Buying a home is a significant life decision, and it’s natural to have questions. Whether you’ve done this before or if it’s your first time, every real estate deal has unique features—and questions that go along with it. Sometimes buyers just don’t know enough to ask the right questions, leading to an overwhelming experience and possible wrong decisions.

Read on to discover the answers to the top questions home buyers ask when buying a home to make your buying experience as seamless as possible.

Question #1: How Long Does the Home Buying Process Take?

Committing to the perfect home for you and your family shouldn’t be rushed, but finding the right home is definitely going to take the most time in the buying process. On average, it takes just over four months of searching and several other viewings before finding “the one”.

After submitting an offer to purchase, the seller has a certain amount of time (irrevocable date/time) to accept, decline, or submit a counteroffer. Once you’ve agreed on the price, the process follows a series of steps:

  • Submit your deposit within 24 hours of acceptance—a bank draft or certified cheque is acceptable
  • Your lender has an appraisal done on the property and completes the documentation and processing
  • Your lawyer carries out their legal duties and will ask for proof of home insurance
  • Final signatures
  • Get the keys to your new home

These last steps usually take anywhere from 30-45 days to complete, bringing the average time for the entire process to approximately five months. Although, you could shave some time off this by:

  • Getting pre-approved for a mortgage, not just pre-qualifying
  • Responding quickly to any requests from your lender or your lawyer
  • Choosing a home insurance company before making a purchase

Question #2: How Does My Real Estate Agent Get Paid?

The buyer’s agent gets paid from the sale of the home. The average sales commission is 5% of the sale price. The seller’s agent splits this commission with the buyer’s agent, and they split this with their brokerage or agency. The agents earn approximately 2.5%, so on a $500,000 property, their commission is $12,500.

The seller and the seller’s agent may negotiate the commission lower if there are specific criteria in play making the home easier to sell:

  • When the home is in a desirable neighbourhood
  • The seller may waive standard marketing or any extra services the agency provides like staging or professional photos
  • When market conditions favour the seller, and they know they’ll have plenty of offers

Question #3: When Should I Sell My Home if I’m in the Market to Buy a New One?

It’s stressful to sell your home while actively looking at other homes. Some people handle it better than others, so only you know if you’re up for the task.

Market conditions also play a factor in this decision. For example, you’ll likely sell quickly in a seller’s market, so you’ll have time to look for your dream home before putting it on the market.

In a buyer’s market, the selling process is slower, so you should consider putting it up for sale as soon as possible. Since you’ll have many homes to choose from (and sellers know this), it won’t be hard to put a condition or contingency with your offer like “upon the sale of your home”.

Question #4: Will A Pre-Approved Mortgage Help Me?

Getting pre-approved speeds up the entire process once you’ve found a house and shows the seller that you’re serious, giving them confidence that the deal is less likely to fall through. A pre-approved mortgage can sway a seller in your direction in a competitive market.

Don’t confuse pre-approval with pre-qualify.

  • Pre-qualifying is when your lender takes your financial information and determines what loans you might qualify for. Pre-qualifying can be done online in less than an hour.
  • Pre-approval means that a lending professional is responsible for verifying your financial information. It’s a much deeper dive into your financials and considers your:

    • Credit history
    • Current credit score
    • Employment history
    • Assets and liabilities
    • Debt-to-income ratio

Your lender will require proof such as:

  • Recent bank statements
  • Proof of employment
  • A complete list of debts—credit cards, utilities/cable/internet, monthly subscriptions or services, other loans, lines of credit
  • Proof of income

The mortgage pre-approval process takes 7-10 days if you have all the necessary documents readily available.

Question #5: How Much Of A Down Payment Do I Need?

In Ontario and across Canada, first-time home buyers or those upgrading to a new home need a minimum of 5% of the first $500,000 and 10% of $500,000 to $1M. Keep in mind that when you put anything less than 20% down, you’re required to take out mortgage loan insurance.

If you’re in a seller’s market, give the highest deposit you can if you find a home you really want. If you’re in a buyer’s market, the seller won’t have much to say about the deposit amount because they’re just happy to receive an offer.

Question #6: What Happens After I Make An Offer?

Once you make an offer, the seller generally has 72 hours to accept, reject, or make a counter offer. Your agent will help you navigate whichever decision the seller makes. If the seller accepts your offer, here’s what happens next:

Step #1: Purchase Agreement Signing

When you and the seller sign this legally binding document, it becomes official and is considered a contract.

Step #2: Give Your Deposit

You must submit your deposit (or earnest money) to a third-party entity within 24 hours of acceptance. A certified cheque or bank draft is acceptable.

Step #3: Submit Your Mortgage Application to Your Lender

You would skip this step if you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage.

Step #4: Get Your Home Inspector Scheduled

You generally have between 7-10 days to get the home inspected. Save time by choosing a home inspector before house hunting.

Step #5: Title Review by Your Lawyer

Your real estate lawyer ensures the title is free and clear of liens and land survey variances.

Step #6: Mortgage Approval

Your lender gives the final approval and signs off on all documents.

Step #7: Clear to Close

You and your seller agree on a date and sign the closing papers—the home is officially yours.

If the seller rejects your offer but submits a counter offer, the deal will usually hinge on three aspects:

  • Price point
  • Possession date or closing date
  • Contract conditions or contingencies

At this point, you and your agent decide whether to accept the counter offer, make another offer, or just walk away and move on.

Question #7: What Does Earnest Money Mean?

Earnest money refers to your deposit. The higher your deposit, the more serious you look to the seller. The average going rate for a deposit in Ontario is 5% but can change with market conditions.

Your earnest money is refundable if you back out of a deal as long as you outline your reasons in the contract. But be prepared to forfeit the money if you back out of an agreement for any reason not stipulated in your contract.

Question #8: Should I Hire a Home Inspector?

You should always hire a home inspector as they know how to find infractions or defects in:

  • Plumbing—toilets, sinks, drains, garburators, backwater valves, vent stacks
  • HVAC—furnace, a/c, HRV, air intakes, exhaust vents, water heater, ducting
  • Structural—foundation, basement floor, walls, support beams
  • Electrical—code violations, outlets, switches, overall safety
  • Roof— shingle condition, eavestrough and downspouts, soffit and facia
  • Attic—insulation, water damage
  • Exterior—siding, stucco, window frames, yard grading, fencing, outbuildings
  • Interior—water damage, appliances that are staying, mould or mildew, condition of windows and doors

Looking to Buy a Home But Still Have Unanswered Questions?

Buying a home can be very stressful—especially if it’s your first time. It’s the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, and being unprepared can leave you vulnerable to making wrong or uninformed decisions.

A seamless home buying experience is possible with a trusted and experienced realtor at your side. Joel Cooper has been going above and beyond to help buyers find their dream homes in Toronto and the GTA for 14+ years.

With his client-centred approach, Joel guides you through the entire real estate process and is always readily available to answer all your questions. The more engaged you are with the partnership, the better house hunting experience you’ll have, so ask all the questions you need!

Ready for an awesome experience? Get in touch today.

Hi, I’m Joel, a real estate professional based in Toronto.

My approach is simple—I put you first. I believe in open communication, total transparency, and meaningful results. I’ll guide you through the real estate process, market values, and always keep the focus on you—and your needs.