FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
For Home Buyers
I have been working with buyers for quite a few years now, and the same questions come up time and time again. So why leave everything a mystery? It’s time to get right to the point and delve into all the nitty-gritty details of what when, why, what if, and why not. There are a lot of questions and answers below, divided into a chronological process.
Before We Meet
Q: How do real estate commissions work, do I have to pay you anything?
A: Click here to see a video about this. There are some rare exceptions that I discuss in the video, but generally, buyer agents do charge a fee, and the fee is paid by the seller. So as a buyer, you usually won’t pay any commission fee.
Q: How is it in my advantage to work with buyer agent when I can call up the listing agents to see their properties?
A: Click here to see a video about this. Listing agents can provide you customer service, but make no mistake they are hired by the seller to work in the seller’s best interest. They will gladly facilitate a sale, but they cannot represent both your interest to get the lowest price and the sellers interest to get the highest price, as they are conflicting. A listing agent can agree to adjust their commission if they are representing both sides, but if the home is even 3-4% overpriced (quite common) you still didn’t end up with any deal. Hiring me as your buying agent means I will dig up every last sales statistic and market report to ensure you are getting the best price for the house.
Q: At what stage of my search should I be contacting you for help?
A: I would like to hear from you as soon as you know you want to buy a home. I can set you up on auto-listings to start, so that you can get a general sense of what’s out there and for what prices. You can send me feedback on homes you see that you like and ask me any and all questions about ANYTHING.
Q: Do you look at what gets sent to me and review my search?
A: No, the auto-listings are NOT how I search for clients; they are only a resource for awareness and general information. I cannot know enough about you and how to best advise you until after we meet. We need to set the ground work of our relationship, set out priorities and expectations, and go from there.
Q: When should I start to actually view homes?
A: If you know you want to be moved into your new home within the next 3-4 months, it’s time to set a date to meet each other, and start the house search process.
Q: What do I need to do before we meet?
A: I need you complete a short questionnaire that I will send you about your home buying goals. There’s something about writing down your goals that helps to drive the process forward and helps me to get started with a good understanding about you. I need to get to know you and this is the best first step.
Q: I’m looking to buy but I also have a house to sell. What should I do first?
A: Click Here to see a video about this. The buy/sell process usually goes fairly smoothly, but it’s always prudent to plan for the worst and expect the best. It all depends on what “worst-case-scenario” you’d find most stressful. Would it be buying first and possibly having an overlap of 2 mortgages if the closing dates didn’t line up perfectly? (worst case). Or would it be selling first and not finding your new dream home before you close on your current home? Do you have relatives or another place to live in the meantime? (worst case). Again, we do a lot of planning and consideration to avoid these kinds of issues, but it’s good to think about.
The No-Obligation Meeting & Home Viewing
Q: Why do we meet before we look at homes?
A: It is very important for us both to see that we communicate well with each other and that we like each other. Buying a home involves a lot of conversations, questions, and emotions, and you need to work with a professional whom you like and trust. I find I get along with 9/10 people, but the odd time it just doesn’t mesh. It’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s important to find out from the very beginning.
Q: What do I need to bring to the meeting?
A: You need to bring 2 pieces of ID for every person who is purchasing the home and your individual responses to the questionnaire, or emailed to me beforehand. If this Q&A section didn’t cover all of your questions, bring a list of any other questions with you.
Q: Who needs to be at the meeting?
A: It is critical that everyone who is part of the purchase decision to be at the meeting. Anyone who will have influence and/or veto power on what to purchase must be part of the process from beginning to end. Otherwise we will waste a lot of time satisfying some, but never all, and we end up going in circles.
Q: Do I need to sign a contract with you at the meeting?
A: Absolutely not. The purpose of the meeting is to ensure that we both feel we will get along and work well together. As I will explain in the meeting, everyone gets one NO OBLIGATION home viewing after the meeting, so that you can see me in action, see the kinds of questions I will ask you and how I work.
Q: So I think I like you and want to set up a home viewing, what do I do now?
A: I will send you more information and links on my websites for you to review. Being educated and informed is the best tools you can have when you are a home buyer. It is also time to get in the habit of asking me any questions about anything that is unclear to you. This is the process that starts to build trust between us.
Q: So we’ve met for the home viewing and I like how you work and how we communicate, what do we do now?
A: You need to go and get pre-approved from the bank, if you haven’t done so already. There is no sense starting the house-hunt before you know what a bank will lend you. This is also a clear sign to me that you are serious about your home purchase and are ready to move towards what you want.
Q: Can you help me find someone to pre-approve me?
A: Yes, The Village Guru was created as a full service system. I can provide contacts for brokers and banks. If you need help with anything related to moving, ask me, I likely have the answer or the contact.
Q: How do I know how much I can afford?
A: The banks will look at a few ratios to determine this, click here for the video link for more information. Also consider your lifestyle. You move to improve your lifestyle and you don’t want to end up house poor. You want to ensure that you still can contribute to short and long term savings as well as the occasional dinner out and vacation.
Deciding to Work Together
Q: Where do you work?
A: I work in Mississauga, Oakville, and Burlington. It’s very important that a buyer agent works actively and regularly in a given area. There’s too much to know about a neighbourhood – you can’t just Google and guess. The more time an agent spends on the road travelling, the less time they have to actually do their job, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep things local. So call me first, and if I can’t help you, I can refer you to an equally service-minded, professional realtor from my network throughout the GTA and beyond.
Q: I have a very busy schedule, how available & flexible will you be for me?
A: Most people are very busy and it’s all a balancing act. I often have more than one buyer client at a time and most everyone wants to look on evenings and weekends. So when we’re first starting out, we need to schedule outings, so I ensure every buyer gets quality time and service. Once we have been out a few times and we have really zoned in on exactly what you want, it’s more important to “jump” on a house as soon as it becomes available. This means not waiting till the weekend when everyone else will go look at the home. The early bird gets the worm.
Q: What can I expect from you?
A: You can expect a high level of service, and believe me, this is purely self-motivated. When I do such an awesome job that I just knock your socks off, you are far more likely to send your friends and family to me when they need help. So click here to see The Village Guru Buyer Guarantee to see my principles of respect, truthfulness, communication, and professionalism.
Q: Who is your ideal client?
A: My ideal client is someone who wants to build a collaborative relationship with me. Someone who recognizes that I have industry knowledge that the average person doesn’t have, and that I have experience that can better navigate the process. A lot of emotions arise for many people; fear, uncertainly, anxiousness, worry, etc., and I can only help keep your on track if you are willing to communicate with me. The best home buying experiences are when I can build a high level of trust with my clients, and we work together through the challenges to reach your goals.
Q: I’ve heard other agents don’t require a contract, why do you require one?
A: As long as you do your due diligence in choosing which agent to sign with, and ensure you are confident in their ability and communication skills, you are far better served by hiring an agent under contract. If you won’t sign a contract, the agent knows it is likely you are talking to MANY agents. So when you meet with them, it might be their last chance to sell you a house before you’re off to another agent. This creates a natural sense of desperation and they might push you harder on a home that isn’t the best fit. Under contract, I work in your best interest, having the confidence to walk away from a home if the price or conditions don’t end up ideal or fair. I am motivated by ensuring your satisfaction rather than a one-and-only-shot at a commission.
Q: When do we sign a contract with you?
A: After your No-Obligation Home Viewing, we will schedule another meeting where I will explain all the legal documents ~ in plain English ~ so that you know exactly what the contract entails. I never gloss over the paperwork, I will explain it to you so that you feel informed and confident.
Q: How long does a contract last?
A: We can make it for any length of time, often between 90-12 0 days. I am flexible with this, but I never work without a contract.
The Home Search
Q: What is the first step?
A: Once you are my client, I will review your questionnaire you filled out. If there is more than one person buying the home, there is more than one set of needs, wants, priorities and wishes. I look for some common ground and send you some options to review. Sometimes there is one person who takes more of a lead and has more influence, or sometimes there’s stronger influence just about certain aspects. I ask you a lot of questions to find our starting point and to weigh priorities.
Q: Do I need to tell you which homes I want to see?
A: As my client, I now take an active, daily role in searching out property. In a hot market homes can sell in hours, not even days. You can certainly send me homes you want to see, but I will also show you homes that you might not have seen/considered.
Q: I have friends who said they viewed 50,60, 70+ properties before they finally bought. Is this typical?
A: I can’t speak for others but it’s certainly not typical for me. I emphasize communication because the hardest part of the whole process is to find the common ground between all partners, and reaching acceptable compromises on the areas that don’t meet. Once you do this, it’s easy to find a house that you will want to offer on.
Q: When you watch real estate shows, the agents never look like they are doing a good job, they keep showing homes that are too expensive, too small or wrong location. Why do they do this, isn’t it just a waste of time?
A: It is actually important for agents to do this but most of them fail to explain to their clients WHY. Almost every client starts out wanting a home that’s a little bigger, newer, prettier, than their budget affords. So the dance of home buying is to really decide what is MOST important you; sometimes people shift location or size to stay in budget, and sometimes the budget goes up. You need to see what your money will buy whether you like it or not, and start making the real decisions from there. The key is communicating to you the process and the rationale.
Q: What’s something buyers care too much about?
A: Wanting to see the Listing Pictures. All buyers are waiting for their beautiful, perfect dream home to pop up on their screen. So when a listing doesn’t have pictures, most buyers will pass it by without a second thought. Sometimes the homes without pictures (or really poorly done pictures) are real gems that no one can see. And if you are really ready to buy and it ends up being a great home for you, you can swoop in and offer on it while all the other buyers are sitting around and waiting.
Q: What do you do when we go view a property?
A: First, I’ll tell you that I DON’T take or return phone calls and send you off to wander alone. This is my time to learn you. I assess how you are reacting to the home and make note of what you gravitated towards. I will ask you what you didn’t like. You can’t hurt my feeling, and it’s very important for me to learn what you do and don’t like. I will ALWAYS ask you if you want to buy the home, because there is no wrong answer. You either do, or don’t, and you’ll let me know why. This is how I quickly filter what’s most, least and not at all important to you.
Q: What is the most common mistake you help your clients to avoid?
A: The most common mistake I see with many of my buyers is that they often fall in love with the finishes of a home too much. The value of a home is in the land and location, and finishes are a very, very distant runner up. So once we’re settled on the price, home size and style, I try to encourage buyers to look first for homes in the best neighbourhoods, over which home has granite counters (because I can help you get them installed in the home that’s in the much better location).
Q: Is there any advice that is relevant to all of your clients?
A: Yes, 2 things are universal:
- I always encourage my clients to think about future value. How is one neighbourhood appreciating versus other neighbourhoods? Does this area offer the best long term appreciation you can afford? What are the future predictions and trends of an area? I always want my clients to make the most money they can from what is likely their largest asset.
- I always insist that my buyers play close attention to the neighbourhood, not just the home. If you want to be happy long term, you should be in an area that provides you the lifestyle you’re after. If you are a young family, you probably would appreciate other young families nearby. You want like-minded neighbours who take care of their property, and to have access to desired amenities. This is what The Village Guru is all about.
Q: Is there only one home out there for me? What if I’ve already missed it?
A: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken clients out for their no-obligation home viewing and we see a wonderful house that ticks all the boxes. I know that this would be a great home for them but they’re not even thinking offering that night…..some of them weren’t even pre-approved yet…. It’s the first home they’ve seen…..We’ve only just met….So even though they do like it, I don’t push it because they are not ready. But I will tell you that another home does come up, it always does. Homes get listed in cycles and sometimes you have to wait for inventory to re-generate before you find what you want, and it’s very easy to start to feel desperate. There is always more than one “perfect” home for you.
Q: You’ve talked a lot about home value and investment. I think the whole area is going to go up in value, what If I just want that perfect, turn-key home?
A: Then that is what we will find you! You have to live in the home and you have to love it. If you don’t want to have to do any upgrades or renovation, there are plenty of options to make this happen. It is my job to put all the considerations on the table so that when you choose what you want, you are informed and confident in your choice.
Q: I want to make an offer! What now?
A: Now is the time for my super-geek analytical side to ramp up and start pumping out stats and reports to review. It takes me a good 4 hours to do the analysis of the homes and to come up with a price range that is a fair purchase price for the home.
Q: Why do you say price range?
A: Beyond the quantitative factors, like stats and reports, there are also qualitative factors that can very much influence the price. How much are the sellers willing to negotiate? Are there other buyers at the table? How badly do you want this home vs. the other buyers? Although we want to get the lowest possible price, these qualitative factors can have an impact. As long as we stay within this range, it’s a fair price. If we’re moving outside this range, I will tell you that you’d be paying a premium for the home if you still want it. Ultimately you will decide what price makes the most sense for you.
Q: What does it mean if you think the home is underpriced?
A: This could mean a variety of things. Often a home is in good shape but needs some serious cosmetic updating, and more and more buyers are shunning these types of homes. If you are game, this could be an equity-building opportunity. If there are no apparent drawbacks on the house, the owners might be hopeful for multiple offers to drive the price above market value through a bidding war. It could also mean there are less apparent flaws with the house we need to fish out with a thorough inspection.
Q: What does it mean if you think the home is overpriced?
A: This means that you’ve encountered the most common pricing strategy on the market. Every owner wants to push the boundaries in hopes of making as much money possible and that’s fine, it’s a sellers’ market and to be expected. If the home is 1-10% overpriced, they are pricing high because they likely have a “real” price in mind once they expect you negotiate them down a bit. If it’s more than 10% overpriced, be warned. These owners are likely not even listening to the advice of their own agent and are blazing their own path. They will be much more difficult to bring down in price, hence, why most people don’t even bother putting in offers on homes like this. However, they usually do crack eventually, and if you LOVE the home, you can always try to see if you’re the one they’ll crack for.
Q: What does it mean if you think the home is priced fair?
A: This means you have uncovered the real estate unicorn! Lol! Though often quite rare, if you find a home that is priced to market you want to show some respect to these sellers. We might still choose to offer lower than asking price, based on the situation, but within reason. To offer 20% less will do nothing but offend sellers who were trying to be fair in the first place. Negative emotions, including those of the seller, can ruin what could have been a perfectly good sale.
Q: How quickly should I submit an offer on a home?
A: This depends on so many factors. I don’t have a crystal ball but this is where my experience usually comes into play. If it’s aggressively overpriced and fresh on the market, usually owners are very confident and unlikely to accept a lower offer right away. If it’s a drop-dead gorgeous home, this is what all buyers are lusting for these days and could very well sell to someone who is willing to pay top dollar to snap it up. Where do you fall on the scale? Pay a premium for the perfect home, or pay a fair price for a perfectly good home? Are you willing to wait a few days and see what happens, or could you not bear to lose the home? This is where the facts, feelings, and experience all start to join together to form your individual strategy.
Q: What if I like 2 homes; can I offer on both with conditions?
A: Once you put an offer on a home, you are entering a legal process that has obligations and ramifications. Can you afford to buy 2 homes if it came to that? If no, I will suggest that we review the 2 homes and choose to offer on the one that suits you best.
Q: Should I always put in a condition for finance and home inspection?
A: It depends. For a first time home buyer I’m going to say yes 99% of the time. You likely need financing and you should go through the process of a home inspection if you’ve never done one before. If you are a more seasoned buyer, maybe the answer is no. Perhaps you have been around construction enough to know what the red flags are in a home and what to look for. Perhaps you are able to bring a licensed contractor to view the home before you make an offer. If you want to make your offer stronger, and you are confident about not needing a home inspection, then you don’t need to put it in. Unless you are buying the home in cash, I would still recommend a financing clause because banks can throw some curve balls every now and again.
Q: How are some other ways I can present a strong offer if I need conditions on finance and inspection?
A: BRING THE CHEQUE. More and more I hear of deals falling apart because the deposit cheque doesn’t show up, as promised. Seasoned listing agents know that a buyer with cheque in hand is a serious buyer. It takes time and effort to draw up a bank draft and this effort shows you have intention to buy.
Q: What’s included in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale? Will you explain these papers to me?
A: When it’s time to put in an offer we will go line by line to ensure you fully understand everything. Here’s a quick video summarizing it for you.
Q: What is the best negotiation strategy?
A: Just like when talking about offers, the answers about negotiation become more variable because it all depends on the situation. There is no one best negotiations strategy. But in general, winning a negotiation is never about being a bully or jerk to the other side, it’s about knowing how much leverage and power you have, and using this knowledge to your best advantage. Can I smell fear or urgency from my conversation with the listing agent? Will the owners meet with me to present your offer? The timing of presenting an offer tells a story too. It’s all about positioning us to look like we have the upper hand (even at the times when I know we don’t).
Q: Why do so many agents ask for a 24-48 hour irrevocable period on our offer?
A: Buyers as a whole, have a herd mentality. It is very common for a lot of buyers to like a home, but no one will offer until they see that someone else likes the home too. It sounds very silly but it’s very true. So the listing agent is doing their job by trying to drum up multiple offers for 1-2 days.
Q: So what can we do about it?
A: I always try to schedule a negotiation meeting with the sellers, so that I can present your offer right away and they must deal with it right away. Once the sellers are engaged in the process and there are real people involved, it creates a higher level of commitment from them. Many sellers are open to this when asked. Some dig in their heels and refuse to accept any offers other than by fax. In this case I communicate with the listing agent to scoop any information from him/her that we can use in our favour.
Q: Do buyers always end up paying less than asking price?
A: Most of the time, but not always. If your main goal is to get a knock-out deal above getting a home that is right for you, you will be putting in a lot of offers with no sale. This is a strong sellers market; exceptions to this are in the high end home market, areas of the condo market, and for homes that are dated and lack-lustre. But for the 80% of my buyers who do want the finished, move-in-ready, stylish home, you are in thick competition. On rare occasions my buyers have willingly decided to pay a premium because the location and house was just too good to lose. The majority of times I ensure my buyers buy within fair market range so that they will see good appreciation even within 1-2 years.
The Offer Accepted
Q: What do we do now?
A: If you have conditions on the home, you have a set amount of business days to complete the conditions and sign in acceptance to make the deal firm. There is no deal UNLESS you sign these waivers. It is time to get the final approval for financing from your bank, provide the cheque immediately and speak to a lawyer if you haven’t done so already.
Q: Can you help with all of this?
A: Yes, I prefer to. This is a very hectic week to ensure all the details are taken care of, and it is my job to coordinate all the paperwork from the bank or broker, the lawyer, the home inspector, and the seller agent. It all must come to me when I need it. So, unless you have a long-standing relationship with one of these professionals, I would much prefer referring you to ones whom I already have a relationship with – we have good communication and they know what I need and we work well together. If you use your own, we need to set up a time to speak to create a strong line of communication and everyone knows their roles and expectations.
Q: How does the home inspection work?
A: The home inspection is to uncover anything that we couldn’t see ourselves when viewing the home. For example, the price we agreed on already includes the cracked tile, broken screen door, leaky faucet, etc. The home inspector is looking for mechanical, electrical, foundation, and building code issues that could affect the house. If he does find any major issues, we can go back to the seller to either have the price adjusted to reflect the cost of repairs, to have them fix the issues before sale, or a combination of both. If you cannot accept the issues of the house, you also have the right to walk away from the sale by signing a mutual release.
Q: When does the deal go firm?
A: When you have signed off on any conditions of sale, like finance, inspection or status certificate (condos), then the deal goes firm and the home’s status is changes to sold.
Q: Do things ever changed after it goes firm?
A: Yes, nothing is done until it’s done. Sometimes the seller or the buyer wants to change the closing date, and this can be done if both parties agree. Also, you are not truly approved for financing until closing day. You will be strongly advised NOT to do any major purchases during this time, because the bank CAN deny you on closing day if they see your finances dramatically change. Practice being frugal during this time and plan for the purchases you can make after the home closes.
Q: Is there such a thing as Buyer’s Remorse?
A: Yes, especially for first time home buyers. It’s in our nature to worry about major changes in our lives and whether we made the right decision, so after the first time you purchase a home, it is very likely you will feel this to some extent. This is why throughout the process it’s so important to you see everything that I see so that you feel confident in your decision, so that when buyers remorse does kick in (if it does) you can look back and know you did your due diligence. Click here to see my video about Buyer’s Remorse.
Sold Firm to Closing Day
Q: We are sold firm, what’s the next step?
Q: When do I get to go see the home?
A: We write into the contract that you have 2 home viewings before you close on the home. One should always be reserved for shortly before closing, to test the appliances and make sure everything is still in working order. The other can be done at any time to measure the rooms and plan for furniture, decor or any renovations you may want to do.
As part of my closing gift to you, I include a design consultation from my wife Stephanie, of Style By Stephanie, and she can come to the second viewing to help you choose paint colours, do floor plans, or help you to choose materials like tiles, flooring, or window coverings. Planning a kitchen or bathroom update? She can work with you to create design plans, suggest materials, and coordinate contractors. This is services is free and optional for you.
Q: What can I do to get organized for the move?
A: Start collecting a variety of moving check-lists and fuse them together to build your own comprehensive list
- List out all contacts, businesses, services, financial and investment companies, insurances companies, utilities, etc., who will require your address change
- Contact Canada post for mail delivery changes
- Purge before you pack – Keep, Sell, Toss, Donate. Also take hazardous material to the dump or arrange for junk removal. Plan a garage sale or sell items online. Give what you can to charities. This all makes moving easier.
- Research and do you due diligence on moving companies. Cheapest is rarely best.
- Arrange for moving day assistance from friends and family – someone to watch your kids, pets, help move, etc so that it goes more smoothly
Q: Do I have to move out of my old home and into my new one on the same day?
A: No. There is a product called bridge financing that many people take advantage of. It allows you to take possession of your home a few days or week before you close on your current home. This allows you to move in more slowly, clean or paint before you have to move all the furniture in and many people find it much less stressful. It does cost a little extra so you need to decide what’s more important to you.
Q: Are you available to us during this time?
A: Absolutely. I will call and check in on you periodically, but please be proactive and contact me with any help you find you need.
Closing and Beyond
Q: What are the typical closing costs?
Q: We are moved in, do I ever hear from you again?
A: You had better believe it! I do all the real estate things like send you market updates and home reports, but I also like to meet for lunch or drinks from time to time. We’ve spent a long time building a positive relationship, and that’s important to me.
As well, if you need an electrician, call me. If you don’t know how to switch out a light fixture or patch a hole in a wall, call me. Want to know if an upgrade with provide a good return, call me. Anything to do with your home, feel free to ask me and see how I can help you out; today, tomorrow, and 5 years from now.