McKenzie street is a slice of Cook Street heaven, blossoming beautifully.

We’ve all been reading the stories for weeks—tales of houses that are selling for tens of thousands of dollars above the listing price before even making it online.

Sure, Victoria’s housing market is a bit daunting right now but, contrary to the debatable news coming out of Vancouver right now, first time buyers in the capital region haven’t been priced out of the market if they manage their expectations.

The first-time home buyer likely can’t swing a tastefully updated four-bedroom character home that’s walking distance from Cook Street Village—but if you take that dream down a few notches into a condo or townhouse (and in a less on-trend neighbourhood) there will still be affordable options out there.

Before you make the leap, consider having four important conversations now to keep your home-hunting experience enjoyable and realistic:

1Meet with a realtor.

Not finance advice per se, but time is of the essence in Victoria right now and local agents have access to listings before they make it online. Even 24 hours can make the difference for you in the bidding process, keeping you in the realm of what you can afford. At the very least, most of your fellow house-hunters will be working with this advantage so you should too.

2Tell your financial advisor about your plans.

It’s important to flag major purchase plans like this for your advisor because he or she is deeply familiar with your financial plan outside of home ownershipdebts you’re currently paying down, invested assets that you can use to boost your down payment and insurance considerations depending on who you live with. I get asked to be the voice of reason with my members at Island Savings all the time, particularly when it comes to dipping into RRSPs or mapping out the true costs of owning versus renting.

3Get your financing pre-approved.

Knowing what you can afford before you start looking for a home will keep both your open house schedule and your bids realistic. Plus it will let you make an offer with one less condition than many of your competitors. Victoria’s current market is moving quickly, making it easier to panic yourself into the top end of your budget. I’ve heard that some of those $150,000-over-asking buyers we’re reading about simply got swept up in the bidding process, only to suffer from buyer’s remorse before walking away from their deposits to start again on another listing. As a first time buyer, it’s unlikely that you have the cash on hand to walk away from a $15,000 deposit.

4Crunch the numbers.

Right now interest rates are so low that mortgage payments can be less than rent—but you need to make sure you can still afford your home when they go up. Because they will. You also need to factor in all the other costs of home ownership, things like taxes, strata fees, insurance and maintenance that can run you $5,000 or more a year in expenses. If you don’t have a surplus in your renter’s budget right now, you’re going to have to make some adjustments to your spending to cover these new expenses.

From my perspective, getting into Victoria’s housing market is still possible.  You just need to manage your expectations about the what and where, look after your financial planning in advance and make sure you’ve got good advice in place to help you make quick, right-for-you decisions.

Questions? Shoot me an email at [email protected]

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Columnist for Victoria Buzz, and financial planner with Island Savings Insurance Services. Keeping it simple for you to understand the best ways to save and spend your money. What financial question do you need answered?