(When) should I buy a house, Hamilton, Ontario edition
January 23, 2013 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the very early stages of house-hunting in the Hamilton, Ontario area, but I'm not sure how fast I should be going.

Tomorrow I have a visit with a mortgage broker to talk over options for mortgages, but other than that, I haven't done anything of note -- no realtor, no house tours, etc. About 90% of what I read suggests that Canada is way overdue for a correction in the housing market like the US had in 2008; however, I *also* read a bunch of stuff suggesting that Hamilton itself may not be a part of any near future correction and in fact might keep stable or increase while other parts of Canada get their justified comeuppance. I'm 40, emigrated here in 2007, and this will be my first home purchase in Canada. Given around a 200k price point, I can probably end up scrounging around a 50k down payment. But if prices are going to go down in summer 2013, or 2014, or 2015, I could use the extra time to save up a better downpayment which would be great, especially if prices fall during that time. Any wisdom, house-savvy Canadian folks?

Super extra bonus - if anybody's got pointers on awesome research methodologies that can be employed in the service of house-hunting *without* talking to a realtor, I'm all ears. I know about Zoocasa, for instance, but I'd love to see a way to, say, easily/freely search property records to find data about houses, etc.
posted by the dief to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Real estate markets are always very local and country-wide trends are not reflected in every local market. Canada as a whole has its real estate market driven up by Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto but other areas may not be seeing similar changes.

I don't know Hamilton really well, but I expect it has had less of a run-up and will not have a big bubble to burst, but I am not absolutely sure. Certainly it isn't Toronto which is where my experience was.

Regardless of macro trends I have always approached house buying from a cash flow perspective. Aside from the down payment, how much will the mortgage be? How much is property tax? How much is the condo fee (if any)? Assuming you have a predictable income then these expenses will be fixed for 5+ years depending on your mortgage so if it all works in your monthly budget, then you're good to go.

Sadly Canada is pretty shit about publicly accessible real estate records, so you really have to find a good agent. On the plus side, a good agent is really a huge help and you can get them to do a ton of work for you. As a buyer the agent is "free" in that their fee is paid by the seller, so it really isn't any cost to you. And they can really be a huge help. That said, there are plenty of shit agents so don't sign any exclusivity contracts. Work with one agent at a time but be prepared to dump them if they're not useful. It's like dating - you don't need to get married, but you just need to be clear about what you're doing. mls.ca is pretty good for searching, but for historical sales data you'll have to work through an agent. Don't forget to research property tax increases in your area.
posted by GuyZero at 11:09 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I read an article in the Star which makes it sound like it is Hamilton's time to shine. In my own conception, I think the GTA cries out for a vibrant second city that allows an urban lifestyle with less of the traffic and expense and bullshit of the core. No idea how to incorporate this into your analysis, but there it is.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:38 AM on January 23, 2013

Best answer: The MLS in Canada has a stranglehold on data, sadly, so it's hard if not impossible (as far as I know) to get much raw data. If only there were a Zillow-equivalent in Canada.

Many poo-poo Garth Turner as a doomsayer, but I think he gives solid advice, to be taken with a grain of salt, like any free advice. Here's what he's had to say about Hamilton.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:23 PM on January 23, 2013

Best answer: If you can get a buyer's agent in Canada, and I think you can, do it. Pound the savings into the down payment fund- no matter what happens in your market, that will serve you well when you get closer to pulling the trigger.
posted by vrakatar at 8:55 PM on January 23, 2013

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