What a first-time home buyer needs to know

Jul 2021

Being a first-time home buyer is thrilling, and following some basic strategies will help you find the right home in the right neighbourhood. From lining up your finances to choosing your builder, here’s what you need to know. 

Mortgage pre-approval

Don’t start shopping for a home until you have been pre-approved for a mortgage by your bank or other lender. Pre-approval means you’ll know exactly how much you can spend on a home and what the interest rate will be. Don’t be afraid to tell your sales representative how much you’ve been approved for: He or she can then guide you to the right home. 

It’s also a good idea not to spend everything you’ve been approved for — your employment or other circumstances could change, and you want to keep a bit of financial wiggle room. More on mortgage pre-approval.

Other home buying expenses

Along with your down payment and mortgage premiums, as a first-time home buyer you need to remember the other costs when buying a new-build home. For example, “closing costs” include provincial Land Transfer Tax, which is a percentage of the purchase price. Depending on the price of the home, first-time buyers are eligible for a full or partial rebate of the Land Transfer Tax, but you’ll still have to pay it upfront. 

Other home buying costs can include lawyer’s fees, design upgrades to your home, moving expenses, and new furnishings. More on closing and other costs.

Choosing a builder

Start by making a list of builders working in the area where you’d like to live. A site like All Things Home can guide you, and the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, of which Longwood is a long-time member, has a helpful builder directory. GOHBA’s website also includes advice on selecting a builder. 

When researching specific builders, visit one of their established neighbourhoods to ask homeowners how their homes have performed. Also, look for transparency, knowledge and service in your potential builder; for example, does the sales rep respond quickly, answer questions directly and make an extra effort to understand your wants and needs? Don’t be shy about asking the builder as many questions as you want: A good builder wants you to make the right choice.

Choosing a neighbourhood

While price is crucial, deciding where to live also depends on factors like proximity to work, amenities, and walkability. Ask yourself whether you prefer an urban, suburban or semi-rural home, how close you want to be to family and friends, and whether there are schools, stores and recreational facilities nearby. Drive through other, older developments by the builder to see how well they’ve held up. And, if the community is still being built, look at a site plan so you understand how the completed neighbourhood will look and function. More: Discover Morris Village in Rockland.

Workbooks and checklists

Home buying should involve some emotion — it’s an exciting time, and it’s important to connect emotionally with the place you and your family will live. However, it’s also one of the largest investments you’ll ever make, so making logical choices is crucial. 

Impartial resources like this one  from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation can help a first-time home buyer make sound decisions on everything from finding and financing the right home to maintaining it (there’s also a handy glossary of housing terms you’ll encounter in your search for that first home).

Warranty

Along with offering its own one-year warranty, Longwood is part of Tarion, the provincial warranty program for new-build homes. The program protects homebuyers for up to seven years, depending on the problem. For instance, water penetration though the basement or foundation walls is covered for the first two years, while major structural flaws are protected for seven years. 

Buying a new-build home without Tarion is a major risk. If you ever encounter a problem with your home, contact Longwood immediately so we can help you solve the problem. We also urge you to complete the annual buyer survey you will receive from Tarion; it doesn’t take long to complete, and the information is valuable in helping us meet our buyers’ expectations (and we never say no to a compliment!).

Have fun

Yes, buying a home is a big decision and a major commitment, but it should also be fun. This is the space you and your family will call your own for years to come and you want a home that will give you a thrill of anticipation when you think about finally moving in. By all means, stick to your budget, but if you’ve shopped carefully, you should have a little extra to spend on design upgrades, maybe some new furniture and certainly a fancy celebratory dinner after you sign your agreement to purchase!