So, the time has come. You have your finances in order, you’ve been pre-approved and you’re ready to start house hunting. First of all, congratulations on getting to this point! Now what’s your next step? You’ve probably heard oodles of advice to help you get to this stage, but do you know what to look for when it comes to finding your dream home?  Here are a few pointers to help ensure that your home buying experience is a positive one.

Before you start viewing homes, find an amazing realtor. There are plenty of great realtors out there, but finding an outstanding agent who will go above and beyond for you (and all of their clients!) is the first step to happy house hunting.

Sit down with your significant other (or anyone else involved in the purchase) and iron out all of your hopes and expectations before you’re caught standing in the middle of house that one person loves and the other thinks is horrendous. This is the time to jot down a list of needs (items like the number of bedrooms, parking spaces and a large kitchen may fall under this category) and your wants (an ensuite, second floor laundry or stainless steel appliances). And finally, you must agree on a budget.

Your realtor will start the search by sending you current listings in your desired neighbourhoods and any listings that become available. It’s important not to judge a book by its cover. Photos are very helpful but will not tell the whole story. Be sure to read the home’s realtor comments, take a look at the room dimensions and even do a drive-by before rejecting a home.

When viewing a home, try not to become emotionally attached. It’s a common obstacle for first time buyers to overcome. Even if you are positive that this is the house of your dreams, it’s not worth blowing your budget in a bidding war and ending up with a home you can’t afford. By the same token, never skip necessary conditions (i.e. a home inspection, approval of financing) in order to win a bidding war.

Finally, sleep on it. Even in a fast-paced market, it is always advisable to take your time and weigh the pros and cons before making the biggest purchase of your life.