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What are the most important questions to ask when buying a house for the first time?

“Always pick your yard based on your Summer lifetstyle.”


June 14, 2018 - Karl Yeh

Are you a first time home buyer? Wondering what are the most important questions to ask when buying your first home? In this episode, we discuss key home buying questions in the areas of home type, price and additional costs, location and community, homeowner/residential association fees, and more. These questions will help you get prepared as you make one of the most significant investments in your lifetime. 

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Karl Yeh:

Hi everyone, I'm Karl Yeh. Welcome to another Homebuyer's School video, a channel where you get the latest strategies, tactics and tips from home buying experts.

Remember, if this is your first time on this channel and you want to get these strategies from the [00:00:30] experts, make sure to hit the subscription button below. Hit the little notification bell, so you don't miss anything.

Today I'm joined by Cory McDonald, Community Manager with Brookfield Residential.

The topic we're going to discuss is:

What are the questions I should ask when buying my first home?

Cory, what are some of the questions that I need to ask as a first time home buyer, so I'm well prepared?

Cory McDonald:             

Yeah, and being prepared is probably the best thing you can do.

There's a lot of resources out there in order to get as much knowledge when buying your first home.

The biggest thing to consider would [00:01:00] be what type of home are you looking for that best suits your needs.

Part of that goes into what style of home you're looking for:

  • Is it a multifamily home?
  • Is it a single family residence?
  • Are you restricted for mobility so you need a bungalow style of home?

There also goes into the details of how the home is built.

So, depending on where you're building in Canada, there's different standard specifications or different prerequisites for how a home needs to be built in different areas, province to province and even [00:01:30] sometimes city to city.

So, specifications can change where you're looking to buy.

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Karl Yeh:                          

So, before we actually look at the home models, is it also important to look at ... some question that you ask is location.

What are some location type questions that you would consider?

Cory McDonald:             

That would be dependent on the individual.

  • What part of the city are you working in?
  • What lifestyle do you want this home to accommodate?
  • Are you active? Do you wanna be near parks?
  • Do you have a family?
  • Do you want to be closer to schools? [00:02:00]
  • Do you wanna access in and out of the downtown core for work or travel around the city or access to the mountains for your weekend getaways?

And a lot of these would play into the style or the location that you're looking to buy your home in.

Karl Yeh:                          

So, there are obviously questions that you would ask are your lifestyle questions.

How many people are probably living inside the home, as well?

And I guess maybe the stage of life that you're in.

So, questions you're gonna [00:02:30] ask are definitely different when you're just starting off your career versus someone who is maybe downsizing.

Cory McDonald:             

Great question I like to ask people that are coming into the home for the first time looking is, what pain points are you currently moving away from?

Because that'll actually say a lot of what they're looking for.

If you're in a place that's too small or your family's growing and you only have one bathroom, the pain points might be that there's not enough space for each person within the home.

So, it's not necessarily how many people are in the home, it's what [00:03:00] kind of lifestyle is this new place going to better accommodate.

Karl Yeh:                          

Well, let's go back to location. I was more thinking about community.

What kind of questions do you have about the community? And where you'd live in?

Cory McDonald:             

A big part of the community sometimes now would be the Homeowner's Association or the Resident's Association.

Fees that you would pay on a yearly basis to help accommodate ... maybe there's a lake in the community and you're paying for the upkeep [00:03:30] of that.

If there's parks or schools in the community, or rec centers. That can change the amount of cost that's associated with those HOA or ROA fees.

Sometimes maybe it's just general upkeep of the street and decorative seasonal items that you're paying for.

So, asking about if there are Resident's or Homeowner's Association fees and what that exactly includes.

Another question to ask would also be the history of those [00:04:00] HOA fees, just because from the initial conception, there might have been new programs introduced, or a change in how those are operated.

So, sometimes HOA fees might be at a different cost when the community first starts to where it eventually grows to.

Karl Yeh:                          

And obviously this is all looking at if you're buying a duplex or single family home, but there are condo fees to also think about if you're obviously purchasing a condo, right?

Cory McDonald:             

Which would be separate from condo fees if you're looking at a [00:04:30] condo, an apartment or a town home as well.

So, they would be a little bit different.

Condo fees would be specific to where the condo is or where the town homes are, so the general upkeep of the insurance and maintenance on the exterior of the home, again, general upkeep of any of the parks or the pathways, the green spaces.

Snow and ice removal for that location separately.

So, if you're buying a multifamily home in a new community, you would have condo fees and then you would have your Home Owner's Association [00:05:00] fees separate.

Karl Yeh:                          

And just remember, we do have a video on condo fees above, so, if you wanna check that out.

So, Cory, we're talking about condo fees and HOA fees. So, condo fees is in the building that you're in, and HOA fees is in the community you're in, right?

Cory McDonald:             

That's correct. It'd be two separate things.

So, when you're looking at a community that has a Resident's Association or a Home Owner's Association, that's an annual fee that goes towards:

  • general upkeep of the street cleaning,
  • maintenance of any parks or green spaces within [00:05:30] that entire community,
  • or in some communities they'll have a community center or a lake that you would have access to.

So, that annual fee goes towards the staffing, the maintenance, for those amenities.

When you're looking at a separate condo fee in say an apartment or a town home, those monthly fees are paying towards insurance and maintenance on the exterior.

Sometimes it's going towards the utilities used within those condos. Snow and ice removal for those, specifically.

So, it would be different than, say, [00:06:00] a single family home or sometimes a duplex that would not have those condo fees but they would still be a part of the community, so they would still have a Home Owner's Association or Resident's Association fee.

Karl Yeh:                          

Well, sticking with the fees, let's go back and look at the questions that somebody would ask in terms of pricing.

What are some key questions home buyers would ask regarding the price of a home?

Cory McDonald:             

Great question, because there's a lot that goes into buying a new home that sometimes can be considered, [00:06:30] I guess, sneaky, that a lot of people don't think of.

When you're talking to your broker or your lender, there's obviously the mortgage and the down payment that you'd be concerned about.

On top of that, you would also wanna know within the community what the property taxes are on an annual basis because that is a fee that you would have to take into consideration on an annual or on a monthly basis, as well.

General cost of utilities would be something you'd have to look at purchasing on top of your mortgage fees, as well, because you wanna have running water, [00:07:00] you wanna have electricity.

You don't wanna be living by candlelight the entire time. So, there's sometimes those little things you'd have to also consider when buying a brand new home.

Karl Yeh:                          

Well, you'd probably also wanna consider furnishing, too.

So, even if you're buying a resale or an older home, are there thoughts of probably upgrading some of your furniture? Are you just gonna move everything that you have?

I'm sure there's some things that you probably wanna get rid of, buy new, right?

Cory McDonald:             

Some people consider moving into a place a form of exorcising some [00:07:30] demons, as far as the lawn furniture that you're keeping in your living room.

It's a great opportunity to maybe get rid of some of your older pieces and upgrade your new home depending on what your lifestyle is going to be.

So, take into consideration when you're buying a new home what space you're gonna be using in each room.

So, if you have to get a new bedroom set or if you're getting more bedrooms in your new home, being able to furnish those as well.

Karl Yeh:                          

So, we looked at purchase questions, location, community [00:08:00] questions, fees that you might have to pay for. Anything else to add?

Cory McDonald:             

Again, when looking for a new home, it's entirely based on your lifestyle, and what this new home is going to bring to you, the lifestyle that you're trying to achieve.

So, making sure you're making decisions based on what you want out of your life in the next three to five years to make sure that that's filling that role.

Karl Yeh:                          

Perfect. Well, thank you very much for joining us.

And the question I have for you is, what questions do you have for first time home buyers that maybe [00:08:30] we didn't cover?

So if you can let us know in the comments section below. Thank you very much for joining us, and we'll catch you next time.


Your turn:

Let us know if you have additional condo questions or home buying questions that we can answer by submitting them in the comments section below. 

Homebuyer's School publishes new content weekly so subscribe or check back regularly for the latest information, strategies and tips from homebuying experts.  

About Cory McDonald:

Cory has been working for Brookfield Residential for over 5 years and has had the opportunity to sell  in several beautiful communities around Calgary and Cochrane. He has experience selling everything from starter town-homes to move-up homes within the company. Cory originally grew up in Calgary and after a short stint living in the greater Vancouver area, he returned home for a better quality of life to raise his family.

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