I’m planning to buy a home this year. I’ve never bought property before, what steps should I take in getting started?

Congratulations. Buying your first home is an exciting milestone. It is also an endeavor that can get complicated quickly, so I recommend working with a registered real estate salesperson or broker to guide you through the process.

The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) has been looking out for home buyers – and sellers – for over two decades. I suggest that you start by visiting RECO’s website and following these five tips:

Tip #1 – Research registered real estate salespeople to find the one who is right for you;

Tip #2 – Look potential salespeople up using RECO’s Real Estate Professional Search tool on the RECO website to ensure they’re registered and in good standing;

Tip #3 – Think carefully about your needs and your finances and communicate that information to your salesperson;

Tip #4 – Read and completely understand any documents you’re asked to sign; and

Tip #5 – Be an active participant in the process, remember that you’re in the driver’s seat, and don’t make a decision unless you are well-informed and comfortable with it.

Real estate salespeople and brokers offer different approaches to buying, and the services they provide. It is up to you to ask questions before selecting a representative to work with. Keep in mind that salespeople and brokers are legally required to be registered with RECO to trade real estate in Ontario.

If a salesperson presents you with a Buyer Representation Agreement (BRA), ask them to walk you through it, line-by-line. You may also want to have a real estate lawyer review it before you sign. I strongly recommend that consumers work with both a registered salesperson or broker and a real estate lawyer throughout the process. Each of them has valuable expertise to offer throughout the process.

You mentioned that this is your first purchase.

Your financial situation will directly determine your purchase options, so talk to your lender about getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Remember that you will have to put down a deposit, a down payment, pay closing costs and possibly mortgage insurance. There are also other fees to consider such as moving expenses, and legal fees.

Give some thought to what type of property you want and how your purchase will impact your lifestyle. Do you want a detached, or semi-detached home for a growing family, or are you looking to start with a smaller place like a townhome or a high-rise condo? You should also ask yourself whether you want something low-maintenance, or are you prepared to take on a property that requires more attention? This could include anything from lawncare through to major renovations and repairs. Also think about how long you plan to stay in your first property. You need to carefully consider all these factors and share your preferences with your salesperson or broker. Your salesperson can best help you when you’re open and honest with them. Doing so will help you to find your perfect “for now” home, or perhaps even your dream forever home.

Best of luck in your search.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email information@reco.on.ca.

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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