As March turns into April, the Canadian real estate market can catch spring fever. First-time homebuyers face intrinsic challenges when it comes to house-hunting during peak home-buying season. There’s plenty of competition from other buyers as well as more deadline pressure.

But there’s a reason for that: buying and moving in spring/summer ensures better weather and provides breathing room for kids to settle in before starting at a new school. It also gives you all summer to feather your nest… if you can beat out others vying for the same starter home. Want to get an edge on the competition? Read on for our top strategies for house-hunting during peak home-buying season.

Strategy #1: Hire a professional Realtor

If you don’t already have a real estate agent or Realtor, find one, pronto! A pro can help you narrow your search to the best neighbourhoods for your budget and lifestyle.

Local real estate professionals know the finer points of different neighbourhoods, so you don’t waste time chasing bad leads such as a cute row-house on a street known for its history of termite infestations, or hoping for a $400,000 house in a community where prices have started at $600,000 for the past five years.

Realtors and agents can fire up your search by emailing you pertinent listings right after they hit the market. A quick eye during spring house hunting can give you an advantage over other homebuyers who are surfing or other real estate websites on their own.

Strategy #2: Use social media for PR and research

First-time homebuyers are twice as likely than other homebuyers to include social media in their home search. While it doesn’t replace the expertise of a Realtor, social media is a valid tool.

Use social media networks for public relations: Serious about finding your first home? Launch your own PR blitz. Spread the word on Facebook that you’re looking, and in what neighbourhoods. You could get solid sales leads via family and friends (and friends of friends!).

For research: Twitter and YouTube provide valuable insights into a neighbourhood culture, helping you decide if it’s right for you. Wondering how family-friendly a particular street is? Google it, and you may find a trove of tweets and YouTube videos of its legendary Halloween Pumpkin Parades.

Strategy #3: Get mortgage pre-approval

It goes without saying that in any market, particularly a competitive one, you need to be pre-approved for a mortgage. Sellers won’t wait for a prospective bidder without mortgage pre-approval when there are plenty of other bidders out there with their financing buttoned down.

Consider a mortgage broker and get your ducks in order so that when you jump in with an offer, you’re doing so with both feet.

Strategy #4: Line up your real estate support team

In addition to your Realtor and mortgage broker, it’s important to have other key real estate pros in your corner so you’re ready to move fast the moment you decide to put in an offer on a home.

Securing these pros ahead of time will ensure you’re not scrambling during peak home-buying season. Your team should include a:

Use word of mouth recommendations from trusted friends and family, or ask your Realtor for their recommendations.

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