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A first-time home buyer’s guide to Metro Vancouver

Looking to purchase your first home but don’t know where to start? We curated a first-time homebuyer’s guide just for you

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Real-estate prices continue to soar across much of B.C., and home ownership is out of reach for far too many people. It can take years of sacrifice to scrape together enough money for a down payment on a modest first home. Then what?

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Anyone poised to plunge into the most expensive housing market in Canada faces myriad questions and choices, such as:

• What real-estate lingo do I need to know?
• How do I find my first realtor?
• How do I win a bidding war?
• Should I buy a new condo or older condo?
• What red flags should I look out for in a condo building?
• What extra costs will I have to pay when I buy a home?
• Do I qualify for financial help to buy my first home?

Postmedia reporters and editors in Metro Vancouver and cities across the country have created a First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide to assist with these and many other questions. In addition to local journalism, you’ll find explanatory stories about the housing market and home-buying process from reporters at the National Post and Financial Post.

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This comprehensive collection of stories and videos is intended for those contemplating the most expensive purchase of their life.


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10 terms first-time B.C. homebuyers need to know

Mariko Baerg helps clarify deposits from down payments, and completion dates from possession dates.
Mariko Baerg helps clarify deposits from down payments, and completion dates from possession dates. Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG

From selecting a realtor and scrolling through the MLS to checking your bank account, buying a home for the first time can be an intimidating prospect. Then there’s all the lingo to learn, such as amortization and variable mortgage rate.

Here is a list of 10 terms that first-time homebuyers should know before wading into the Lower Mainland real estate market.

We asked Bridgewell Real Estate Group’s Mariko Baerg to help us separate our deposits from our down payments, and our completion dates from our possession dates.

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How to find your first realtor: 3 things to look for

Realtor Mary Cleaver says it’s a very intense relationship for the time you’re working with a real-estate agent, so getting the right fit is important.
Realtor Mary Cleaver says it’s a very intense relationship for the time you’re working with a real-estate agent, so getting the right fit is important. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Buying a home for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. Choosing a realtor is one of the first steps to make it less scary. With more than 14,000 real estate agents to choose from in the Lower Mainland, how do you find the right one?

“It’s a very intense relationship for the time you’re working together,” said Mary Cleaver, a realtor since 2011. “There’s a lot at stake.”

The process can take weeks or months as the buyer and the realtor meet for an introductory session, visit open houses, review and discuss documents, and write offers. Rapport is crucial.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or 10th time buying, the things you’re looking for are the same,” Cleaver said. “Competence, as in can they do the job; capacity, can they take you on; and connection.”

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Old, newer or newest? The pros and cons of purchasing an older vs newer condo

Realtor Matt Scalena says Olympic Village in Vancouver is an example of how communities move from new and sterile to desirable quite quickly.
Realtor Matt Scalena says Olympic Village in Vancouver is an example of how communities move from new and sterile to desirable quite quickly. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

For some homebuyers, it’s all about the laundry.

“In-suite laundry can be a deal-breaker for some people,” Stillhaven Real Estate Services’ Kristi Holz said.

If a buyer is thinking about a condo in a newer building it’s no problem. But older buildings likely have shared laundry — one of the things to be aware of when considering whether to buy old, newer, or newest.

From amenities to location, here are some things to consider when deciding between buying a condo in a new building versus an old building.


5 tips if you end up in a bidding war

Realtor Amy Trebelco says it’s important to keep your cool in Vancouver’s housing market.
Realtor Amy Trebelco says it’s important to keep your cool in Vancouver’s housing market. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

You’ve finally found the home of your dreams. So have 15 other people.

Competing offers are the buyer’s bane in a market where demand far outstrips supply. The Lower Mainland has had more than its fair share of bidding wars as emotions run high and home-hungry buyers get caught up in the thrill of the hunt. As they say, it’s a jungle out there.

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That’s why in Vancouver’s housing market it’s important to keep your cool. There are a few things you can do to try to lessen the stress of buying when you’re not the only one who thinks they’ve found their dream home. Local realtor Amy Trebelco provided us with some tips on surviving the Greater Vancouver bidding wars.

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Buying a condo? Watch for these red flags in the strata minutes

Realtor Nicola Campbell says she looks for issues that come up repeatedly in strata minutes.
Realtor Nicola Campbell says she looks for issues that come up repeatedly in strata minutes. Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG

When it comes to buying a home in a strata property, some detective work is in order.

With more than 1.5 million British Columbians living in strata housing, it’s important for homebuyers to know what they’re getting into. Parsing building reports and strata minutes can help avoid future pitfalls, such as special assessments and levies, or worse.

Here are some tips on reading strata minutes, what documents to look for, and how to spot red flags.


Q&A: First-time homebuyers face sticker shock from hidden costs

Along with the minimum deposit, there are fees on top of fees for a home purchase. Realtor Michelle Comens offers some tips about these hidden costs.
Along with the minimum deposit, there are fees on top of fees for a home purchase. Realtor Michelle Comens offers some tips about these hidden costs. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

First-time homebuyers are often surprised at all the extra costs involved in purchasing a home. Along with the minimum deposit, there are fees on top of fees — before, during and after the actual purchase.

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We talked to Michelle Comens, who left the city’s VFX industry for the Lower Mainland real estate world 12 years ago, about these hidden costs.

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How to get financial help to buy your first home in B.C.

Sutton Premier Realty’s Abdul Safi (second from left, with Omar Samadi, Farid Kaywan and Dylan Huang) details what incentives are in place first-time homebuyers in B.C.
Sutton Premier Realty’s Abdul Safi (second from left, with Omar Samadi, Farid Kaywan and Dylan Huang) details what incentives are in place first-time homebuyers in B.C. Photo by Mike Bell /PNG

At first glance, it seems that first-time homebuyers have options when it comes to financial help and government incentives. But dig a little deeper and what looks like a good deal for cash-strapped buyers is either not much of one or based on unrealistic conditions.

To break it down, we talked to Abdul Safi, a mortgage specialist who works for TD in Guildford.

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Other resources for first-time homebuyers

• CMHC calculators: Mortgage | Affordability | Debt Service
• B.C. property transfer tax exemption for first-time home buyers
• CMHC’s first-time home buyer incentive
• CMHC’s condo buyer’s guide
• Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C.


More real-estate coverage from our newsroom

• The latest in local Real Estate news
• More on Mortgages
Buying & Selling around Metro Vancouver
• All about Condos
Decorating & Renovating
• The current issue of Westcoast Homes and Design


Take our two-week newsletter course

Buying a home can be overwhelming — so we’ve created a two-week newsletter course that you through the many steps and decisions. The course is crafted by National Post columnist Tristin Hopper, who had the dubious fortune to be raised by real estate professionals and has also owned (and renovated) a few homes of his own. But he’ll be sourcing a whole galaxy of experts and statistics for the course so you don’t have to worry about taking his word for things. Sign up now, it’s free!

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Your Big Questions Answered

Many questions about entering the housing market — like how to prepare for rising interest rates or how to access your RRSP to make a down payment — are asked across Canada and we have the answers. Postmedia’s in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. Subscribing to The Vancouver Sun gives you unlimited online access not only to the stories in your backyard, but also to the National Post and other major Canadian news sites across the Postmedia network.

New homes stand in East Gwillimbury, Ontario.
New homes stand in East Gwillimbury, Ontario.

16 things to know before buying your first home

We’ll be blunt; Canada is not an easy place to buy a home. Decades of underbuilding have resulted in Canada having one of the most acute housing shortages in the G7. With fewer homes to go around, real estate in many of Canada’s major cities has been bid up to levels that now rank as some of the most unaffordable on earth.

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But it’s not impossible, even for those Canadians who may not have the good fortune of an eight-figure inheritance to play with. Nearly 70 per cent of Canadians own their own home, and that figure is rising each year. Read more for tips on how to join them.


How this young B.C. couple bought their first home — a two-bedroom condo — for $620,000

Ziggy and Katie got married seven years ago at the age of 20 and 21 respectively. Since then, they have been saving up to buy a place of their own. Ziggy said owning a home was on his bucket list.

They were open to living anywhere in B.C., but knew cities like Vancouver and Burnaby were out of the question. Ideally, they wanted something new and within their budget.

And unlike some others, they weren’t able to get help from family or relatives to get their foot in the market. It was up to them to come up with the money for the down payment. To make that a reality, they worked nonstop and followed a strict budget.

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How this 22-year-old bought a $1.3 million pre-construction home in Brampton, Ont.

Sumi Ragu bought his first home at 22-years-old, a near-impossible feat for the average millennial these days.

But the accomplishment came at no small cost, he acknowledged. “I didn’t have a work-life balance. I was doing a lot of work and minimal sleep,” he said. “I lost half my hair, like, trying to get a mortgage for this.”


How this young Ontario couple bought a 3,200-square-foot home for $1.4 million

After having a child, Amanda and Joseph wanted to expand their living space and have a place to call their own. Amanda has been working since she was 17 years old, and home ownership was always something in the back of her mind, she said. Beyond savings from work, both her husband and her lived with their respective parents until they got married, in order to live more frugally.

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Before they got married, she invested in a pre-construction condo in Maple, Ont. The development took about three years to complete and was profitable by the time they sold it. She said this initial investment helped to fund the house they bought.


How this 24-year-old bought her first condo for $175,000 in Quebec

Derek feels lucky he was able to buy a place of his own. Knowing he wanted to buy in Tofino, he kept an open mind to how he would buy a place. Initially, he thought he would buy a house with his friend and split the cost. Houses were moving fast and he said everything he was interested in would get snapped up quickly — often over the original asking price.

“It was just very frustrating being a first-time homebuyer, not being able to lean on my equity from a previous house to buy a second place or a huge line of credit or anything like that. I just felt like it wasn’t fair. Like, I couldn’t really do anything,” she said. “But then I got really lucky.”

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The rate hikes cometh: How to get your mortgage before a rising rate environment

The era of ultra-low borrowing costs is over.

When the Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest a quarter point to 0.5 per cent in early March, it made clear that more rises were on the way.

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What first-time homebuyers need to know about using RRSPs to fund a down payment

The biggest obstacle to home ownership for many is the down payment, especially these days, with home prices in Canada’s hottest markets running rampant.

One way many first-time buyers get over that barrier is with a boost from their registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) through the Home Buyers Plan. Before depleting this tax-sheltered savings account, there are a few things to consider.

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Rent or buy? Here’s how to decide what’s best for you

Buy or rent? Simple question, difficult answer.

Renters boast about the flexibility that comes from being unanchored by a mortgage, nor is it their problem when something breaks around the house.

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The Financial Post‘s Down to Business podcast tells you what you need to know about Canadian business each week in under 30 minutes. That team also took time to explore key questions when it comes to buying a home. Download the first episode here.


Looking to buy property out of province?

Check out our other first-time homebuyer guides:


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A first-time home buyer’s guide to Metro Vancouver Source link A first-time home buyer’s guide to Metro Vancouver

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