Finding The Home That Is Right For You

Buying a new home is an exciting and rewarding process. It is also a serious decision and a significant investment. Doing your homework and carefully researching the marketplace means that you will be able to buy your new home with confidence, knowing that you are getting the most for your money from the best in the field.

Once you have determined the price range that you can afford, you can begin to look for your new home. It usually takes time to find the right home at the right price, but the following checklist will help you to get started.

Decide Where You Want To Live

The location of your new home is one of the most important factors you will want to consider. As you explore new neighbourhoods and communities, keep these questions in mind:

  • How far are you prepared to travel to work, school and shopping?
  • Do you prefer to be close to libraries, entertainment and recreational facilities?
  • Is there a hospital and other medical and dental services in the vicinity?
  • Are there environmental considerations such as air pollution or noise from cars, trains or airplanes?
  • Are there public "green spaces" in the immediate neighbourhood?
  • Does the zoning permit tenants and boarders, or a home office?
  • What are the short- and long-term development plans for the neighbourhood and the surrounding area?
  • What would the neighbourhood be like to live in now? What will it be like five, 10 or more years from now?

Choose A Professional Builder

When you decide to buy a new home, it is important to select a professional builder. The quality of your home is determined by the quality of your builder; and when you buy from a professional builder, you are assured of getting the most value from your investment.

Contact your local Home Builders' Association for the names and telephone numbers of member builders. Association members are committed to professionalism in the construction industry and adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.

Contact the New Home Warranty Program office in your area for a list of registered builders (if applicable). Most provinces operate a new home warranty program that guarantees against defects and structural failures, and most professional builders belong to the program, where available.

Talk to friends and family members who have recently bought a new home, and ask for their recommendations.

Gather at least three names of prospective builders. Contact each of them to discuss your housing needs.

Take a good, close look at the builder's model homes. Are they soundly built, and well-finished? How do they compare with other homes by other builders?

Ask the builder about the post-sale service "package". Many builders have an established follow-up system after move-in. Compare the service packages of different builders.

Request a list of the builder's previous projects and customers. Take a look at some of these homes and talk to the homeowners. Are they satisfied with their home? Did the builder complete construction on time?

Check with the Better Business Bureau once you have chosen a builder. Are there any complaints on record? If so, how were the complaints resolved?

Buying on your own or with a real estate agent?

You may prefer to find your new home on your own. Check newspaper ads regularly and follow up with calls and visits to those builders who sound promising. Drive around in your chosen area(s) and look for "for sale" signs. And most importantly, visit builders' model homes to get a good impression of what is available in your price range. Talk with builders and their sales representatives. Take notes and compare. Once you have decided on a builder and a model, you will usually work directly with the builder and/or sales representative on the offer (with guidance from your lawyer).

Working with a real estate agent can reduce some of the initial research time. Most builders will pay a "finder's fee" to real estate agents, however, many builders prefer their clients to work directly with them or their sales representative when the time comes to prepare an offer. Contact a reputable broker, and request an agent who specializes in new homes and who is familiar with the professional home builders in your area.

Get The Home You Want

You should consider carefully what you need and want in a new home. Then make a list of what you "must have" versus what is "nice to have", always keeping your financial resources in mind. Discuss your priorities, needs and dreams with your builder and sales representative. They will be able to make suggestions to help stretch your budget and get you the greatest value for your money.

  • How many years do you plan to live in your new home? Do you expect the number of people living in the home to grow over the years, or to decrease?
  • How big must your home be? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Ideally want?
  • Do you plan to rent out part of the house to a boarder or tenant?
  • Examine your lifestyle. Do you need areas for formal entertainment? An eat-in kitchen? Bedrooms that are isolated from the main living areas?
  • How much storage space do you need?
  • Do you need a finished basement with work or play areas?
  • Does anyone in the household have special needs that must be addressed, such as mobility challenges or environmental sensitivities (allergies)?
  • Do you wish to upgrade some of the builder's standard choices for flooring, kitchen cupboards and bathroom fixtures?
  • Are there "special features" that you have always dreamed about? You don't want to exceed your budget when making decisions about your new home. At the same time, it is wise to look ahead if you intend to stay in the house for a number of years. Installing a skylight or a great window, for instance, is much less costly when the house is first being built than five years later.