Real Estate

Toronto real estate market: advice for first-time homebuyers

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone and a tremendous financial undertaking. There is a lot to consider.

While increasing mortgage rates have recently helped reduce home prices in many parts of Ontario, they still remain high compared to prices just a few years ago. Having said that, the market is always shifting, and prices can differ drastically according to where in Ontario you are in.

Here is some advice to get you started when you are buying your first home:

Crunch your numbers and set a clear budget. It can be tempting to over-extend yourself to buy a nicer property. But I would encourage you to take a look at your income and monthly expenses to determine how much you can truly afford and stick with that. This will serve you better in the long-term.

Besides saving for a down payment and closing costs, make sure that you are also eliminating or reducing any debt. This is crucial, as everyone in Ontario applying for a residential mortgage has to pass a stress test. To determine your eligibility the lender will look at several things, including your available down payment, the mortgage amount, current interest rates, the mortgage amortization period, and any debts you may have.

Consider your lifestyle and circumstances. Do you work in a downtown core or from home? Do you live alone or with your family? Do you entertain or travel a lot? Reflecting on these types of questions will help you determine the location and type of property that may be most suitable for you. For instance, if you work from home, you may not have to worry about commute times and can be more flexible with your location. As well, if you live alone, perhaps a small condo will suffice. Distinguish between your needs and wants.

Hire a real estate agent who will provide you with strategic guidance and protect your best interests. I’d suggest interviewing a few real estate agents before selecting one. I’d also recommend that you ask them about their experience, references, services, charges, and general approach to buying. Before you decide on an agent, search them on RECO’s public register, available on our website, to confirm they are actively registered, and check if they have any disciplinary actions against them.

Review the fine print and be specific about your terms. When you are ready to make an offer on a home, be sure to read and understand the agreement thoroughly. As well, ask your agent to include, in writing: any items you expect will be included in the sale; renovations or repairs that you might want the seller to complete; any price reduction you may have negotiated in lieu of repairs, based on the results of a home inspection.

Seek the expertise of a lawyer insured to practice real estate law. All the paperwork you have to sign is legally binding. This holds true for any representation agreements with a brokerage, as well as the purchase agreement between the buyer and seller. It’s important to consult with your lawyer. They can review the terms, review the property’s title to confirm ownership, and answer any questions you may have.

  • Note: For more information and resources, please visit RECO’s website,

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email

Joe Richer is registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions. Follow RECO on Twitter: @RECOhelps


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