Photo by Liza Summer

Buying a home in Ottawa takes some preparation and planning even before you start your home search, especially in a seller’s market. My list below will help you stay on task so you’ll be ready to buy in no time.

Here are some key activities you should do now:

Learn about mortgage options. 
Do you understand how mortgage interest rates work? Do you understand the difference between a fixed rate and a variable one? Have you investigated blended mortgages and lines of credit? Learn what’s available now and find out about the economic outlook for the coming year so you aren’t overwhelmed or surprised. Armed with information, you’ll be better positioned to determine what type of financing will be best for you.

Explore a variety of neighborhoods. 

Start exploring the homes for sale in the neighbourhoods you are interested in – consider the list price and the home features in each neighbourhood separately so you can make adjustments to your search criteria in a systematic way. Actually walking through homes will help you determine your wants and/or needs more tangibly, so when allowed, visit Open Houses. Get a sense of what’s most important to you. 

Is it location, large kitchen, backyard, open-concept layout, size of certain rooms, or any of the thousands of permutations and combinations of home features you might come across. If you are looking for a condo, you’ll also get an idea of monthly condo association fees and the amenities available in the different developments.

This time spent background hunting for homes will provide a reality check. Ultimately, you will be more efficient when it comes time to really look for “the one”.


Buying a home is probably THE biggest purchase you will make in your life. Make it simpler for yourself by focusing on your finances ahead of time. Don’t do anything that could disrupt your good credit!

Strengthen your credit score and build credit history. 
It can take 6 months or more to improve your score, so start today. Pay your bills on time, don’t take on any large debt, and review your credit report for inaccuracies.

Determine an affordable monthly mortgage payment
Here’s a simple way to think about this: For every $10,000 change in price, your payment changes by about $50/per month. So, don’t get hung up on the total cost of the home in this part of the exercise. Instead, focus on what you want to pay per month. Often, the amount a lender approves is far more than what you feel comfortable parting with each month. No one wants to feel strained making a mortgage payment or become “house poor”. 

Especially if this is your first home or if you have major life changes coming up, I recommend working backwards from your ideal monthly payment to calculate the price range for your home search. I can show you how to budget for a home and determine what you can afford. We take into account downpayment, closing costs, furnishing and window covering expenses, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and the move (and condo fees if applicable).

Did I mention window coverings? Why are window coverings so expensive? Trust me, even in a resale home with window coverings included, you are going to want to change at least some of them. I hold a grudge against window coverings.

Save for a down payment
Cut expenses and save, save, save (maybe find a high-yield savings account) right now! Lenders will look favourably on cash on hand and may lower your risk profile.


Ignoring just ONE of the items on this list can ruin your chances of qualifying for the mortgage loan you want.
  1. Maintain your employment status. Avoid changing jobs, becoming self-employed or quitting your job.
  2. Don’t take out a loan or lease on a new vehicle.