1. Hire a real estate agent – Engage the services of an Ambitious Realty Advisors agent. As residential real estate experts, their wealth of experience, technical know-how and familiarity with the community will be invaluable, and is by far the most important house hunting tip you can employ. Read more about how a real estate agent can help.

2. Get a pre-approved mortgage – Before you even consider looking at housing for sale, see how much you can afford by having your mortgage amount pre-approved. This avoids disappointments and wasted time chasing down listings that are out of your price range. Read more about financing options.

3. Don’t go it alone – Two heads are better than one. Bring along your spouse or a friend whenever you are viewing open houses or making the big decisions. That second set of eyes may notice issues you didn’t.

4. Don’t be shy – Buying a home may well be the biggest financial decision of your life, so this is no time to clam up. Ask lots of questions. Stay in close contact with your real estate agent, and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions while viewing open houses. You know the saying: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

5. Hire a real estate lawyer – Protect your real estate investment by using a lawyer who specializes in real estate (or a notary in Quebec). They will make sure all the Ts are crossed and the Is dotted on every legal document you deal with.

6. Get organized – Which house had the attached double garage? Were the appliances included in that other one? You’ll be taking in a lot of information as you scan real estate listings, tour homes and consider your options. It can be hard to keep the facts straight.

Stave off confusion by bringing a camera to photograph houses and the features you want to remember. Bring a pen and notepad to take notes, and use a paper or electronic day-planner to keep appointments, important dates and contact information. Print and bring along our Home Buyer’s Guide (.PDF) and Home Viewing Checklist. Visit our Preparing to Buysection to determine your needs and plan your real estate search.

7. Visit the neighbourhood at different times – The tranquil side-street bungalow you toured on Sunday might be anything but quiet come Monday morning. Rush-hour traffic and the fumes and noise emitted by nearby industry might turn that sleepy street into a nightmare.

8. Be wise to the “tricks of the trade” – For the most part, you’ll encounter well-intentioned folks like yourself as you view homes. But be aware that there are techniques sellers often use to show their homes in the best possible light.

Do you smell baking bread? Something spicy and sweet on the stove? This is a common psychological technique that aims to put you at ease and make the house feel homey.

And don’t be shy about looking under area rugs and behind closed doors. Sometimes there is a reason spots are covered up or out of view.

Sometimes you have to do a little reading between the lines when it comes to real estate listings, too. Know that “cozy” can mean claustrophobically small, and terms like “handyman’s special” may well mean you’re in for a ground-up restoration.

9. Use the internet – If you’re reading this article, you presumably have access to the internet. Take advantage of all the info, advice, calculators and property listings offered right here on www.thedoyleteam.ca. It’s the only Canadian real estate website you’ll need to visit. You can also research neighbourhoods here, or try searching local tourism sites and chambers of commerce.

Check out the lay of the land using Google Maps (select Satellite View). Search local newspapers and blogs for news, issues and opinions about the communities you are considering. Average weather conditions, employment opportunities and nearby amenities are all just a few clicks away, and all from the comfort of your home.

10. Enjoy yourself – Lastly, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that buying a home, while it does have its share of stressors, is an exciting time. So take your time, keep your sense of humour, and don’t let the intricacies rattle you.

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