Careful path will make house dreams achievable

Careful path will make house dreams achievable

By ·October 4, 2012

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Most people spend more on their homes than they will on anything else in their lives. Experts in three fields share strategies on how to avoid costly mistakes and offer suggestions for how to end up with the house of your dreams.

A poll conducted for TD Canada Trust found many homebuyers admitted to making rookie mistakes when they bought their first home.

These are the top three things new homeowners would change if they could do it again.

Make a bigger down payment (61 per cent)

“Buying a home is the biggest investment most people will ever make, so it’s important to save a sizable down payment and prove to yourself that you are ready to take on the responsibility of a mortgage,” says Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice for TD Canada Trust.

for TD Canada Trust. Be more thorough when budgeting (54 per cent)

“Start by comparing what it costs you to rent monthly to what it would cost if you owned your home,” says Haque, adding homeowners should factor in expenses like property tax, insurance, repairs and utilities – in addition to the monthly mortgage payments.

payments. Buy a home sooner (61 per cent)

“I’m not surprised that even after becoming homeowners, people are split about whether their timing was right,” Haque says. “If you want to buy a home, learn as much as you can about the homebuying process and start to prepare your finances.”

The majority of people generally purchase more than one home in their lifetime. Each time they do, they incur a variety of costs, including real estate agent commission fees for the seller, mortgage fees for the buyer and a fee to break a mortgage (if applicable) for the seller.

Nicole Burgess, a six-year veteran with Pemberton Holmes, says people typically sell when their home no longer meets their needs.

For example, a home may have too few bedrooms for a growing family, or be too large or costly for elderly homeowners to maintain.

To ensure you can sell your home when you need to, it’s important to buy a house that appeals to a larger market, Burgess says. Purchasing a single-family home without a garage or a condo where rentals are prohibited will make it harder to resell.

“You have to think beyond your own needs at the time. A property with desirable features always commands a better price.”

The real estate adage of location, location, location also applies, she says.

“A house in a prime location is the first to rise in an increasing market – and the last to come down in a declining one.”

While some people will buy a new property to get the features they desire, a less expensive way is to renovate an existing house over time.

“When people buy their first home, they are usually on a budget and tend to put up with what they got,” says Steve Copp, president of Steve Copp Construction. “Half of our business comes from homeowners renovating and upgrading their homes. Some spread out their renovation projects over a span of two to three years, with us returning to work on one room at a time.”

The most common room owners want renovated is the kitchen, he says. People put in solid-wood cabinets and add built-in features such as wine coolers and computer stations.

More extensive renovations involve removing walls to create a modern openplan layout that connects the kitchen with an adjacent family room.

Bathroom renovations, adding an ensuite to the master bedroom, are also high on the list of desirable improvements. Those dreams can come crashing down to Earth once the construction quotes appear, however.

A lot of people read homeimprovement magazines and want to recreate what they see in the pages,” says Copp, 26 years in the business. “Once they see the quote, they realize that their Champagne tastes don’t match their beer budget.”

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