House-hunting tips from the pros

Are you ready to find the home of your dreams? Here's some advice from real estate experts, which should make your search stress-free.
Are you ready to find the home of your dreams? Here's some advice from real estate experts, which should make your search stress-free. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Spring is near and, traditionally, that means house-hunting season.

“Most realtors will advise to buy mainly in the spring. But I believe there are pros and cons to buying in every season,” explains Egypt Sherrod, host of Property Virgins and author of Keep Calm…It’s Just Real Estate: Your No-Stress Guide to Buying a Home.

“In the spring and summer there tends to be more inventory. However, there’s also more competition for homes. Whereas in the winter months there are less competitors for available homes and sellers are more willing to negotiate.”

Here are Sherrod’s top five house-hunting tips:

  1. Carefully craft your wish list and try to stick to it. If you are shopping with your partner, discuss your must-haves and deal-breakers together so you’ll be on the same page during your house hunt.
  2. Remember you are not only buying a house, but the neighborhood too. Is it safe? Talk to neighbors and ask questions. Spend time in the area to determine if it offers the lifestyle conveniences you’ll need.
  3. Don’t bombard yourself by trying to see too many houses in one day. You may begin to feel overwhelmed and confused after touring several homes. Too many homes in a short period of time will blend together in your mind and you won’t recall which kitchen or which master bedroom belonged to which house.
  4. Stay within your price range and don’t forget to consider additional expenses such as taxes, home owner’s association fees, insurance, maintenance etc.
  5. Visit your prospective home at different times of day. Homes may appear different during the day than they do at night. It is also wise to visit the home again right after a heavy rain if you can manage it, and go straight to the basement. Does it smell or feel damp? If so, water may be getting in.

READ MORE : 4 dos and don’ts of buying your first home

What else should you look for when visiting a house?

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“You’re looking for the maintenance and age of the furnace, you’re looking at the hot water tank, you’re looking at the drainage of the house,” recommends B.C. realtor Sarah Daniels.

And, of course, the roof.

If a condo is what you’re looking for, keep this check-list in mind:

  • Research the builder and other developments they’ve created.
  • Chat with some of the residents of the condo building you’re interested in.
  • Find out if the building allows tenants.
  • To maximize resale value, look for something that’s close to transit.
  • Speaking of resale value, don’t buy a one-bedroom condo if you can avoid it. Daniels says it may be hard to sell and recoup costs.

“You’ve got to see where the prices are on a per-square-foot basis compared to the neighbour. What are the condo fees? What’s the cost of parking? What’s the maintenance fee?,” adds Ben Myers, a market research and analytics expert with Fortress Real Developments.

Daniels also recommends looking at the maintenance schedule to see what’s been allocated in the budget for that maintenance.

“You want to make sure they have plans in place to maintain that building,” she explains.

WATCH: What to look for when buying a condo

Last but definitely not least (in fact, it’s first in terms of importance), make sure your finances are in order and you’ve seen a mortgage specialist before setting out on your search.

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Happy hunting!

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