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Tips for first-time homebuyers

When it comes to excitement, many people find buying a first home is right up there with the greatest thrills. Along with that excitement is an emotional mix of heart-pounding anxiety and fear, brought on by stressors such as time demands, legal issues and taking on a mortgage.

To help cut through the emotions and save you time, money and avoidable mishaps, we tapped into the expertise of two mortgage specialists and asked them for their top tips.

Know thyself
According to Jeff Mayers, a mortgage planner with Mortgage Intelligence in Toronto, many people take four to six months to look for a home, only to find out that they don't qualify to purchase the house.

"So first things first," says Mayers. "Sit back and ask, where do I want to live and what's the average price?"

Knowing the price range gives you the guidelines to seek advice from a financial professional on what you can afford, whether it's through a bank, mortgage specialist or financial planner. An experienced professional can provide examples of what monthly payments and home buying costs will be, to eliminate surprises.

And remember that unforeseen circumstances happen. For example, my husband lost full-time employment and now works as a contract worker, not uncommon in this economy. With today's record-low interest rates having nowhere to go but up, prudent homebuyers factor in higher mortgage payments down the road.

Know thy home
If you're buying a used home, you need to know if any renovations were done to the property. If so, was there a permit and was the work done properly? Mayers has clients who bought refurbished homes only to find out that the repairs were not done to standard. The clients now have to incur thousands of dollars to repair the damages. That's why the state of the house is critical.

Assemble your team
"Think of home buying as a team sport," says Mayers. "A mortgage broker can help you find a good real estate agent, real estate lawyer, home inspector and home insurance agent." Be sure to get in touch with these professionals early in the buying process to avoid last-minute scrambles, adds Mayers.

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-- Posted May 27, 2011
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