Strategies to make your first real estate experience less stressful
Like many first-time homebuyers in Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna, Melissa Dirks was anxious about getting into the real estate market.
“I was nervous because Vancouver has been a hot market and difficult to break into,” says Dirks, who moved into her one-bedroom North Burnaby condo in June. “It’s obviously a very large purchase and it’s a lot of financial responsibility—the onus of that was nerve-wracking.”
A 2018 poll of 2,000 first-time homebuyers by Homes.com shows that two in five respondents describe purchasing a new home as “the most stressful event in modern life.” Not only that, homebuyers had an average of four arguments throughout the process and a third of them were reduced to tears at least once.
One reason people are so anxious is because they lack knowledge and confidence.
“Buying a home is a stressful experience, especially for first-time buyers who are unfamiliar with the process,” says Ashley Smith, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV). “People are looking at a big commitment and large investment, and the unknowns stress them out.”
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to reduce your stress. Here are six strategies to find your dream home with ease.
Hire a realtor who’s right for you
One of the most important steps you can take to reduce your homebuying stress is hire a local realtor to represent you and help you navigate the process.
“Having somebody to help you along the way and fill in any knowledge gaps is important,” Smith says.
Dirks credits her realtor with significantly reducing her stress and making the homebuying experience smooth and enjoyable.
“My realtor went through everything with me step by step,” she says. “He provided me with the right information and expert opinion, and he didn’t try to push anything on me. I felt like he was really protecting me and had my best interests at heart at all times.”
Dirks adds that finding a realtor with a personality that suited hers was helpful.
“My realtor and I were a great fit,” she says. “We got along, so it was easy to ask him questions and stay connected. He was knowledgeable and helpful.
Know your price point
When you’re looking to purchase a home, understanding what you can afford is essential, Smith says.
Before you start house shopping, it’s important to get preapproved for a mortgage. Take some time to understand how different mortgage rates work and make sure you can still afford your home should rates change in the future.
Don’t forget about other costs associated to buying a place (taxes, legal fees and moving expenses) or ongoing expenses associated with homeownership, such as property taxes and home insurance.
“Staying on top of those expenses, and all of the other details, can be stressful, but your realtor and mortgage professional can help you,” Smith says, adding that a realtor will work with you on a homebuying negotiating strategy based on what you can afford.
Know the market
Understanding how much the homes you want are selling for in the neighbourhoods you desire can reduce your stress and strengthen your bargaining position, Smith says.
Realtors can access data on past sales and create a personalized comparative market analysis that gives you a clear picture of the trends in the area.
“Your realtor will also be invaluable when it comes to market analysis,” Smith says. “We analyze the most recent trends and determine what the competition looks like so you can make a competitive offer.”
Line up the professionals you’ll need
Work with your realtor well in advance to line up all the professionals you’ll need to contact during the homebuying process.
Your realtor can recommend home inspectors, lawyers, insurance agents, movers and contractors. Having your team selected before you put in an offer helps ensure the move in process happens in a timely manner and you’re not left scrambling and stressed.
Dirks’s realtor recommended several professionals, saving her time, reducing her stress and giving her confidence they would do a good job.
Go through strata documents
If you’re purchasing a condo, your realtor will read and go through the strata minutes – notes from a building’s strata council meetings.
Wading through these reports can seem daunting, but with the help of your realtor you’ll learn important information about the building, including details on repairs that have been done or are needed and whether there’s a contingency fund in place to deal with issues as they arise.
“Reading through all the minutes and trying to figure out what everything meant was one of the most stressful things, but my realtor really helped me,” Dirks says. “He was always available for any questions.”
Know the little things
Smith advises homebuyers to make detailed lists of all the things they want in a home. This can help people identify the little things that are important to them, like being able to walk to a grocery store and public transit.
Sometimes, the little things can add up to something big. For example, if you’re a night-shift worker, you may not want to live in a condo that faces east because it gets sunlight early in the morning. Your realtor can help you identify these sometimes-overlooked issues, Smith says.
Before Dirks put in an offer on her place, her realtor toured her around the neighbhourhood, discussing its liveability and future, and pointing out the closest grocery stores and where to catch the bus.
“My realtor really went above and beyond and helped reduce my stress,” she says. “He had my back and he made sure I got the best deal possible.”