Being a military family, we have been through several relocations (12 so far) in our 27 years. Prior to each move, we are allotted between 5 and 7 days to find a new home — our “house hunting trip”. If you’re moving soon, here are a few tips that can help make your house hunting trip a little less stressful.
Define your needs and wants
We always make two lists when we are searching for a home — one list with the absolute minimum we will accept and another one with some features that we would really appreciate. For example, our bicycles are an essential mode of transportation for us so we need secure outdoor storage. We need at least a large garden shed or a one-car garage. We would really appreciate a two-car garage.
Other questions to ask yourself include:
- Do you want an older home with character and potentially higher maintenance costs or a newer home with modern design and lower maintenance costs?
- Do you need to be close to a specific school for your children?
- Do you need to be on a direct public transit route to work/school?
- Do you want to be close to fitness centres, cycling/hiking trails, dog parks, grocery stores?
Remember to speak to your financial advisor to determine what kind of mortgage payment you can manage and factor that in to your needs and wants list.
Research homes and neighbourhoods
Contact a real estate agent as soon as you know you’ll be moving into the area. They know the area very well and they know the market. Provide your list of needs and wants as well as your budget and a timeline of when you plan on moving into the new home. Your agent can put together a list of potential properties based on the requirements you provide.
Research other information such as tax rates, schools, and crime statistics. You might also want to verify costs for services such as electricity, water, heating fuel, internet accessibility and other municipal services such as public transit and garbage/recycling collection.
Following the Twitter accounts for public transit, city services, local traffic, and local police will also give you some good information about the city as will listening to live-streaming of local news radio stations.
If you’re lucky enough to know people who live in your new city, reach out to them for advice. They might be able to connect you to Facebook or LinkedIn pages and groups that can provide information about your new area.
Your house-hunting trip may only be a week long and you may have a limited selection of homes to choose from. Rather than invest money in a house you may not be happy with, consider renting. While you are residing in a rental property, you will have the opportunity to get to know your new city, its neighbourhoods, traffic patterns, and amenities. You’ll have to move again (out of your rental and into your own home) but that hassle might be worth it if you can take the time to find your dream home in your preferred neighbourhood.
Indicate to your real estate agent that you are open to renting if you don’t see what you want to buy. Do a bit of research into the landlord-tenant regulations and standard leases in your new area to ensure you are comfortable with the terms of a rent or lease agreement (for example, how much notice must you give before you move out, are there penalties for moving out early, etc.).
Prepare before you go
Most realtors will be able to send you a list of potential homes before you arrive. Go through the list and eliminate any homes that do not meet your minimum requirements. Have your realtor make viewing appointments for any homes you do want to visit.
Ask if your realtor will be chauffeuring you around or whether you will be driving the realtor around. If it is the latter, take a few moments to enter the addresses of the homes you’ll be visiting into your car’s navigation system — if you’ll be using your own car. If you’ll be using a rental car you can use your own GPS or app on your phone.
Check your cell phone plan to ensure you will have phone/text/data coverage in your new area. Your phone company might offer a data roaming add-on for a discounted rate. This is especially important if you are using your phone as a navigation system.
Purchase a paper map of your new city. They have the advantage of allow you to view a much larger area and it is easy to see in one glance the location of all important landmarks and features (e.g., shopping centres, parks, etc.) near each home.
Book a hotel nearest to the neighbourhood where you’re looking for homes. There’s nothing worse to waste your time than being stuck in downtown traffic when you’re trying to get out to the suburbs on the far side of town. It’s also nice to be able to return to your hotel for a bit of a break and to freshen up between showings.
Finding a new home and moving can be stress inducing but when you are prepared ahead of time, you will find it much easier to make a home-buying decision.