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When it comes to buying your first home, making an offer that meets all your criteria is a big deal. You are committing to a huge financial investment, and it needs to be taken seriously. While some things may differ from province to province or from city to suburbs, there are some factors that are important to consider no matter which part of Canada you’re looking to buy in.

Make sure your financial situation is where it needs to be. Before you can even start looking, you need to know how much you are pre-approved for so you can consider neighbourhoods and homes in your price range. It’s time to meet with a financial advisor who will go over your financial situation, see exactly how much you have available for a down payment, consider your credit score, income and the type of home you want to purchase in order to calculate how much you will be pre-approved for. Without pre-approval, you run the risk of not being able to put in an offer on your dream home.

Pre-approvals only last 60 to 90 days and can be revoked at any time should your income suddenly change. Also, tempting as it may be, don’t accept a pre-approval offer you know you can’t actually afford. No one enjoys being house poor.

Ask the right questions. Many provinces are considered “buyer beware,” which means the seller can’t hide active problems on purpose, but they aren’t required to tell you about any past issues. This is why having a home inspection and lawyer-assisted searches before you make an offer are so important. The last thing you want to do is rush into signing anything before you know about any potential problems that aren’t immediately obvious.

If a problem was discoverable by a home inspector but you didn’t bother to get the inspection before buying it, you are responsible for the repair cost. But even with an inspection, home inspectors can’t move furniture or get behind walls, so there may still be problems you might end up inheriting despite these efforts.

Understand exactly what you are signing. It is vital to read the agreement of purchase and sale thoroughly before signing, so you know exactly what you have agreed to buy. People tend to skim over the section that lists included fixtures (attached items such as chandeliers) and chattels (appliances) and just assume that these items are all included, only to be disappointed to find them missing on closing day.