Given the current real estate market, what advice do you have for first-time homebuyers?

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone and a tremendous financial undertaking.

While increasing mortgage rates have recently helped reduce home prices in many parts of Ontario, they still remain substantially high when compared to prices just a few years ago. Having said that, the market is always shifting, and depending on which part of Ontario you are in, prices can drastically differ.

There is a lot to consider when buying your first home. Here is some advice to get you started.

Crunch your numbers and set a clear budget. It can be tempting to over-extend yourself to buy a nicer property. But I would highly encourage you to take a look at your income and monthly expenses to determine how much you can truly afford and stick with that. This will serve you better in the long-term.

Besides saving for a downpayment and closing costs, make sure that you are also eliminating or reducing any debt. This is crucial as everyone in Ontario applying for a residential mortgage has to pass a stress test. To determine your eligibility the lender will look at several things, including your available downpayment, the mortgage amount, current interest rates, the mortgage amortization period, and any debts you may have.

Consider your lifestyle and circumstances. Do you work in a downtown core or from home? Do you live alone or with your family? Do you entertain or travel a lot? Reflecting on these types of questions will help you determine the location and type of property that may be most suitable for you. For instance, if you work from home, you may not have to worry about commute times and can be more flexible with your location. As well, if you live alone, perhaps a small condo will suffice. Distinguish between your needs and wants.

Hire a real estate agent who will provide you with strategic guidance and protect your best interests. I’d suggest interviewing a few real estate agents before selecting one. I’d also recommend that you ask them about their experience, references, services, charges, and general approach to buying.

Before you decide on an agent, search them on RECO’s public register, available on our website to confirm they are actively registered, and check if they have any disciplinary actions against them.

Review the fine print and be specific about your terms. When you are ready to make an offer on a home, be sure to thoroughly read and understand the agreement. As well, ask your agent to include in writing any items you expect will be included in the sale, renovations or repairs that you might want the seller to complete, or any price reduction you may have negotiated in lieu of repairs based on the results of a home inspection.

Seek the expertise of a lawyer insured to practice real estate law. All the paperwork you have to sign is legally binding. This holds true for any representation agreements with a brokerage, as well as the purchase agreement between the buyer and seller. I highly suggest consulting with your lawyer. They can review the terms, review the property’s title to confirm ownership, and answer any questions you may have.

For more information and resources, please visit RECO’s website,

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email

This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

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, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at

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