Todd Talbot doesn't really believe in dream homes or that there's a perfect time of year to buy a house.
Those might sound like strange opinions for someone who is well known as a television personality who sometimes makes it seem like selling your house and buying a new one can fix your problems.
But for the co-host of Love It or List It Vancouver – a show that profiles homeowners who are trying to decide whether they should renovate their current home or if they would be better off moving – the idea that there's a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to questions of homeownership just doesn't make much sense.
"The idea that there's a perfect time to buy, or the perfect house out there, simply doesn't exist," said Talbot, who recently teamed up with TD to share his advice on the homebuying experience with customers.
"That's because everyone's situation is so different. We're all at different stages of our lives, our careers and our relationships, and those affect the requirements for what we need in a house. It's all about what is right for you at this moment in time."
With the weather starting to warm up across Canada, and the traditional spring home buying season on the horizon, the TD Stories team sat down with Talbot for a wide-ranging conversation about real estate, home renovations, and what to do to prepare for your foray into home ownership.
As someone who lives and breathes real estate, what's the most valuable advice you've received when it comes to buying and selling real estate?
People often lack the creativity and vision to imagine the space they have in different ways. Whether you're looking for a new place, or to fix up the one you have, the best advice I ever heard was about learning how to articulate what you need, not what you want. It's not about thumbing through a magazine or watching a TV show and saying "that's pretty, that's what I want my living room to look like," it's about figuring out what you can actually use and what you actually need. We're seeing a move away from single use spaces like movie rooms, for example, because families are consuming content differently, and not necessarily all sitting together in a dark room watching a single big screen.
For those Canadians who have decided not to renovate, but to buy a new place instead, what's your advice for getting started?
Start with a really honest personal audit. Ask yourself, what do you need in a space? How long will you need it for? What do you want to use it for? The answers to those questions will determine what to buy and when to buy it. The reality is, the best time to buy is when you're ready. There's no great time in the calendar. You hear these clichés about the spring market or buying a home before the kids go back to school in September. While those are traditionally more active times for the market, it doesn't mean they're better than other times. There might be more product on the market, but there are also usually more people looking.
Second, you need to be ready. Before you start looking, you need to have your financing lined up. That's the most important thing. So you need to do your research, do your due diligence, and go through that process of figuring out those components. Working with a TD Mortgage Advisor for example can help you get advice on your unique situation. That's when you start to gain a sense of confidence and you can trust your gut about what will be the right fit.
For those Canadians who have never gone through the mortgage application and homebuying process, what should they be doing to ensure their finances are in order?
A lot of younger people these days want to do it all on their own. With a variety of different online tools available, homebuyers can start their search and seek out mortgage information independently. I use lots of these tools myself, including the TD mortgage calculator, which I've been using for many years. But it doesn't mean you don't need an experienced team around you. At the end of the day, you're going to end up paying for things like real estate transaction fees, so you might as well find a real estate agent who can answer your questions.
Same goes for your mortgage; I've saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in my life from good mortgage advice. The money is what dictates the property. Unless you win the lottery, you're in a relationship with your mortgage company, so you better get that relationship right.
Being a first-time homebuyer comes with its own set of challenges, but there can also be surprises for repeat buyers. Is there anything you wish you knew, or had received advice about when you were buying your second property?
It's funny, because your first property is almost always more straightforward. But with your second property, typically you are stepping up the ladder – such as moving from a condo into something more family friendly – or you're buying an investment property, or a recreational property. The last category has become even more attractive to people based on the pandemic, and I don't see that trend dying down anytime soon. That's why it's even more important to get great advice on your second property. If you're refinancing, it's important that you're structuring that properly, and getting the right advice from your financial advisors.
People always tell you to do your homework when buying a property, but aside from the financial aspects, how do you actually do your homework?
Ask questions. Take my dad for instance. For each of the first few properties that I purchased, I'd have my parents come see it, and my dad loves to talk to people. So, he would talk to the policeman at the coffee shop, the people out walking their dogs, and he'd ask them about the neighbourhood. Then he'd come back and report to me the on-the-ground nuances of that community. That information is gold. A lot of people are too shy to do this, and they forget that your neighbours can impact the space that you're living in so much, both positively and negatively, so taking the time to do the due diligence of the neighbours is really important.
Do you have any advice for people who might be looking to purchase investment properties?
I'm a long-term investor. I like to buy and hold. I don't really flip houses, as it introduces a lot of risk. It makes for decent television, but it's not reality for most people. It's tempting to look at other people who may have bought property at a certain time and got lucky. But real estate is a slow-moving asset, and the way you increase value to your property is by looking to the long-term horizon, and ensuring you get the buy right. You make your money when you buy; it's all about locking in, how much you pay for it, and the location that you buy.
Whether you're a first time homebuyer, looking to upgrade to your dream home, or exploring an investment property, TD's Mortgage Advisors can offer personalized mortgage advice and financing for what’s essential to you.