Official First Time Home Buyer’s Guide

Official first time home buyers guide

Congratulations! You’re finally at a place in your life where buying your first home seems achievable. You’re scared but excited, intimidated but optimistic, nervous but determined. Buying your first home can be a huge rollercoaster of emotions with so many moving parts.

Fear not! This first time home buyer’s guide will walk you through the process step-by-step.

The All Too Familiar Home Purchase Story…

Just imagine for a moment that you’re out with your realtor looking at homes. After viewing a half-dozen or so, you arrive at the doorstep of your dream home. The moment you walk in, you instantly envision you and your family living there.

It’s the perfect place; the one you’ve been dreaming of all this time! Unfortunately, you’re not the only one who thinks they’ve found The One. There are 20 others who have viewed this home due to its unbeatable location and below-market price.

lineup of home buyers

You proceed to make an offer that’s substantially over the asking price—no one is getting in the way of you and your dream home. The offers are presented; the seller decides to go with someone else. Your offer is declined. You are heartbroken. You just can’t see past this home; every other house you view just doesn’t compare. You’re feeling defeated and losing hope.

Then, five days later, you get a call from your realtor. The other offer on the home fell through… and yours has been accepted! Everything changes with that quick phone call. You are ecstatic, jumping with joy! There’s hope in this again.

Then your home purchase starts!

You call your mortgage broker and they begin to prepare the financing. You call the property inspector to set up a time to view your future home. You feel like things are finally coming together and start telling all of your friends about your new home.

You’ve got Pinterest boards, design ideas and paint choices figured out, and you already know how you’re going to add your special touch to each room. Then the property inspection reveals that there is a major structural crack in the home. Without digging up the foundation, they don’t know whether this is a simple patch-up procedure or a full-blown reconstruction project that could cost tens of thousands.

home buying process explained

You’re already emotionally invested in this house. You’ve told all of your friends and family about your dream home, so what do you do now? Do you act on emotion or logic? This common scenario just gives you a glimpse into the emotional rollercoaster that buying a home can be.

Is it always like this?

No, it’s not, and trust me, I hope this is not the case for you.

The Goal For This Home Buyer’s Guide:

I want your home buying process to be a simple, straightforward and enjoyable process for you. I just want you to be aware of what the process may look like and prepared for the unexpected things that can come up. I always go by the motto “everything happens for a reason.”

There have been numerous occasions where I have seen that first offer fall through on a client’s “dream home”, just to have them look back and be so grateful that they found the home that they have today. My best advice is to not emotionally commit yourself until your financing and inspection conditions have been met.

Should you tell your friends and family?

Telling your friends and family about your new home before you have all the facts ties you to it and clouds your judgment. Once you have been fully approved for financing, the property inspection has come back up to your standards, and the offer has gone firm, then you can tell every person you know. Throw a party, pop some bubbly, show them all your design ideas and paint swatches until they can’t tell one from the other. The odds of something falling apart and the house not closing after the conditions are met is very slim.

Home Buyer’s Step-By-Step Guide:

Official first time home buyers guide

Here is a generalized outline of how the home buying process works. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details here as there are a lot of items outside of the scope of mortgage financing that occur in the transaction. This is just to give you a rough idea of how the process goes.

1)  Get pre-approved for mortgage financing

Before you even begin to look at homes, you should get pre-approved. There is no point in getting your hopes up and looking at homes only to find out later that you do not qualify for that amount or that there is something holding you back from getting approved. A pre-approval will not only tell you the maximum house price you qualify for, but it will also allow you to have a realistic idea of how much your monthly payments will be.

2)  Start searching for homes with a realtor

A good realtor acts in your best interests. They are free for the buyer to use and they will not only negotiate to get you the best price but will also provide valuable guidance and reassurance throughout the process. As a new buyer, it is very important that you have someone who can guide you.

It is NOT recommended to use the same realtor who is selling the house you are looking to buy. They have an obligation to look out for the seller’s best interest first and not necessarily yours. However, the exception is new construction homes as the price tends to be firm with the builder, so using the listing agent in that scenario can be acceptable.

3)  Make an offer

Once the offer is made, you will need to wait until it is accepted. This is usually within 48 hours. After the offer is accepted, you will have an accepted purchase and sale agreement with the sellers of the home. Your offer has a couple deadlines, but we will explain the two main ones here that are related to mortgage financing.

The first date is the conditions date, which is typically around seven business days from the time the offer is made. The second date is the closing date. The conditions date is the time you have to get all of your financing approved and your inspections completed. When this date arrives, one of three things will happen. You will either:

  1. Waive the conditions, which means the deal goes firm and you have bought the home;
  2. Terminate the agreement because you were unable to meet the conditions or the house is not up to your standards; or
  3. Request an extension for more time if something unexpected has come up or there has been delays in the process.

After the deal goes firm, you are in a binding contract with the seller to purchase the home on the closing date.

4)  Get approved for the mortgage

One of these conditions is the condition of financing. When an offer is made, you will need to have your realtor send it to your mortgage broker right away. Check in with your broker to ensure they have received it. The broker will send this offer in for approval.

Once the mortgage is approved, a commitment will be issued. From the time the broker submits the offer to the time a commitment is received typically takes 48 hours. A commitment is essentially a conditional approval. It outlines all of the terms and conditions from the lender and states the documents they require to approve the file.

The standard documents they will ask for will be in relation to income and down payment, but additional documents may be required for each individual circumstance. These documents are outlined in subsequent chapters for specific situations in Alex Lavender’s free book “Mortgages For Millennials”.

You will need to bring these documents to your broker and sign the commitment. After that, your financing can be approved!

5)  You wait

This is the hard part. You’ve done your part, everything is approved, and the condition period has passed. Now, you essentially play the waiting game. Sometimes, this is non-existent and sometimes it’s so long you forget that you just purchased a house to begin with.

About a week before the closing date arrives, your lawyer will meet with you to sign the final paperwork and obtain a bank draft for the necessary funds. At this point, the best advice I can give you is to ensure that you meet with your lawyer at least two days before closing, especially if your closing date is a Friday!

I have witnessed firsthand scenarios where a client goes in to sign on the morning of closing only to forget a crucial item that has been requested. And when it’s Friday, you can be certain that nothing is going to be happening until Monday.

This creates a domino effect when the seller of the home you are purchasing has their own offer on another home that is supposed to close that day. You can see how your transaction can impact others who are relying on this sale.

6)  The house closes

You do your final walkthrough and the house is finally yours. Congratulations—you’re officially a homeowner!

Your lawyer and realtor will help you schedule your key exchange on or before the official takeover date.

Alex Lavender

Alex Lavender

Alex Lavender is a mortgage broker based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the author of the book "Mortgages for Millennials" which is used by Canadians to understand how mortgages work. Alex was born raised in a small town in Ontario, and now finds pride in helping everyday Canadians get a mortgage for their first home.

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