According to national housing experts, solo buyers represent one of the most active segments of the Canadian home buying market. These buyers must believe positives out weigh negatives when it comes to real estate.

Buying a home alone can be both a daunting task and an exhilarating achievement. Being responsible for all the decisions involved in the purchase may be intimidating. On the other hand, knowing you are responsible for the smart buy and the good deal can be very satisfying.

This diverse group of individuals approaches home ownership from a number of different directionsthe exciting journey from the family home and toward independence, the rocky pathway of dissolving relationships and the jarring route back after the death of a spouse. Some solo buyers are interested in giving themselves and their business more space and stability. Other buyers plan to start a business once they are settled in their new home. A growing number expect to rent out a portion of their home to cover costs, reduce isolation, receive the tax breaks and get help with maintenance.

Whatever the reason for buying alone, the solo buyer is a determined consumer. Without a spouse to fall back on when making choices, these buyers are more likely to do their homework to ensure they make confident, informed decisions.

Solo buying does not mean going through the transaction alone. Family, friends, neighbours or business associates can reinforce professional advisors. Good financial advice ensures the home and any financing arranged are integrated into the individual's full financial picture to create a sound investment.

Those prepared to face the challenge of learning how to invest wisely and well in their home will be rewarded in many waysnot the least by a boost to their self-esteem and self-confidence. Resources abound:

  • Real estate professionals can provide the reliable, accurate housing information necessary for a smart buy with good potential for appreciation in value over time. They can help you arrange for a professional home inspection to reduce the unpleasant surprises that can pop up after you move in.
  • The Internet has a multitude of information sites (including this one) that may be useful.
  • Libraries and bookstores have many books, magazines and tapes to get you started.
  • Professional associations offer publications and seminars. For instance, the Ontario Real Estate Association as a free publication, How to Buy Your Home, that contains information and self-assessment exercises to clarify your thinking. (1-800-265-6732).

    Whatever information sources you use, keep these things in mind so that you can apply your new-found knowledge wisely:

  • Learn how the money end works before you start looking at homes. This is not an add-on topic and goes beyond looking for the best interest rate. Making the right choices can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Work out how much you have to spend and find out what type of home ownership that amount of money will buy in the areas you prefer. Financing a cooperative is a lot different from mortgaging a condominium.
  • Location, location, location are still the three most important things to keep in mind when selecting a home. Since the profit you make on your home is tax-free, you should plan to make as much as possible. Avoid buying the best house on a street or best unit in a condominium complex. Watch out for the homes that are tough to sell in all but the hottest markethouses on busy streets or comers, those backing onto apartment buildings or shopping malls, condominium units beside the elevator.
  • Make lists of what you must have, want to have and would like to have in your new home. Then list what you cannot live with and want to avoid. Get in the habit of keeping notes. List the pros and cons when viewing homes, adding reminders like colour of carpet to help trigger your memory.
  • Decorating can hide a multitude of sins. Look past the furniture and colour scheme to visualize the space. Get interior design and renovation books and magazines from the library so that you can learn to see through "decorating magic" when you're buying. You will be able to use this information to visualize how to customize your new home.
  • If you want someone on your side to help you find the right home and negotiate the best deal, find a buyer's agent. This professional real estate person, by law, puts your interests above all else (except the law) and works exclusively for you.
  • Buy with an eye to resale even if you expect to stay forever.
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