There are a lot of things to consider when buying your first home, not the least of which are the finances involved, but a lot of people also go into the experience with a laundry list of musts that simply don’t matter.
“It’s very easy when you’re looking at any home to be swayed in the direction of one that looks beautiful, but what a lot of first-time buyers don’t think about is the fact that this won’t be the last home they buy,” says Emma Pace, realtor with Zoocasa.
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She breaks down a list of things that first-time buyers worry about, but don’t really matter in the long run.
#1 There aren’t any pictures of the listing
It’s very easy (and common) to discount a listing if it doesn’t have several high-quality, professional-grade pictures of the house attached to it, but Pace says this thinking could cost you a real find.
“A lot of people assume if a listing doesn’t come with pictures, it means there’s something wrong with the house. But they don’t think about the reasons why it may not have images,” she says.
It could be that the current tenant didn’t want the house photographed with their belongings in it, or that the sellers are on a budget and don’t want to shell out for professional photos.
Instead, focus on the specs in the listing. Does it have parking, outdoor space and good-sized rooms? These are the things that will really matter.
#2 The carpeting is ugly
Sure, walking into a house with wall-to-wall shag carpeting would be a turn-off for most people, but Pace says you shouldn’t let that cloud your vision of the space. It’s what’s underneath that counts.
“Extravagant paint colours, carpeting, old appliances and even lousy or non-existent landscaping: these are all easy fixes,” she says. “They’re aesthetics that don’t have to take a lot of money to change.” And if you can’t see past them, you could miss out on a golden opportunity.
Instead, focus on the layout of the house and if there are major cosmetic changes that would need to be done outdoors. Aluminium siding or a gas metre adjacent to the front door are costly to replace or move.
Or think of it this way: “It’s typically less expensive to paint a wall than to knock it down altogether,” Pace says.
#3 It’s not move-in ready
Things like marble countertops in the kitchen, a walk-in closet and an en-suite bathroom are all very attractive at first glance, but unless the house has good bones, those are virtually worthless add-ons.
“The expenses involved in fixing things like wiring, the roof or replacing the furnace are far more costly than putting in a nice-looking kitchen or bathroom,” Pace says. “If there’s moisture in the basement, you won’t care about the colour of your walls when there’s water all over them.”
Find a good, reliable home inspector to come in and take a look at the house. Make sure big-ticket items like the furnace are going to last — the average lifespan of a furnace is from 20 to 25 years. If you know something’s going to give soon, make sure you’re prepared financially to cover those costs. No one wants to live through a Canadian winter without a furnace or with a leaky roof.
#4 It’s not in a “cool” neighbourhood
Being in a desirable or trendy neighbourhood certainly has its perks, but if you’re choosing a hot location because of its bars or restaurants and ignoring those in a good school district, you’re making a mistake. Don’t assume that the next people to buy your home will be in the same situation as you.
“Even if you don’t have kids, it’s best to move into a neighbourhood that’s in a good school district. Not only could the next buyers have a family for whom that matters, but these neighbourhoods tend to hold their value longer even through market fluctuations,” Pace says. “For many people, school is a top priority.”