Look Over the Selection
After your ideal home is outlined on paper, get an idea of what the market offers in your area. Drive through neighbourhoods that interest you. Look at home advertisements in your local paper or in a real estate newspaper if one is available. You will probably find there are quite a few options in your price range.
New homes are built to modern standards of taste and comfort and often have warranties in place. They don't include fully-grown trees and the lived-in look that comes with time, but owning a new home provides the chance to grow with a new community. They are sold either as-is, modified to your specifications, or completely custom built.
The resale home market offers far more selection and variety than any other category. Resale homes are often in well-established neighbourhoods with grown-in trees and yards but repairs or redecorating may be needed to make someone else's home your palace.
Condominiums are not so much a type of home as a lifestyle. They combine two types of ownership - sole ownership of an individual dwelling unit plus shared ownership of exterior common property (together with other unit owners in the condominium complex).
Condominium built-forms can be detached houses, townhouses or apartments which share facilities such as adjoining walls, hallways, green spaces and parking. When you buy a condo, you become a voting member of a condominium corporation (the "strata") that arranges for maintenance such as snow clearing and charges members a set monthly fee.
Within these broad categories are a number of house types found in most communities. Individual streets and entire neighbourhoods are often made up of one or two types of houses with a wide range of cosmetic differences.
Bungalows have the advantage of having all rooms on one level providing scope for many different floor plans and eliminating stairs except where there is a basement. Because they need twice as much roof and foundation as two-storey houses of the same floor area, large bungalows can have higher heating costs.
One-and-a-half storey houses offer almost 75 per cent more floor area with about the same amount of roof as a bungalow. The first level is the main living area with a smaller second storey where the slope of the ceiling follows the slope of the roof.
If you want more than two bedrooms upstairs, a two storey house is probably your best bet. Both levels of a two-storey house have the same ceiling height and about the same floor area.
Two-and-a-half storey houses are simply two-storey homes with an extra, smaller level on top that provides more room (and more stairs).
Bi-level houses have one level of living space above-ground and a lower, basement level with a full height ceiling.
Split-level houses have three or more full levels both above and below-ground. Splits provide easy access from one level to another with good separation between sleeping and living areas.
With interior and exterior differences in materials, design, floor plans and decoration, these basic home styles are built in dozens of different design-types ranging from traditional to ultra-modern. There is plenty of room to indulge personal taste but don't forget your needs. You may have always wanted a two-storey, Tudor-style house but, if it doesn't have the eat-in kitchen you have listed on your essentials list, it may not be the house of your dreams.
Stick with your plan
So far you have identified a price range, the features you want and the type and style of home you would prefer but you are still not ready to start looking. Before you look at a single home, know exactly where you want to live and why. Choose your prospective locations by making a list that rates your priorities from most to least important. Mark a map with your choices and carry it with you when you go shopping.
A number-one priority on many lists is the time it takes to get to and from work. For properties located in rural areas this can mean you need to figure out the maximum distance you are willing to drive, allowing for road surfaces and weather. In the city, driving time can be affected by bridges, traffic lights or streets with heavy rush-hour traffic, so do a few test runs from neighbourhoods you are considering.
Homes in rural areas or outside of town or city limits are often on larger lots, are less expensive and have lower taxes than urban homes. But there is a trade-off: they usually lack some of the services city-dwellers take for granted. In many cases, paved streets are absent, garbage pick-up is not supplied, children are bussed to school and police and fire protection are more distant. The location of the nearest fire station or hydrant will affect the price of your home insurance, too.
Country life means country smells, ranging from pine needles to cow pies, so check for agricultural businesses such as farms, feed lots and processing plants. Check with neighbours to see if the water supply is pure and lasts year-round. When looking at a property, find out who services the septic system and call them to see if it is in good repair or have an independent company do an inspection for you.
Be sure to get a valid Survey Certificate if the vendor can't provide one. Also, have your legal professional check to see if the land has any "rights of way" running through it - these are potential roads or highways. Be thorough instead of surprised.
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