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How to house-hunt with your head, not your heart

March 19th, 2014 by Golden Girl Finance

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Contrary to popular belief, home is not where the heart is. Home is where the head is - and if you don’t use your head when house-hunting you could find yourself wishing you’d never said “I do” to that not-so-dream home.

Though it’s sometimes appropriate to let your heart take the lead, finding the right home is a matter of hunting with your head.

But as we learned after talking to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) about the most common mistakes people make when buying or selling a home, people fall in love all too easily.

Luckily, we can avoid the broken hearts (and the broken bank) with a few simple steps to smarter home-hunting.

8 steps to smarter home-hunting

  1. Don’t be blinded by the love

That means: don’t overpay, don’t rush through the process, and don’t ignore glaring concerns just to win ownership. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.

  1. Keep searching for your “sales” mate

According to RECO, there are more than 60,000 real estate brokers and salespersons in Ontario - meaning you can expect to meet a bunch before you find “the one”. Make sure you discuss the services you expect of them and get it in writing.

  1. Know there’s never such a thing as “no strings attached”

Do you know what the terms in your contract with your brokerage mean and your obligations to one another? (And please don't tell us you didn't even bother to read the agreement in full?!). Read your agreement thoroughly and fill in every blank before signing. Remember that verbal agreements mean little. Get everything you discussed and agreed upon in writing to avoid problems later on. Always get a copy of the contract for your own files, too.

  1. Check that prenup - who gets what after you ink a deal?

The furnace, fridge, and other items at the showing might have been major selling features for you, but never assume they’re part of the package. The sub-zero might go with the seller; the furnace could be on lease. These details - called “chattels” - ought to be outlined in writing and clarified amongst all parties before any offer is laid on the table. Who knows - you may be able to get your seller to pay off the balance on that furnace lease as part of your offer.

  1. Know it’s what’s on the inside that counts

It’s easy to overlook the more mundane things in a nicely staged home, but ask questions about the insulation, wiring, plumbing, upgrades and past permits. Better still, sign the agreement conditional on a satisfactory home inspection. A qualified home inspector is an aptly-trained necessary third party - and someone who is looking at this transaction totally objectively.

  1. Get to know what’s on the outside, too

Get to know the neighbourhood. When you get into a home, you’re also getting in with a whole family of homes - as well as the parks, the kids, and the community.

  1. Know your home’s past relationships

A simple Internet search for the address can go a long way; or even ask the neighbours for their take on your potential purchase. You never know what kind of mischief the house may have been involved in.

  1. Know what it really costs to seal the deal

Land transfer taxes, title insurance, a home inspection - these are all costs not included in the listing price, but can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Budget and shop accordingly.


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