As a "rule of thumb" you can afford to buy a home equal in price to twice your gross annual income. More precisely, the price you can afford to pay for a home will depend on six factors:
1. Your income
2. The amount of cash you have available for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves required by the mortgage provider.
3. Your outstanding debts
4. Your credit history
5. The type of mortgage you select
6. Current interest rates
Mortgage providers will analyze your income in relation to your projected cost of the home and outstanding debts. This will determine the size of loan you can borrow. Your housing expense-to-income ratio is determined by calculating your projected monthly housing expense, which consists of the principal and interest payment on your loan, property taxes and hazard insurance. The sum of these costs is referred to as "PITI."
Monthly homeowner association dues, if you're purchasing a condominium or townhouse, and private mortgage insurance are added to the PITI. Your housing income-to-expense ratio should fall in the 28 to 33 percent range. 28 percent of your gross monthly income is allotted toward PITI. 33 percent of you gross monthly income is allowed for PITI and all long term debt. Some mortgage providers will go higher under certain circumstances. Your total income-to-debt ratio should not exceed 34 to 38 percent of your gross income.
First and foremost it is strongly recommended that you hire a professional person to inspect the home. Your inspector should belong to the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI). The real estate agent you choose to work with should come with a recommendation on the home inspector you should use.
Secondly Ontario requires sellers to complete a disclosure form revealing everything known about their property. Home sellers are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems. A checklist specifies interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roof, insulation, windows, fences, driveway, sidewalks, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems.
The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachment of easements for their particular piece of real estate. Room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property.
Also look for settling, sliding or soil problems, flooding or drainage problems.
People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions, if the homeowners association has any authority over the subject property and ownership of common areas with others. Be sure to ask questions about anything that remains unclear or does not seem to be properly addressed by the forms provided to you. You should review all of the forms provided with a qualified real estate agent.
There are always some sellers who for some reason must sell quickly. However, in general, a very low offer in a normal market might be rejected immediately. In a strong buyer's market, the below-market offer will usually either be accepted or generate a counteroffer. If few offers are being made, an outright rejection of offers becomes unlikely. In a strong seller's market, offers are often higher than full price. While it is true that offers at or above full price are more likely to be accepted by the seller, there are other considerations involved:
1. Is the offer contingent upon anything, such as the sale of the buyer's current house? If so, even at full price, such an offer may not be as attractive as an offer without that condition.
2. Is the offer made on the house "as is," or does the buyer want the seller to make some repairs before the close of the sale or make a price concession instead?
3. Is the offer all cash, meaning the buyer has waived the financing contingency? If so, then an offer at less than the asking price may be more attractive to the seller than a full-price offer with a financing contingency.
4. Are there any requests for seller concessions, such as asking the seller to contribute towards points and/or closing costs? If so, the offer is not really full price.
Different sellers price houses very differently. Some deliberately overprice, others ask for pretty close to what they hope to get and a few (maybe the cleverest) under price their houses in the hope that potential buyers will compete and overbid. A seller's advertised price should be treated only as a rough estimate of what they would like to receive.
If possible, try to learn about the seller's motivation. For example, a lower price with a speedy sale may be more acceptable to someone who must move quickly due to a job transfer. People who are going through a divorce or are eager to move into another home are frequently more receptive to lower offers.
Some buyers believe in making deliberate low-ball offers. While any offer can be presented to the seller, a low-ball offer often sours a prospective sale and discourages the seller from negotiating at all. And unless the house is extremely overpriced, the offer probably will be rejected anyway.
Before making an offer, also investigate the price that comparable homes have sold for in the area so that you can determine whether the home is priced properly. The best way to do this is to get the assistance of a qualified real estate sales representative.
Various types of mortgage programs exist. Most require a minimum of 5 percent down payment, but typically range from 5 to 20 percent.
Putting down as little as possible allows buyers to take full advantage of the tax benefits of home ownership. Mortgage interest and property taxes may be deductible from provincal and federal income taxes. Buyers using a small down payment also have a reserve for making unexpected improvements. It may be more prudent to make a larger down payment and thereby reduce the amount of debt that must be financed.
Home insurance is a form of insurance in favour of an owner, lessee, mortgage or other holder of an estate lien, or other interest in real property. It indemnifies against loss up to the face amount of the policy, suffered by reason of title being vested otherwise than as stated, or because of defects in the title, liens and encumbrances not set forth or otherwise specifically excluded in the policy, whether or not in the public land records, and other matters included within the policy form, such as lack of access to the property, loss due to un-marketability of title, etc. The title policy form sets forth the specific risks insured against. Additional coverage of related risks may also be added by endorsements to the policy or by the inclusion of additional affirmation insurance to modify or supersede the impact of certain exceptions, exclusions or printed policy "conditions." The policy also protects the insured for liability on various warranties of title.
In addition, the policy provides protection in an unlimited amount against costs and expenses incurred in defending the insured estate or interest.
Before it issues a title policy, the title insurance company performs, or has performed for it, an extensive search, examination and interpretation of the legal effect of all relevant public records to determine the existence of possible rights, claims, liens or encumbrance that affect the property.
However, even the most comprehensive title examination, made by the most highly skilled attorney or lay expert, cannot protect against all title defects and claims. These are commonly referred to as the "hidden risks." The most common examples of these hidden risks are fraud, forgery, alteration of documents, impersonation, secret marital status, incapacity of parties (whether they be individuals, corporations, trusts or any other type), and inadequate or lack of powers of REALTORS® or fiduciaries. Some other hidden risks include various laws and regulations that create or permit interests, claims and liens without requiring that they first be filed or recorded in some form so that the potential buyers and lenders can find them before parting with their money.
It is strongly recommended that home buyers are prequalified or pre-approved for a mortgage as their first step in the process. By being prequalified, a buyer knows exactly how much house they can afford. They can make more informed decisions in the market place. This does not mean they will definitely get the loan because their credit reports, wages and bank statements still need to be verified before they can receive a commitment from the lender for the mortgage.
Almost all mortgage providers prequalify people at no charge. Many of them will even do it on the internet. In order to be pre-approved, an application will be taken. For a fee, your credit report will be pulled, your employment and income will be verified, and your chequing and savings accounts will also be verified. In other words, all the necessary documentation will be completed in order for you to obtain a mortgage. The only items remaining will be for you to find a home, obtain an appraisal on it to prove its value to the bank and perform whatever inspections you may want on the property. This process considerably shortens the time frame to closing.
Occasionally some lenders are willing to negotiate on both the mortgage rate and the number of points. This isn't typical among many of the established mortgage lenders who set their rates. Nevertheless, it never hurts to shop around, know the market and try to get the best deal. Always look at the combination of interest rate and points and get the best deal possible. This is reflected in what is called the APR or Actual Percentage Rate.
The interest rate is much more open to negotiation on purchases that involve seller financing. Generally, these are based on market rates but some flexibility exists when negotiating such a deal.
Sales price increases in either type of housing are strongly tied to location, growth in the local housing market and the state of the overall economy.
Some people feel that buying into a new-home community is a bit riskier than purchasing a house in an established neighbourhood. Future appreciation in value in either case depends upon many of the same factors. Others believe that a new home is less risky because things won't "wear out" and need replacement.
Distressed properties or fixer-uppers can be found everywhere. These properties are poorly maintained and have a lower market value than other houses in the neighbourhood. It is often recommended that buyers find the least desirable house in the best neighbourhood. You must consider if the expenses needed to bring the value of that property to its full potential market value are within your budget. Most buyers should avoid run-down houses that need major structural repairs. Remember the movie "The Money Pit?" Those properties should be left to the builder or tradesman normally engaged in the repair business.
Remodeling a home improves its liveability and enhances curb appeal, making it more sellable to potential buyers. Some of the popular improvement projects are updated kitchens and baths, enlarged master bedroom suites, home-office additions and increased amenities in older homes.
The resale market is often difficult because you are competing with new construction. You need to give your home every competitive advantage you can if you are selling an older home.
Be sure to find out who your real estate REALTOR® is representing before you tell them too much. The degree of trust you have in a REALTOR® may depend upon their legal obligation of representation. An agency working with a buyer has three possible choices of representation. The REALTOR® can represent the buyer exclusively, called buyer agency, or represent the seller exclusively, called seller agency, or represent both the buyer and seller in a multiple representation agreement situation. Ontario requires REALTORS® to disclose all possible agency relationships before they enter into a residential real estate transaction. Here is a summary of the three basic types:
1. In a traditional relationship, real estate REALTORS® and brokers have a fiduciary relationship to the seller. Be aware that the seller pays the commission of both brokers, not just the one who lists and shows the property, but also to the co-operating broker, who brings the ready, willing and able buyer to the table.
2. Multiple representation agreement exists if two REALTORS® working for the same broker represent the buyer and seller in the same transaction. A potential conflict of interest is created if the listing REALTOR® has advance knowledge of another buyer's offer. Therefore, the law states that a dual REALTOR® shall not disclose to the buyer that the seller will accept less than the list price, or disclose to the seller that the buyer will pay more than the offer price, without express written permission.
3. A buyer can hire a REALTOR® who will represent their interests exclusively. A buyer's REALTOR® usually requires a retainer which is refunded once the buyer purchases a house. The amount of the retainer differs from REALTOR® to REALTOR®. A buyer's REALTOR® can perform enhanced services for the buyer, such as preparing a market analysis on the home they are buying. All information provided to the buyer's REALTOR® shall remain confidential and will not be relayed to the seller's REALTOR®.