April 21 2008 by Ellen Roseman
You only buy a house a few times in your life. So you never really get much experience. By the time you’re ready to do it again, the market has shifted and the rules have changed.
The six-year boom market in Canadian real estate is over, according to reports showing that first-quarter sales in 2008 dropped 13 per cent. Of course, none of the economists is predicting a U.S.-style real estate bust. They’re just talking about having a better balance of supply and demand.
I’m going to be teaching a course at the University of Toronto’s school of continuing education, called Buying the Right House at the Right Price, starting in two weeks. I’ll look at how to prepare yourself for one of the most intense and frightening experiences of your life. You’ll be doing battle with real estate agents, mortgage lenders, lawyers, insurers and house sellers, all trying to outsmart you. Meanwhile, you’ll be taking on probably the biggest debt you’ve ever had, stretching many years into the future.
Even if sales are slowing from the above-average pace of the past few years, I don’t expect to see a buyer’s market any time soon. But it may be a little harder for realtors to stage the big auctions, where houses get 15 bids and go for $100,000 over the listing price.
So, tell me your best and worst real estate experiences. What did you learn about protecting yourself in a rough and tumble world where everyone you deal with has more experience and knows the tricks that you haven’t yet mastered?
Here’s a lesson I discovered. Don’t pick a real estate agent because you meet her at an open house and you think she seems nice. Our agent did all the work in finding us a home, but her partner (whom we didn’t even know about) swooped in at the end to negotiate a deal. She was a barracuda, a nasty person we’d never want to see again, let alone recommend to others. Always ask the agent you know and like about the other people on the team.