If you're thinking about buying a house, you've likely also thought about how many bedrooms you want, what neighbourhood you'd like to live in, and how important that walk-in closet you've been dreaming about really is. But there's so much more to buying a home than just picking your favourite listing and moving in (sadly). 

Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you'll ever make and, if you don't have the right tools or knowledge, the process can be tricky — especially if you're trying to navigate the real estate market during an unprecedented public health crisis. You may even have specific home-viewing guidelines to consider now.

The Government of Ontario, for example, has prohibited open houses, favouring virtual tours instead; it has instructed real estate agents that private, in-person showings should only be done if absolutely necessary (while following strict health guidelines, of course).

However, now could be one of the best times to buy a house in Canada. Using data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), Global News reported that, back in April, home sales were down 57.6% compared to the same time a year ago. Fewer buyers on the market mean less competition for those set on buying a new property, and that could mean better deals and more options for you. 

So, whether you're a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned investor, the time to buy could be right now, and these 9 tips will help you get through the process of buying your dream home like a pro.

1. You'll need more than just deposit money

It's no secret that it costs a lot of money to buy a property, and while saving for a deposit should be a top priority, you should also put aside some money (generally 2 to 5% of the home purchase price) for closing costs. Save this extra bit of cash beforehand so you're not in the red when it's time to sign the contract.

2. Before you do anything else, get pre-approved

Getting "pre-approved" means a lender has checked out your credit and approved you for a specific loan amount. It takes a bit of work, but it'll help you estimate your mortgage payments and understand the maximum amount of a mortgage you could qualify for.

3. Working with a realtor is optional, but it's easier

You could technically look at homes, make an offer, and sign a contract all on your own, but you can make the whole process way easier with a realtor. It's their full-time job to find you your dream home, get you the best possible price, and protect you from any sketchy legal jargon in contracts.

4. You can save some serious dough with first-time homebuyer incentives

Buying a house is one of the biggest transactions you'll ever make, but there are ways to save money. Check out some of Canada's first-time homebuyer incentives like the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP), which allows first-time homebuyers to withdraw up to $35,000 from their RRSP to finance a down payment. Other incentives include the $5,000 Home Buyers' Amount, the GST/HST New Housing Rebate, and, for anyone in British Columbia, Ontario, or Prince Edward Island, the Land Transfer Tax Refund

5. Buying a condo is different than buying a home

Besides making monthly mortgage payments, condo owners must pay condo fees as well. This amount — about 65¢ per square foot in the GTA and around 18¢ per square foot in the Quebec region — covers maintenance costs for common areas in the condo building like the gym, sauna, and pool.

6. It's important to ask the right questions

Why is the seller leaving? What's included in the sale? How old is the roof? What are the neighbours like? By asking the right questions, you'll know you're making a competitive offer on a home that meets your needs (and won't have you pulling your hair out after you move in).

7. Keep your emotions out of the homebuying process

When you attach yourself to a house emotionally, fear of missing out can set in fast. This is especially true in real estate markets like Toronto and Vancouver where multiple offers are common. Emotional buyers will pay more than they budgeted, forgo important conditions, or worse just to get their dream home. So, before you even step into an open house, leave your emotions at the door. You'll thank yourself later.

8. You should definitely get a home inspection

After you make an offer, but before you finalize anything, be sure to hire a home inspector. They'll check out your potential new house and provide you with information about the condition of things like the structure, plumbing, roof, and more. This will help you make an informed decision before you sign on that dotted line.

9. You can always renegotiate

No home is perfect, and your home inspector is likely to find at least some existing issues. If there are underlying problems with your new home, you may be able to negotiate with the seller to fix those issues or ask for credits toward your closing costs to make up for them.

No matter how prepared you are to move into a new home, buying a house is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — financial decisions you will ever make. Get yourself prepared, save money, and stay organized by keeping track of your expenses all in one place with Paytm Canada.

Downloading the Paytm app allows you to pay your bills directly from your smartphone and keep that credit score in check by avoiding late fees when you schedule payments in advance.

Pay with a credit card, debit card, bank account, or Paytm Cash and earn redeemable points to use towards discounted e-gift cards from your favourite brands. You can use all of that money you would be spending on the things you love for your dream home instead!

The Paytm Canada mobile app is available to download for free from the Google Play Store and Apple Store. For more information about the Paytm app, visit paytm.ca and check out their Instagram.

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