If it hasn’t already happened, I assure you, dear reader, that one day you too will understand what it feels like when you develop a crush on a house.
It may be love at first sight. Or it may be a crush that start slowly, and develops over a few weeks (if you happen to live in a city where houses are on the market for weeks). But eventually you will wake up one day and realize that you CANNOT get that house off your mind.
You will spend precious work hours (and sleeping hours, I would add) Googling the listing and imagining yourself in it, coming up with decorating ideas, deciding which vegetables to plant in the garden, or how you will decorate for your Christmas party. You will wake up in the middle of the night and think “That spare bedroom could be the PERFECT playroom!” and then you will develop a cold, panicked sweat when you realize all these dreams are tied up in a house YOU DO NOT EVEN OWN that someone could be putting an offer on, as I type this.
And if your partner doesn’t feel the same way, God help you. And God help your partner. You are going to try your best to be calm, to consider other properties. But in the end, at some point you will crack, and you will want to have a temper tantrum and scream “BUT I WANT IT” which is basically what I did last weekend. Twice. (ok, ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the picture).
GalAboutMtl’s House-hunting Tips
1. First thing’s first: get your finances in order.
Get in touch with a mortgage specialist at your bank, or shop around, and get the pre-approval process started. Figure out how much you have for a down payment and how much you and your partner can contribute monthly. Don’t forget your monthly costs are going to include property taxes and school taxes, which can be a rude awakening if you are a renter.
There are also quite a few hidden costs of home-buying to be aware of, like home inspection, legal costs, moving costs, and welcome taxes.
And finally, don’t forget to budget for your LIFE. Make sure you are realistic in deciding on your price range, and don’t get tempted by looking at places that are way over-budget. The last thing you want is to become house poor.
2. DO NOT get emotionally involved.
(See above. And remember, as a first time home-buyer, this is almost impossible. So don’t be too hard on yourself. But do try your BEST).
3. Make a list of wants versus needs, and stick to it.
Is parking a priority? Is a backyard a must? How many bathrooms do you want? Do you plan on entertaining guests?
4. Shop around.
Keep a few houses on your radar, so you don’t get stuck on one. And if you do get stuck on one, at least it will allow you to compare your house crush with what else is out there.
5. DO NOT fall in love with the current homeowner’s style or decor.
Its not yours. That is not your stuff. You are bad with plants. You do not own an antique two-door raised panel armoire, a vintage copper fish poacher, a Persian rug, or an extra large trencher bowl that can be used to keep blankets.
6. Do your homework on the neighbourhood.
Visit at different times of the day. Take your dog for a walk there at night. Check out the park. Grab a coffee in a local cafe. Can you imagine yourself there? How are you going to get to work…and how long will it take? What’s the bus/metro situation like? Map it out on Google maps. Are there Bixi stations in the neighbourhood (this one is important for me). Are there good resources and services? Do you feel comfortable?
Talk to people who live there. Do you have any friends living in the area? Or friends of friends? Failing that, are there any local bloggers that you can reach out to?
7. REALLY look at the houses you are interested it.
First – Google StreetView the address. There is new feature that allows users to scroll through past photos on Street View. Not only is this super interesting, but it can also lead you to some pretty major red flags. Maybe you will notice that the house has been for sale recently, frequently, or – one big thing we learned by going back in Street View time is a BEAUTIFUL house we were looking at had been “tagged” several times over the years with grafitti. Do you REALLY want to be dealing with that?
Open closet doors. Lift up carefully placed area rugs. Turn on the taps. Check out the basement – does it smell damp and moldy? This is potentially a huge investment for you, you are allowed to be a bit snoopy (in a respectful way, of course).
8. Ask the selling agent a lot of questions.
How long have the current owners lived here? Are they leaving anything behind? Why are they selling? When was the roof done? Wiring and electricity? What can you tell me about the neighbours? Is this an owner or renter neighbourhood? Is there anything we should know about the geography of the area? (I add this because it turns out that one of the areas we are looking in has a river running underneath it that is prone to basement flooding during major downpours).
Ask your selling or buying agent what they think about it. What they would change.
9. Vary the time of day that you go house hunting.
If you are able to see the spot both in sun and rain, great. Remember everything looks great on a bright sunny day. This will also give you an idea of where water tends to pool on the property, if the roof is leaking, and may give you an idea of any damage that may be on the horizon.
10. TAKE NOTES.
This is important, because it will all seem clear to you when you are in the actual house, and the buying or selling agent is explaining stuff, but when you get back home allllll of the details will blur together.