This content has also been published in a special section on thestar.com and will appear in the Toronto Star’s Saturday Edition on September 23.
When buying real estate, including your first condo, being wise to the purchasing process is key. If you’re one of the thousands set on tapping into the Toronto condo market this fall, here’s what to expect, from mortgage pre-approval to close.
Get In (Financial) Shape
John Pasalis, president of Toronto brokerage Realosophy, urges first-time condo buyers to tread carefully and ensure they’re purchasing a unit they can “settle into for the longer- term,” as it’s tough to predict how the market will move in the months and years to come.
“With rates the way they are today, mortgage payments are going to be a lot higher,” he warns.
A mortgage professional can help buyers understand how much they’re in the position to spend in the pre-approval process. That usually involves a credit check and a confirmation of income, says Jason Friesen, managing partner of Outline Financial.
“If someone’s salaried, we use what the current salary is. If someone’s self-employed, it’s usually a two-year historical average,” he adds.
If everything’s in order, Friesen says a full pre-approval can be turned around in two to three business days — however, that timeline can vary from lender to lender and on a case-by-case basis.
It’s important to note that being pre-approved for a mortgage doesn’t necessarily guarantee lending. The approved amount of a mortgage hinges on things that can be difficult to anticipate early in the con- do-hunting journey, like property taxes and maintenance fees.
“If those fees are higher, it generally means you can borrow less,” notes Pasalis.
Building fees are just one consideration of many for first-time condo buyers. Checking for future developments in the area is always a good idea and can help buyers avoid the (devastating) reality of nabbing a condo with a view, only to have it obscured when a neighbouring development crops up. An experienced real estate agent can help to suss this kind of information out.
Make Me An Offer
Once you’ve got your finances sorted out and you’ve settled on a condo that ticks all your boxes, the exciting part begins: making an offer.
A real estate lawyer can help to craft the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, encompassinging the offer amount — which should be based on “very recent” sales of comparable units in the area, says Pasalis, as the market has cooled dramatically in recent months — as well as any terms and conditions. That contract is then presented to the selling party and can be countered.
Pending the seller’s acceptance of the offer, a lawyer can help to arrange the transfer of funds and ensure the title transfer is in order. They can also help to review other legalese that comes up in the closing process, including with respect to the status certificate.
The status certificate “outlines any potential issues with the unit and the financials of the condo corporation,” notes Pasalis, adding that this bit of due diligence before closing can save buyers from costly surprises later.
Acknowledging that purchasing a home in today’s market is a tremendous financial undertaking, Friesen encourages first-time condo buyers to tap into incentive programs. He points to the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit, the Home Buyers’ Plan, provincial and municipal land transfer tax rebates, and government-backed mortgage loan insurance as a few avenues buyers can explore.
The First Home Savings Account, while currently in its infancy, will be another tool buyers can take advantage of down the line