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The Ultimate Guide To
Buying A Home In The GTA


Welcome! For most people, buying or selling a home is the biggest financial transaction of their lives. Whether it’s your first time or not, the information in this book will help you make more educated decisions, avoid common mistakes, and could even help you save a great deal of money!


Great advice for navigating the
residential real estate market


Better understanding of the process


Common Pitfalls


Unique tips for buying and selling a home

Who knows – you might even have some fun along the way





Before we get started, here’s a short list of considerations to get you thinking about what you truly want and need in a home.

Grab a pen and paper and put these factors in order of importance from 1 to 10:

  1. Size Of The Home
  2. Quiet/Privacy
  3. Proximity To Friends And Family
  4. Proximity To Work
  5. Proximity To Shops And Restaurants
  6. Quality Of Nearby Schools
  7. Age Of Home
  8. Updates And Renovations
  9. Backyard/Garden
  10. Low Maintenance Requirements

Justo understands that learning their clients’ priorities at the start will save valuable time finding them their perfect place.

We’re changing the way homes are bought in the GTA.

Talk to an Agent Today




1. How experienced are they?

2. From the 2.5% typically paid to your agent by the seller, how much of it, if any, are they giving back to you? For example, Justo agents split this commission with their clients 50/50, giving them thousands of dollars in cashback.

3. Are you forced to sign a buyer representation agreement with them? At Justo, there is no obligation.

4. How well do they know the neighbourhood you’re interested in?

5. Do they offer free value-added services? For example, you’ll receive services such as home inspections or lawyer fees as a part of your cashback when you pick Justo, from partners like Mike Holmes Inspections and Real Estate Lawyers.

You’ll be relying on them to guide you, so perhaps the most important question is: Do you trust them?


It’s likely that you’ve received hundreds of glossy marketing cards from local real estate agents and dozens of shiny “For Sale” signs advertising various agents.

It’s a tough business: most agents operate as independent, small businesses and spend most of their time and energy on business development, leaving little time to actually service their clients.

Justo takes a collaborative approach, hand-picking experienced agents who are eager to be part of a fresh new approach to real estate in a rapidly changing industry.
Connect with a Justo agent today.

Talk to an Agent Today

As mentioned, Justo’s full-service, experienced agents split their commission with their clients 50/50. This means that on a $1 Million transaction, clients receive ~$12,500 in cashback.

This is the person helping you through the biggest purchase of your life, so make sure to make a thoughtful decision

million icon

$1 Million Transaction ~ $12,500 CASHBACK

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Great news: You’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage. Time to start shopping! But before you do, consider the additional monthly costs that you’ll be paying to maintain your home, on top of your mortgage.

First of all, if your down-payment is less than 20% of the cost of the home, you will be required to pay Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) insurance. This protects the lender in the event that you are later unable to make your payments.

The bigger your down-payment, the less you’ll have to pay for CMHC, but it will range from 3.1% to 4% of the mortgage amount. This cost is added to your mortgage – it is not required to pay this amount up front.

You’ll also be responsible for the Land Transfer Tax. If you’re buying in the city of Toronto you’ll be paying this twice—once to the city and once to the province. You can calculate your land transfer by visiting the Real Estate Lawyers website.

There are also additional closing costs such as adjustments to prepaid taxes or utilities, title insurance, lawyers fees and more.

Then there are monthly carrying costs to factor in, including:

  • Property tax in Toronto
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Phone, cable and internet

Finally, it’s always best to have some funds set aside for unanticipated repairs.

The point is, even though lenders might approve you for a certain amount, it’s important that you consider costs beyond your mortgage payment to determine actual affordability.

Once they have this information, the lender will offer you an amount and interest rate, which will be available for a specific period of time, typically 60-120 days.

This amount will vary, but a general rule of thumb is that buyers will be approved for three to five times the amount of their annual salary, depending on their debt levels and down payment.

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Before you begin the search for your dream home, you’ll need to find out how much you’ll be able to borrow to determine your price range.

This is called mortgage pre-approval. Pre-approval for a mortgage can be granted by giving details of your financial situation without providing documents to support it. Be honest with yourself and the lender when doing this application so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

A platform like Homewise enables you to apply for a mortgage online in minutes, doing all of the heavy lifting to find you options.

Homewise or any other lending institution will ask you some simple questions and then use this information to figure out how much money they want to lend you.


  • total-salaryTotal salary of applicant(s)
  • assetsAssets
  • types and lengthType and length of employment (i.e., full-time vs. freelance or self-employed)
  • credit-scoreCredit Score
  • Debts-and-liabilitiesDebts and liabilities (e.g., cars, student loans, credit card balances, etc.)

Once they have this information, the lender will offer you an amount and interest rate, which will be available for a specific period of time, typically 60-120 days.

This amount will vary, but a general rule of thumb is that buyers will be approved for three to five times the amount of their annual salary, depending on their debt levels and down payment.

pre mortgage bg


After you find your dream home, it will be time to make things official. At this point you’ll need to decide:


This is the length of time it will take to pay off the total amount owing plus interest. Most mortgages are 25 years, but if you can afford payments with a shorter amortization (like 15 or 20 years), it will provide substantial savings over the life of the mortgage, possibly saving you tens or even hundreds of thousand of dollars. A mortgage specialist like those at Homewise can help you make the best decision.


Once you have set the amortization, there is then a term for your mortgage. The term is a shorter period of time within the amortization during which the interest rate is set, as are the options for paying your mortgage off. The term can range from 6 months to 10+ years depending on your comfort with risk and ability to afford payments over time. Mortgage rates are always fluctuating as economic conditions change so this gives you the opportunity to reevaluate your payment structure along the way.


I. An Open term allows you to make additional payments or pay off partially or completely at any time.

II. A Closed term typically offers some annual prepayment options of specific amounts (usually up to about 10% of the original amount); however, you would not be able to pay off the mortgage in full without a penalty being incurred.


I. A variable rate will fluctuate along with national prime interest rates. If you can handle some ups and downs in your monthly payments, a variable rate will likely save you money over the long term. If rates become uncomfortably high, you’ll always have the option to convert to a fixed rate.

II. A fixed rate is best if you need a predictable monthly payment and can’t tolerate potential rate increases, either financially or emotionally.

To finalize your mortgage approval, you’ll need to confirm your income with your lender by providing:






NOTICE OF ASSESSMENT for the previous two years

Depending on the length of time since your pre-approval, you may need to submit to a second credit check. You will also need to provide a copy of the purchase agreement to the lender so they can complete their due diligence on the property. This may involve doing an appraisal of the property.

finalizing mortgage



justo online resources

Technology has made access to information much easier for prospective buyers.

It used to be up to the agent to find potential homes for their clients. Today, with technology continuously evolving, a whopping 80% of buyers start their home search online.

Justo.ca and realtor.ca are both great resources that are fully integrated with MLS, allowing you to search the site to find almost all properties that are available for sale. Justo also shows the amount of cashback you can receive on any given property, as well as comparable sold data to help buyers determine the right price to offer.

We’re changing the way homes are bought in the GTA.

Talk to an Agent Today



As the saying goes, “There’s a lid for every pot.” There is also the perfect home for every buyer.

Everyone has unique needs and wants in a home, so here are some questions to ask yourself when picking the perfect property:

how much can I afford


As we already reviewed in our Budget section, you need to factor in carrying costs in addition to your mortgage.


Are you a cyclist who loves the hustle and bustle of downtown, or do you crave the wide streets and relative quiet of the suburbs? Is access to public transit critical, or is your car your second home? All of these factors influence where to focus your search.



Is bigger really better, or do good things come in small packages? It depends on the buyer! Different people have different needs; your personal tastes and circumstances will guide you to find a home that’s the perfect size for you.


Great schools. Nearby grocery stores and malls. Your gym. Community centers or places of worship. Thriving nightlife. What’s nearby will largely influence where you focus your search.



Everyone wants to move into a sparkling, fully updated home, but the reality is that many homes may require varying degrees of renovations. The more work required, the lower the price is likely to be, but you need to be comfortable with how much time and energy you want to spend on renovations before you choose that fixer-upper.


Justo agents understand that you might fall in love with a home at first sight, but will still provide guidance to help you make informed, long-term buying decisions, offering strategic advice to help you choose the right home.


Before making an offer, visit the home and surrounding neighbourhood at least three times, for a minimum of 30 minutes. This will help you adjust to the space and help you decide if this is the place you want to call home.


Be mindful of signs of disrepair before committing to an offer. What may appear as small issues could be signs of serious problems. Some things to watch for include:
  • Signs of water leakage like stains on the ceiling
  • Warped walls or large cracks in plaster or drywall
  • Gaps in between the wall and floorboards
  • Inner doors that don’t close properly
(See Section I to learn more about home inspections.)


Drive by the property at different times of the day, and on different days, to get a solid understanding of noise levels and traffic. What may be a quiet street on a Sunday morning might turn into a busy area during rush hour. You don’t want any surprises.


If you’re buying a resale home, use the 80% rule: 80% of the home you love, 15% you can change over time and 5% you can’t do anything about, but you can live with it.



how much should you order

How much is the home you want actually worth? The short answer is, “Whatever you’re willing to pay for it.”

The value of a home can fluctuate dramatically from one month to the next. For this reason, home valuation is an art, not a science.

It’s important to find an agent who is skilled at providing the most accurate valuation to determine the best price to offer. This valuation should also be provided to you in writing, and you should not hesitate to ask your agent to explain how they came to their conclusion.

To make the process as simple as possible, Justo has created a proprietary algorithm to help users quickly and accurately determine what a property is truly worth. The algorithm uses sold data, market trends, and additional factors to give you the most accurate price as possible.

Factors impacting the valuation of your home:

  • Current mortgage rates
  • Historical sale prices
  • Number of comparable homes on the market
  • Lot size, ravines, and privacy of a home
  • Floor, building amenities and view if it’s a condo
  • Size and appeal of the home
  • Home condition
  • Updates/design/decor
  • Location
  • Nearby amenities
  • Age of the home
  • Time of year





If backing onto green space, a wooded area or a park, there is a premium on the home’s value.

Potential bump: 7-15%


A waterfront home can add a tremendous amount of value to a home.

Potential bump: 25-50%


The kitchen will always be the heart of the home! A new kitchen with a great layout and equipped with top appliances and finishes will have a big impact on value.

Potential bump: 5-10%

Green Home:

Energy efficient homes, solar or geothermal heating systems, and low VOC materials are all examples of things that can add value to your home.

Potential bump: 4-6%

High Tech Homes:

Automated blinds, high tech thermostats, hard-wired security and smart systems… Smart features that allow you to control your home’s functions remotely definitely add appeal.

Potential bump: 1-3%

Backyard Oasis:

Although this means something different to everyone, a great outdoor space definitely adds appeal. Whether you like tennis or basketball courts, pools, hot tubs & cabanas, or maybe simply a lovely garden, a private backyard oasis can add value to a home.

Potential bump: 5-8%

pros img


Main Road:

Heavy traffic noise and lack of privacy will mean a lower value. However, a home fronting onto a main road could be seen as an opportunity for a buyer to get into a desirable neighbourhood for a reduced price.

Potential impact on value: -5 to -10%

Home in disrepair or in need of updating:

Although a home in disrepair will affect what it will sell for, one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. There are many people who love a good fixer upper, but the cost of renovations must be factored into the asking price.

Potential Impact on value: -10 to -30%

Living near major highways or train tracks:

All of these things have a negative impact on a home’s value due to potential noise pollution.

Potential Impact -3 to -6%

Living near major hydro lines, gas lines or wind farms:

All come with some health warnings, which impact on the bottom line.

Potential impact: -4 to 7%

Being close to industrial and or commercial uses:

Major industrial or commercial areas bring traffic, people, rodents and noise,
all of which can impact your privacy, along with the price.

Potential impact -5 to -10%



You’ve found it!

The perfect home at the perfect asking price. But now you need to put in the offer.

Your offer will include the cost, along with certain terms and conditions to your purchase. It’s not always recommended to put conditions in your offer – for example when there is a bidding war. However, if you are able to do so, it is in your best interest to include conditions.

The two most often included are:


The offer is conditional on financing which won’t be a problem for you because you’ve already been pre-approved for a mortgage;


The offer is conditional on a home inspection.

The home inspection is very important as it may uncover some significant issues with the home that could impact your offer. (See Section K to learn more about home inspections.)

Other conditions or warranties may apply or be added to your offer based on the home’s unique features. This will ensure the dream home doesn’t become a nightmare after closing. These include:


Pool inspections or warranties



Warranties for appliances or any mechanical equipment



Knowledge of rental items you will need to take over and the terms of the existing contract(s) including but not limited to hot water tanks, maintenance, furnaces and security systems



If you’re purchasing a condo, buyers should review the status certificate to ensure the condominium corporation is operating with a good budget and no additional costs will be charged for major repairs

This is where a Justo agent’s expertise can really make a difference in ensuring no stone is left unturned. Schedule a time to speak with a Justo agent today.

common mistakes



Not taking the time to really get on the same page and understand what you are looking for in a home.


Not validating the information on the MLS listing when preparing an offer (room size, inclusions, etc.).


Removing key conditions when it is not necessary, such as financing and home inspection.


Taking the time to search the previous history of home sales to see if there were any issues or concerns, the number of times it has changed hands, etc.


Not requesting a seller’s disclosure statement about the property or asking about a home’s history and any potential latent defects.

Your Justo agent can provide great advice for navigating these situations and ensure you come out on top.

Once you’ve determined your conditions, it’s time to make an offer, but the timing may be up to the seller. Some will allow offers anytime, while others may set an offer date if they anticipate multiple offers or a bidding war.

For buyers, an open timeline is better, as it gives you the opportunity to negotiate with the seller.

In the event of a set offer date, you’ll need to be prepared for some competition. Your agent will be in contact with the seller’s agent to determine how many offers are expected, and will counsel you on how much to offer based on this information. You may also want to consider investing in a home inspection before the offer date if possible to ensure there are no major issues.

If there are multiple offers, you may have the opportunity to submit a second, higher offer. This is where things can get tricky.

It can be very easy to get caught up in the excitement and emotion of wanting the home, and it may be tempting to increase your offer beyond what you had initially budgeted for.

You can find some great advice and negotiating tips in the following section.



The GTA real estate market has moved at warp speed over the last decade, so you need to be sure your agent is well-versed in the art of negotiation. Justo agents are constantly working to expand and improve their negotiating skills for the benefit of their clients.


agent talk

1. Have your agent talk to the listing agent before beginning the offer process. Many agents know each other and are on good terms, so it’s completely acceptable for your realtor to call the listing agent to get some soft information and gauge how motivated the seller is and if there are any special considerations they may have. This can be helpful in developing your negotiation strategy.

2. Check the sold data. Before you begin talking numbers, your agent should research the data on comparable homes to ensure they have a good sense of what the home is actually worth.

Check the sold data
use the sold data

3. Use the sold data – not the asking price – as your starting point. Sellers’ agents use different strategies for different homes, and may therefore inflate the asking price. Make sure your agent knows what the fair market value is and start there.

4. The seller is not the enemy. Many agents approach negotiations like a battle, but the process doesn’t need to be argumentative. When agents cooperate and buyers and sellers are fair, everyone wins!

the seller is not enemy
live conversation

5. Live conversation, not over texts and emails.

Keep the gateways of communication open with your agent. Phone calls keep everything straight to the point, with no room for misinterpretation.

6. Never go back to what’s already been agreed upon. Take the time to make each negotiation decision carefully. Reopening issues that were previously agreed to may upset the seller, compromise your credibility and minimize your effectiveness in negotiating any other issues.

never go back what
learn what party needs

7. Learn what the other party needs from the deal. Maybe the seller is in a rush and needs a quick closing? Maybe they are willing to take less if you wave some conditions? By getting inside information, you can improve your offer without raising the price.

8. Make the other party feel good about the deal. Ideally, both parties should complete the transaction feeling like they came out ahead and that the deal is fair.

make other feel good

9. Know your bottom line. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and convince yourself that a few thousand more dollars won’t matter, but over the lifespan of your mortgage, a small increase can lead to a large amount of interest. Before you even start negotiating, set firm budget limits.

10. Be prepared to walk away. If you are not getting everything you want from a negotiation, walk away. Either the other party will come around, or you’ll find something better. But if it’s not right, don’t settle for less than what you deserve.

walk away



No matter how great a home looks, there are always small issues lurking behind the walls and under the floorboards.

This is why a home inspection is critical before finalizing your purchase. Getting a proper inspection will give you leverage during the negotiation process, and can potentially save you thousands of dollars and lots of frustration. Mark Diplock’s of Mike Holmes Inspections explains the process.


It is important that you select a qualified inspector, like those at Mike Holmes Inspections. A qualified inspector is

  • credible with required certification and training in home inspection,
  • a member of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, and
  • Accredited with a Registered Home Inspector designation.

It is also helpful (but not required) if your home inspector has a background in home-related trades like plumbing, electrical, and more.


A home inspector will go through the home floor by floor, top to bottom, beginning with the exterior.


  • Windows
  • Roof → Evaluating the age and condition of shingles
  • Chimney
  • Foundation
  • Overall structure


  • Insulation → Starting in the attic
  • Looking for signs of past or current leakage
  • Looking at the condition of mechanical systems including heating, circuits, outlets, electrical system and grounded wiring
  • Checking if windows and doors operate properly
  • On new homes, inspectors will advise on cosmetic issues like doors closing properly
  • Plumbing → Inspector will run a stress test to ensure sinks, tubs and toilets function properly
  • Room to room, floor to floor, checking for signs of leaks and cracks
  • The basement is last → Inspectors will look for foundation/structural issues or any major structural changes from renovations
  • Inspectors will complete inspections with the fuse panel

While all homes have varying degrees of issue, Diplock notes that there are some bigger things to look for that may alter your decision to purchase a home:

1. A half-inch or larger crack or horizontal cracking in the foundation could be a sign of major foundation and structural issues

2. A sagging or leaning floor could indicate significant structural problems

3. Grading of house → Be sure to check the lot; if it is graded toward house, there is a possibility of significant water damage behind the walls


A good home inspection will save you a great deal of stress and money in the future!

With Justo, your home inspection is covered by us, so you can be confident the home is in great condition. We have a number of trusted, professional home inspectors you can choose from, too!



You’re almost a homeowner! But first, you need an experienced lawyer to help you get all your paperwork in order.

Mark Weisleder, Senior Partner and Notary Public with Real Estate Lawyers, offers the following counsel:


If you are arranging a mortgage for less than 20% down, the bank will be adding certain costs, such as mortgage insurance, appraisal fees and HST. Find out early what these costs will be, as you will have to come up with any difference needed to close your deal. Make sure you have provided the lender with all required proof of income, or the down payment well in advance to prevent any delays. (Refer to Section C to review these costs.)


Your lawyer will be receiving a statement of adjustments from the seller’s lawyer before closing. This could add to your closing costs if the seller has prepaid some expenses, especially property taxes. Find out exactly what this is, as it can add up to 0.5% more to what you may owe.


At least two days before closing, you’ll need to deliver the balance of money needed for your lawyer to close the deal, payable by certified cheque, money order or bank draft.


Let the lawyer know how you will be taking title to the property. If you take title as joint tenants and one of you passes away, the other party immediately becomes the owner. If you take title as tenants in common, you can transfer your interest to a beneficiary under your Will.

We understand the important role a lawyer plays in the homeownership journey. So we'll cover your lawyer fees if you use one of our legal partners!



You’ve done it!

You’re a homeowner! At this very exciting time, make sure you tie up any loose ends to make moving day as seamless as possible.

Mark Weisleder, Senior Partner & Notary Public with Real Estate Lawyers offers the following reminders for the days leading up to closing:

1. Schedule your pre-closing visit shortly before closing, so that you can conduct your final inspection to make sure that the home is in the same condition as when you signed the offer.

2. If you’re moving on closing day, arrange your moving time for late in the afternoon, as that is likely when the seller will have moved out. If it is a condominium and you need to use the elevator, contact the management company in advance to reserve it.

3. Be sure to secure fire insurance for the full replacement cost of the home. If buying a condominium, you need a policy to protect your contents and liability. Do not leave this to the last minute.

4. Arrange for your cable and telephone providers to install service on the day of closing or immediately after closing.

5. Contact the utility companies to make sure they read the meters on closing, so that you are only responsible for charges after you move in.

getting the keys



A resale property is one that has been owned and lived in, and is being listed for sale by the current owner. Conversely, a pre-construction property has not yet been built, and is being sold directly by the developer before completion of the project.

The latter can be ideal for those looking to dip a toe into the real estate waters, but not yet ready to take the plunge. Maybe they feel like it’s a good time to buy, but are not eager to move immediately. Or maybe they are looking to invest in real estate.

With a great deal of development happening across the GTA, buyers have an opportunity to purchase a house, townhome or condominium before they are built directly from developers. There are some risks involved with buying a home based on floor plans, but there are also some great benefits.



  • Unless you’re buying the same unit as the model suite, you don’t get to actually see what you’re going to get
  • The surrounding neighbourhood can change, meaning your planned view may end up blocked, or the street may be noisier than anticipated
  • Move-in dates may be delayed
  • When you take possession, it often takes time for the building or neighbourhood to be completed, so it can feel like you are living in a construction zone for a period of time
  • If the project gets cancelled, you’ll lose out on any interest you could have earned on that downpayment
  • If it gets cancelled, you’ll be forced to buy in the current market, which is likely more expensive than what you had originally bought


  • Options of size, layouts and price range
  • You get to pick all of your finishes
  • Potential to make a lot of money upon resale
  • Great investment opportunity
  • There is nothing like the feeling of moving into a brand new home that no one has lived in

Justo has teamed up with several developers in the Greater Toronto Area to secure VIP access and pre-launch pricing for clients on some of the region’s hottest projects.

As with buying a resale home, Justo shares the agent’s commission with buyers 50/50. This could mean as much as 2% or more in cashback after closing the deal. For example, on the purchase of a $500,000 pre-construction condominium, a buyer would receive $10,000 in cashback from their Justo agent.

We’re changing the way homes are bought in the GTA.

Talk to an Agent Today



justo advantages

Agent Compensation

All Justo real estate agents are experienced, client-centric and compensated based on a Star Rating System to ensure client satisfaction.

The average agent’s compensation does not depend on client satisfaction.


At closing, Justo gives you 50% of the agent’s commission in cashback.

The average agent – keeps the entire commission with no cashback.

Buyer Obligations

None. Clients have no obligation throughout the buying process, meaning you can cancel at any time.

Typically, buyers are required to sign a “buyer-agency agreement” before shopping for a home.

**Additional    Services

Justo offers easy access to home inspections, legal services, and comprehensive market analysis.

Additional services are provided at a cost.

Data-Driven Technology

Justo brings you advanced technological tools to streamline the transaction process and help you find your dream home at the best price.

The current real estate process is antiquated and inefficient.

*  When purchasing a home with a Justo Sales Representative, the cashback being offered is 50% of the buyer’s agent commission paid by the seller, when applicable. Applicable cashback is paid to the buyer from Justo Inc., Brokerage by cheque after successful closing of transaction and all funds have been distributed and commissions are received from the listing brokerage and/or closing lawyer. Sellers’ and buyers’ representative commissions can vary and are negotiable. HST is applicable on all commissions/fees for agents but is not applicable on the buyer cashback.

Justo Inc. Brokerage offers buyers preferred pricing with screened home inspection and legal services as part of their cashback on purchasing transactions above $400,000.  Buyers can upgrade their home inspection (if applicable) at an additional cost. Additional legal services, such as title insurance, disbursement and adjustments, (if applicable), are not included and are the responsibility of the buyer. Should buyers choose to use their own service providers it will be  at their own expense, for the avoidance of doubt, this will no longer be reduced from the cashback given upon closing, for services which are not provided by Justo Inc.  

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