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How to Choose a Home


Here are some tips to help determine which house is best for you.

Once you've settled on a couple of preferred neighborhoods for your home search, it's time to pick out a few homes to view. Having a house features “wish list” keeps you focused on which features are most important to you.

When narrowing down your home search, consider the following:

  • know what types of home you want to buy
  • determine what age and condition of the house you want to buy
  • consider resale potential
  • use a features wish list to keep focused
  • use a home search comparison chart to keep organized
  • act decisively when you find the right home


Determine What Type of Home You Want to Buy

There are several forms of home ownership: single-family homes, multiple-family homes, condominiums and co-ops.

Single-family homes: One home per lot.

Multiple-family homes: Some buyers, particularly first-timers, start with multiple-family dwellings, so they'll have rental income to help with their costs. Many mortgage plans, including VA and FHA loans, can be used for buildings with up to four units, if the buyer intends to occupy one of them.

Condominiums: With a condo, you own "from the plaster in." You also own a certain percentage of the "common elements" - staircases, sidewalks, roofs, etc. Monthly charges pay your share of taxes and insurance on those elements, as well as repairs and maintenance. A homeowner’s association administers the development.

Co-ops: In some cities, cooperative apartments are common. With co-ops, you purchase shares in a corporation that owns the whole building, and you receive a lease to your own unit. A board of directors, comprised of owners and elected by owners, supervises the building management. Monthly charges include your share of an overall mortgage on the building.

Decide What Age and Condition of Home You Want to Purchase

Weigh your needs, budget and personal tastes in deciding whether you want to buy a newly constructed home, an older home or a "fixer-upper" that requires some work.

Consider Resale Potential

As you look at homes, you may want to keep in mind these resale considerations.

  • One-bedroom condos are more difficult to resell than two-bedroom condos.
  • Two-bedroom/one-bath single houses generally have less appeal than houses with three or more bedrooms, and therefore have less appreciation potential.
  • Homes with "curb appeal," i.e., well-maintained, attractive and with a charming appearance from the street, are the easiest to resell.
  • The most expensive houses on the street, or ones with anything unusual or unique are not suited for resale. The best investment potential is traditionally found in a less expensive, more moderately sized home.

Use a Features Wish List to Keep Your Search Focused

Make a features wish list to clarify which features are most and least important to you when looking for a home. Using this features wish list will keep your house hunt focused and effective.

Use a Home Comparison Chart to Keep Your Observations Organized

While house hunting, it's a good idea to make notes about what you see because viewing several houses at a time can be confusing. Use a home comparison chart to help you keep track of your search, organize your thoughts and record your impressions.

Act Decisively When You Find the Right Home

Before you begin the home buying process, resolve to act promptly when you do find the right house. Every REALTOR® has stories to tell about a couple who looked far and wide for their dream home, finally found it, and then said, "We always promised my folks we'd sleep on it, so we'll make an offer tomorrow." Many times the story had a sad ending - someone else came in that evening with an offer that was accepted.

Resolve that you will act decisively when you find the house that’s clearly right for you. This is particularly important after a long search or if the house is newly listed and/or underpriced.

Take Control When Buying a Home

If you approach the home buying process intelligently and with confidence, you are much more likely to buy a house you'll be proud to call home.

Approaching the task of buying a home can be overwhelming; there's so much to consider:

  • How much house can I afford?
  • How can I find the best loan?
  • Where will I come up with a down payment, and how much will I need?
  • Should I buy a new or resale home, and which will go up in value?
  • Should I work with an agent or look at homes on my own?

And these questions are just the beginning. Buying a home is one of the largest financial transactions in your lifetime - do your research so you know what you’re doing.

Here are the two most important things to remember no matter where you are on the road to home ownership:

1. You can and should understand everything that is happening in the home buying process.

There is nothing that is so complex that it can't be easily explained to anyone with average intelligence. Just because you don't apply for a thirty year mortgage once a week doesn't mean you have to take the first one that comes along. You'll need to learn some new terms, apply some new concepts and take the time to understand what you're getting into.

If, at any point, something happens that doesn't make sense to you, simply demand a full and complete explanation. If it still doesn't make sense, seek help from someone you trust like your CPA, your banker or maybe an online real estate columnist.

2. In the world of real estate sales, YOU are the most important person in the entire process.

It's easy to think that everyone else carries more weight than you. The agent talks fast and has an answer for everything. The lender may decline your loan application, and on and on.

But the truth is that you, the buyer, are the one person in the transaction that makes it all happen. If you decide to not buy, the entire process comes to a grinding halt.

So flex your consumer muscle and take command of this process. Surround yourself with a team of professionals that you have confidence in and make them work for you.

Approach home buying with intelligence and confidence, and by doing your homework, this way you are more likely to buy a house you’re happy with and to know that you made the right decision.


Homebuyer Checklist


If you are buying a home, then, before you decide on whether this home is your dream home, the following checklist will help you look at prospective homes with a critical eye. If you do not know the answers to any question, then make sure to ask your Real Estate Agent. Some technical issues should be established by a home inspector.

Home Location
Address ________________________________________________________
Asking price ____________________________________________________
Annual property tax _____________________________________________
Zoning restrictions _______________________________________________

Exterior of the Home
-   Lot size - shape ______________________________________________
-   Position of home on lot ________________________________________
-   Private or shared drive - condition _______________________________
-   Front yard-rear yard __________________________________________
-   Landscaping - condition ________________________________________
-   Mature trees ________________________________________________
-   Home appearance from street __________________________________
-   Type of home (two storey, detached, attached) ____________________
-   Siding (brick, brick veneer, aluminium, wood) ______________________
-   Condition of siding and paint ___________________________________
-   Attached or detached garage __________________________________
-   One, two, three car garage ____________________________________
-   Condition of walkways _________________________________________
-   Covered front porch __________________________________________
-   Enclosed front porch __________________________________________
-   Fenced backyard _____________________________________________
-   Privacy _____________________________________________________
-   Patio-decking ________________________________________________
-   Swimming pool-above ground pool ______________________________
-   Storage shed ________________________________________________
-   Type of roof - general condition _________________________________
-   Type of roof repairs __________________________________________
-   What was done to roof ________________________________________
-   Do they have receipts ________________________________________
-   Eaves trough _______________________________________________
-   Type of foundation ___________________________________________
-   Structural appearance ________________________________________
-   Possible problems? ___________________________________________

Interior of the Home (room sizes can be taken from MLS Listing)
-   Separate front hallway ________________________________________
-   Guest closet ________________________________________________
-   Soundproofing between walls of duplex __________________________

Doors and Windows
-   Types of windows (single pane; thermopane) _____________________
-   Open and close window without sticking __________________________
-   General condition ____________________________________________
-   Locks and latches work? ______________________________________

-   General size and colours ______________________________________
-   Eat-in area _________________________________________________
-   Cooking food preparation island ________________________________
-   Sufficient cupboard space _____________________________________
-   Pantry _____________________________________________________
-   Single or double sink-condition _________________________________
-   Sufficient counter top area ____________________________________
-   Floor type-condition __________________________________________

-   Adequate headroom _________________________________________
-   Drained or sump pump _______________________________________

Other Rooms - Features
-   Number of bedrooms ________________________________________
-   Number of bathrooms _______________________________________
-   Fireplace type ______________________________________________
-   Signs of moisture ___________________________________________
-   Cracks in walls and floors _____________________________________

Recent Renovations
-   Done by seller or professional renovator? ________________________

-   Electrical: amperage; fuses or circuit breakers; adequate outlets; general condition; aluminium or copper wiring; meet current codes?

-   Plumbing: copper pipes or other material; signs of leaks; recent repairs; age; meet current codes?

-   Water service: city supplied or well; if well, drilled or dug? Ever run dry? Water quality recently tested for potability? Capacity; age of pump; size of feeder line from well to house; water agreement?

-   Sewer or septic system: if septic, where is septic field? Holding tank and system recently checked?

-   Heating type: oil; gas; electric; hot water; baseboard; combination; heat pump; age; recent repairs

-   Air conditioning: type (window, central) age; size; recent repairs

-   Hot water heater: leased or owned; gas or electrical number of gallons; efficiency; age

-   Insulation type: ______________________________________________

-   Ask to see copies of recent utility bills: ___________________________

-   Cable or aerial TV service: adequate room outlets __________________

-   Internet access: High Speed; Dial Up ____________________________

-   Other notable features and comments: ___________________________

Community - Close to:
-   Schools
-   City services
-   Medical facilities (doctors, hospitals, dentists)
-   Shopping
-   Parks
-   Playgrounds
-   Daycare
-   Recreation centre
-   Public swimming pools
-   Public tennis courts
-   Golf course
-   Skating rinks
-   Hockey arena
-   Restaurants
-   Theatres
-   Public library
-   Major roads and highways
-   Public transportation
-   Possible problems (traffic commuting)

Local Neighbourhood
-   Urban, suburban, rural ________________________________________
-   Older or newer; estimated age _________________________________
-   Types of homes in area (detached, links, townhomes or apartments?
-   Age group of area homeowners ________________________________
-   Quiet streets ________________________________________________
-   Adequate streetlights _________________________________________
-   Visible power lines and telephone poles __________________________
-   Well maintained homes _______________________________________
-   Sidewalks __________________________________________________
-   Space between homes ________________________________________
-   Adequate street parking _______________________________________