Top Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Few items in your life will come with as large a price tag or as many hopes attached as your first home. First-time homebuyers struggle to balance practical matters with their dreams of owning the perfect home in Ottawa. Knowing a few top tips can turn even wide-eyed neophytes into steely-eyed veterans.

How Much Home? 

Your first decision is new home size and property type. What do you need, and what do you want? Your needs are bound by limitations of budget, jobs or schools while your wants are the aspirations that feed your future. Make two side-by-side lists, with one column listing what you need and the second column listing what you want.

Your personal choices guide home type, choosing proximity to neighbours, entertaining family and friends outdoors, or preferring the quiet of an indoor hobby.

Think of the many styles of available homes:

  • Condominium
  • Terrace Home
  • Townhome
  • Rear Lane Townhome
  • Bungalow
  • Single home

Only you know what suits you best. Allow yourself plenty of time to learn Ottawa’s neighbourhoods. Be certain you find a properly registered community before falling in love with a site for your new home. Give yourself time to research your homebuilder.


Thinking backward from your ideal move-in date of your newly constructed house, taking into account the time your builder needs to construct your quality, customized home, you determine dates to break ground and, before that, arrange financing and insurance. This is your working schedule.

Everything—financing, insurance, design, construction, selecting draperies—takes longer than first-time home buyers anticipate. Accept advice from professionals, and work steadily to arrange all your paperwork, get your finances in order, and respond promptly to requests for information.

Your Mortgage

Your Offer to Purchase makes your intent official. Your mortgage eligibility and homeowner’s insurance should be in place before you make the Offer to Purchase. Consider working with the preferred mortgage broker your builder recommends, because of that broker’s ability to offer special rates and other savings. The preferred broker can quickly pre-approve you for a mortgage. Advantages of pre-approval:

  • A good pre-approval from a reputable lender accurately reflects your qualifications
  • The 90- to 120-day rate guarantee protects you as rates rise while you search for your perfect home
  • A pre-approval is free and does not lock you into the lender that pre-approved you

You can ask both TransUnion Canada and Equifax Canada for a copy of your credit file by mail. Knowing what is in the file in advance allows you time to remedy errors and spruce up any sore spots.


At the time you make your Offer to Purchase, you need to provide a deposit cheque. This could be quite large, so get into the habit of saving as much as you can at every pay period. Not only will you need a steady supply of cash for the building process, but after you build your home, you will need more funds:

  • An emergency repair fund
  • Seasonal maintenance
  • Redecorating
  • New furniture
  • Additional appliances


While having your new home built, events beyond your control will sometimes overwhelm you, but you need not ride that emotional roller coaster. Keep your eye on your goal of moving into your newly built house, following your timeline, saving money, working with the many dedicated professionals from designers to financiers to builders.