5 Steps for Home Buyers

Five great pieces of advice for local buyers

1. For a would-be home buyer, adopting a “wait-and-see” approach doesn’t work: “What are you waiting for?” asks Stellingwerff. “When are you going to know when is the right time to buy? That’s the question that I always ask. Those people who I’ve known who have taken this approach are still waiting. When we bought our first place 20 years ago, we had friends who decided to wait for the market to crash, and 20 years later, they’re still waiting and don’t own a home, and they’re in their 50s. And the reality is that for many Canadians, we are relying on our real estate investment for our retirement plan. It’s not necessarily a good idea, but it’s a reality – and these people don’t have that.”

2. Sacrifices made when buying your first home aren’t forever: Stellingwerff explains that you may have to make sacrifices and put in some effort when buying your first home, such buying as a fixer-upper, a smaller property or a home not in your ideal location – but as you move up the property ladder, your choices improve. “I think the concern that people have is that if they buy in Langley, for example, that they’re never going to get back into Vancouver. One reason for this is that they are expecting that their home will get bigger as they get older. But maybe they have to change their mindset to ‘let’s improve location.’ A move to a location that you prefer is still a move up, even if you’re not getting a bigger space.”

3. If buying a duplex, make sure you know your rights and responsibilities: Buying a duplex can be a great, more affordable option than buying a detached home – but they come with challenges, says Stellingwerff. “What some people don’t realize is that duplexes are strata properties. They’re covered under the Strata Property Act, and that affects your property interactions with your neighbour… If you have a dispute, there are two things you need to look at. Get a hold of the strata plan… which will give you information you need about designated use of different areas of the property. The other thing is that… when a decision is made on a strata property, it’s made by the strata corporation and usually by 75 per cent vote – but [in a duplex strata] you’ve only got two members. So good communication and consultation with your neighbour is really important... And if you’re buying a duplex, there’s no rule saying you can’t meet the neighbour first.”

4. Beware risks of buying a home that is in probate: As our population ages, buyers are increasingly likely to have the option of buying a home that is part of an estate in probate – but Stellingwerff warns that such purchases come with inherent risks that buyers should be aware of. “We’re seeing it more and more,” she says. “And probate can take some time – four to six weeks before the estate even gets to the top of the pile. So it could be way longer than that. And you can’t buy or sell a home that is in probate, as it is still open to estate beneficiaries disputing the will, so you can’t transfer the title. If you’re buying a property that hasn’t got probate yet, be aware that you can get an accepted offer but there has to be a subject in the favour of the seller that they will have probate. You have to understand the risk that you may not end up getting that home, or that you may have to wait for it. 

5. Winding up a strata corporation is now easier than it used to be, but is still not easy: “The good thing about Bill 40 on the dissolution of stratas is that now you don’t need a 100 per cent vote [to dissolve your strata corporation and sell off your building], you now only need 80 per cent – but you still need a court order to approve it,” explains Stellingwerff. “Strata members should hold out for market value, but keep in mind that another implication of the required court approval is that the court will wish to see evidence that the owners will receive fair market value – which means that the property will need to be widely and appropriately marketed. It won’t be enough that one developer has approached them and expressed an interest. And the court order process is also in place to give anyone who didn’t vote for the dissolution a chance to make their case.”

Infomation obtained from www.rew.ca