Fall is prime time when it comes to real estate; make sure you’re ready to go – by Alison Cook

The Fall real estate season is the second busiest of the year, with thousands of homes in sought-after Toronto neighbourhoods changing hands.  For buyers, Fall’s listing surge means it’s prime time for finding a new home.  With strong demand and competition still standard practice in many communities, making the most of Autumn’s opportunity isn’t always easy.  Here are nine tips to help you succeed this Fall:

Secure mortgage pre-approval – While it seems obvious, not everyone has confirmed financing when they start their house hunt.  In today’s still-hot real estate market, when the right house comes along you want to be able to act quickly.  Don’t miss out on the home of your dreams simply because you’re waiting for your pre-approval.

Develop a game-plan with your sales representative – Your sales representative is your quarterback and by developing a game-plan together ahead of time, success will be easier and more likely.  Make sure he or she understands your goals, timeline, priorities, availability and best contact method by communicating that exact information beforehand.  Discuss different approaches and determine which one suits you best and then put it into play.  Strong communication between you and your sales representative is key – if you’re not speaking the same language, move on.

Understand the offer process before you offer – Purchasing a home is a contract-based transaction with legal obligations.  Make sure you understand the process and the commitment being made before you’re in – what can be – the offer day juggernaut.  If you haven’t seen an Agreement of Purchase and Sale before, ask your sales representative to see one ahead of time.  With 27 clauses in a standard agreement, I like to provide my first-time buyer clients with a sample document before it’s go-time so they know what to expect.  An opportunity sometimes comes up unexpectedly and understanding the process ahead of time reduces stress and puts you in a better, more comfortable position to purchase.

Be a savvy shopper – While your sales representative is an expert and should have a deep knowledge of the area you’re looking in, including the average price of a home in the area, school profiles, future development and neighbourhood attributes and drawbacks, it’s good for you to have a sense of value so that when you see it you recognize it and can act quickly.  Review recent sales in the area similar to the type of home you’re looking for so you understand what fair value is.

Think outside the box – literally  – While some homes are definite no-goes from the get-go, others may have a deficiency that can be remedied without much effort or expenditure.  Look for solutions to issues with your sales representative who should have the knowledge and resources to help you think outside of the box.  Can a tiny second floor bathroom be extended by borrowing space from a closet; is there room in the basement for a home office; can larger windows or skylights add more light to a dimly lit home; can a landscape architect configure the backyard so that the space is more functional?  Homes that don’t shine can be awesome opportunities to purchase at a better price point and in a non or less competitive situation.

Spread the word –  Leveraging your own network is helpful –  a good sales representative leverages their professional and often personal network but if you do the same it extends your reach and may provide you with the inside track on a home for sale.

Keep your mid-week schedule flexible – The early bird catches the worm.  On many levels, the sooner you see a home, the better.  Most homes – not all, but most – are listed in the first few days of the week with an offer night seven days later.  Seeing homes as soon as they hit the market, mid-week gives you the opportunity to be one of the first potential buyers to see a home.  You’ll maximize the amount of time available to assess a home and make a decision to move forward or not.  And if a bully offer (an offer prior to the offer date) happens you’ll know whether you want to participate in the bidding.

Commit to the search – the market moves quickly and sometimes the right home comes at the wrong time.  As much as possible – life happens of course – stay focused on your home purchasing goal.  The fast-paced nature of the Toronto real estate market means that those who stay laser-focused are more likely to achieve success.

Establish firm purchase parameters  – Purchasing a home is unlike any other acquisition because of its unique mix of investment size and emotional orientation.  From being a haven from the outside world to the fact that some of life’s most important moments happen inside a home’s four walls, a home often has primary importance to people’s lives.  As such, it’s easy for emotion to overtake reason when you find the right roost for you.  Stay the course by having firmly set parameters that can guide you.

Before you know it those For Sale signs that seemed so abundant will be replaced by a blanket of snow and people’s attention will turn from home selling to holiday celebrating.  If you want to be one of the lucky ones who secures their perfect home this Fall, these nine tips should help you get there.

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