What Should You Buy?
Case 1: Susan, after looking at several suburban homes, decided that buying an urban condominium would give her more of what she wanted for less money. She found one with a full fitness centre in a downtown area she liked, for less than a home in the suburbs, and with no worry about exterior maintenance, yard work or commuting.
Your Current and Future Needs
Before you start searching for a home, you need to think about your needs both now and in the future. Here are some things to consider:
- Size requirements. Do you need several bedrooms, more than one bathroom, space for a home office, a two-car garage?
- Special features. Do you want air conditioning, storage or hobby space, a fireplace, a swimming pool? Do you have family members with special needs? Do you want special features to save energy, inhance indoor air quality and reduce environmental impact?
- Lifestyles and stages. Do you plan to have children? Do you have teenagers who will be moving away soon? Are you close to retirement? Will you need a home that can accommodate different stages of life?
Try to buy a home that meets most of your needs for the next 5 to 10 years, or find a home that can grow and change with your needs.
Choosing a Location That Is Right for You
Even if the home you choose has everything you need, the location might not be appropriate. When deciding where to live, you should consider:
- Whether you want to live in a city, a town or in the countryside
- Where you work, how easy it will be to get there and the commuting costs
- Where your children will attend school and how they will get there
- Whether you need a safe walking area or recreational facilities such as a park nearby
- How close you would like to be to family and friends
New Home, Previously Owned or Build Your Own?
When thinking about the kind of home you want, the first thing you should consider is whether you want a previously owned home (often called a resale) or a new home. Here are some characteristics that may help you decide:
- Modern design. A new home has an up-to-date design that takes into account the latest trends, materials and features.
- Personalized choices. You may be able to upgrade or choose certain items such as siding, flooring, cabinets, plumbing and electrical fixtures.
- Up-to-date with the latest codes/standards. The latest building codes, electrical and energy-efficiency standards will be applied.
- Maintenance costs. Lower maintenance costs because everything is new and many items are covered by a warranty. You should still set aside money every year for future maintenance costs.
- Builder warranty. This is a warranty that may be provided by the builder of the home. Be sure to check all the conditions of the warranty. A homebuilder’s warranty can be important if a major system such as plumbing or heating breaks down.
- New Home Warranty programs. Generally new home warranty programs are provided by provincial and territorial governments, but there are private new home warranty programs. These warranty programs are not available in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Check with your real estate agent or lawyer/notary to find out what the new home warranty program in your province or territory covers.
- Neighbourhood amenities such as schools, shopping malls and other services may not be complete for years.
- Taxes such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) (or, in certain provinces, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)) will apply. However, you may qualify for a rebate of part of the GST or HST on homes that cost less than $450,000. For more information about the GST New Housing Rebate program, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website at, http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca.
- Extra costs. You may have to pay extra if you want to add a fireplace, plant trees and sod, or pave your driveway. Make sure you know exactly what’s included in the price of your home.
You can see what you are buying. Easy access to services. Probably established in a neighbourhood with schools, shopping malls and other services.
Landscaping is usually done and fencing installed. Previously owned homes may have extras like fireplaces or finished basements or swimming pools.
No GST/HST. You don’t have to pay the GST/HST unless the house has been renovated substantially, and then the taxes are applied as if it were a new house.
Possible redecorating and renovations. You may need to redecorate, renovate or do major repairs such as replacing the roof, windows and doors.
Building Your Own Home
Some people prefer the challenge and flexibility of building their own home. On one hand, you make all the decisions about size, design, location, quality of material, level of energy-efficiency and so on. However, you should expect to invest lots of time and energy.
Deciding on the Type of Home to Buy
There are many types of homes to choose from and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Think about your needs before making a decision. Don’t forget to look beyond the walls. The environment surrounding your home can be almost as important as the environment inside of it.
A home containing one dwelling unit, that stands alone and sits on its own lot thereby offering a greater degree of privacy.
A single-family home that is joined to another one by a common wall. It can offer many of the advantages of a single-family detached home and is usually less expensive to buy and maintain.
Two single-family homes located one above the other in a building. Often, the owner lives in one unit and rents the other.
Row House or Townhouse
Many similar single-family homes, side-by-side, separated by common walls. They can be freehold, condominiums, or rental units. They offer less privacy than a single-family detached home but still provide a separate outdoor space. These homes can cost less to buy and maintain — but they can also be large, luxury units.
Usually consists of two-storey homes stacked one on top of the other in a row of four or more homes. The units may have more than one level. All units have direct access from the outside.
Link or Carriage Home
Houses joined by garages or carports which provide access to the front and back yards. Builders sometimes join basement walls so that link houses appear to be single-family homes on small lots. These houses can be less expensive than single-family detached homes.
A factory-built single-family home that is transported to your chosen location and placed on a foundation. The term manufactured home has replaced the term “mobile home.”
Also a factory-built single-family home constructed in compliance with local building codes. The home is typically shipped to a location in two or more sections and placed on a foundation.
A condominium is a form of ownership, not a type of construction. Condominiums can be high-rise residential buildings, townhouse complexes, individual houses and low-rise residential buildings. Condominiums are known as stratas in British Columbia and syndicates of co-ownership in Quebec.