Housing

Buying a Home

For many consumers purchasing a home may be the biggest purchase of their lives.

The best way to shop for a new home is to prepare a "must-have" list. It is recommended that you spend plenty of time inspecting all the aspects of any home that you're serious about buying.

It is important to figure out what you can afford, based on how much money you will need to borrow, your income and expenses and any debt repayments you may have. Talk to someone at your bank, then compare mortgage rates, terms and conditions at a number of financial institutions. Mortgages vary widely. You can get a good idea of current house prices in neighbourhoods you are considering by looking at house listings in the newspaper or by searching the Multiple Listing Service or the websites of for-sale-by-owner companies, which help homeowners advertise their home but are not allowed to actually sell it.

For more information on mortgages, see “Mortgages”.

Unless you're in a building trade, you won't necessarily see the faults in a home you're considering, so you may wish to hire a home inspector. Keep in mind that home inspectors are not subject to industry regulation in most provinces. You will want to do some homework to find a reliable inspector. Ask friends and neighbours for references, and ask those inspectors you're thinking of hiring about their training, experience and membership in professional organizations. Your inspector should always provide you with a written report. Remember that most inspectors ask their clients to sign a waiver. They do this in an effort to minimize their liability in case they provide incorrect or incomplete information in their inspection reports.

The Homeowner Protection Centre (HPC) is a resource centre for homeowners. Homeowners can access information resources to assist in buying, building, maintaining, expanding, renovating and making the most of their homes. The HPC helps homeowners understand their consumer rights when purchasing or renovating a home or buying a home product or service. The HPC also helps companies become more responsive to the needs of their customers and works with builders to improve their business and customer service processes.

For more information on home buying, go to the Buying a Home section of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website.

When you have a complaint about a real estate agent, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office or real estate regulator.

New Homes

Go to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association for a list of local members. Many home builders associations provide brochures and sample contracts to help consumers understand the market.

For information on maintaining a new home, you may wish to purchase the Homeowner's Manual produced by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Federal non-profit organizations such as Canadians for Properly Built Homes and provincial housing ministries may also be helpful.

Condominiums

You may be considering a condo, but if you've never lived in one, you should check into all the restrictions and rules before you buy. Ask to see a copy of the corporation by-laws; they may include very specific conditions, such as whether you may put in a garden or hang seasonal lights outside. Talk to people in the community and the manager of the corporation. Find out about maintenance fees and how often they increase. Check whether there is an adequate reserve fund in place for repairs and maintenance of major items, such as roofs, driveways and parking lots. Just as you should do when purchasing a house, have a home inspection done before purchasing a condominium.

See also the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's Condominium Buyers' Guide, available on their website at www.cmhc.gc.ca.

Renting

Many of the issues that arise when you are buying a house or condo also come up when you are looking for rental accommodation. You need to make sure that it meets your needs at a price you can afford and that it is safe and well maintained.

In addition, you will want to read the rental agreement carefully, to find out about the rules that tenants must follow and what the landlord is required to do for you. Ask about the security deposit: whether there is one, what the terms are for getting it back when you move and whether you will be paid interest. To find out if the rules in your province or territory indicate that you should be paid interst you may contact your provincial or territorial housing ministry. Landlord and tenant requirements vary across Canada so it is important to find out about the situation where you plan to live, particularly if you are moving to another province or territory.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has an extensive section on its website about renting, with tips, information, worksheets and sample letters that will help you during the rental process: www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho/yogureho/fore/index.

Environmentally Responsible Consumer Tip:

Heating can count for more than half the energy cost of running your house. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), more than 17 percent of the energy consumed in Canada is used in this way. Buying an energy-efficient home or making energy-saving renovations can offer big savings.

Renovating is an ideal time to make your house healthier for you, the community and the environment. CMHC has put together Renovating for Energy Savings, series of fact sheets that describe options for saving energy in houses of specific styles and ages. There is also a section on energy efficiency upgrades. Visit www.cmhc.gc.ca/en/co.

Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency has introduced ecoENERGY Retrofit. This program offers Canadians financial incentives to retrofit their homes and make them more energy efficient.

Also offer resources for owners of newly built homes:

The EnerGuide Rating Service encourages the building of energy-efficient new homes by offering guidance to home builders about energy-efficient features and upgrades, and provides an energy rating label on completed homes indicating their EnerGuide rating.

  • The R-2000 Standard encourages the building of energy-efficient houses that are environmentally friendly and healthy to live in.
  • There are also energy efficiency programs for new homes available in particular regions of the country.

For more information visit: www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal

Door-to-Door Home Repairs

Sometimes salespeople come to your door offering a deal on roofing, driveway resurfacing, or furnace inspection or repair, because "we just happen to be in your neighbourhood." Usually they insist that the contract must be signed immediately to get the special price.

This is a high-pressure sales tactic. Don't fall for it. If you were thinking of having the work done anyway, ask the salesperson for local references. Obtain quotes from other suppliers as well.

Although the majority of sellers are honest, some are not. The seller may ask for a deposit and then never return to do the work, or the work he or she does do may be substandard. Unless you have personal references, you won't know what you're really buying until your money is gone. (See also the section “Door-to-Door Sales”)

Your province or territory may require door-to-door salespeople to be licensed and bonded, and may allow a cancellation (or cooling-off) period, during which you may cancel the contract for any reason. For more information, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.

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