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Real talk 

Buying your first home can be just as stressful as it is exciting. Realtor Mark Mullane gives tips on where to begin.

click to enlarge Mark Mullane’s sold on Dartmouth living. - RILEY SMITH
  • Mark Mullane’s sold on Dartmouth living.
  • Riley Smith

I'm buying my first home. What should my first steps be?

One of the biggest new buyer heartaches is having the excitement of finding the perfect place dashed by being unable to secure financing.

Before you start pounding the pavement with a realtor, it's a wise idea to talk to a mortgage broker first to get some hard numbers about what you are able to afford. A mortgage broker works to find you the best rate and gets paid by the lender so it's free to any homebuyer, first- time or not. Working within a budget will help everyone streamline the process right from the outset and help your realtor target a search tailored to you.

Is it better to have a strict budget and neighbourhood choice, or go in open-minded?

Aside from some issues with public transportation, HRM is a very accessible city and generally you can be wherever you need to be in a reasonable period of time.

I like clients that know exactly where they want to be and clients that are wide open to possibilities, both types are fun to work with because they pose unique challenges. If you know that you 100 percent, no doubt about it, must live on the "flower streets" in Dartmouth or in Lawrencetown with an ocean view, I can dig deep and find you exactly what you are looking for.

If you are flexible, we'll go out and look at as many places as we can to get a true sense of where you'd like to be.

No matter if you are a first-time homebuyer or not, it's always the best idea to see as many houses as possible. Knowing if you want an old Victorian, a new construction townhouse or something from the pages of Dwell can also help focus our search.

What is a common mistake that first-timers make and how can I avoid making it too?

How much time do we have? There are a few major ones, like not having a budget in mind and not knowing all the closing costs (down payment, deed transfer tax, lawyers fees, et cetera). Your realtor should provide you with a list of closing costs so it's not a shock to you on a day that is supposed to be filled with fun and excitement.

Be prepared to lose a property or two in the bidding process, especially in hot market areas and also be ready to act fast when you find one that you absolutely love.

Also, keep on top of your realtor. We are here to ensure you are protected and totally happy with the biggest purchase you will probably ever make, so make us work hard.

And finally, don't take too much of what HGTV tells you about the buying process as fact---you're allowed to look at more than three properties.

What's the etiquette surrounding open houses?

I love open houses because you get immediate feedback from buyers who are out looking at a wide range of properties.

As a buyer, it's a good idea to walk in, take off your shoes, introduce yourself to the listing agent and view the property keeping any personal comments about decor or family photos on the wall to yourself. Ask the agent tough questions about the property and give them your honest opinion without holding back, because it's all extremely helpful information for us.


Mark Mullane's favourite 'hoods

DOWNTOWN DARTMOUTH There's no doubt that Dartmouth's renaissance has begun and it's time for potential home buyers and business start-ups to move in. See page 17 for more.

SILVERSIDES Just off the Waverley Road, about 10 clicks from Dartmouth, you'll find it tucked away in the trees overlooking Lake William. Reminds me a bit of parts of the Pacific Northwest up there. 

CRICHTON PARK For value and quality of life it's hard to beat Crichton Park. Steps from Lake Banook, a short walk to the ferry and if you find yourself craving an Ace Burger, you're only seven minutes away across the bridge. 

Dartmouth native Mark Mullane was a television producer, director, writer and indie rocker before his keen interest in the market and obsession with home design led him straight to Sawler Real Estate. Get in touch at sawler.com or 403-8393.

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