April 1, 2021 | Real Estate Check List
No two buyers are alike, but they do generally fall into one of two categories: The buyers who are not really sure what they would like to find and where to begin their search. These buyers know they want to invest in something, but do not know where they want to live or what is available to them. First-time buyers are more likely to fall into this category. Also, buyers who are new to Toronto, and are not familiar with the city. Then we have the buyers who know exactly want they want. These are often buyers who have purchased before. They know what works for them and what doesn’t, and what they would like to find in their up or downsize move. And they come with a check-list.
The check-list is helpful. It often sets up very specific parameters of what needs to work this time around. This check-list may include the following: a certain neighbourhood, number of bedrooms, garage, parking, locker, balcony, a quieter street, a certain size yard, a minimum square footage, pet requirements, a school zone, distance to work requirements, aesthetic requirements (open-concept, modern, renovated to their liking, minimal fixes required, landscaped yard, a certain design). These lists can be lengthy and detailed. They can be reasonable or fanciful.
For the buyers who are not quite sure what they want, they should start with a pre-approval to determine where their price point lies, and what they would subsequently have available to them. Then, we start the educational phase. I find out a little about them and how they live now, then I suggest neighbourhoods and properties in their budgets. Eventually, a check-list of must-haves starts to emerge. They begin to have a feel of what is “too far” or “too small” and what could work.
For the folks who arrive with a fully formed check-list, it’s a different process. You may be surprised to hear that the most important box to check off is often left off the list entirely. It’s the one thing on the list that will effect all other boxes on the check list – the price box. It should be the first box to check off. Because if you can’t afford it, then these other boxes don’t really matter.
So, if you have a lengthy list of must-haves, you first need to review your price parameters. Once you know what you can afford, based on the recent sold prices, then go over your must-haves and rank them. You may have to lose some of the bottom must-haves to land a property. In other words, if you have parking at the bottom of your list, you may find houses without parking to be a sacrifice you’ll have to make to live in the school district you like or closer to your work and friends.
Another approach you can try: Start in the neighbourhood you want to live, and see what properties look like at the top of your limit. If you don’t like what you see, then you need to move to a different neighbourhood with a similar feel to it, but a lower price tag. Be open to similar neighbourhoods where you may find something different at a better price. I would say less than 50% of my buyers end up in the neighbourhood they intended. Often, they begin in a neighbourhood they know well.
One new thing that is common to buyers, both new and veteran: House Sigma. I think the idea behind this app is great, though the functionality still needs some work. And I certainly am glad to see the public have access to sold prices. Still, even if you have access to data, you still need to interpret it so you have the most accurate results. You need to have a good understanding of what is currently happening in the market. If prices are moving quickly, you can’t look at data from 6 months ago. You have to look at very recent sales or you’re not going to land on the right numbers. Also, you can’t compare apples to oranges. With some condos with a similar layout and state of renovation, it is easier to determine value. It is tough to do with houses that are very different in the same neighbourhood. You may have to rely on larger price trends to help you decide on your offer price.
Once you know where you can afford and are happy with what you will find there, then you have to start a strategy of landing a property. Buyers, you need a strategy. And the strategy you choose will depend on what kind of market and neighbourhood in which you are buying.
Be careful with your must-haves list. Chances are, you won’t get everything. And if you try to keep everything on your list, there’s a good chance you’ll walk through a lot of properties you can’t afford. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a small studio starter condo or a detached house in the best neighbourhood, it it human nature to want a property that is slightly out of reach. If you get stuck on trying to check every box on your must-haves list, without checking the price box first, you may lead yourself to bidding on properties that you’ll never land.