We recently sat down with Chris Steeves, an Ottawa realtor, to discuss the home buying process and what first-timers need to do. After being in the industry for ten years, Steeves knows there isn’t one exact formula to purchase the best home. For home buyers to find the right property and make a smart real estate investment, they should consider a number of factors and follow his home buying advice.
Here is what Steeves recommends for every home buyer:
Study the market
Steeves has been on the buying side of real estate where studying the market is essential. The end goal is to know the competition and the pricing to take the smartest route. His advice is to look at micro markets closely. The Ottawa market is a perfect example. The city has been steady despite the recent rise in sales. Today it stands as the most predictable real estate market of any developed Canadian city. Security in the market and little fluctuation are expected. “We don't have the crazy swings up or down. Historically, Ottawa doesn’t fluctuate that much. This what home buyers need to know” says Steeves.
In cities like Ottawa homeowners don’t usually get rich overnight as they might in Vancouver. Market growth is typically fairly steady, although certain areas have shot up very quickly over the past year or 2. We’re currently seeing growth rates pick up in Ottawa. Knowing how the market balances and adjusts is key to the home buying process.
Have a savings game plan
To get into the real estate market, Steeves’ advice for future home buyers is a savings game plan. “Speak to a realtor to find out where some of the smart affordable options are and then lay it out. Figure out how much money you need for a downpayment. This is how much money it's gonna cost on a monthly basis. Know exactly what you are doing and set a goal.”
Following a formula for saving might not be enough. Being smarter in everyday spending, getting co-signers for a mortgage approval, looking at fixer-uppers, partnering with family, moving out the city, putting a basement suite to rent are just some the examples Steeves gives. As long as creative financing doesn't replace a strong income, it can be a step in the right direction. Personal loans with little to no money down and at a higher rate can be dangerous. “I’ve seen deals go bad in that department. People overextend themselves. They get into trouble because unforeseen issues arise in life that people aren’t ready for. Those are very tricky deals. I strongly recommend everyone to be very careful when they’re stretching themselves thin and simply hoping that everything works out,” adds Steeves.
Choose a good real estate agent
For Steeves, speaking to a good realtor is essential. “You need to be careful when choosing an agent. You don’t want somebody who is going to push you into a buying a condo that they have listed, just because they want to sell it. You want somebody who is going to find the best game plan for you and for your situation. It has to be unbiased, honest, direct and relevant feedback,” says Steeves about choosing a real estate agent.
A realtor who is experienced in the markets can give proper guidance to lay out a roadmap. Finding the best property for the best value is their job. The same amount of knowledge, experience, education and information can be hard to find anywhere else. Help from a professional is necessary to make the most educated decision.
Look at the home’s design
As condos rise in sales, Steeves has seen buildings that don’t benefit the people that buy them. “They come into these amazing locations and launch these unfunctional buildings. When you are inside that unit, you don’t want to be in a closed dark little shoe box. You want it to be as bright and as open as possible.”
The priority is for his clients to have functional and attractive living spaces. A property without windows should be considered “prehistoric.” Home buyers should be looking for homes with intelligent design, functional living space and something that they will enjoy living in. “Human beings naturally gravitate towards natural sunlight and a nice view. Nobody wants to live in a cave. It doesn’t take a lot of thought.”