We’re planning to buy our first home after we get married next month. What advice do you have?

Congratulations on the upcoming nuptials. With apologies to Ellie and other relationship advice columnists, looking for a house is a bit like looking for that special someone to spend the rest of your life with. It’s important to know what features or qualities you’re looking for, be patient in your search and spend the time making sure you’re comfortable with the decision before committing.

Before starting your search, sit down and compile a list of the home’s ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ features. Maybe you must have at least a three-bedroom home within walking distance to public transit, but you’d also like it to have a fourth bedroom, central air and a low-maintenance yard. Having this list will help guide your search and be a useful reference when you’re weighing the pros and cons of each property. While it’s important for the home to meet as many criteria on your list as possible, keep in mind that you may need to compromise on some items.

Patience is important because there’s a good chance you’ll be viewing a lot of properties before finding and falling in love with your dream home. As you tour the homes, you’ll probably notice that they are clean and tidy. That’s because, much like your fiancé did before your first date, most sellers put a lot of time and effort into preparing for your visit. Get in the habit of being a courteous house guest by leaving it in the same condition as you found it, which includes taking off your winter boots at the door. If something comes up and you have to cancel, tell your salesperson as soon as possible so they can inform the seller or their representative; it will save them the time they would have spent preparing the home. While these steps may not seem necessary, keep in mind that if you decide to make an offer, being in the seller’s ‘good books’ certainly won’t hurt your chances of finalizing the sale.

It also won’t hurt to do your homework on the home buying process, especially if you’re a first time buyer. Consumers who are well-informed can protect themselves against problems in real estate transactions because they know the right questions to ask, know what to expect from their real estate professional and anticipate potential issues and work with their representative to address them in advance. RECO’s website (www.reco.on.ca) is a good place to start with lots of information for both buyers and sellers.

If you’re heading to the National Bridal Show at the Direct Energy Centre this weekend, be sure to check out our booth to pick up some information to get you started. It won’t be hard to find; our booth certainly stands out among the many booths for dresses, DJs and photographers. We’ve attended several bridal shows because many of the attendees, just like you, are looking for their first home.

When you do start looking at homes, don’t get too caught up on the cosmetics or finishes; most buyers choose to change the decor to suit their own taste once they take possession. If the look of the home is a priority for you, accept that you may have to pay more for it. Either way, your main focus should be on whether it meets your needs and the basic systems and structures are in acceptable condition. A home inspection by a qualified inspector, engineer or contractor will help identify underlying problems and go a long way in determining your comfort level committing to the house. It’s rarely a good idea to rush into such a big decision. Take the time you need to feel comfortable before saying “I do” to the home of your choice.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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