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Homefinder: Some words of advice for first-time buyers

Buyers told to do their research and stay within their means
Dave O’Byrne checks out his new surroundings on Oak Bay Avenue as Royal LePage Coast Capital Realty plans to move its offices into Athlone Court on May 1.

With interest levels remaining in historically low territory, doors to the real estate market are opening for many people who previously hadn’t thought about owning their own home.

Oak Bay realtor Dave O’Byrne said his attitude is that it’s always a good time to get into the housing market. But that doesn’t mean buyers don’t need to go in with their eyes open.

“My advice to first-time buyers is to buy within your means. It’s absolutely paramount to talk to a couple of mortgage brokers, maybe even your financial planner, and make sure you’re doing that within your means,” said O’Byrne, a realtor with Royal LePage Coast Capital Realty.

He said many of those looking to buy their first home can often face upheaval, with one spouse having to take time off work with a baby or having to move for a better job. That’s why O’Byrne says it’s important to put a lot of thought into that first home.

“Back in 2005 or ’06 we saw a real heady market with people making some irrational decisions and paying too much for property, and maybe more importantly buying something that wasn’t really a wise investment”

He said buyers must be cautious about settling for a home that doesn’t suit their needs, whether because of its size, heavy traffic or undesirable location.

“Do as much research as you possibly can, research the area, talk to family and friends,” said O’Byrne. “This is where a realtor comes in. This is the role of a realtor, to say if you buy in this area, this is not the best neighbourhood.”

While the cost may keep some first-time buyers from settling in Oak Bay, others may hope to save a few bucks by picking up a fixer-upper. Again, this is an area that warrants caution, according to O’Bryne.

“If you’re doing a fixer upper you need to make sure that you have somebody that really understands it,” said O’Byrne, who advises seeking out a contractor or qualified tradesperson. “Make sure you get a real good sense of what it will cost. If you don’t do the whole rebuild, it can be like an old car where you’re just putting money into it all the time.”

And through all the excitement of searching for your first home, O’Bryne suggests giving some consideration to your needs down the road.

“One of the most important things in buying real estate is to make sure it is going to be reasonably salable when you want to get rid of it,” he said. “If you buy a house next to a crack house, or on a busy street, or something that is in really decrepit condition, and if you decide this doesn’t really suit our needs, even in a good market they can be hard to sell.”

But in the end it really comes down to finding a place you’ll be happy to call home.

“It’s about buying a home for your family, somewhere your family will be happy to live.”