8 Things First Time Home Buyers Need to Know

General Robyn McLean 30 Aug

Great tips for first-time homebuyers from our friends at REW.

8 Things First Time Home Buyers Need to Know

Becoming a homeowner is exciting, but make sure you’re going in with eyes open
By Justin Kerby Dec 24, 2020

Thinking of buying your first home? Congratulations! Buying property is a milestone event worth celebrating, but before you pop the champagne – there are several things first-time homebuyers need to know before signing on the dotted line. If you educate yourself on each of these items below, you’ll put yourself in a good position with your first ever home purchase.

1. Closing isn’t cheap

Unfortunately, there is more to consider when purchasing a home than just the listing price or your offer. The Bank of Montreal suggests that you’ll want to budget between 3% and 4% of the purchase price (assuming it’s not a brand new home) to cover closing costs. That means that on a home that costs $400,000, you’ll be looking at between $12,000 and $16,000 in closing costs alone. That’s no small sum of money, so you can see why you need to keep closing costs in mind when creating a budget for yourself.

These numbers are estimates, and it’s likely your closing costs won’t be any more than 4%. Ratehub suggests they’re more likely to fall between 1.5% and 4% of the purchase price, depending on where you live, the kind of home you’re buying, and whether it’s a new build.

2. Know your subjects

The most common subjects you’ll see on a contract of purchase or sale include the following:

-Subject to obtaining satisfactory financing

-Subject to receiving and approving a property disclosure statement

-Subject to receiving and approving an inspection report

-Subject to receiving and approving a title search

-Subject to receiving and approving all strata documents

While these are the most commonly used, an offer can really be subject to just about anything you’d like, just don’t expect sellers to adhere to anything unreasonable. Talk to your Realtor about which subjects you should include with your offer, and study the most frequently asked questions about subject removal so you can bring your own ideas to the table.

3. The available mortgage options

First time home buyers should be intimately familiar with the different types of mortgages available. Speak to your mortgage broker or lender about variable and fixed-rate mortgage options, and decide which kind of mortgage fits your comfort level.

You’ll also need to shop around to find an interest rate you’re comfortable with. A lower rate means more money goes towards the principle mortgage, while a higher rate means that – you guessed it – you’ll be paying more in interest. Though this may make it seem as though lower rates are always better, there can often be a catch to a very low rate, so read the fine print. Lenders with the lowest rates sometimes charge the highest penalties should you need to break your mortgage, and they can lack the ability to make extra payments. Read more on interest rates and mortgage options to really understand what you’re getting into before you choose a mortgage.

4. The neighbourhood isn’t always the same on paper as it is in person

The area your home is located in is going to matter to you more than you initially think, so don’t just make a purchase based on the home itself.  You should be looking for the most affordable house in the best neighbourhood, not the best house in the most affordable neighbourhood. Read that again!

Moving into a nice neighbourhood and doing some renovations is a great way to increase your home’s value. While it’s not for everyone, looking for a home that could use some love in a great neighbourhood is an excellent investment strategy.

We’d also recommend that buyers really get to know the neighbourhood before placing an offer on a property. Drive by at night or on a weekend to hear the noise levels, take a stroll through the community, speak to some of your potential neighbours, and really get a sense of what’s nearby and what is not. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches if you do a little bit of investigating, not everything can be summed up in a stat sheet.

5. You may qualify for a first time home buyer incentive

The first time home buyer incentinve helps qualifying first time home buyers in Canada with their down payment. By participating in the program, you’re essentially entering into a shared equity mortgage with the government of Canada. When you sell, you’ll have to repay the incentive you received based on your property’s fair market value. The program offers:

-5% or 10% for a first-time buyer’s purchase of a newly constructed home

-5% for a first-time buyer’s purchase of a resale (existing) home

-5% for a first-time buyer’s purchase of a new or resale mobile/manufactured home

Learn more about the incentive on the Government of Canada website.

6. Utilities and insurance expenses can add up

Make sure you write down a rough estimate for your utilities and insurance bills so you can budget properly. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re hundreds of dollars over what you estimated your monthly expenses would be. Don’t forget to factor in the following:

Water, sewage, heat, electricity, internet, condo fees, and insurance. Fire, property, and contents insurance all add up as well.

7. Calculate and consider any home improvement or maintenance costs

Some of these will be one off costs, while others are ongoing. Check to see whether big ticket items like your furnace or your roof will need to be replaced soon, consider energy efficiency upgrades that can lower your monthly energy costs, and calculate the day to day landscaping or general repairs that you may need to make going forward. We’d highly recommend setting up a contingency fund for the unexpected maintenance that comes with owning a home. It’s a good idea to expect and prepare for the unexpected.

8. A good real estate agent is extremely valuable

Many first time buyers make the mistake of not evaluating their real estate agents enough. Take the time to speak with multiple agents and get a feel for who will best represent your needs. When it comes time to negotiate, you’ll want to have an agent who can go to bat for you and put your interests first. Sometimes, the right agent isn’t always the one closest related to you. We’d recommend evaluating agents by reading their reviews and setting up a time to talk. There’s no reason not to speak to a few people, considering you’re likely making the largest purchase of your life to date.

Consider each of these points carefully before you purchase your first property. If you do, you will be prepared for the costs, giving you confidence in your home purchase for years to come.

Anyone trying to forecast the course of interest rates in Canada is advised to keep one eye on what is happening in the United States.

General Robyn McLean 30 Aug

The big question on all our minds is…when will interest rates begin to rise? Some helpful insight from our friends at First National. 

A nuanced but notable signal from the U.S. Fed

  • Aug 30, 2021
  • First National Financial LP

Anyone trying to forecast the course of interest rates in Canada is advised to keep one eye on what is happening in the United States.

On Friday the Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, sent a noteworthy signal.  During his address to the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium Powell announced that key aspects of the U.S. economy are showing good improvement, and the central bank could start reducing economic stimulus later this year.

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. Fed has been working to keep money flowing through the economy by purchasing US$ 120-billion in government bonds every month.  The, so-called, “quantitative easing” is an effort to hold interest rates down and encourage borrowing and spending.

Economists have pointed to a rollback in “Q-E” as a precursor to possible interest rate increases.  The Bank of Canada has trimmed its quantitative easing twice since April, and has projected interest rates could start to rise in the second half of next year.

The U.S. Fed had been saying it did not see interest rate increases coming until later in 2023.  But the Friday’s comments from Powell did not include a timeline for “Q-E” cuts or rate hikes.

Inflation – one of the key factors in setting interest rates – has been spiking in both Canada and the U.S. as the economies recover.  But the central banks in both counties say it is just temporary as production and supply chains get back to normal.

As always, the course of the pandemic remains the wildcard in any economic planning and forecasting.

The Awesome House Hunting Checklist

General Robyn McLean 16 Aug

A great checklist when you’re looking to buy from our friends at REW!

The Awesome House Hunting Checklist

By REW (Real Estate Wire) May 17, 2021

Buying a new home is incredibly exciting, albeit a little daunting. It’s likely going to be your biggest purchase, though, so it makes sense to give serious thought to exactly what you want.

Thereafter, we want to know exactly what we’re getting into by peeling back the façade of beautifully dressed homes and digging a little deeper.

We’ve highlighted some of the key areas that every home buyer should be considered, coupled with a comprehensive house hunting checklist that you can print out and take with you on your travels.


Why a House Hunting Checklist is Essential

We, humans, are emotional beings, and all too often we let our feelings get in the way of making smart decisions. (Our 80s fashion choices are a perfect example.)

Therefore, a checklist should form the touchstone of sensible decision-making and wise financial choices.  The trick is to draw up a comprehensive list of exactly what we need, what we want, and where we are negotiable before we start house hunting. That way we aren’t being swayed by a persuasive realtor or the details of a specific property.

We are then off to a great start on the road to the perfect home.

Once we’ve narrowed down what we want, we can focus on the more granular aspects of the homes we are going to view.

Have you ever gone house hunting and found that you can’t remember which property had the mould problem and which one had that great spa bath? Without a good house hunting checklist to refer to, they tend to merge into a blur of rooms and spaces.

A checklist is the only way to compare homes without bias and ensure that you take careful note of everything that matters.


What’s Included in a Good House Hunting Checklist?

Let’s get our heads in the right place and start at the very beginning. These essentials should feature on your list to set you down the right path.



What can you afford? No, honestly? And have you given yourself a little wiggle room? Have you factored in everything such as:

  • The purchase price of the property
  • The down payment
  • Closing costs
  • Moving costs
  • Insurances
  • Potential renovation costs
  • Additional furniture items



Do school or work locations affect your options? If so, then stick to these areas and don’t look at anything outside of them unless, of course, you have to.

Remember that your location is something that you can never change, and the additional cost of commuting from a remote area will add to your monthly outgoings. Further to this, be sure to check out the local amenities such as the gym, library, church, parks, and public transport routes.



How well do you know the area that you are considering? If there are potential problems such as neglected curbs, poorly maintained roads, or unkempt homes, accept that this is not going to go away.

Remember, the tone of the neighbourhood has a direct impact on your resale value.


Property Type

Do you want a free-standing home in the suburbs, or are you looking for a secure apartment? Do you want a garden for the kids to play in? Do you prefer something private, or are you okay with making use of communal spaces?

Newer properties may be pretty and convenient, but they also tend to be smaller than older properties with bigger rooms and a sensibly sized kitchen.

These factors depend on your unique lifestyle and personal needs and must go into your checklist.


Exterior Details

Our printable house hunting checklist will have more on the interior and exterior of the building, but this serves as an overview so you know what you’re looking for and why.


Curb Appeal

We all want to be proud of our homes, so the first check in the box should be curb appeal. Does the home represent who we are, or can it do so with a little effort? What overall impression do I get from this property?


Landscaping and Garden

Is the garden big enough for your needs, and is it private and secure? Do any of those mature trees need attention, perhaps overhanging the house or swimming pool. Is the irrigation system working, and are the fences and gates in good repair?


Siding and Paint

What condition are the exterior walls in? Are there cracks in the brickwork or plaster? Are the wooden sections damp or rotting? Can you see the condition of the foundations? Wall cracks are not always a major problem, but they can be. Cracks around windows and doors, those that run diagonally or are wider than 2.5 cm, indicate a bigger project than you may want to take on.

Peeling or discoloured paintwork may indicate neglect or dampness, neither of which is ideal.


Windows and Doors

Unless the property benefits from uPVC or aluminium windows and doors, there will be ongoing maintenance required here. Wood or steel windows need regular care and will start to degrade if they are neglected. Take a close look at the state of the windows, sills, and surrounds, noting cracks, rot, or rust.


Interior Details

You may want to add certain features to your printable checklist to personalize it, including elements such as the floor type, whether it can accommodate your furniture comfortably, or if it’s likely to be a cold room. The following questions will guide you further.



While flooring is replaceable, it isn’t cheap to do so. Do the carpets need a good clean, or are they well past that and need replacing? Are there cracked tiles, and if so, are replacements readily available?



Do you prefer light, bright and airy? Do the windows in the living areas offer this feel? Are the windows secure? Do you have enough window coverings, or will this be an additional expense?



Are there sufficient bathrooms for the number of people in your household? Do you prefer to shower or bath? If the bathrooms are dated or need some work, do you have the budget (and time) to make this happen?



This is a big deal, and most estate agents will tell you that it’s the kitchen and bathrooms that generally make or break a sale on a property. If the kitchen is not to your standard but can be rectified with a few new cupboard doors and a fresh coat of paint, then you’re golden. However, most new homeowners underestimate the cost of a new kitchen.

A thorough check of the appliances, electrics, plumbing and internal cupboards will tell you what you need to know.


Important Questions to Get Answers To

Yes, we can change the colour of the living room and clean up an overgrown garden. However, the most important questions very often centre around things we can’t see.


Heating and Cooling

Is there air conditioning, and if so, when was it last serviced? Are there service records available? Does the property use solar power, gas, or electricity to heat or cool? Is there a compliance certificate available for these appliances?


Entomologist Certificate

Depending on the area, you may want a recent clearance certificate from a professional entomologist. Insect infestations, especially in older homes, can be an expensive problem to manage, making this an important question to ask.


Plumbing and Electrical 

It’s critical to know the health of these hidden services. For the most part, you can get a feel by flushing toilets and running taps or by checking light switches and electrical outlets. However, nothing replaces a professional inspection if you have concerns.


Roofing and Guttering

Chances are you won’t see the roof of the house or even notice its condition. Yet, a leaky roof and poorly maintained guttering will cause mould, mildew, and internal and external damage. Ask the estate agent for details on any roof repairs or potential issues.


Why is it on the Market?

Your estate agent can answer this interesting question for you. Why are the owners selling in the first place? People’s circumstances change through death, divorce, and debt which are the biggest reasons for selling.

This question should uncover vital issues like security problems, unpleasant neighbours, or looming latent defects that they don’t have the money to fix.


What is the Local Market Doing?

Knowing what else is happening with local real estate will tell you whether you’re buying into a booming community or you’re going to struggle to resell when the time comes.

If there has been a mass exodus in this location, perhaps explore the reasons why. Is there a plan for a high-rise building that is going to impact your privacy or view? Are there plans afoot for a new High-Security Prison round the corner from you?


Happy House Hunting

Remember, there is no perfect house. Unless you are building the exact property that you want, there will always be a compromise. This makes your very first step — determining wants versus needs — one of the most important.

Make good use of our house hunting checklist when you start your search for the perfect property, and good luck.