Buying a Home Next Year? Here's What To Do Now

Dated: December 16 2020

Views: 421

A handwritten checklist in a notebook

1. Clean Up Your Credit

You probably already figured you need good credit to get a mortgage. You were right! Very few lenders will consider a mortgage for someone with a credit score below 640, and the CMHC now requires one purchaser to have a credit score of at least 680 to qualify for mortgage default insurance, which you'll need if your down payment is less than 20%. So get your credit in order well before you apply.

2.Make A Budget

People love to look at real estate listings and dream big dreams. But when you’re serious about buying a home you should know what you can afford. One of the many measures lenders use to assess borrowers is their Total Debt Service ratio - the proportion of their monthly income that goes to paying fixed expenses and debts. As a homeowner you’ll also be responsible for property taxes, utilities, and repairs and maintenance, so don’t forget to work these into your budget.

3. Get Preapproved

Getting preapproved for a mortgage can save a lot of heartache and wasted effort: when you know what you can afford you can focus on the neighbourhoods and homes that fit your budget and avoid properties beyond your means. A preapproval letter can also make all the difference in a multiple offer scenario, which is not at all uncommon in Victoria. 

4. Do Your Homework

Get to know your neighbourhoods. Visit at different items of day and on different days of the week. If you get a chance, chat with some locals to get their take on what makes the neighborhood great (or terrible.) If you have a family, or are planning one, keep an eye out for kids, playgrounds, and schools. Trust your gut: you’ll know when a neighbourhood feels right, and you’ll be ready to act when the ideal listing comes to market.

5. Find A REALTOR®

There’s no good reason to buy a home without the help of a REALTOR®. In almost every case the seller will have representation and, even if they don’t, you don’t want them to direct the transaction. A Buyer Agent’s commission is almost always paid by the Seller, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Get referrals from friends and family, and try to find someone who fits your personality and point of view: you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your agent so you want to trust them and get along.

6. Know Your Market

When you’ve decided what kind of home you’re looking for, ask your REALTOR® to set you up with a Real Estate Search Portal to track listings that match your criteria. By reviewing listings you get in your email every day you’ll start to understand the market conditions for the type of home you like: how many days do they take to sell? Are prices trending up or down? When you know the comps you’ll be prepared when the time comes to make your own offer.

7. Save, Save, Save

The bigger your down payment, the better your loan terms will be, so put away as much as you can. On the other hand, in most cases you can get away with as little as 5% down. Keep in mind, though, that if your down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price you’ll have to get mortgage default insurance, which will be added to your monthly payments.

8. Purge Your Stuff

No, really. You don’t want to put all that crap into boxes and when Moving Day comes it will be too late. Sell what you can and give away the rest. Your future self will thank your past self when you get to your new home with only those items that are useful, beautiful, or, hopefully, both.

9. Plan Your Move

Are you going to do it yourself, call in some favors from your friends, or hire professional movers? Each of these options has costs - even if only for pizza and beer - so be sure to include them in your budget. If you’re hiring a moving company make sure to check their online reviews and try to book your move well ahead of time. Get your boxes and packing tape, and remember that moving, like painting, always takes longer than you think it will.

10. Save Some More

The down payment is the biggest cost associated with buying a home, and there are numerous other expenses to plan for, including legal fees, taxes, and insurance. But buyers should also be prepared for unpleasant surprises like a leaky water heater, a dead tree that needs to be removed, or a broken washing machine. Try to sock some money away every month so that when the time comes - and it probably will - you’ll have enough saved to soften the blow.

Blog author image

Chris Logan

A Victoria resident for over 20 years, I grew up in Halifax and studied at Dalhousie University, Concordia, and the National Theatre School. Several years in the music industry then led to an extended....

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