Once you have a good idea about your finances, you’ll need to think clearly about the home you’d like to buy. Try to buy a home that meets most of your needs for the next 5 to 10 years, or find a home that can grow and change with your needs.
HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER.
How many bedrooms do you need?
How many bathrooms do you need?
Do you need space for a home office?
What kind of parking facilities do you need? For how many cars?
Do you want air conditioning? If so, what type?
Do you want storage or hobby space?
Is a fireplace or a swimming pool high on your list?
Do you have family members with special needs?
Do you want special features to save energy, enhance indoor air quality, and reduce environmental impact?
Lifestyles and stages
No matter what type of housing you choose, you must have a clear idea of your needs today, as well as your possible future needs. These are some examples of questions homebuyers might ask:
Do I plan to have children?
Do I have teenagers who will be moving away soon?
Am I close to retirement?
Will I need a home that can accommodate different stages of life?
Do I have an older relative who might come to live with me?
The CMHC worksheet Home Features Checklist can help you think about what you need today, and what you may need in the future. Complete the worksheet and print it.
WHAT LOCATION SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Location is a critical factor. A home with everything you need, in the wrong location, is probably not the right home for you. Here are some things to consider about location.
- Do you want to live in a city, a town or in the countryside?
- How easy will it be to get to where you work? How much will the commuting cost?
- Where will your children go to school? How will they get there?
- Do you need a safe walking area, or recreational facility, such as a park, nearby?
- How close would you like to be to family and friends?
DO YOU WANT A NEW HOME OR A PREVIOUSLY-OWNED HOME?
A new home is one that has just been built – no one else has lived in it yet. You might buy a new home from a contractor who has built it, or you might hire a contractor to build it for you. A previously-owned home (often called a resale) has already been lived in. Here are some characteristics of each type of home.
- A new home has up-to-date design that might reflect the latest trends, materials and features.
- You may be able to choose certain features such as style of siding, flooring, cabinets, plumbing and electrical fixtures.
- You may have to pay extra if you want to add certain features, such as a fireplace, trees and sod, or a paved driveway. Make sure you know exactly what’s included in the price of your home.
- Taxes such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) (or, in certain provinces, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)) apply to a new home. However, you may qualify for a rebate of part of the GST or HST on homes that cost less than $450,000. For more information about the GST New Housing Rebate program, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website at www.cra-arc.gc.ca.
- A new home will have lower maintenance costs because everything is new, and many items are covered by a warranty. You should set aside money every year for future maintenance costs.
- A warranty may be provided by the builder of the home. Be sure to check all the conditions of the warranty. It can be very important if a major system such as plumbing, or heating, breaks down.
- New Home Warranty programs are generally provided by provincial and territorial governments. There are also private new home warranty programs. In some provinces a warranty may be provided by the builder of the home. Check with your realtor or lawyer/notary to find out what the new home warranty program in your province or territory covers.
- schools, shopping malls and other services, may not be completed for years.
BUILDING YOUR OWN HOME
Some people prefer the challenge and flexibility of building their own home. On one hand, you make all the decisions about size, design, location, quality of material, level of energy-efficiency and so on. On the other hand, expect to invest lots of time and energy.
- When the home already exists, you can see what you are buying. Since the neighbourhood is established, you can see how easy it is to access services such as schools, shopping malls, libraries, etc.
- Landscaping is usually done and fencing installed. Previously owned homes may have extras like fireplaces or finished basements or swimming pools.
- You don’t have to pay the GST/HST unless the house has been renovated substantially, and then the taxes are applied as if it were a new house.
- You may need to redecorate, renovate or do major repairs such as replacing the roof, windows and doors.
WHAT TYPE OF HOME SHOULD YOU BUY?
What types of homes will you be visiting with the idea of buying? Do you see yourself living in a detached single-family home? Or, perhaps a townhouse? Maybe, a duplex?
A single-family detached home is one dwelling unit. It stands alone, and sits on its own lot. This often gives the family a greater degree of privacy.
A semi-detached home is a single-family home that is joined on one side to another home. It can offer many of the advantages of a single-family detached home. It is often less expensive to buy and maintain.
A duplex is a building containing two single-family homes, located one above the other. Sometimes, the owner lives in one unit and rents the other.
Row House (Townhouse)
Row houses (also called townhouses) are several similar single-family homes, side-by-side, joined by common walls. They can be freehold or condominiums. They offer less privacy than a single-family detached home, although each has a separate outdoor space. These homes can cost less to buy and maintain, even though some are large, luxury units.
Stacked townhouses are usually two-storey homes. Two two-story homes are stacked one on top of the other. The buildings are usually attached in groups of four or more. Each unit has direct access from the outside.
Link or Carriage Home
A link, or carriage home, is joined by a garage or carport. The garage or carport gives access to the front and back yards. Builders sometimes join basement walls so that link houses appear to be single-family homes on small lots. These houses can be less expensive than single-family detached homes.
A manufactured home is a factory-built, single-family home. It is transported to a chosen location, and placed onto a foundation.
A modular home is also a factory-built, single-family home. The home is typically shipped to a location in two, or more, sections (or modules).
Mobile homes, like manufactured or modular homes, are built in factories, and then taken to the place where they will be occupied. While these homes are usually placed in one location and left there permanently, they do retain the ability to be moved.
A self-contained unit in part of a building consisting of a room or set of rooms including kitchen and bathroom facilities.
FORMS OF OWNERSHIP
People who do not rent their home, own it. There are two forms of ownership.
Freehold means that one person (or two, such as joint ownership by spouses) owns the land and house outright. There is no space co-owned or co-managed with owners of other units.
Freehold owners can do what they want with their property — up to a point. They must obey municipal bylaws, subdivision agreements, building codes and federal and provincial laws, such as those protecting the environment.
Detached and semi-detached homes, duplexes and townhouses are usually owned freehold.
Condominium ownership means you own the unit you live in and share ownership rights for the common space of the building. Common space includes areas such as corridors, the grounds around the building, and facilities such as a swimming pool and recreation rooms. Condominium owners together control the common areas through an owners’ association. The association makes decisions about using and maintaining the common space.
Condominium ownership is ownership of a unit, usually in a highrise but can also be a townhouse or in a lowrise.