I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my office, filling out some final paperwork to finalize the deal on my first house. I had just transferred some money from my savings account to help cover my $15,000 down payment. I was feeling pretty good about things - all my ducks were in a row. And then my lawyer's office called...
A sweet sounding lady named Kelly was calling to make sure everything was in order. We set up a time for me to come in and sign the final paperwork and she asked me to make sure that I came in with my certified cheque for $20,000. Wait, what!? How did we get to $20,000?
What I had failed to plan for were my legal fees, land transfer taxes and all of my other closing costs.
Throughout my career in Real Estate, I have had the pleasure of helping many first time home buyers leave the world of renting and enter into home ownership. What I have found to be true is that there is ALWAYS something that they forget to account for or wish they would have known earlier on. I have used my own experience buying and the experience of some of my friends and clients to compile a list of some things that first time home buyers typically wish they would have known, to help clear the sometimes murky waters.
1. The Buying Process - When I first sit down with new buyer clients we tend to talk about a lot of different things. We chat about their budget, their must-haves and their absolute must-nots. We also chat about things like, closing dates and the logistics of their upcoming move. One subject that I'm asked about very infrequently is the step-by-step buying process. First time home buyers typically leave this question far too late, and end up being confused in the middle of a heated negotiation. It's important to talk to your Realtor when you start the buying process so that you can have an idea of what to expect during each step of the process. It's better to know going in - nobody likes surprises!
2. The ACTUAL Costs - Ok, I get it. The down payment, legal fees and closing costs sure add up! But what about when you move in? What about the hose, the batteries, the dishes, furniture, light bulbs, mop, garbage can, garbage bags, groceries, rugs, cleaning supplies.... The list goes on! They may not seem like much but I'll tell you: they sure add up! Especially after you just forked out $20,000 on your closing costs! I always tell my first time buyers to have an extra $1000 - $2500 set aside (if possible) so that they can be comfortable when all of the unexpected, inevitable expenses pop up. Are you getting the theme here? It's better to be over-prepared!
3. There is such a thing as a Buyer's Agent - I've actually lost out on a deal because of this before! As a Realtor, I took for granted that what was basic knowledge for me, was not so well known to the general public. I had a good friend of mine who had been talking to me about starting to look for a house. We had chatted about it for a while but had not started searching yet. A few months went by and what do you know - I see him on Facebook moving into his new house! At first, I was a little bit hurt. It turned out that he had no idea that you could have a Realtor represent you and take you to multiple homes. He thought that you had to buy a home from the listing agent. Well, the reality is - you absolutely can/should use a single Realtor to help you buy a house. It's important to develop a relationship with your Realtor as you see multiple homes so that you know the person who is negotiating for you when it comes time to securing the home that is "the one". Click to see the 6 Signs A Home Might Be "The One"
4. I'm going to be asked to put a deposit down - If you sat down with your Realtor at step #1 and learned about the step-by-step buying process you'll know that typically upon acceptance of a conditional deal, you'll be required to pay the listing brokerage a deposit for the deal. The amount of the deposit will vary from market to market and will also depend on the value of the house. Typically you can count on $2500+. This can be a huge shock to a first time buyer. Not everyone has an extra $2500 laying around. The reality is that this deposit will typically go towards your closing costs and will not result in any more "out of pocket" money. Nonetheless, it's important to know that you will be asked to come up with the money!
5. Switching all of the services over takes time! - Cable, internet, gas, hydro, water, insurance, change of address (Drivers Licence) are all things that will have to be either changed to your name, or have a new account created. These services take more than one day to set up! It's incredibly important to be proactive on setting these accounts up in your name. You don't want to spend your first night in your new home eating pizza and staring at a black TV screen!
6. The difference between a chattel and a fixture - At the risk of putting you to sleep, all I'm going to say is that when you find a house that's "the one" make sure you have a serious chat with your Realtor about the difference between a chattel and a fixture. You certainly don't want to move into your new house and find out that the water softener you thought was included is now gone!
7. Owning a house is more work than renting one - Are you a handyman? If so, watch out! I can't tell you how many handy buyers I've had that will look past a lot of flaws in a house and say "Oh ya, I'll fix that when I move in!" In my experience, and the experience of my clients; owning a house is a lot more work than you might think! It's certainly more work than renting a house! In the nature of being conservative it would be good to assume that about 50% of the little chores you plan for your first month of home ownership won't actually get done. When you finally get possession of your house you're going to have a major adjustment period. It's critical for first time buyers to not be too ambitious and set a reasonable expectation for what they'll do when they move in.