing a good real estate agent. We can help with that.

If you’re a home owner, what do you wish you had known before buying?
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