Deciding on which home to purchase can take just a few days, or can take a few months or even longer depending on how many homes meet your needs and price range that are available.
When you have narrowed down your selection make sure you obtain the owners disclosure form, if it is available. The disclosure form lets you know what the owner knows about the home for sale. Obtain strata minutes, if available, to let you know what the strata owners know about their property. Going back only one year for strata minutes may not show all the past problems, or concerns the strata may have.
Know what covenants and easements the property has on title. Make sure you clearly understand them. A covenant is a legal promise or assurance in a deed or other document, or implied by law. Covenants, conditions, and restrictions are rules and regulations for a development, such as those pertaining to acceptable landscaping or improvements that can be made to the individual home or unit. An easement is a right given to a third party to use a portion of the property for certain purposes, such as drainage, power lines, or water mains etc. Make sure easement rights or covenants are still intact. For example, if there is drainage easement for a swale, make sure the swale has not been removed or otherwise obstructed before you close the deal.
Never make an offer on home when you do not have all the necessary information to make an informed offer. You need to know the same information that will eventually assist you in a decision to buy. Ask the owner of home questions about the property, even if they are difficult ones. You have to keep in mind this is a very large investment, not just your home. Do your research. Your agent should be viewed as not just a real estate agent, but also, to some degree, an investment consultant. Your agent should be working with you to ensure you get good value.
Talk to neighbours or friends that live in the area. By talking with you neighbours you can introduce yourself and see how friendly or welcoming they are, after all you might be in this community for a long time. You should ask about noise levels such as trains, ferries or fire halls etc. When talking to other neighbours you can often identify any problems or positive things happening in their community. Find out about traffic problems, sewage problems, and local issues for an idea of what you may expect in the future.
If it is a strata titled property, talk to someone in the strata and the strata council, and ask them if they know of any problems. If problems do exist, is there money in their contingency fund to cover additional costs. Ask people who live in the strata, how they like it.
Know what your expenses are going to be on the home you are thinking about purchasing. Obtain information in regards to average monthly utility bills, annual property taxes, strata fees (if any), home insurance etc.
When looking at homes look beyond the agents comments about the home. The cozy rancher, could mean very little square footage. Bright and cheerful could mean they just painted over a problem home. Needs some work could mean the home needs extensive repairs. Easy yard maintenance could mean you have a very small lot.
Look at the homes realistically, do they meet your criteria including your needs list. Limit the number of homes you're looking at in a day so you remember individual features with each of the homes. Looking at to many homes makes it more difficult to remember each one, as they tend to overlap and they begin to run together. It's a good idea to use a checklist form to help you track the properties you have seen.
Using a checklist to note different features of each home will help. Call your agent, and let the agent do the research on any advertised homes that meet your criteria. That is what the real estate agent is paid to do. Remember that with brand new homes, if you visit without your agent, you may not be able to have him or her represent you, so always be accompanied by your agent. Should you become interested in a for-sale-by-owner home, get your agent to contact the owner before you do, to find out if the owner will pay a commission to the agent.
Sometimes when a deal seems to be good to be true, maybe it is to good to be true and is not such a good deal. Have reservations about fixer-uppers. You can sometimes save a money through sweat equity, but at what expense to your finances, family life, time, etc. You have to carefully evaluate the work that needs to be done, and how much it will actually cost to do the repairs or renovations. Doing even minor renovations can test even good relationships. Make sure you balance out everything, including additional costs for repairs, available time, and possible strain on a relationship, prior to making an offer. There is a big difference between a home that needs cosmetic fixes, and one that needs major remodeling. Take the time to differentiate between the two.
After you decided on two or three homes, go back and visit the homes and ask questions and carefully view the homes. Check the inside and outside of the home. Check the property and outbuildings. Remember, when making an offer you must decide how much they are willing to spend and don't go above that price. And most importantly never feel pressured into purchasing a home. The decision to purchase a home is something you often have to live with for a number of years.
Take the time to consider which home is actually best for you. Use all the information you obtained and compare that with the features you want in your home and compare your first choice with your other choices. Your first choice may have all the features you want but the price may be high and the seller may not be motivated to accept a lower offer. The other home has all the features you want at a more affordable price, but may need more cosmetic work and repairs.
Always keep in mind, which home is likely going to be easier to sell. Plan for the worst but expect the best. You might think you are going to live in your home along time, but situations change that can affect where you live. A planned freeway or university close to your home could drastically affect your home's resale value 15 years from now.