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First home: Buying your first is a major life milestone

Owning your first home is a major milestone. Buying property is likely one of the first significant investments you’ll ever make — and it’s an investment that you get to enjoy while it appreciates.

For young people in particular, the idea of getting a mortgage can feel like an insurmountable obstacle amid the reality of student and consumer debt, but your real estate goals don’t have to be as far away as you think.

“You can never start too early,” says Mark Salerno, corporate representative with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “If you start early enough, you’re going to know the degree of challenge that you’re going to have.”

Salerno suggests first meeting with your bank to assess what kind of mortgage you might qualify for. Some hopeful homeowners may need to address debt and income concerns before taking the plunge, but banks and credit counselling agencies can help you become a better mortgage candidate.

If you’re given the green light, the next task is finding a realtor.

Realtors will be able to shed light on market conditions, trends and prices, and help you comb through real estate listings.

A good place to start is with the Canadian Real Estate Association, which can link you to a realtor in your area. Realtors can also connect you to other important individuals like home inspectors and help negotiate a deal when you’re ready to buy.

Some financial analysts may suggest renting a home is a better long-term approach, but while Salerno agrees it can be the more affordable option, he emphasizes the benefits of investing in your own piece of real estate are worth the purchase.

“The market, on average, over time appreciates and you then have a means to build equity in your home,” he says. “If you’re in a renting situation, you’re paying a mortgage — but it’s your landlord’s mortgage.”

Three things to consider when looking for a new home

  • Do you want a new home or a resale home? New homes will offer more up-to-date features, but can incur extra costs like GST or HST, for which there’s no rebate if the house is more than $450,000. Resale homes may need renovations, but are most likely surrounded by established neighbourhoods.
  • Is the neighbourhood sustainable? A sustainable neighbourhood ideally offers affordable homes,access to public transit, and proximity to schools, shops and work. Residents in sustainable neighbourhoods should also be able to choose healthier transportation options, like walking and cycling.
  • How much space do you need when it comes to bedrooms, bathrooms, storage, and outdoor areas? The CMHC recommends buying a home that meets most of your projected needs for the next five to 10 years.

This is the fourth in a week-long series of articles chronicling some of the rites of passage many of Metro’s readers will experience as they leave the nest or school and head out on their own. How did you find your first home? Any tips you’d like to share?

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