In a home­owner’s hind­sight

Six things peo­ple wish they’d known be­fore buy­ing


Shoulda, woulda, coulda. If you’ve man­aged to make it through life with no re­grets, you’re def­i­nitely in the mi­nor­ity. Even Frank Si­na­tra, who fa­mously crooned “I did it my way,” had a few. But since buy­ing a home is prob­a­bly one of the big­gest-ticket pur­chases you will ever make in your life, we asked a num­ber of re­cent home­buy­ers to share with us some of the things they wish they’d known about the home pur­chase process.

1. Get your ducks in a row well in ad­vance when it comes to fi­nanc­ing. Chris Ryall lost the house of his dreams be­cause of the amount of time it took to process all the pa­per­work. Ryall had al­ready owned and paid off two houses, but af­ter sep­a­rat­ing from his wife, he and his girl­friend wanted to buy a house to­gether. “I fig­ured get­ting fi­nanc­ing would just be a for­mal­ity,” he says. Ryall rea­soned that he owns a busi­ness, has a credit score in the top 5 per cent and has been with the same bank for many years. But he couldn’t have been more wrong. “None of that meant did­dly-squat,” he says.

First Ryall had to get a sep­a­ra­tion agree­ment in place (he’d never both­ered since the breakup was am­i­ca­ble and he and his wife split things down the mid­dle). On top of that, a stag­ger­ing amount of pa­per­work was re­quested by the bank from ar­ti­cles of in­cor­po­ra­tion for the busi­ness, to sev­eral years’ tax re­turns and in­vest­ment state­ments. “My scan­ner was in over­drive,” he says. By the time all the pa­per­work had been dealt with, it was too late — Ryall had to with­draw his home bid. The good news: The cou­ple did man­age to pur­chase a house in Burling­ton last July.

2. Do a credit check in ad­vance. “Credit scor­ing agen­cies like Equifax and Tran­sUnion can make mis­takes,” Ryall says. His girl­friend’s credit score still re­flected an old loan she had re­paid long ago. And, as Ryall points out, every time some com­pany does a credit check on you — for in­stance, when you’re chang­ing cell­phone plans or if you move and have to set up ser­vices in the new lo­ca­tion — it can neg­a­tively im­pact your credit score. “An­other thing I found out about credit cards was that even though I never reached any­where near the max­i­mum credit limit on my credit cards, just hav­ing them counted against me when it came to my credit score” Ryall says.

The rea­son: Credit scor­ing agen­cies con­sider the to­tal amount of debt you can take on. If you have plenty of credit cards and higher lim­its, it could hurt your credit score. The up­shot: It’s best to keep just a few cards with low in­ter­est rates, a reg­u­lar pay­ment his­tory and low bal­ances. 3. Opt­ing for a condo? Read the rules and regs thor­oughly. “I was sur­prised at some of the fees im­ple- mented by my condo board,” says Toronto per­sonal fi­nance blog­ger Barry Choi (mon­ey­we­, who bought a Toronto condo last year with his wife Carla Salvosa.

“If we ever get locked out of our unit, we’ll be charged to have the concierge let us back in,” he says.

Al­though Choi and his wife haven’t yet been dinged for any­thing, he says some fees “still seem in­sane to me.” 4. Buy­ing a new home? Think long term and up­grade the mate- ri­als. “We bought our house brand­new from a builder,” says Nancy Tru­man of Markham. “I wish we had known to up­grade the ma­te­ri­als used at the time.”

Just 12 years on, Tru­man has al­ready re­placed the roof and the at­tic in­su­la­tion. In ad­di­tion, she says “the win­dows ice up and the garage door keeps fall­ing apart.” Al­though up­grades aren’t cheap, un­like the list price of the home they’re ne­go­tiable, and gen­er­ally the more you spend, the greater the dis­count. 5. Give your­self time to get out of one home and into an­other. Dan and Jas­mine Young moved into their East York home in De­cem­ber.

“We closed on our new house and old house on the same day,” he says.

“That meant we had to be out of one house and co-or­di­nate get­ting into the other all on the same day. It added a ton of stress on top of hav­ing a preg­nant wife in her third trimester!” If he moves again, Young says he will def­i­nitely co-or­di­nate the dates bet­ter and bridge the mort­gage to give them a bit of a buf­fer. 6. Al­lo­cate some cash for re­pairs and up­grades. When Deanne Kelle­her and Nando Tan­talo bought their Wood­bridge home four years ago, they opted to put in some sweat eq­uity in­stead of pay­ing some­one to do the work.

“Paint­ing isn’t crazy ex­pen­sive and I per­son­ally hate do­ing it,” Kele­her says. “But we did it any­way. Need­less to say the trim still isn’t done in the fam­ily room . . . four years later.”


Chris Ryall had to with­draw a bid on a dream home due to an abun­dance of un­ex­pected pa­per­work.

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