Ask anyone who’s been busy looking for a new home — especially in a market that’s been as hot as Metro Vancouver’s — and they’ll likely tell you the process can be daunting.
For first-time buyers especially, the process can seem overwhelming at times. There’s no easy road map, and there is so much to consider beyond a property’s age, location and square footage. From choosing between a condo and a townhome, from wood-frame to concrete construction, to an older or newer home — not to mention the neighbourhood — buyers have much to consider.
On March 1, the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association’s 23rd annual Homebuyer Forum will bring prospective buyers together with industry experts who will address such issues. The free event, presented by BC Housing, takes place from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at SFU Harbour Centre. (To register to attend or to watch via live stream, visit http://www.gvhba.org/homebuyer_forum).
The forum will feature a series of moderated, interactive panel discussions on topics such as Getting Ready to Buy, Market Intelligence and What Product is Right for Me? A marketplace, which offers attendees a chance to interact with real estate and industry specialists and view a variety of housing product, will run concurrently.
Among the speakers are Tony Gioventu of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association and Dan Morrison of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, both of whom will take part in Market Intelligence.
Derek Fenton, development and marketing manager for builder Zenterra Developments, is among the speakers who will discuss choosing the right product.
“A lot to do with this is asking, ‘What are your fundamental goals when you’re looking at your first-time home purchase?’” Fenton said.
“If you’re a single guy or a single lady, and maybe you just want to get into the market, maybe buying a 500-square-foot studio apartment — perfect. But if you’re a newlywed couple, you’ve been putting a down payment together and want to start a family, maybe you want a two- or three-bedroom townhome.”
Of course, buyers also need to look closely at the bottom line.
“Gone are the days — and we’re going to be talking to people in their twenties and thirties — where our parents bought a single detached home for $200,000 and you grew up in this ABC neighbourhood in this big home.”
Talking to a mortgage broker is a good starting point.
“If you go out and start looking at pre-sale homes or condos or townhomes, and you’re looking in the six-or- $700,000 range, and you go to a mortgage broker and they say ‘Well, actually, you’re qualifying in the high threes or fours,’ you need to dial in your expectations.”
First-time buyers also need to factor in costs for such things as strata fees and property taxes.
“Typically, your price per square foot on a concrete apartment is going to be higher than a wood-frame townhome,” he said. “For a wood-frame townhome out in Langley or Surrey, you may be looking at nine or 10 cents per square foot in strata fees. If you’re looking at a high-end tower in downtown Vancouver, in Coal Harbour, for example, you might be looking at 40 or 50 cents per square foot.”
Additional considerations come with purchasing new versus resale. Buyers of resale homes often want an inspection, and older condos, especially in older buildings, may require the payment of special levies.
Homes that are less than 10 years old come with warranties, a cost that Wendy Acheson will address, also in What Product is Right for You?
“It’s about raising awareness for prospective purchasers, so they know what they can expect from their home-warranty insurance policy,” said Acheson, vice-president and registrar of the Licensing and Consumer Services Branch of BC Housing.
She will also discuss the difference between homeowner and strata council responsibilities in case of defects.
“Because it is an insurance policy, sometimes it’s difficult to read and understand. That’s why I really want to bring in information to the homebuyer in a way they can understand, and know what to do if they do have any problems with their home.”
Finding a realtor
Dan Morrison, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, will be on hand at the upcoming Homebuyer Forum to address the topic of finding the right real estate agent.
Here are some of his tips on finding a fit among the 13,000 licensed realtors in Greater Vancouver.
- Don’t pick the first person you meet. “Find someone who you feel you can trust and has your needs at heart, who knows the area you want to buy in and types of product you want to buy. It breaks my heart when I see situations when somebody is working from out of the area, who doesn’t know the area or that type of product properly.”
- Make sure that the realtor is available when you are. “If your realtor can’t be there to show you the inventory, how can they properly advise you on the transaction?”
- Find someone with experience. “Problems do happen, and you want someone who can mitigate the problems and solve them in your best interest.”
- Ask friends and family for referrals, “especially if they live in the neighbourhood you want to be in, or have bought the kind of product you want. See who’s active in the area.”
- Ask for a special presentation. “Even if they don’t ask for it, a good realtor will give a presentation to the buyer to let them know how they work, and what their commitment is to you.”
- Check their website. “When was it last updated, is the information current, are the links working? Are they actually in business, in other words? Is there a Twitter feed or a blog? Are they posting things regularly?”
- Is it okay if they dress in an Adidas track suit? “Every buyer is different. Some will have higher standards. I typically wear a suit and tie, but lots of my colleagues don’t. It’s whatever your comfort level is.”