5 things I learned as a first-time homebuyer

As I take a break from pulling weeds in my new garden, I wanted to share some insights I learned as a first-time homebuyer. This summer, my partner Ryan and I bought our first home and it didn’t take long for me to understand why the process can seem overwhelming to many.

In an effort to help those who are also in the process of buying their first home, here are my top five lessons learned:

REALTORS® are the MVP of a homebuying team

I believe working with a REALTOR® put us at an advantage over other buyers attempting to DIY the largest transaction of their lives. My REALTOR® was not only committed to the REALTOR® Code and knowledgeable about the latest developments in real estate, they knew the right questions to ask and things to watch for.

With intimate knowledge of the local housing market, our REALTOR® was an accessible and constant source of guidance, providing information (comparable prices, neighbourhood trends) to make an informed decision about our purchase.

Whether it was setting up viewings quickly (our market was busy!) or coaching us through the offer process (until after midnight!), I couldn’t imagine having to do it alone.

There’s no such thing as “too much” when it comes to browsing REALTOR.ca

REALTOR.ca allowed me to filter listings using personal criteria, share favourite listings with friends and family to get their feedback, and get a sense for the area with detailed neighbourhood and demographic information – which was a priority for us.

I was also able to easily add the REALTOR.ca app to access listings and connect with my REALTOR® on the go, which I did so often, it quickly replaced Facebook as my most-used app.

The Home Buyers’ Plan works

Before working at CREA, I had never heard of the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP). The program allows first-time homebuyers to withdraw up to $25,000 from their Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) to use towards the purchase of a home. As long as you repay the full amount within 15 years, there is no tax and no interest.

I’ve learned first-hand this program can provide much-needed financial wiggle room. In my case, it meant we could make a larger down payment (eliminating the need for mortgage default insurance) and use other savings for important maintenance items and closing costs.

I’m proud to be part of the team here at CREA to advocate an increase in the plan’s withdrawal limit to preserve its purchasing power and that the program be expanded for Canadians experiencing significant life changes. After the plan helped me, I’m hopeful even more Canadian families will be able to access it.

Expect the unexpected

I learned that it’s important to stick to your budget as much as possible and build in emergency savings for those unexpected hiccups, such as the minor repairs that can lead to a surprising number of trips to the hardware store.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand owning a home can be a lot of work and a series of never-ending projects.  Coming to terms with this allowed me to sit back and celebrate this exciting milestone.

Looking for more resources to help your clients with their home purchase? Check out the numerous resources we offer, including the Home Buyers’ Road Map.

Our former Policy Advisor, Nicole Power, worked with boards and associations in support of our Federal Affairs initiatives, providing advocacy and research support and managing Political Action Committee (PAC) engagement. Nicole has spent time on and around Parliament Hill, previously working for the public service and a not-for-profit advocacy organization. In her spare time, Nicole can be found trying new fitness classes and exploring the latest and greatest dining spots in Ottawa.


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