After two years of lockdowns and uncertainty, it looks and feels like COVID is finally in the rearview mirror.
People are excited, they’re going out again, places are busy and smiles are everywhere. One area that’s starting to take off is the real estate market. After what feels like eternity, cooped up looking at the same four walls, people want to move. Many have saved up down payments, people who have been renting rooms are busting out. It doesn’t matter if your house is big or small, cabin fever for many is over.
Many readers may not realize I’ve been a real estate agent for the past 26 years. I grew up in Fort McMurray, started selling houses when I was 19 and know the history of the neighbourhoods quite well. When it comes to houses and housing markets, I’ve seen it all. Nothing surprises me and nothing scares me. Interest rates are a hot topic right now, everybody is in a panic. When I started selling real estate, interest rates were hovering around 10%, people still bought houses and paid them off over time. Like any market, they rise and fall, and like any city, people come and go. It’s just done with a much faster frequency here in Fort McMurray. After all these years the one thing that still surprises me is the lack of understanding of how buying a home works. Whether it be lack of self confidence in thinking you can own a home, the fear of rejection from the bank, or listening to your friends talk you out of it, here are some tips to get you started.
The best place to start if you’re thinking about buying is to talk to your bank or find a mortgage broker. A quick Google search will bring up a plethora of professionals. Find one you’re comfortable with, one that talks to you on your level and most importantly, listens to you. If it’s overwhelming, take a break, ask them to explain it to you again, that’s what they are there for. It’s important to talk to the bank and get a pre-approval before you start looking at houses. Doing this in reverse could set you up for disaster. Imagine looking at homes for $400,000 only to find out later that the bank will only approve you for $300,000. There goes that extra bedroom, or extra garage space you had your heart set on. Bottom line, after seeing what you think you can buy, you’ll never be happy with what you can buy.
Find a real estate agent that you’re comfortable with. Meet for coffee, have that initial conversation where you discuss what you need, what you like, get to know one another so the agent gets a feel for your style and what works for you. This is going to be someone you spend quite a bit of time with, not to mention handling one of the largest investments you’ll ever make. If you have red flags, find another agent. Just like people at work or friends of friends, you’re not always going to like the person. Go with your gut on this one.
Once you’ve established an agent you’ll need to decide what kind of home works for you. Do you want a home with a yard and all its upkeep or would you be better in a condo building with someone taking care of the maintenance for you? Is a mobile home or townhouse the way to go, a lot of times it will come down to what’s the best bang for your buck. What gives you all or closest to what you need in a home.
When you find what you’re looking for, you’re going to hear about all kinds of conditions both as a buyer and from the seller. Conditions are protections. You’re going to hear about condo documents, home inspections, time for financing and in some cases time for sellers to find a home. Every agent will tell you, no two deals are ever the same. Even after 26 years, I learn something new with every deal. Just know that you’ve made it this far with your agent and they have your best interests at heart.
My personal advice to you, especially if you are young, when you start making good money don’t buy the most expensive car you can afford. Vehicles are depreciating assets and usually not worth much once they are paid off. Those four or five years of high car payments could have gone towards your mortgage, setting you up for a better future down the road.
Feel free to reach out to the Michael Craig Jesso Real Estate Facebook page if you have questions about the local market.
About the author
A Fort McMurray staple, Michael Jesso is a renaissance man. He is an opinion-sharer, a car aficionado, a cooking show host, and a stand-up comedian.
He tells it like it is, and has his finger on the pulse of what is happening at all times. He is connected, in the know, incredibly invested in the community, and has the most contagious laugh. Not to mention the most epic party pad in all of Fort McMurray.