5 Tips for Buying a Home

What to watch for and how to be an informed buyer

You're ready to take the first step on the property ladder or are moving up a few rungs with your 2nd, 3rd, or investment property - congrats! Buying a home can be an exhilarating experience, but it also takes a lot of work to make sure you end up with a property that both fulfills your needs and is bought at a fair price. Here are our top five tips to ensure you get exactly the house you want without overpaying for it:

Use an Experienced & Trustworthy REALTOR®

Using a licensed REALTOR® is your best bet to make the process of purchasing a home easier, more enjoyable, less time-consuming, and less expensive than if you undertook this challenge without a skilled agent. We have access to listings before they hit MLS, detailed past sales info, extensive neighbourhood knowledge, professional negotiating skills, and will navigate you through the entire purchasing process.

And it is a complex process - unlike what you might see on HGTV, purchasing a home is not as simple as viewing the property, putting in an offer, and getting the keys once your offer is accepted. There's so much that goes on behind the scenes. On your behalf, we deal with the BC Land Title & Survey Authority, City of Kamloops Development and Engineering office, TNRD (Thompson Nicola Regional District), strata management companies, lawyers, and home inspectors. We can help you understand what those land title charges mean or investigate strata bylaws, rules, and proposed changes. We can let you know if that empty lot behind you will become another single family home or is in the process of being rezoned for a condo development. We can recommend preferred contractors, home inspectors, and professionals that have been vetted through hundreds of our past transactions.

A good REALTOR® will do everything to make sure you don't regret your purchasing decision. It's our main objective to help you confidentially understand the market, manage your risk, and protect your investment.

Want to know more about what we can offer you as your agents? Watch our Top Five Reasons to Choose Us:

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

We always recommend obtaining a pre-approved mortgage with an interest rate hold before you go house hunting. But wait, you might be saying, "I got a pre-qualification letter from my lender - isn't that enough?" Nope! A mortgage pre-qualification is a financial snapshot that gives you a rough idea of the mortgage you might qualify for. A mortgage pre-approval is the real deal: a statement from a lender that you qualify for a specific mortgage amount based on an underwriter's review of all of your financial information - credit report, pay stubs, bank statement, salary, assets, and obligations.

What does this mean for you? It makes you as close to a cash buyer as you can be and gives you a huge advantage in a competitive market. A pre-approval letter makes a strong impression on sellers and lets them know you have the cash to back up an offer. We've seen it time and time again: buyers who think they'll qualify for a certain sized mortgage based on a pre-qualification, but when the time comes to finalize financing, their mortgages don't get approved (even with two full-time working buyers.)

As an added incentive, a pre-approved mortgage also guarantees your interest rate for a certain time frame- usually 90 days - while you look for a property. If the interest rate for the selected term goes down, you can take advantage of the better rate. However, if the interest goes up, you are protected by your rate hold and that saves you money.

Important to note: New mortgage regulations introduced in January 2018 also mean most borrowers will have to prove they can make mortgage payments if interest rates rise above the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada or 2% higher than their contracted mortgage rate - whichever is higher.  In practical terms, this stress test would mean a potential buyer with a $450,000 mortgage and a 20% down payment in 2017 would have their purchasing power knocked down by about 15% and only qualify for $382,500 in 2018.

Photo of Aaron and Chris working with a client.

Narrow Down Your "Must-Haves" List

When thinking of your dream home, you can probably easily come up with a long list of things you’d like this home to have: high end kitchen, huge master bedroom ensuite, hardwood floors, wired for a hot tub, media room, south facing living room...and the list goes on. In reality, unless you have a very large budget, or plan to build a custom home, you’re likely not going to get absolutely everything you want.

Focus on the elements that you can't modify in the future: for example, location and lot size can't be changed so if you want a particular school catchment, a longer growing season for your veggie garden, or a yard big enough to build a detached shop, zero in on these unchangeable must-haves. Some floor layouts are tricky to alter while others could be modified by knocking down a wall or changing a doorway placement. Countertops and fixtures can be upgraded relatively easily along with paint, flooring, and curb appeal. The key is to be flexible in your expectations and keep an open mind while touring properties.

Be Ready to View Homes ASAP

Kamloops is a seller’s market right now, meaning that many homes are selling quickly. In fact, the number of days it takes a home to sell has dropped significantly in the past year - Aberdeen, Brocklehurst, Dallas, Sahali, South Kamloops, and Valleyview neighbourhoods all had a median of only 10 days on the market in 2017!

As a buyer, you need to be able to view listings ideally within the first 24 hours after they hit the real estate market in case someone else is waiting for the same features as you. The sooner, the better. (One caveat: some listings will have showing restrictions - for example, properties with renters may require a minimum of 24 hours’ notice before showings or a seller may decide to limit showings to specific days of the week.)

If you are using our services, we will sign you up for our  Your Home Finder  program where you’ll receive a daily email with that day’s newest listings. You’ll be emailed the listings first  before they go live on MLS to the general public.

Be Ready to Make Decisions Quickly

If you find a property you love, be prepared to make an offer quickly. Need to sleep on it? That’s totally fine, but just keep in mind that because we’re in a seller’s market, time is of the essence. Ideally, you want to get your offer into the seller’s hands before a multiple offer situation occurs. We’ll find comparable properties to find out the true market value of that home, and we will guide you in deciding a final offer price based on that information. Buying a home can be a very emotional decision - we’re here to offer our expertise so you don’t pay too much for your new home.