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Beginner’s Guide to Home Buying in Calgary and Elsewhere

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Beginner’s Guide to Home Buying in Calgary and Elsewhere
7 min. read

Changing market conditions and mortgage rules are always a source of stress and confusion for home buyers, and both of these have impacted Canada recently. We’ve reached out to expert broker Meagen MacKenzie for in-depth advice, and a forecast about the Calgary real estate market for the rest of the year. Her insights are thorough, helpful, and universally applicable.

Meagen Mackenzie expert broker insights

Expert broker Meagen MacKenzie gives step-by-step advice on finding the right agent for you!

Tell us a few words about your job as a real estate professional? What do you love most about your job?

Every day is different. You never know what that day will bring. It’s a roller coaster, and you need to be able to roll with it.

First and foremost, it’s about servicing your clients. Without your clients, you have no business. It’s always being available to them to answer their questions, their concerns. Sometimes it’s counseling them through a very difficult situation or life change. Some days you’re a mediator between divorcees. You deal with so many different personalities.

And while no day is ever the same in real estate, the same goes for your clients. They’re all different and have their own personal needs. You have to approach each client and their situation differently. While some clients are very quick thinkers, others are more emotional and need time to process.

And that’s just the ‘people’ part of real estate. Then there’s running your business. Advertising, promoting, prospecting, accounting, hiring and firing, market assessments, market updates, transaction coordination, market statistics, social media, training, driving, contact management, REALTOR® tours, the list goes on and on.

If I had to choose the one thing I love the most, it would be the marketing part of it. While I’m a REALTOR®, I’m essentially a marketer… I market my clients’ properties. And each property is unique, so it needs to be marketed differently.

This is where the creative aspect comes into play. And that’s the part I love – getting creative on how you’ll market a property. What can you do differently to try and get more exposure to that listing? Also, marketing yourself and your real estate business. What can you do that the competition isn’t doing? How can you make yourself stand out? I love the creative process that takes place when marketing my listings or myself.

What can we expect in terms of prices and inventory in 2017 in Calgary homes for sale?

I really think prices will remain fairly stable throughout 2017. Recent announcements of upcoming projects in the oil sector and new pipeline projects will increase consumer confidence. While the job market in Calgary will not be as robust as it was a few years back, it will remain stable at the current employment levels. I don’t foresee any major increases or decreases in property values.

Are Calgarians buying properties in foreclosure or are they avoiding them?

I wouldn’t say they’re avoiding or seeking out foreclosure properties. There is a common misconception that a buyer can get a foreclosure at a steal of a price. But foreclosure properties are owned by banks… and banks aren’t in the business of giving anything away. They need to re-coup as much as they can from a bad investment. They will price the foreclosure property at ‘fair-market’ value.

That’s what buyers can expect to pay for a foreclosure. So while buyers will most likely consider a foreclosure property, I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re seeking them out or avoiding them. If it’s priced fairly and the property is in good condition, then it will sell, regardless of whether it’s seller owned or a foreclosure.

Do you think the current mortgage system in Canada is discouraging prospective home buyers from considering smaller homes? Is getting a loan for a small home more difficult?

I actually think the current Canadian mortgage rules are forcing prospective home buyers to buy smaller homes. With changes to down payment requirements and recent CMHC fee increases, it’s becoming more and more difficult for home buyers, especially first time home buyers, to afford larger homes. This is for their own benefit, so they don’t find themselves in financial trouble down the road. Many buyers today cannot get the same house they could’ve purchased a few years ago with the new mortgage rules.

What criteria should home buyers consider when choosing their REALTOR®?

It’s so important for home buyers to be comfortable with the REALTOR® they decide to work with. Using this short checklist will assist in choosing the right agent:

  • Are they a full-time agent? They should be. A part-time agent may not be as fully dedicated to real estate and their clients as a full-time agent.
  • What are their references? A simple Google or Facebook Review check will show you if they have good reviews… or you can ask friends and family who they’ve worked with in the past if they were happy with them.
  • How well does the agent LISTEN? The agent should only show home buyers properties they can afford and properties that will fit the lifestyle the buyers are looking for. The only way the agent will know this is by listening to what the buyer is saying.
  • How familiar are they with the area you’re wanting to buy in? If they don’t know the area very well, they may not be able to advise you as well as an agent who focuses on that specific area.
  • Are they pushy? No agent should ever push a buyer into buying a property. Advising is totally acceptable, but an agent who tries to push for a quick sale is not an agent worthy of your business.

How should buyers prepare for the home buying process? Any tips you’d like to share?

When a buyer decides it’s the right time to buy a home, there are a few things they should do before commencing their home search.

The first step is to ask yourself why you want to buy a home. To stop paying rent? To start building equity? To have a place of your own? To raise a family? To entertain business associates? These kinds of questions will help you narrow down the kind of property you should look for. You should also spend time considering features that you may want, such as the style of home, size, community, finishings, outdoor space, etc.

The next step is mortgage pre-qualification. Home buyers should meet with their mortgage lender to find out how much they can afford to pay for their property. Shopping around for the best mortgage and the best rate can be the deciding factor on whether you can afford to buy.

Next, it’s time to find a REALTOR®. Now that your mortgage pre-qualification is complete, you now know the price range you should be looking in. Discussing price and style of home with your agent will help him/her properly conduct your home search for you. Ask friends and family to refer an agent they’ve worked with in the past, or check an online agent directory to find a REALTOR® you think you’d like to work with.

In addition to your mortgage, there will be other costs incurred with purchasing a home. Home Inspection costs, appraisal costs, down payment, moving expenses, utility set up, tax adjustments, etc. Home buyers should ensure they have enough money saved to cover these costs.

Meagen Mackenzie is an Associate Broker/REALTOR® in Calgary, Alberta. In addition to real estate, she is also a Home Stager. You can follow Meagen’s adventures in real estate & home staging by watching her Real Estate & Home Staging Tidbit videos on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

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