When it comes to buying your first home, the most important thing to look for is location, location, location.

Judy Clare-Packer has been in the real estate business in Alberta for over 20 years and has helped countless first-time buyers find their dream home.

“I always tell my clients to buy the best location they can afford,” she says. “Not necessarily the best house.”

Clare-Packer’s job as a professional real estate agent is to walk people through the buying process. She points out location challenges and she gives her opinion if she feels the house is over-priced.

“I had a young couple expecting their first child who fell in love with a nicely upgraded two bedroom home they wanted to (make an) offer on,” Clare-Packer says. “I said they would soon grow out of a two bedroom home and they’d be much better off buying a three bedroom home they could live in indefinitely.”

A real estate agent can help you in the home buying process, but there are also ways you can help yourself. Clare-Packer says you should always have a house inspected before you buy.

“Things to look for are unlevel floors and water damage in the basement,” she says. “Older homes tend to have solid framing and are often over built; therefore they tend to have good bones.”

Mark Mahabir and his girlfriend just bought their first condo together in Terwillegar Town in Edmonton. Mahabir says while location and ease of maintenance played a role in their decision, it was more important for him to go into the deal debt free.

“I probably would have liked to get into the market when I was younger but for whatever reason things are more stable at this point in my life,” Mahabir says. “If you have a steady income and you’re in a good financial position, I say go for it. The reason I waited so long was because I wanted to clear my short term debt first.”

Clare-Packer has some helpful hints of her own to share with first-time home buyers like Mahabir.

“Make a list of must haves and a separate list for wants knowing you will not get everything on your list. And pre-shop on the Internet and drive around and narrow down the areas you’re interested in. Then call a realtor,” she added.

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