“The first thing people do when they start thinking about buying a home is, they look at listings,” says local realtor James Colquhoun. While daydreaming about a big backyard and beautiful kitchens may be fun, buyers may be left scrambling when their dream property shows up, and they realize their ducks are not in a row.
“The first thing to do is, talk to your bank or mortgage broker, and get a pre-approval,” Colquhoun says. “That way you know your budget. Then find the right realtor for you.”
“I always suggest a buyer should have their own realtor, as opposed to working with the listing agent of a home. The listing agent has an obligation to the seller. You want your own team; someone who’s always on your side,” he explains.
As a realtor, Colquhoun says it is his job to make sure people don’t overextend themselves financially. “We don’t want you to go to the top of your budget,” he says. Mortgage rates fluctuate, and job situations can change abruptly, as the pandemic has shown.
Stories in the media about the hot market forcing would-be buyers to waive conditions such as a home inspection when buying a house may have you feeling anxious, but Colquhoun says that as a realtor, he does not recommend bending over backwards for any house.
“I don’t recommend intentionally removing conditions just to get the house, because you’re taking a gamble at that point. I don’t want people taking a risk they’re not comfortable with,” he says.
“But there are other things people can do to make their offer more favourable,” he explains. Home inspections usually happen after an accepted offer, but some buyers opt to do a pre-inspection before the offer. “Mortgage approval and insurance are also important - you could tell your bank and insurance company about the property, so that you can get the ball rolling.”
“Love letters,” where prospective buyers appeal to the seller by explaining why they want a particular house, are common in Thunder Bay, the realtor says. “When I’m representing a family with a couple of kids, and they’re in competition for a house, I say, “It’s your call, do you want to write a letter to appeal to the seller, tug at their heart strings?” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
“Our knowledge and experience can save you a lot of time and energy. As a buyer it makes no sense to buy your home on your own,” says Colquhoun. “We can save you a great deal of time and energy, especially if you’re a first-time buyer and you don’t know how the process works.”
Buying a home can be daunting, and it is Colquhoun’s job to break down the process into manageable tasks and coaching the client, one step at a time. “We’re a great person to have by your side when you feel lost,” he says.
“We provide extensive knowledge of the neighbourhoods. I’ve helped people new to Thunder Bay, people from as far away as Vancouver, Alberta, Toronto and the east coast. We’re sort of like your ambassador to the city,” he says.
A realtor’s expertise and skills can be worth a lot when it comes to negotiations, Colquhoun says. If an issue comes up on a home inspection but the buyers are still interested in the house, there may be room to negotiate a lower price. “And knowing market conditions is important,” he points out. “Just because the market is one way now doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. We want to get you the best possible price for the house.”
“And we’re there long after the sale ends. Sometimes clients don’t know how to sign up for utilities, or how property taxes are collected,” he adds. Having worked in the industry for many years, Colquhoun knows many of the home inspectors, lawyers and insurance brokers in the city.
At the end of the day, long-term relationships that last beyond a home’s closing date are what makes Colquhoun’s job as a realtor fulfilling.
“I’ve had clients who bought houses several years ago and we’re still in contact. It makes me happy that I can make a positive impact in their lives. A lot of my clients have used me multiple times. When a former client calls again to sell or buy, or to refer me to a family member, that’s the ultimate compliment.”
Learn more about James Colquhoun and Royal Lepage and how he can help you by visiting www.royallepage.ca.