I don't think the real estate industry talks nearly enough about home valuations. If as your realtor, we viewed a home our first day out together and you compared it with nothing else, how confident would you be that the home was worth what I told you? If I showed you a list of other homes and mapped them out on a spreadsheet and made adjustments for changes in the market, upgrades, location, etc, would that help? Hopefully your answer is yes but I know many buyers would still be uncertain if they should trust the opinion of someone they just met (I know I would).
I have been selling real estate for six years now and in that time, I have determined that for most buyers, the best way to feel confident about your home purchase is to be educated on the market before you buy. This is why my endeavour is to always start working together before you are in an immediate need for a home.
The perfect time to get serious about understanding the Oakville market is roughly 2-3 months before you are ready to buy. Prices have been rising steadily and market conditions change fairly quickly so if you start to look too soon, you will just have to re-educate yourself on home values when you are ready.
This is what I have found to be the most effective way to buy a home with confidence:
Once you are within a few months of wanting to buy (typically 4-6 months from actually wanting to move), we go out on a Saturday or Sunday to see 7 or 8 homes. I typically pick homes of various styles, neighbourhoods and price points (within your range) so we can all get a feel for your preferences in person. As we tour around, we talk about the different neighbourhoods, schools, etc. We discuss things that are happening in Oakville, what future developments are underway and what services, rec centres, commuting options, etc exist. You can think of this day as an introduction to life in Oakville so to speak.
I know buyers love to look at homes on line and maybe even attend the occasional open house. There certainly isn't any harm in this however this alone will never give you a great feel for the value of an area. A home's value can not be based on how it looks alone. If this were the case, a small bungalow in South-East Oakville would be worth much less than a 2500 sqft home in a new subdivision. In order to understand value, you need to put the home in context with its surroundings and understand all the factors at play (i.e. coveted neighbourhoods, desirability of school catchments, commuting options, premiums attached with ravine lots, etc). These are all things you can't figure out from listing photos alone not to mention how misleading some of those online photos can be!
The other advantage to seeing homes in person is that it will stand out in your mind more than a mere online posting. Once I take you out, I make sure I update you on the final sale price of the homes we visit. This gives you a much better idea of what types of homes sell quickly and for how much they sell (which is often VERY different than their original list price).
Once you have seen a number of homes (for some people the magic number is under 10 and for others it is closer to 35), you will have a good grip on not only how much a home is worth but also on the home buying process. This usually coincides right about the time you were originally hoping to buy which makes it easy to recognize the perfect home quickly and buy with confidence.
If you have any questions about buying in Oakville, I would love to help you. I can be contacted at 905-484-5162 or firstname.lastname@example.org.