Home Buying Process Timeline - What Should You Do First?

By: Thomas Cook

Home Buying Process Timeline - What Should You Do First?

After many years of helping Toronto house and condo buyers, we’ve found that, with the exception of occasional sudden events, most house and condo buyers begin their home buying search about six to twelve months from the date they ultimately pick up their keys from their lawyer and move in to their new home.
 
Those sudden events might include a job change, a marriage, a new addition to the family, a divorce or receiving an inheritance.
 
It usually all starts with you having some casual thoughts or conversations about buying and then, over time, as market information is received and knowledge about the home buying process is gathered, it progresses to actually going out to look at homes and putting in offers.
 
Just like anything else in life there’s a good way and a bad way to go about this home buying process and, unless you’re short of time for some reason, what I’m going to describe to you is probably the ideal.
 
Most people these days start their home buying process online by looking at random listings from various city neighbourhoods.  You may have already decided that you want a house and not a condo, or vice-versa.  But that’s not the only decision that needs making.  What about neighbourhoods, prices, schools, public transit, onsite parking, size, style of home and so many other variables?
 
If you think you are six, nine or even twelve months away from seriously starting your search, the best way going forward is to have a Starbucks Strategy Session.  This is a casual 30-minute over-a-coffee conversation about what your ideal home may look like and what are the best ways going forward to achieve that.  You’ll set up an outline or a plan of what steps need to be done, and in what order, going forward so you become a smart, educated buyer and are ready for the time when you’re 100% ready to look at homes and put in an offer on ones you really like.
 
In your spare time you might want to do some reading about what’s involved in buying a house or condominium.  You can do this the hard way or the easy way.  You can scour the web for random articles about all sorts of real estate related topics OR you can just download this free book… The Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide.  This comprehensive Buyer’s Guide will cover all aspects of the Toronto home buying process and is a must-read when you’re jumping into Toronto’s busy real estate market.
 
So now you’re starting your real estate education but you still haven’t looked at any (or just a few) of the interiors of the type of house or condo that you think would be right for you.  And you’ve got questions… what about furnaces, wiring, plumbing, foundations, kitchens, bathrooms and roofs for houses and what about unit size, window height, balcony vs no balcony, south or west view, parking etc for condo suites?
 
To gain some ‘real life’ experience and expertise about what you like and dislike, the ideal path is to set up a Market Experience Tour of houses or condos in the neighbourhoods and price ranges of your choice.  You’ll not need your cheque book because these tours are not intended to show you homes that you would immediately put an offer in on.  It’s all about getting educated about what’s in the marketplace and what you get for your money in various city neighbourhoods.  
 
After each Tour, you’ll take a few minutes with your Buyer Agent to review and summarize what you’ve seen, what you liked and what you didn’t so your Realtor can get educated at the same time as to your likes and dislikes.
 
If you’re several months away from making a purchase I’d suggest that you set up a Market Experience Tour as early as possible in your timeline and then repeat them either monthly or bi-monthly as you wish so you’re slowly gathering up information about what your likes and dislikes are and what your affordability is in various neighbourhoods.
 
OK, time is passing and you’re about three to six months away from the buying date.  If you’ve already done this, all the better but this is the latest you should wait before sitting down with a mortgage lender (banker or mortgage broker) to get a Full Mortgage Pre-approval.  You can read about what that is here.  You absolutely need to nail down exactly how large a mortgage you qualify for and get the lender to give you a written commitment outlining exactly what the terms would be for that mortgage.
 
Let’s say for example that you’d like to be moved into your new home by mid-August in time for the start of the school year or a new job. It usually takes around 30-60 days to find the right home and negotiate a successful offer.  I say that because, in the current busy market, we may find a suitable home sooner but lose out at the offer negotiation table.
 
The average time between getting an offer accepted and getting the keys in your hand is between 30-90 days.  So, if you’d like to be moved in by the end of August, that means we should start looking at homes by the mid-June latest (60 days prior) and more likely by early May (120 days before the end of August).
 
Therefore, we should meet to have our Buyer Consultation in the last 2 weeks of April to get 100% ready for the start of the serious home search.
 
Where are you on that timeline graphic at the top of this article?  Wherever you are, pick the appropriate step in the process and let’s get started with your home buying journey!
 
Pick the appropriate step for you here...
 
Starbucks Strategy Session
 
Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide
 
Market Experience Tour
 
Full Mortgage Pre-Approval
 
Buyer Consultation