Money Talks, So Should You

For first-time homeowners, it's not always about the home

A survey out of Canada shows a focus on the job that differs from the repeat homebuyer.

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — What do people really want in buying a home? First-time buyers differ from “average” homebuyers in establishing those priorities, according to a survey from the Bank of Montreal — and it underlines to what extent first-timers care about work over home life.

According to the bank, 34 percent of first-time buyers value a short commute to work, compared with 28 percent of other homebuyers, while 28 percent of first-time buyers want to live near public transit, compared with 19 percent of other so-called average buyers.

READ: How to get ready for your first home closing

But first-time buyers aren’t as adamant about living in a quiet neighborhood — only 30 percent say that’s a big priority, compared with 43 percent of other homebuyers. Nor are they really interested in having “good neighbors” — only 21 percent of first-time buyers say that’s a big deal, compared with 30 percent of other homeowners.

In general Canadians want location, the survey says. But they also want:

  • A safe neighborhood — 63 percent
  • Living on a quiet street — 43 percent
  • Having “good neighbors” — 30 percent
  • A short commute to work — 28 percent
  • Being near family and friends — 25 percent

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"Everyone has a unique set of personal and financial priorities, so it's important that those particular needs are considered when deciding on the right location to purchase a home," explains Laura Parsons, a mortgage expert at BMO Bank of Montreal. "Taking a practical approach to homebuying is the key to preventing yourself from getting 'swept away' by the bells and whistles of a house.”

That’s all about deciding on what really matters in a home purchase, then acting on those decisions. “Homebuyers should make a list of needs versus wants and prioritize them in order of highest to lowest importance,” Parsons says.

The bank urges consumers to work closely with a trusted real estate professional to establish priorities and act on them. It’s also advisable to take care of the financial end of the home purchase before hunting so you’re ready to pounce when a great deal pops up.

"If planning to buy or sell a property, consider working with an expert who can help you make decisions that are appropriate to the health of your local market, and more importantly, that fit within your particular personal and financial priorities,” Parsons says.

READ: What costs to consider when buying a home

"Getting pre-approved financing, choosing a fixed rate and stress-testing mortgage payments in advance of buying a home can provide peace of mind and help homebuyers become mortgage-free sooner," she adds.

If you have your financial ducks in a row and know exactly what you want in a new home, your chances of homeownership are greatly enhanced.


Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The He is a former Wall Street bond trader.