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Tips for a successful house hunt

1. Know the neighbourhood

One of the best Real Estate Agents I have worked with told me that, when you buy a home, you’re buying the location first and the building second. She recommends that buyers take a trip to their prospective neighbourhood, park the car and walk around. Take some time and get a feel for the area from the ground – it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a feel for life in a neighbourhood through your car window.

2. Making the conditional offer

When you’ve found a house and you’re ready to put in an offer, you will likely want to make that offer conditional on certain things. Typically you will want to make the offer conditional on you securing financing, insurance, and having the home inspected. It may be advisable to insert other conditions as well (for example, if there is a septic system, you should make your offer conditional on having the septic system inspected and confirming it is in good working order). This is where a Real Estate Agent can be valuable – good agents know the property and its features and can help guide you on what conditions you should include in your offer.

Once you’ve figured out what conditions you need, make sure you give yourself enough time to fulfill them. Sellers will usually want the conditions waived as soon as possible, but it doesn’t do you any good to have a financing condition you have to waive in 3 days if you can’t get in to see your mortgage broker until the following week. Of course delays can happen, and you can always ask to extend conditions, but a Seller doesn’t have to agree. It is always best to set yourself enough time to satisfy your conditions so that, unless something unforeseen happens, you won’t need to ask for any extensions.

3. The inspection

I always recommend to clients that they go to the home inspection with their inspector. If possible, I also suggest bringing a friend along. I also suggest that the home inspection is scheduled for a time when the Seller is actually in the house; this way the you or your inspector can ask specific questions about the house as you go through, and you can ask permission to move the Seller’s belongings to see certain things. The last thing you want is to move into a house and find a crack in a wall that you couldn’t see during the inspection because there were boxes piled in front of it.

When you’re asking questions about the house, be specific, and take note of the answers you get (this is where your friend comes in handy). Bear in mind that Sellers may not know the answers to your questions; and for any sellers reading this, do not make it up, simply tell the person you don’t know the answer.

4. Follow up visits

When making an offer, it is generally a good idea to provide for a final walk through of the property just before closing – this way you can make sure the condition of the property hasn’t changed between the time you first saw or inspected it, and a day or two before closing when you do the final walk through.

A final walk through is particularly important if the Seller has agreed to fix anything or make any improvements to the property. If you do your final walk through one or two days before closing and discover the Seller has not done what they agreed to do, you have options to ensure the work gets done and you don’t get stuck with the bill. For example, you can agree with the Seller to hold back an amount of money, and that money won’t get paid to the Seller until the work is done. Remember, it is much easier to deal with these problems before closing (i.e. before the Seller has moved out and gotten their money). If you close the deal and then find out the Seller didn’t do what they promised to do, the only real leverage you have is the threat of a lawsuit for breach of contract, which can be costly and time consuming.

5. Setting up the utilities before closing day

You can call the various utility companies to set up accounts before you actually move in to the property. If any utility companies need to come to the house (cable, internet, etc.), scheduling these in advance can help reduce the stress that almost always comes with unpacking and settling in to a new house. With that said, booking visits from utility providers on the day of closing is not recommended, as discussed below.

6. When do I get my keys?

Unless you have agreed to a specific time for closing, the only deadline for closing is 5:00 p.m. on closing day. While everyone may do their best to close as early in the day as possible, there are some things that cannot be controlled that may push the closing to later in the day. With that in mind, I always recommend that buyers avoid booking deliveries or utility technicians on closing day, as there is no guarantee you will get your keys before 5:00 p.m.

Buying a house is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful and exhausting. Real estate professionals (agents and lawyers) are a valuable resource and can help guide you and make your home-buying process as smooth as possible.

source: Ottawa Business Journal, David Reid, 13 June 2016