Home ownership is the most significant financial investment that the average Canadian will ever make. Buying a house in Kelowna is the first step on the property ladder, putting you in a position to build equity and trade up to better and better homes as your financial circumstances permit. Here are some secrets recommended by realtors and investment specialists for buyers heading into the market for the first time.
Lay the Groundwork and Make a Plan
Before you go out and look at an array of houses, make sure you understand what you need and want in a home. Obviously, you want to create a ballpark figure of what you can afford: getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a very realistic picture of what range of property values you can consider. Think about what you value in a home and in a district before you head out, and put those priorities on a checklist so you don’t make your decision based on aesthetics or impulse alone. Once you have figured out what you can afford, list the ‘must haves’, the ‘like to haves’ and the ‘luxuries’ on a checklist. Check off these items for each property you assess. This will help you make a decision based on solid, quantitative evidence. Think about this checklist as a report card for your new home: the house with the most “A”s may become your new home!
What You See is Not Always What You Get
Don’t make the mistake of simply accepting the story that the seller gives you. Even realtors can omit key information when working with prospective buyers, as an unlucky couple buying in Kelowna recently discovered. When Colleen MacKinnon and Shawn Howe bought a Kelowna house in a hurry last year, they moved down from the Yukon only to discover mould, dangerous wiring, damaged appliances and a slew of problems that cost them over $40 000 to address.
“We spent a lot of money for a house that basically imploded 12 days after we bought it,” said MacKinnon. Though theirs is a worst-case scenario, avoid potential pitfalls by remembering the motto “buyer beware”. Seek an independent home inspection so you know exactly what you are investing in, and make sure that the report you receive is detailed and involves inspector liability. After all, if the inspector is willing to put their professional reputation and practice on the line in support of their findings, then you can rest assured that said inspector is completely certain the house is up to code.
Look Past the Fence Line
Loving a house does not necessarily mean you’re going to love living there. Factors to consider include traffic and noise, proximity to schools and workplaces, and the availability of green space. The type of neighbourhood is important, too: are there many established families and households? You can find out about the age, median income and family sizes of the neighbourhood by looking at the demographic profiles of Kelowna at Statistics Canada. Map out Kelowna’s recreational and cultural services, and see where houses on the market are in relation to community and neighbourhood programs that you’ll want to access. Kelowna has some fantastic facilities, from Memorial Arena to Prospera Place. The Kelowna YMCA offers swimming, children and youth programs, and seniors activity programs. Knowing what you want in a community can help you to assess any particular property you might be interested in.
When assessing potential homes, it’s important to do all of your homework. Go to open houses, absolutely, but be realistic about what you can afford based on a mortgage pre-approval. Then, be sure to never leave home without your checklist so you can rate houses according to the criteria that are important to you. To avoid any last-minute surprises, get a home inspection that is professional, independent, and detailed. Finally, selecting a place to lay down roots is more than a matter of the property itself: research the neighbourhood and consider your changing needs as a factor in finding the perfect happy home. By going into your first home buying experience with your eyes wide open, you can avoid any problems before they arise and find the perfect home to meet your needs.