House hunting is an exciting time, but it can be overwhelming if you don’t prepare adequately or if you aren’t sure where to start—especially when buying a home in the west GTA. We’ll walk you through five steps you need to know about before hitting the market.
Step 1: Determine your criteria
Many homebuyers make the mistake of jumping into the home search without clearly outlining their specific wants and needs in a new home. Skipping the step where you create your wish list (and do-not-wish list) will only extend your buying process and cause disappointment. When buying a home in the west GTA, preparation is key. Creating a list of must-haves means you’ll be able to find suitable potential homes faster.
Here are some things you should consider when outlining your property criteria:
- Property type: detached, semi-detached, townhome, apartment, condo
- Number of bathrooms
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of storeys
- Property condition
- Square footage
- Outdoor space
Knowing exactly what you’re looking for in a home will make it much easier for you to find the right one, because you won’t be spending valuable time looking at properties that you don’t actually want or can’t afford.
Step 2: Determine your budget
Once you know what kind of house you’re looking for you should start figuring out exactly what your budget is. Start by doing a quick audit of all your finances and accounts. Look at your savings accounts, mutual funds, and other financial products to see how much liquid cash you have available to put towards a down payment.
Remember that a higher down payment means a lower mortgage loan. And if you’re able to make at least a 20% down payment, you won’t need to accept mortgage insurance so your monthly payments will be even lower.
While preparing your finances for buying a home in the west GTA, remember to be conscious about your credit score. Your credit score will significantly impact your ability to borrow a mortgage loan, so be sure to review your credit report before you begin your home search. Here are some tips to keep in mind when reviewing your credit:
- Pay any outstanding debts
- Speak to the credit union about correcting any inaccuracies or errors on your credit report
- Consult a financial specialist to work out a plan to maintain or improve your credit score
While you’re working towards buying a home, you’ll also want to avoid applying for additional credit outside of your mortgage loan, for example, car loans, lines of credit, credit cards, or other loans. If you can, wait to apply for other credit until after you’ve closed on your future home.
Securing a mortgage pre-approval
Once you’ve reviewed your finances and ensured your credit is stable, you’ll want to apply for a mortgage pre-approval from a financial lender like a bank or credit union. A mortgage pre-approval will let you know exactly what type of house you can afford by outlining how much money you are allowed to borrow to put towards a mortgage. Equipped with this information, your home search will be much more productive.
While a pre-approval isn’t a requirement for house-hunting, it will make your purchase offer much stronger. Most sellers won’t accept offers with financing conditions, so if your offer doesn’t have one, you’ll have a better chance of securing the home you want.
Step 3: Set your timeline
Knowing when you want to purchase a home is important because you can organize your buying process and determine when you need to have certain tasks completed. With a purchase date in mind and a schedule set, you can ensure all aspects of your buying plan move forward quickly and with as little interruption as possible. Depending on your timeline, your real estate agent may suggest off-market or pre-market properties, or otherwise adjust your strategy.
When thinking about when you want to buy a property, consider all the other life plans you have, so you can determine a realistic timeline for your purchase. You should also factor in whether you need some time to save money to meet your budget criteria. Outlining a strong plan for where you want to end up will help you and your real estate agent move quickly so you can secure your dream home faster.
Step 4: Determine your ideal location
Think about the kind of lifestyle you want to have or maintain while living in your future home. Then, start narrowing down the cities and communities in the west GTA that cater to your preferred lifestyle. Take the time to figure out if you’re looking for a quiet, family-oriented neighbourhood with plenty of space or if you prefer an energetic community that matches your active lifestyle.
Choosing the right area is just as important as choosing the right home. You’ll want to put a lot of thought into selecting the neighbourhood you want to live in, because you won’t be happy if you move to your dream home but you don’t love your community. Consider things like:
- Proximity to work, family, and friends
- Commuter access
- Transit access
Once you’ve outlined the criteria for your ideal area, you’ll be able to narrow down your neighbourhood search the same way as your property search, and find the right community faster by only looking at areas that fit your wish list.
Step 5: Start your home search
After preparing your finances, outlining your property criteria, and defining your neighbourhood requirements, it’s time to start seriously looking at listings. Instead of keeping your search to available listings though, you’ll also want to look at available sold data. Looking at sold data will give you true insight into the current market and allow you to determine the actual cost of buying the home you want.
When you know what homes actually sell for, you’ll know if you’re on the right track to end up successful, or if you need to adjust your buying strategy. This tactic will again save you from wasting valuable time viewing properties and placing offers on homes that are actually selling out of your budget.
At this point in the process, you may have to make some adjustments. If you can’t find the home you want in the area you love for the price you can afford, then you may want to consider looking outside that area to find the perfect home, or adjust your property criteria to stay within your preferred community. Your real estate agent will be able to help you determine the best strategy for moving forward.
Buying a home in the west GTA requires a lot of planning and research in order to be successful. Clearly outlining your wish list, preparing your finances ahead of time, and knowing what data to look at will ensure your home search moves as quickly as possible and will ensure you have the best chance at finding and securing the home you really want.