When you’re comfortable in your rental property and renting has become a standard factor in your budget, at what point is it the right time to buckle down and seriously begin your home search? How will I know when it’s time to make the switch? After pouring through articles, forums, and blogs, I’ve come up with a quick guide that first-time buyers can refer to as a starting point to see if it’s time for them to take the next big step of homeownership.
1. AM I READY TO SETTLE DOWN?
Buying a home doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with one property for the rest of your life, though it’s usually not an extremely short-term endeavour. As a university student, I moved constantly. Spending the summers at my family home in Calgary, the school year in an apartment in Vancouver, and random semesters either studying or volunteering abroad, I certainly did not have a home base. While moving cities that frequently may not be conducive to owning a home, now that I’ve graduated from university and have a semi-stable career, it seems to be a more realistic option. However, one fear still lingers: what if I suddenly decide to move in a year or two? Will I regret homeownership? Based on my research, the conclusion that I’ve come to is no – as long as I take this into account when I purchase. You may never be ready to “settle down” into one home for the rest of your life, many people move often throughout all stages their lives, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t own a home. As long as you’re aware of your tendencies or desires you can prepare yourself by looking for a home that will accommodate for unexpected change. Will the home be easy to sell, or could it be transformed into a rental property? Ask yourself these questions before you buy if you’re not ready for a longterm commitment.
2. IS IT A GOOD TIME TO BUY A PROPERTY?
Living in Vancouver, one of the most expensive real estate markets in Canada, purchasing a home can seem a bit daunting to a first-time buyer. That feeling of “what if” can be a huge mental obstacle when it comes to seriously approach the real estate market. What if mortgage rates decrease this year? What if home values go down in 6 months? There’s a feeling of uncertainly that many first-time buyers experience (after all, we’re not all experts!). For me personally, this has been one of the biggest mental barriers between myself and purchasing a home; I don’t know too much about the real estate market, so I should wait until I have time to learn… and then I can perfectly time the market to get the best deal possibly for my home! Right?! Wrong! It turns out that Mortgage rates and home values are almost impossible to predict (Investopedia), so rather than focusing on getting the best deal, it’s better to focus on whether or not you can afford the home you want. If it’s a great home for you and you can afford it, then it’s the right time to buy. If the mortgage rates decrease slightly in 6 months. You’ll never achieve the perfect scenario when it comes to purchasing, so rather than focus on the “what-if’s” focus on what’s possible and what meets your needs.
3. WHERE SHOULD I BUY?
Vancouverites are blessed with a stunning city that is full of fantastic neighbourhoods, vibrant businesses, and diverse residents. While that’s a huge bonus for anyone who lives here, it can also make choosing a neighbourhood seem like the ultimate dilemma. An interesting piece of advice that I found on HGTV.com is to come up with a profile of your ideal neighbourhood, and then see which neighbourhood best fits that profile.
Would I prefer to drive, transit, or walk most places?
What businesses do I frequent?
What’s the commute like?
Is quietness a priority to me?
After considering criteria such as these, it will become apparent what matters the most to you when it comes to your neighbourhood. Then you can easily compare your list of “must-haves” and “would-like” to the characteristics of each neighbourhood you’re considering.
Ta-da! You’ve (hopefully) found your fit.
To me, these have been the three most daunting aspects of taking the next step to buy a home.
Overcoming the uncertainty of where life will take me to invest in an asset that I can call home seems more logical after reading all the stories of lifelong nomads who have managed to become home owners without regret.
Letting go of anxieties over whether it’s the perfect time to buy and shifting my perspective to look at whether I can afford to buy has provided clarity. After all, if I’m looking at whether I should buy a home I should be looking at what works for me rather than whether or not the market is in an unattainably optimal place.
Lastly, by determining what neighbourhoods fit best with my lifestyle I have now narrowed down where I should start looking. That alone makes the task of buying a property seem much more manageable.
To all the first time buyers out there, know that your questions and anxieties help you to make responsible decisions, but don’t let them hold you back from gaining one of the most valuable assets you’ll ever own: a home.
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