blog December 29, 2019

How much does closing really cost? – The blog of a first time home buyer

This part was probably the biggest shocker to me, the actual cost of buying a home. Spoiler alert, it’s not just the 5% you need for a down-payment! Here how much my house actually ended up costing.


Down payment – $10,000


The down-payment is of course the largest single fee associated with the purchase. This included a $1000 deposit at the time my offer was accepted, with the remaining $9000 due at closing.


Inspection – $0


No, I didn’t get a crazy deal on an inspector, I chose to do my own inspection with a friend whose construction background I trust. The home I bought was five years old, so I made the decision to save myself $500-$700 and not hire an inspector. Full disclosure: I would NOT recommend doing this yourself. A professional can find many potential upcoming issues.


Property Tax – $1040


Yearly property taxes are paid in roughly the middle of the calendar year, and they cover the whole year, so when you buy a home, you need to reimburse the portion of the year that you will own the home.


Here’s the kicker – properties that are not inhabited by their owner in New Brunswick are charged a nearly double tax rate. (NB is the only province that does this) When you buy a home that is being rented (like I did), then you pay back that current rate, and eventually are reimbursed. As of the time of writing, I’m still waiting on a nearly $500 refund.


HST – $0


Only brand new homes are subject to HST, which mine was not. Kind of makes you wonder why you pay HST on a used vehicle…


Land Transfer Tax – $2050


Usually right around 1% of the price of the home. This is the fee to the province to change the property into your name. I don’t claim to understand any more of this, but to me I would argue that this should be a flat fee, but I’m in marketing, not politics.


Default Insurance (CMHC fee) – $0


This fee (4.5% of the mortgage amount in my case) is added on to the mortgage, so no extra fee is paid at closing.


Lawyer – $1350


This fee covers the lawyer who managed the transaction, the title insurance, and several other small things


Home Association – $400 + $47


I purchased a townhouse which has monthly maintenance (snow, lawn, and water) covered by my townhouse’s association. I had to pay a one time $400 contingency fee as well as the rest of the month’s maintenance fee.

NB Power – $138 in transfer fees


Ending my old addresses power and starting the new home’s power cost $120+ tax in fees, in addition to all the regular charge.


New Appliances – $1450 (after I sold my old set)


My home came with a pretty gross washer, so I ordered a new set right away and sold the old pair. I’m not going to add this in the closing cost total since I didn’t technically need to buy this.


Bell – $70


This was the fee to move my internet. I was actually charged about $400, but that’s another rant…


Moving – $120


I tried to keep moving costs as low as possible, so I grabbed a friend, rented a uhaul, had someone deliver pizza and beer (once driving was finished), and did it all myself. As I carried a 60 kg couch up to the 3rd floor I regretted this, but I saved some money, and that’s what counts, right?


So, in total, my closing costs ended up approximately $15,200, or 8.1% of the purchase price, not just the 5% of the down payment. There’s a lot of little things that sneak up on you, so my best recommendation is to avoid stress, don’t try to purchase a home without at least 10% of the purchase price in savings.



Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!

blog December 23, 2019

The road to ownership – The blog of a first time home buyer

Your offer is accepted and you nearly have the keys to your new house, congrats!  There’s just a few steps, called conditions, that you have to take that will take your accepted offer to a sold home. Typically, you’ll have around two weeks to take care of these, which may seem like a lot, but trust me, you’ll want to tackle these as soon as you can.


One invaluable thing Rob had ready for me throughout my process was a “Roadmap to Sold”, a checklist and explanation of the conditions, when they were due, and some recommended companies to work with. If you’re not working with Rob, ask your REALTOR®️ for one such list, hopefully they’ll have something similar for you which will really help keep everything in order.




  • Accepted offer sent to mortgage specialist 



Once your offer is accepted and has the final signatures from all parties, it will be sent to your mortgage specialist to begin the financing approval. Make sure you contact your mortgage specialist right away to find out what they still need from you and get it to them ASAP! The final application cannot be submitted for approval until they have all the required documents and this part takes the longest. 


In my case, I needed to get two extra documents, even though they were fine for the pre approval. Silly things like the date of my partner’s employment letter, which was within 60 days when we were pre-approved, but once we actually were trying to buy, it was “too old”, so we needed another one. You could be asked for nearly anything, so be sure you get this step started as soon as possible!


  1. Submit the deposit


With your agreement, you’re required to submit a deposit, which is held by the company who has the property listed for sale. Who you send the deposit to, and for how much, depends on your deal, so be sure to get the exact details from your REALTOR®️.


  1. Insurance Quotes 


It’s a good idea to call at least three different insurance companies and obtain quotes for property insurance. This is a self-fulfilling condition, so you are looking for coverage and cost that you are satisfied with. Basically, you can look into this as much or as little as you’d like, then tell your REALTOR®️ you’re all set and boom, condition complete. You don’t actually purchase a policy at this stage, it’s just getting quotes.


From my experience, please do check many different places. I went to four; the first three were all within $50 per year of each other, the fourth was $600 less for even better coverage. Shop around! There may also be discounts for your university or career field, for details like how many smoke detectors or security cameras you have, etc. Also, bundling in your auto insurance may save you more.


  1. Property Disclosure Statement 


You’ll receive a copy of the Property Disclosure Statement form filled out by the sellers. This form covers many topics and is to be completed based on the best of their knowledge while they lived at the property. You’ll review the results with your REALTORⓇ to get an idea of what the seller has dealt with while they lived in the home.


  1. Home Inspection


By now, you should have received the financing approval letter from your mortgage specialist and are on the home stretch. This, too, is a self-fulfilling condition and is meant for you to have a more thorough look at the property. Although it is highly recommended to hire a professional home inspector to help you meet this condition, it is not mandatory that you use one. You may choose to have/hire independent trades (carpenter, electrician, plumber, landscaper, etc.) to view the property, or inspect the property on your own. The purpose of the inspection is to have a better understanding and to be satisfied with the property you are purchasing. 


While the inspection will cost you money, not running into an unforeseen repair in the near future is worth the peace of mind, in my opinion. The results of your inspection will also give you leverage if you do need to renegotiate your offer based on what you find.  Discuss your options with your REALTORⓇ.


Once completed, your REALTORⓇ will ask you the following: Knowing what you know now, do you still want to purchase the property? The answer should be Yes or No. However, if there is a larger issue that you had no prior knowledge of and it greatly alters your opinion of the property, but not enough to fully walk away, you may ask for the sellers to correct the issue or reduce the purchase price to offset the concern. 


  1.     Water Sample (for homes on well water)


When purchasing a property outside the city limits (not on city mains water), it is a requirement of the banks for there to be drinkable water at the property. Water samples should be taken at the time of the inspection and it is highly recommended to have a professional (Home Inspectors count) collect and deliver the water sample to the lab. Although, it is not mandatory for a professional to take the sample.


Once all the boxes are checked and forms signed, and you don’t have anything to change about your offer, the house is officially sold! Congratulations! Your move date might be next week, or it could be months away, but the house is officially (almost) yours! Next week I’m going to focus a little bit on the real cost of closing the deal.




Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!

blog December 15, 2019

Offers and counter offers – The blog of a first time home buyer

You’ve found a house you love (or like, it doesn’t have to be a love-at-first-sight kind of deal) and you’re ready to make an offer, what happens next? 


Firstly, this process is going to be an exercise in teamwork and trust between you and your REALTORⓇ, which is why it is so important that you choose the right one for your needs! For my home, my offer was pretty simple. There was only one back-and-forth negotiating price (I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to push hard, I really just wanted to be sure we got it!). Rob had to negotiate his cut, because the home I wanted was listed privately, otherwise everything from the offer standpoint went very smoothly.


The offer itself might sound like an intimidating document, but it is really just this information broken up:


  • Your name(s), the seller(s) name(s), and the address of the property
    • This one’s pretty obvious
  • The price you’re offering to pay 
    • This price does not include any applicable CMHC fees that would be added to your mortgage if you pay under a 20% deposit.
  • Extra items you want included
    • The general rule is that if you turned the house upside down and the object didn’t move, it is assumed to be included in the house. Usual items include window coverings (like blinds), bathroom mirrors, and major appliances. If there’s a storage unit, rolling kitchen island, etc., you can always see if the seller is willing to keep it as a part of the home, but keep in mind the more you ask for, the less the sellers will be willing to negotiate price.
  • The date you’d like to take possession
    • This is your closing date, or the day you’ll take legal ownership of the property (typically at the end of the business day, so I recommend you don’t plan to move on this date)
  • The date and time the offer expires
    • A date and time set between you and your REALTORⓇ for when this offer expires. Typically you do not give much time to encourage a quick acceptance or counter.
  • All other conditions to be met
    • This includes the offer being conditional on a satisfactory home inspection. The inspection (which is at your own cost), may turn up unknown issues which will cause you to adjust your offer or walk away. You also might have agreed upon something being fixed, changed, painted, etc. Lastly, it will often ask for a disclosure statement, which is a document signed by the current owner disclosing any issues or repairs that they know of while they lived in the home.


You’ll fill in these details with your REALTORⓇ and likely submit the offer online. If you’re like me, you’ll be almost holding you breath waiting for the response, but be patient! Hopefully you’ll hear back by your offer’s expiration time (you might not though). When you do hear back, one of four things will happen:


The Offer is accepted: Yay! Your offer was reasonable and the sellers have agreed to all your terms. Move on to next week’s blog post because you have an accepted offer!


The Offer is rejected: On no! To the seller, your offer wasn’t reasonable enough to bother countering, and it has been rejected altogether. Your REALTORⓇ might be able to get some more inside information about why, but don’t get too discouraged! You could always write another offer or continue your search.


Your Offer is countered: The most likely outcome is that your offer is countered. They might agree with some of your conditions, they might counter back at a different price, they might not like the proposed closing date, etc. There’s a million reasons your offer could be countered, but now it’s your decision on what to do.


You enter into a multiple offer situation: In the case where multiple parties put in an offer on the same property, you might have to adjust your offer to “beat” out the other offer(s). You wouldn’t see this on a counter, but you’d find out from your REALTORⓇ.


No matter what you hear back, what you do next is up to you! You can continue negotiations, you can walk away, or you can accept their offer and move forward. Your REALTORⓇ will likely have advice, particularly if they’re an experienced negotiator. At the end of the day you’ll either have an accepted offer (so look out for next week’s post) or you’ll be continuing your search.



Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!

blogUncategorized December 8, 2019

What do you do when you find “the one” – The blog of a first time home buyer

You’ve been to open houses, you’ve checked out some houses with your REALTOR®️, and you’ve found something you could call home!! Yay!

But… what now?

Well, first, before I get to that, I do understand that I kind of skipped the “Look at houses with your REALTOR®️” bit for a few reasons. Firstly, I only ever went to one house viewing before I found my “the one” at an open house, so it feels a little weird to give much advice. Secondly, your experience will likely be very different depending on your REALTOR®️. The one home I did visit with Rob was not a good fit for me, but it was a great learning experience. The home was beautifully staged but below the surface there were a lot of flaws and future expenses that ultimately ruled it out.

Back to you. Maybe you just came home from viewing the house of your dreams, or maybe you see the potential in a home that fits your needs. Great! It’s time to write an offer, right? Well, before you do, there’s a few things we want to think about. (Writing an offer is next week’s topic, so more details on that very soon!)

Coincidentally my partner and I found our home by stopping by an open house right after attending her sister’s housewarming at her newly purchased home. This home had awful photos, a poor write-up, and wasn’t even on the MLS®️ system, but I found it on kijiji and from the grainy picture, it looked to have a really cool kitchen. Enough of a reason for me to check it out!

Well, it did indeed have a beautiful kitchen with a great layout, as well as everything else we were looking for! Not to mention it fit within our budget, albeit at the high end of it. Most importantly to me, it was a recent construction that didn’t really need any maintenance up front (plus it includes snow removal, which was a big deal closing right before winter)! We spent the evening trying to find anything major that we didn’t like and came up empty, so the next morning it was time to get started on the purchase!

For me, that started the next morning in Rob’s office telling him we wanted to make an offer on a private sale that we saw the day before. This part added a little complication, because most people try to sell privately to avoid paying a REALTOR®️ commission, but I was not comfortable navigating a sale without a professional on my side. So while I was getting finances in order, Rob had to negotiate himself into his side of the sale.

When you find the home you’d like to try to buy, you’ll probably be with your REALTOR®️ and the property will likely be listed on the MLS®️, so you’ll get to skip to next week’s topic, navigating the actual offer process. Until then, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

  1. This time is very exciting, but understand that you making an offer won’t prevent someone else from doing the same. You haven’t purchased the home yet, so be prepared to deal with potential complications.
  2. Start to think about the conditions you’ll be placing on the offer, such as maintenance, painting, what stays, etc. What needs to change before you’re willing to purchase this house? Keep in mind: the more you ask for, the less flexibility you have to negotiate the price, or the more you open yourself to competition with another offer.
  3. Remember that your REALTOR®️ is likely negotiating several deals right now, and so is the REALTOR®️ of the seller. Trust in their process, you picked a good REALTOR®️ to represent you, so they’re going to do everything they can to seal the deal and get you the best deal possible.
  4. Be patient! This goes along with the above, but remember that there’s a lot of moving pieces from here on out, and many people. Be as patient as possible when you’re waiting on paperwork, counter offers, etc. At the same time, don’t be afraid to politely ask for a follow up if someone misses a deadline.
  5. Have fun. There’s a lot of stress involved with buying a house! Try and take some time to enjoy the little things, or plan out how your furniture will look, have a look at trending paint colours.

That’s all for now! Next week I’ll actually talk you through the offer and counter-offer process, give some examples of conditions, and talk you through all the way to having your offer accepted.

Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!

blog December 1, 2019

Why I didn’t use the First Time Home Buyer’s Incentive – The blog of a first time home buyer

A hot topic around election time (and my home purchasing time) was how to improve housing affordability for the average Canadian, and particularly, the first time home buyer. I’m not going to go into any politics, but I will go into what we got right before the election, the Liberal Government’s First Time Home Buyers’ Incentive.


I could explain it myself, but why do that work when I already made a video of Rob explaining it? (Click volume on in the bottom corner)


The First Time Home Buyer Incentive – What you need to know!

The Government of Canada just launched their First Time Home Buyer Incentive, a program designed to help reduce the mortgage payments on your first home. In this video I break down what that means for you.Questions? Give me a shout or leave them in the comment section!

Posted by Rob Hamel – Hamel Realty Group on Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Having an extra 5% towards my house initially sounded nice, but in the end I chose not to use it for a few key reasons. I’m not aiming to convince you one way or another, simply explaining why I chose not to take advantage of it.


In my situation, I would have been eligible for a FTHBI of just under $10,000. This would reduce my monthly mortgage by a little under $50 a month. $50 extra a month is nothing to complain about, but what is, is the fact that when you sell your home, or complete the mortgage, you need to repay the loan in full, at the current value.


Let’s run through a few scenarios. Let’s say I sell in 5 years, my home value remains the same, and I’ve been making minimum payments on my mortgage. In 5 years, I will have built $47,000 in equity. If I can sell it for full value, I will have to pay $11,500 in REALTOR®️ fees, then repay the $10,000 FTHBI, leaving me $25,500 to put towards my next house. I would have also saved $3,000 on mortgage payments. Now if I hadn’t taken the FTHBI, in 5 years I will have built $38,500 in equity, which after paying my REALTOR®️, would leave me with $27,000 towards my next house.


I know what you’re thinking, you’ll only make $1,500 more, and you saved $3,000, why not take it? Well let’s now see what happens if my home value increased 2% year over year (which is generous, but within the realm of possibility). Not taking the FTHBI will net me around $2,500 more. 


With these amounts, I’m not saving any money at 5 years, but by 10 years in, it has switched in favour of not taking it. Not to mention having to repay the full 5% all at once if I did keep my home for the entire mortgage duration. To me, I was sure to choose a mortgage and a home that I could afford comfortably, so that $50 a month doesn’t impact me greatly. On the flip side, making thousands more when I do decide to sell does matter to me. For that reason, I decided to not use the First Time Home Buyers’ Incentive.


I believe that the FTHBI does what it set out to do, improve housing affordability, but the impact that it makes in Atlantic Canada, with the relatively low cost of housing, is fairly minimal. Being sure to purchase a home that fits comfortably within your budget is key to maintaining real affordability. Additionally, being able to make extra payments, even $1000 a year, can reduce your mortgage by years and make a much greater impact than the FTHBI savings.

Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start you

blog November 24, 2019

Understanding your First Mortgage – The blog of a first time home buyer

The mortgage and pre-approval process is a scary one, at least for me it was. Just like you realise that public school didn’t prepare you to file your income tax, getting a loan for the biggest purchase of your life can easily seem daunting! I’d like to break down some of my knowledge on the subject and also touch on the pre-approval process.

Please note, I am not a mortgage professional. What I am about to write out is my understanding of the current mortgage process (late 2019). Do not use this as legal or financial advice, rather, use this as just a little preparation and clarification. For lots more information, the government has a handy website: 

Click to visit the site

Seriously, this website is going to give you much better advice than I will, but I’d still love if you read the rest of my article too!

So … whats a mortgage? A mortgage is a secured loan against your property. All that basically means is that if you stop paying at any time during the amortization period (more on that later), the bank has the right to repossess it. (Andy’s Pro Tip: remember to pay your mortgage!) Now the bank isn’t going to show up the day after you miss a single payment, but you absolutely need to be sure that you get a mortgage you can afford, even if you experience some hard times!

When you hear about mortgages, you hear terms like equity, 5 year fixes, amortization, mortgage rates, First Time Homebuyers’ Incentive (more next week), down payment… the list goes on! Here’s some of the most important things to know:

  • Mortgage
    • A type of loan that allows the lender to take possession of secured property if you stop repaying the loan.
  • Down Payment
    • The money you put down as your purchase a home. The current minimum is 5% of the price of the home. Down payments that fall under 20% of the home value are subject to creditor insurance (Often referred to CMHC fees), which protect the lender in the case where you can’t pay the mortgage. This fee is added to your mortgage amount and paid off just like the rest of your mortgage.  The amount of this fee depends on how much money you’re able to put down on the house.
  • Principal 
    • The amount of the loan. When you pay your mortgage payment, some of the money goes towards interest, while the rest pays down your principal, building equity
  • Equity
    • The value of your home, minus the remainder of the loan. This is the money you’ve “built” up with your mortgage payments, and you can think of it as the money you’d receive when you sell (minus some fees, like paying your REALTOR®).
  • Amortization Period
    • The amount of time it will take to fully pay the mortgage at your minimum payment. Most commonly this is 25 years, meaning that if you don’t increase your payments, you will fully own your home 25 years after the start of the mortgage.
  • Interest Rate
    • Your interest rate is the rate set by your lender (most often your bank) which controls the amount of interest you pay. You can have a fixed or variable rate mortgage.
    • Fixed rate will mean your payments remain the same, regardless of the current loan rates. EG: A 5 Year Fixed, 25 Year Mortgage means that the first 5 years of the mortgage, the rate will stay the same, before switching to a 20 year variable mortgage.
    • Variable rate will change as the market fluctuates, up or down. When the rate drops, your mortgage payment decreases. When it increases, you pay more.
  • Open vs Closed Mortgage
    • An open mortgage can be repaid in full at any time without penalty, while a closed mortgage has a limit on how much extra you can pay per year before incurring a penalty. An open mortgage will be at a slightly higher interest rate, but can save you money if you expect you’ll be making a large payment (for example, you buy a new house before your old one sells and you’ve built considerable equity)

There’s so many more details that can be explained, but the most important thing to do is to have a discussion with a mortgage professional. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need! Not only will they help you prepare for the eventuality of your mortgage, but they can also get you pre-approved!

So… what is Pre-Approval?

Getting pre-approved means meeting with a mortgage lender to have a look at your credit, look at your debt ratio (your debts compared to your income, among other factors) and determine how much they will be willing to lend you for a home. While you may be able to afford a very expensive house, if you have a lot of outstanding debt (think student loans, cars, credit cards) you may not qualify for as large a loan as you might think. Conversely, if you have great credit, you may be able to afford more than you expect!

I was a little nervous when I went in to be pre-approved. Now, full disclosure as always, I actually went in to get approved for the specific house I found, rather than find out the maximum we could qualify for, but the process is the same. I was nervous because as someone self employed, my income is more variable than most. My actual pre-approval actually went smoother than I expected. I brought in 3 years of Tax Returns and proof I paid my taxes, while my partner brought in a few pay stubs and a letter of employment. We’re fortunate enough not to have any outstanding debt, so after a few minutes with our mortgage specialist, we walked out with a letter of pre-approval, locking in a rate for the next 60 days. That means we could make an offer any time in those 60 days and be guaranteed the rate and mortgage we were offered, pending a letter of finance. 

A letter of finance is a condition of sale (more on that in a few weeks) which is when your lender actually checks everything fully, and offers to loan you the amount requested. They may need additional documents, proof of employment, etc., to ensure you’ll be able to pay your mortgage. Be sure not to significantly change your financial situation between your pre-approval and your actual offer, since you might get denied your loan at the last minute. That means, don’t go financing a fancy new car that will look great in your driveway until AFTER your house closes.

Once again, this is just meant as a jumping off point, but I hope it’s helpful as you begin the financial side of your home search! Next week I’ll discuss what to do when you find “the one”, or at least a house that could be your next home!

Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!

blog November 17, 2019

Why work with a REALTORⓇ? – The blog of a first time home buyer

You’re ready to start looking at houses, you know a little about what you want, what’s next? In my opinion, it’s time for you to hire your REALTORⓇ! Your REALTORⓇ is going to be your investigator, your paperwork guru, your negotiator, your cool 3rd wheel (maybe), and your partner through this process. Well, they should be, if they’re good… I’m going to take you through what I think is important when choosing your REALTORⓇ.


Full disclosure, I am extremely biased, I work part-time for a REALTORⓇ so I’m obviously going to tell you to work with one. However, I also think that working in an office of 80+ REALTORSⓇ has given me a unique perspective on what you should consider when choosing one. Either way, take this article with a grain of salt..


Before we get into choosing a REALTORⓇ, let’s talk about the why. Here’s a few reasons:


  1. It’s FREE – You might think that nothing in life is free, but if you’re a first time home buyer, the services of your REALTORⓇ are 100% free to you, no strings, no cost, nada! A REALTORⓇ’s commission comes from the seller’s side of the deal, so you don’t need to pay for the service at all!
  2. Paperwork – Purchasing a home involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of legal-ese. Having someone on your side that can help explain the ins and outs of the process will give you so much peace of mind! There’s so much more than just making an offer, and having someone that’s been through it hundreds of times makes it so much smoother. Remember, the details of purchasing a home can differ in every area, so don’t rely solely on internet resources (but keep reading my blog, okay?).
  3. Negotiations – Negotiations when you’re buying a house isn’t quite as easy as HGTV makes it look, you have to base your offers and counters on tangible facts about the property, about the costs of fixing issues (your REALTORⓇ has all the contacts to get you those quotes), and about historical data of the area. Making informed offers can help you hugely if you’re ever in a multiple offer situation!
  4. It’s FREE – Did I mention this already? Seriously though, it’s free, there’s no reason not to.


There’s wayyyy more reasons to use one, but I do hope that I’ve sold you on the idea of a REALTORⓇ! They’re there to protect and help you and there’s no reason not to use one when you’re buying your first home. It’s free to you, they’ve got your back, and they will help you literally with every step of the purchase… provided you pick a good one.


I already put up a disclaimer, but once again, I work for the REALTORⓇ I hired to help me with my purchase, but, I would have hired him even if I had not been working for him. I mean, you’re reading this on his website, so what follows will probably be a little biased towards Rob. I believe that I still have some worthwhile advice on making a choice, but if you’re here for 100% unbiased advice, you should probably click away now. Don’t forget to come back next week though when I go through the Mortgage Pre-Approval process and lingo!


So… What did I look for in my REALTORⓇ?


Here’s some of the qualities I think are important. Make your own list, or have a chat with your partner and prioritize these qualities, along with yours, so you can make an informed decision. You might not find anyone that will fit every single quality you’re looking for, but knowing what’s important to you will still help you find your best fit! One extra piece of advice, don’t be afraid to interview a few REALTORSⓇ! You do not need to work with the first one you contact! So, with that said, here are the qualities that were most important to me:


  1. Experience – This one’s pretty easy. I wanted someone who has been through a lot of transactions. While there are some amazing REALTORSⓇ just getting started, the knowledge and confidence that comes from having been through hundreds of transactions gives me a lot of peace of mind, so it was at the top of my list!
  2. Availability – Also pretty straightforward, but I wanted to work with someone who actually had time for me. I didn’t want to be passed off to a specific “buyers agent”, I wanted my transaction to matter, and that within reason, my REALTORⓇ would be available to help me see homes, answer questions, and just pick up the dang phone! Finding experience and availability can be tricky, but it’s definitely possible!
  3. Professionalism – See the trend, none of my wants so far have been that crazy. The main thing here is that I wanted to still feel valued and respected even though I was looking for my first home. Have you ever felt judged in a store because you didn’t seem like you could afford their products? I’ve been ignored at a few car dealerships before just for my age or the old car I used to drive, and I didn’t want to feel that way when purchasing my first home. Even if you’re looking for a $50,000 mini-home, you still deserve just as much respect from your REALTORⓇ as if you were purchasing a $400,000 home.
  4. Renovation/Construction Knowledge – Here’s the first more unique want. I wanted someone with real-life construction background or at least significant renovation experience. Why? Well, if I purchased something that needed fixing up, I wanted some advice on what actual costs would be, as well as advice and guidance. If I purchase something recently built, I wanted the knowledge that the contractors actually did a good job of it. I hate surprise costs, part of the reason I was happy to rent for so long, so making sure I wasn’t going to have to tear anything down right after I signed on the dotted line was very important to me.


With those qualities in mind, I chose my REALTORⓇ, Rob Hamel. He’s got over 10 years of sales experience, a background in construction, he’s into tech like me, and he actually answers his phone. He also works around 1 metre away from me, which made it very convenient to get a hold of him, but I mentioned that already.


When you’re choosing your REALTORⓇ, remember, consider your options and don’t feel like you have to use the first person you talk to. You want a partner, someone who has your best interest in mind, and someone you get along with well. On the flip side, don’t forget they’re humans with lives and families, so try not to have unrealistic expectations. Most full time REALTORSⓇ that I know work 70+ hours a week, so do your best to show your respect to them throughout the process. Oh, and I promise Rob didn’t make me write that part!


Next week, let’s get the scoop or Mortgages! What are they, how do I pick, what does amortization mean? So many questions! I’ll have (at least some of) the answers!


Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!

blog November 10, 2019

Open House like a Pro – The blog of a first time home buyer

Last week, I discussed the thought process of what went into the decision to start the search for our first home. We were ready, or at least ready enough, to start looking at houses, so it was time for our first round of open houses, yay!


Now, by the time we had actually gone to our first round of open houses, I was spending a little time every day or two to scope out all the new listings on (tip: sort listings by new to see what’s come up since your last visit). has a handy ability to sort by open houses, so you can schedule a route for your day, which is important because most open houses are only on for 2 hours (most commonly Sunday 2 to 4 in my area), and I wanted to see as many as I could my first time out!


With a few favourites picked and a few fillers added for variety, we hopped into the car and were off to see our first houses: a few townhouses, a cute bungalow that was currently an Airbnb, a 2 story historic family home, and another large bungalow. 


I learned a lot from the first 3 homes I looked at, mostly because they were 3 identical townhouses. There was $10,000 difference between the 3, one vacant, 2 lived in, different paint, light and kitchen, but all in the same “frame”. What a great way to quickly learn how much a good coat of paint can make a house look! It’s really easy to get caught up in the style of the current homeowner, good or bad, and that really can sway your opinion of the space. I think if you have the possibility of viewing a few similar units on your first open house tour, I’d say go for it, you’ll definitely learn a lot!


The next few homes brought up the discussion of how much I’m willing to fix myself. Now, I’m not afraid to get my hands a little dirty, but during the summer I typically work a 60-80 hour workweek, so the property would really have to be perfect for me to take on anything extra. Everyone has a comfort level of what you’re willing to work on, and what you want right from ownership, so be sure to have a good think or a discussion with your partner about what suits your needs, and use the experience you gain from the open houses to help inform that decision.


Another major difference I noticed from home to home were the REALTORSⓇ I met. Full disclosure once again, I do work for a REALTORⓇ, and two of the ones I met with are from the same office, so my experience was not completely typical, but I did meet four others that I had not met before. Some were very friendly, upfront, and ready to answer any questions I had. Some made it feel like they had better things to do and were completely hands off. You’re always going to have different experiences, but here’s a few things to keep in mind.


REALTORSⓇ are there to help you and answer any questions, but they’re also there to market themselves and meet new buyers and sellers. Don’t be surprised by them asking for your contact info, and whether or not you’re already working with a REALTORⓇ. Answer honestly, but remember that you’re under no obligation to work with them as your buyers agent. I’m going to get into that a lot more next week, but for now, remember that you’re under no obligation by attending an open house, aside from following the rules.


By the end of my first day of open houses, I certainly didn’t find the one, but I did learn A LOT along the way and I’m really glad I did it. I think I learned a dozen new things that I don’t like in a house and left feeling energized for my search and with a much more realistic set of wants and needs. With that said, here’s a little advice for you:


Andy’s Top Tips to Open House like a Pro:


  1. Check out all kinds of homes – Going to a home outside your budget or outside of what you’re looking for can still be very useful to help narrow down your wants and needs. You’ll learn a lot from the houses that you don’t like, and it will make you so much more confident when you’ve found the one!
  2. Ask the REALTORⓇ questions – It’s their job to show the home. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions, even the easy ones. There’s things that you can’t just look at, like the average heating costs, HOA fees (condo and townhouses), if it ever floods, how old the roof is, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask why the sellers are moving!
  3. Location – How easy is it to get to work, schools, parks, etc. Don’t forget that location is key! Even little details like distance from a fire hydrant and fire station can make big impacts on your home insurance rate.
  4. Follow the house rules – This seems like common sense, but respect the rules. Sign-in if asked, take your shoes off, etc. If possible, don’t bring your young children, it can be very hard to look closely at a home while entertaining or supervising young kids.
  5. If you like the home, look for signs of neglect. – Falling in love with a home only to have to walk away from it because of finding issues in the inspection is heartbreaking! Here’s just a few things to look for:
    1. Warped or stained baseboards
    2. Mold at back of cabinets, particularly under sinks
    3. Check any exposed pipes for leaks or suspicious repairs
    4. Check hardwood floors that are covered by rugs (with the help of the REALTORⓇ). Those rugs might be there to hide damage.
    5. Look for condensation between the panes of the windows, it can mean that they’re leaking and will need to be replaced
    6. Check for cracks or stains in the ceiling
    7. Open and close doors and cabinets
    8. Check for drafts around outlets, windows and doors, which could cost you hundreds during the cold winter.
  6. Consider the neighbours – How well are their houses maintained? Do they have kids toys out? Is trash put away? Is the fence in good repair? When you buy a home, you’re buying the neighbours, too. Make sure you’re not going to regret your purchase. If you’re feeling bold and like the house, try knocking on their doors and ask their opinion of the area.
  7. Lots of upgrades – Buying a home with a recently remodeled kitchen or plenty of new upgrades can be really enticing, but if a lot of work has been done very recently, there’s a chance that corners were cut to save money and profit more from the sale. Ask lots of questions and even find out what companies did the upgrades.


There’s a million more things I could write, but I believe this is a good place to start when you’re ready to start Open House-ing (is that a word?). Next week I’ll be talking to you about why working with a REALTORⓇ can make everything so much easier, and what to look for when you pick yours!


Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!

blog November 2, 2019

To buy or not to buy… – The blog of a first time home buyer

Deciding to purchase my first home wasn’t as straightforward a decision as it can be for many people. I currently rent a very nicely built home that doesn’t leave me wanting for much. When something breaks, I don’t have to deal with it. My costs are essentially fixed, mostly everything works, I have enough space for my girlfriend, my cat, and I. Honestly, it’s pretty good living. On the other hand, I’ve rented my current place for 4 years, which means I’ve “thrown away” over fifty thousand dollars. 50 large! Of course, if I had bought a house all that money wouldn’t have built equity, but nearly half of it would have. 

I would definitely like to start putting some of that money back into my own pockets, but I’m not in a huge rush since I’m pretty happy with my current living conditions. At the time we were in quite a sellers market, meaning houses were moving fast! If we found something we liked, we’d need to be ready to make an offer right away, which is certainly a little intimidating to a first time buyer.

Next comes figuring out what we’re even looking for. We made a list of some must haves, but were mostly flexible. One major decision is while I’m decently handy, I’m also extremely busy, so we weren’t willing to buy something that needed a lot of work. A few things on our list was a modern kitchen with decent space (since we’re used to a rather large kitchen at the moment), at least a second half-bathroom, a room for a home office (I currently share the space with my entertainment set up, which isn’t perfect for productivity), and lots of natural light.

Figuring out you must-haves right away can certainly help narrow down your search, but be sure to adjust this list as you go to open houses, view listings, etc. You’re going to learn a lot from the first houses you check out, so don’t worry if you don’t have much of a list yet.

Before we started looking too closely, it was important to figure out how much we could afford. Using some handy affordability calculators helped us plan for monthly expenses, but we also needed to consider how much we needed upfront. The minimum down payment in Canada is 5%, but there’s plenty of extra costs, such as property tax, lawyer fees, inspection, land transfer tax, etc. A more realistic expectation is the minimum we’d need is 10%, 5% for down payment, 5% for closing costs. I had to also take into consideration that my main income comes from my small business, which means a varying income year to year, while my girlfriend’s has the comfort of being salaried. 

Let me get real with you, another concern I had was the perception of buying a home with my girlfriend, since we’ve only been together for a year and a half and we’re not married. I personally had no doubts about buying a home together, but I did worry a little about the perspective of others. We discussed having the home only in one of our names if we could qualify for a mortgage alone, but ended up deciding to find the house before we stressed too much about it.

With no particular rush, we decided to start casually looking at houses. is my go-to to see what’s new. Sorting by new and putting a price limit at the top of my budget makes swiping through houses as easy as swiping through tinder!

Andy Tree is a professional Wedding Photographer, marketing expert, coffee lover, millennial, board game enthusiast, and overall nerd. Over the next weeks he’ll fill you in on every step of his search and first home purchase.

Send us a message on Facebook if you have any specific questions or if you’re ready to start your own search!