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Searching for Houses

Here are some ways to begin looking for your new home:

  • Word-of-mouth
    Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a new home. Surprising things sometimes happen. For example, you might hear about a home that is just becoming available on the market.
  • Newspapers and real estate magazines
    Check the new homes section in daily newspapers. Look for the free real estate magazines available at newsstands, convenience stores and other outlets. These publications are free and give pictures and short descriptions of homes for sale.
  • The Internet
    Check out real estate websites, such as REALTOR.ca; these websites give information and pictures of a wide range of properties. Most sites let you search by location, price, number of bedrooms, and other features.
  • “For Sale” signs
    Drive, bike or walk around a neighbourhood that interests you and look for “For Sale” signs. This is a good way to find homes that are being sold by the owner and are not listed with an agent.
  • Visit new development sites
    If you are looking for a newly built home, you can see available models and get information from builders.

USEFUL TIPS FOR YOUR SEARCH

  • Keep records
    Whether you have a realtor or are looking by yourself, visit lots of homes before choosing one. Some things to compare are the home’s energy rating, utility costs, property taxes and major repairs. These will affect your monthly housing expenses. You can ask to see copies of utility and other bills. Use the CMHC Home Hunting Comparison Worksheet to make sure you get all the information you need to compare homes.
  • Check out the property’s current financing
    If the existing mortgage on the home is favourable, it may be possible to take it over from the vendor. It may even be possible to get a vendor take back mortgage, to help close the deal.
  • Think twice
    Even if a home seems perfect, go back and take a closer, more critical look at it. Visit it on different days and different times of the day. Chat with the neighbours. Look deeper — don’t be distracted by attractive surface details.
  • Energy Rating
    Some houses and most new homes in Canada have an Energy Rating that describes the energy efficiency of the home. An energy-rated home usually has a sticker with the rating on the electrical panel. The energy rating is on a 0 – 100 scale. The higher the rating, the more energy-efficient is the home, and the less it costs to operate.
  • CMHC statistics and analysis
    CMHC has the latest statistical information and analysis of housing trends. Our Market Analysis Centre tracks information for local, provincial and national markets.

MAKING AN OFFER TO PURCHASE

After you have found the home you want to buy, you need to give the vendor an Offer to Purchase (sometimes called an Agreement of Purchase and Sale). It is very helpful to work with a realtor (and/or a lawyer/notary) to prepare your offer. The Offer to Purchase is a legal document and should be carefully prepared.

These items are typically included:

  • Names
    Your legal name, the name of the vendor and the legal civic address of the property.
  • Price
    The price you are offering to pay.
  • Things included
    Any items in or around the home that you think are included in the sale should be specifically stated in your offer. Some examples might be window coverings and appliances.
  • Amount of your deposit
  • The closing day
    The closing day is the date you take possession of the home. It is usually 30 – 60 days after the date of agreement. But, it can be 90 days, or even longer.
  • Request for a current land survey of the property.
  • Date the offer expires
    After this date the offer becomes null and void — that means it’s no longer valid.
  • Other conditions
    Other conditions may include a satisfactory home inspection report, a property appraisal, and lender approval of mortgage financing. This means that the contract will become final only when the conditions are met.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU MAKE AN OFFER TO PURCHASE?

Imagine that your realtor has helped you prepare an Offer to Purchase. This offer includes all the details of the sale. To be extra cautious (since you know an Offer to Purchase is legally binding) ask your lawyer to look at it before showing it to the vendor. The realtor presents the offer to the vendor. What can you expect to happen next? There are three possible responses.

  • Response 1
    The vendor accepts your offer. The deal is concluded and you move on to the next steps in the buying process.
  • Response 2
    The vendor makes a counter-offer. The counter-offer might ask for a higher price, or different terms. You can sign the offer back to the vendor, offering a higher price than your original offer, but lower than the vendor’s counter-offer. If the vender accepts this counter-offer, the deal is concluded.
  • Response 3
    The vendor makes a counter-offer, asking for a higher price or different terms. If a counter-offer is returned to you at a higher price, ensure that you know exactly how much you can afford before you start negotiating. You don’t want to get caught up in the heat of the moment with costs you can’t afford. You reject the counter-offer because the price is still too high, or you can’t agree to the conditions. The sale doesn’t go through, and your deposit is returned

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