In recognition of Genworth Canada’s Annual Homeownership Week, we’ve asked homebuyers for their first-time homeownership lessons in this three-part series.

Roberto was 29 years old and working as a marketing manager when he purchased his first home in the GTA during the summer of 2013. After getting married in 2011, the couple knew they wanted to purchase their own home as soon it was a financially viable so they started to keep their eye on the real estate market. From looking at and occasionally attending open houses, they began to get a better idea of what they wanted and what they could potentially afford. After spending a year living with Roberto’s mom to save for a deposit, they were ready to purchase. Having looked at about 10 different homes with their real estate agent, they ended up purchasing an end unit townhouse with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a finished basement, all appliances, a fireplace and the existing light fixtures. Learn more about Roberto’s first-time home buying experience:

Q: How was the experience in submitting an offer?

We kept a close eye on the market for changing trends such as price or interest rates for 12-14 months before we actually submitted an offer. The home we wanted to purchase had been taken off the market but was relisted at a lower price, and we immediately went in with an aggressive offer. The owner countered, however it was still lower than the new asking price, and we gladly accepted. We knew what we were getting with the home after having done our research and knew that it would have taken us a long time to find a similar deal. The experience in making the offer was great, but had us sitting on the edge of our seat – were they going to accept, did they receive a higher offer, did we go in too low or were they going to downright reject the offer – these were all thoughts going through our heads. With the timelines in place as well, the waiting game got a bit stressful as we counted down to the deadline. However, after receiving the counter, we breathed an excited sigh of relief – we were going to be homeowners.

Q: What was your down payment?

A: Our down payment on the home was just 5%.

Q: What is the best way to prepare for your first home purchase?

A: The best thing we did was to first list our must-haves and nice-to-haves, then worked realistically with our budget. I have a great relationship my financial advisor so he was able to give me an early estimate on what we could afford. With a budget in mind and a list of things we wanted, we started to look online in various locations to really figure out our options. Additionally, I was referred to a real estate agent eight months before we purchased. This gave us time to feel comfortable with them and ensure they knew what we wanted – it was incredibly important to us with such a large purchase that we were comfortable with who we were working with, ensuring we were not feeling rushed and/or pressured, which we never did. In summary, make a list, speak to a financial advisor to get a realistic budget and get comfortable with your real estate agent.

Q: Did anything unexpected happen?

A: Luckily there was not, everything went relatively smoothly.

Q: What do you wish you had known before buying your first home?

A: The one thing I wish I had known before buying was a better understanding of the closing process including fees, how property taxes work and were paid (rolled into the mortgage vs directly to the city), as well as how they are calculated.

Q: If you could purchase the same first home again, would you change anything?

A: I would have saved more for my deposit.

Q: Anything you would recommend to first-time homebuyers?

A: I would recommend doing your homework and starting early. Do your due diligence — make a list of what you need and want. Be realistic about your budget, because homeownership comes with other expenses. Visit websites and learn about what is available in the market you might buy in and attend open houses. Shop around and negotiate your mortgage rate, the stated rate is always negotiable. Find a real estate agent that you are comfortable with, that you do not feel pressured by and one that is willing to work with you for as long as you might need. Finally, ask questions about everything until you feel comfortable, as this is one of the largest purchases you will ever make. At the end of the day, you need to be completely happy with the house you are resting your head in.

Genworth Takeaway

Congrats to Roberto on finding a home for him and his wife! Their long search for the right home is typical for first-time homebuyers and is certainly quite reasonable. Their 5% deposit means they needed to acquire mortgage insurance, potentially through something like our Homeowner 95 program. Genworth’s other services can certainly help homeowners with their new property. The Genworth Homebuyer Privileges program offers discounts and savings on many home-related products and services, meanwhile our Homeowner Assistance Program is designed to help homeowners who might experience temporary financial difficulties – certainly something to consider when purchasing your first home.


On the blog:

Buying a home together: A guide for unmarried partners

Achieve the homeownership dream sooner