The home-buying process is a challenge at the best of times, but when an area is booming (like Toronto and the GTA right now), house hunting can feel even more daunting than usual.
Getting advice from experienced professionals can help a lot when it comes to knowing what to look for.
This is where Properly comes in. Properly is a new kind of real estate brokerage that’s transforming the experience of buying and selling property to get you into your dream home faster and with less stress.
Look For A Place With A Logical Layout
Square footage is hard to come by in the GTA, but bigger doesn't always mean better.
According to Stover, "a home could be hundreds of square feet less than the neighbour’s property, but if a home has a good layout, it will feel larger."
It's amazing the impact an open-concept kitchen and living room can have on the perceived size of a space.
Keep your eyes peeled for properties with a logical layout and open spaces if you love a light and airy vibe in your home.
Find A Property With Potential
If the layout isn't great, it doesn't have to be a dealbreaker. As long as the place has good bones, you can do something about it.
According to Jaffer, buyers should "aim to purchase a home that [they can] grow into and add value to over time."
Keeping the big picture in mind is important. Look past what the house is like now, and imagine what it could be like in a few years with a little work and TLC.
Are there walls that make the space feel tight? Knock them down. Is there a bedroom that's slightly too small? Transform it into an office or kitted-out home theatre.
Location, Location, Location
You may think this common real estate mantra is overused, but according to Stover, it's still true.
"You can do a lot of things to your home, except move it somewhere else," he said.
When you find the house you like, take time to scope out the neighbourhood it’s in. Visit at different times of the day, walk around and check out the local parks, shops and schools to see if it's the right area for you and your family
Consider Extra Bedrooms & Bathrooms
Since the pandemic, homes have become workout spaces, offices, schools and more — all in one.
With that in mind, it's wise to look for a house with an extra room that you can use as a guest bedroom, den or gym. You never know when you'll need the additional space.
An extra washroom just makes life easier. If you're looking at properties with two or more storeys, a toilet on the ground floor saves you running upstairs every time nature calls.
Know What Your Neighbours Paid
Because Toronto's housing market is so strong right now, properties are frequently selling after tough bidding wars and often for way above the asking price.
The risk here is that you can end up paying more than you need to. One of the best ways to find out what a house is actually worth is to check out what other homes in that area recently sold for.
Properly Home Search lets you browse sold records for up to 90 days, so you can look at the history of a property and compare to similar homes currently for sale.
It's a great way to get an idea of what a solid offer on your dream home will look like.
Forget Age, Think About Condition
New homes can be gorgeous, but they also come with a price tag. As long as it was taken care of, an older property could be exactly right for you. You just need to know what to look for.
According to Stover and Jaffer from Properly, signs of a well-cared-for house include high-quality renovations, newer appliances and quality doors and windows to help you save on heating.
And it's not just the features you can see that count. High-quality materials and workmanship throughout are also important, such as good insulation and plumbing.
Is There Enough Parking?
According to Jaffer, the average Canadian household owns at least one car. If you fall into this category, finding a place with a parking spot, driveway or garage is essential.
It's worth it too: properties with dedicated parking can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than those that don't.
After years of hustling for a parking spot every day, nothing beats the feeling of just pulling into your driveway and walking inside.
Don't Overlook Outdoor Spaces
Another thing highlighted by the pandemic was the importance of having an outdoor space, big or small, where you can relax, exercise, entertain or play.
A patio, porch or backyard might be harder to come by, but it’ll be worth it when summer rolls around.
The great thing about outdoor spaces is their versatility. From sitting in the sun with your morning coffee to hosting parties with string lights and cocktails, having a space that opens to the sky can make a home feel magical.
Keep Earning Potential In Mind
Make your property pay itself off (at least partly) by getting a home that has extra space you can rent out without much effort.
According to Jaffer, the average cost of finishing a basement is $80,000. If you find a place with this work already complete, you can supplement your income by renting it out.
Not only do you live in your dream home, but you can relax knowing that you're making it work for you.
These are just a few tips that could help you know when you’ve found a gem for your dream house.
When you’re ready to buy, working with a real estate company like Properly will help take some of the stress out of the process.
All that frees you up to enjoy the special moments that come with being in a house that fits just right: like pulling into your own driveway, having a cozy guest room to offer your bestie or sipping coffee on your sunny balcony.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
This content is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, investment, legal, tax or accounting advice.