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So, you’re finally ready. You’ve spent long years saving for your down payment and now you’re all set to make the biggest investment of your life. You are about to buy your first home. Before embarking on this exciting, yet potentially stressful and danger fraught exercise take a few moments to acquaint yourself with some handy hints that may just help to make your foray into the world of real estate a success:

(1) Know your limits at the outset. Work out the maximum housing cost you can comfortably afford. Figure in such hidden costs as property taxes, insurance, heating expenses, water bills, maintenance and repairs. Have this maximum affordable set in stone. Don’t allow emotion or pressure to sway you to go beyond it.

(2) Decide generally on the area in which you want to live. Find out all you can about the neighbourhood. Consider such things as public transportation, location of parks and schools, and proximity to shopping centers. Check out the zoning regulations. Take a drive around the neighbourhood. Who knows – you might come across an advertised private sale which is just right for you. This could save you thousands of dollars in real estate fees.

(3) Visit a real estate agency and provide them with a list of your requirements as far as number of rooms, size of lawn, garaging requirements, etc. This should allow you to narrow it down to 3 or 4 different houses. Then make a checklist to compare the houses on the following points.

(4) Consider the flow of traffic in the houses you are considering. Does it provide maximum privacy in the areas of the bathroom and bedrooms. Can you move from the bathroom to bedrooms without being seen from the living room? Will the children be away from the noise of the living area if they retire early? Can you move from the kitchen to the dining area without passing through the living room? Is the kitchen large enough to work and eat in? Is ventilation satisfactory to remove cooking odors?

(5) Check the soundness of the building structure. Is the heating system sound? Are there any leaks? How old is the roof? Are plumbing and wiring adequate and in good repair? Is the fireplace in good working order?

(6) Once you have made a decision about which house to buy, an offer to buy will be drawn up. Get it checked by your lawyer. All verbal commitments should be down in writing. If the offer includes any chattels, they should be listed.

(7) Before the offer is signed, check carefully that you are not facing any unforeseen costs. For example, is there a land transfer tax in your area which must be paid to register your deed? Have you allowed for the normal ‘adjustments on closing’, which may include a 3 year fire insurance premium, land taxes for part of the current year, or extra charges for fuel or prepaid utilities?

(8) Understand clearly the terms of your mortgage. Can you pay additional amounts on principal any time you wish? What is the interest rate? Do payments include principal and interest or are they principal plus interest?

Follow through on this check-list and you may well find the home buying experience to be an exciting, pleasant and extremely rewarding exercise.