Your Guide to Buying your First Home

Influencer Letitia Kiu sitting on the floor next to her boyfriend and pet dog

There is no shortage of advice when you tell people that you’re buying your first home. When we planned for our first home, we did not plan for a pandemic and a precipitous economy. But, we were incredibly lucky to have somewhat maintained our income, and took advantage of the sharp drop in interest rates. As it goes in the Greater Toronto Area, we got into a hot bidding war for our home, but were able to beat out some other bids and get our dream house.

I’m proud to be partnering with Allstate Canada to provide my top tips should you be looking to purchase a home during this current housing boom.

So your bid was accepted by the original homeowner, congratulations! Now what?

After our bid was accepted, things went quiet for a while. We were in the dark about what our next steps were in preparing for our new home. Important tasks are easily forgotten during the chaos of closing and moving, and this can put you at a disadvantage financially or with your safety. It was certainly a learning process, and here is what we gathered from our experience:

  • Get your home insurance lined up and ready to go before closing – Be sure to speak with your current home insurance provider to discuss what coverage is needed for your new home. If you’re moving from an apartment/condominium to a house you may soon discover that coverage that you didn’t need before may come in handy in your new home. If you don’t have a home insurance provider, speak with your auto insurance provider. You may learn that there can be specific discounts applied if you combine your home and auto policies. For more potential savings, your home insurance rate can be improved with updates to your electrical, heating, roof, and plumbing. You may want to consider a home inspection even after purchasing, so that you can prepare for such updates. If you are interested in learning more, ask your insurance agent for guidance, they can lead you in the right direction!
  • Inspect the home’s appliances as soon as you can – Not only will you learn of any potential issues that you may need to address with the original homeowner, by also knowing the age of the appliances (furnace, air conditioner hot water tank, etc.) and depending on whether you rent or own them, you can also consider upgrading. Higher efficiency models can potentially save on monthly expenses as well as home insurance.
  • Do a safety check – Be sure to check air filters, gutters and things that need to be cleaned in case the previous owner did not do maintenance. I’d also recommend replacing the batteries on smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Create an estimated monthly budget so that you have a better understanding of what your expenses will look like – Heating and/or cooling a house is very different to an apartment, and the efficiency of your appliances can affect that as well. In a condo, we had one bill for electricity and water. In the house, we have separate bills for gas, water and electricity.

What if you’re planning to renovate the new home?

Our home is a fixer upper, just as we had hoped. We were over the moon when the previous owners accepted our offer. But, we felt the stress of the long task list we had ahead of us, and it felt even longer since we were taking on renovations ourselves for the first time. As renters transitioning to be homeowners, we followed these steps to keep us organized:

  • Create a spreadsheet listing everything that needs to be done with deadlines factored in – It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of tasks but a document can take that stress away, and you can refer back to it when needed. If you’ve purchased your home with someone else, discuss ahead of time who will be taking on each task.
  • Start prioritizing what you would like to do before versus after the move – For example, we recognized that painting and flooring would be much easier to do without our possessions there so we organized our moving date around that.
  • Speak with your lawyer and/or mortgage representatives – We were so overwhelmed with the conflicting advice we received from our loved ones. I would recommend checking in with your mortgage rep or lawyer. They are the professionals and are so familiar with the process. When we didn’t know what our next steps were, we just asked.

Home buying is no doubt a stressful process. There are a lot of things to consider and different requirements to complete according to your lifestyle. These tips are things that I believe every homeowner will need to account for. To those who are in the process of buying, or have recently purchased their first home, I wish you good luck!

Disclaimer: *This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are written by Letitia Kiu, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.