Planning to buy a home and not sure where to begin? Maybe it’s your first home, or it’s been a while and you’re ready to move up to a larger property. Here are six homebuying hacks to help you prepare.
1. GET WITH THE PROGRAMS
There are various government programs available to help you buy a home.
Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP): The HBP allows first-time buyers to withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSP to put toward a down payment on a home. You have up to 15 years to repay the funds.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to modernize the program to allow Canadians to dip into their RRSPs to buy a home more than once, including when impacted by life changes such as job relocation, death of a spouse or marital breakdown.
First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (HBTC): Eligible first-time buyers can apply for the FTHB to help offset the costs associated with purchasing a home, such as legal fees, disbursements and land transfer taxes. The credit can provide up to $750 in federal tax relief.
There may be changes to these programs in the federal budget being tabled on March 22. Some modifications were expected in Budget 2016, but nothing was forthcoming.
For more on these programs, visit cra.gc.ca
2. EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
First-time buyers can purchase a home with as little as five per cent of the purchase price as a down payment – as long as the property is less than $500,000. Anything higher than that, and the minimum down payment for the portion of the price higher than $500,000 is 10 per cent. So, assuming your price range is at that threshold, you’ll need to come up with at least $25,000. At that purchase price, depending on the market you’re in, this could mean you’d then be looking at a condo or townhome, instead of a detached home.
3. PLEAD WITH THE BANK OF MOM AND DAD
If your parents are baby boomers who have had the good fortune of building equity over the years as they paid down their mortgage while the value of their property multiplied, well… they may be in a position to help. Any many buyers are hitting up the bank of mom and dad. In the last two years, 28 per cent of first-time buyers hit the bank of mom and dad to help finance their purchase; from 2010 to 2014, only 17 per cent did.
4. BECOME TECH SAVVY
Mortgage consumers are becoming very tech savvy. In Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s 2015 Mortgage Consumer Survey, 78 per cent of respondents researched online, with 70 per cent using an mortgage calculator to help determine their payments. And social media is playing a more important role – 20 per cent used sites such as Facebook to learn more, 17 per cent used a mobile device, and of those, 22 per cent used a mortgage related app. And all of these figures are growing.
5. BEFRIEND A BROKER OR BANKER
Like many things in life, it’s all about relationships. And whether you use broker or a banker to secure a mortgage, you’ll likely come to value the relationship. In the same CMHC survey, consumer loyalty strengthened the longer people stayed with their lender. But since we’re talking about money, people are willing to switch lenders to get a better rate and save – a fact which is much more prevalent for bankers than brokers. And because brokers are able to offer products from multiple lenders, as opposed to bankers which offer only the products of their own institution, the market share held by brokers is growing notably, particularly among repeat buyers.
6. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
These days, with prices rising as they are and uncertainty in some markets, thorough research is an absolute must. Everything from your target area, desired housing type, builder or realtor, finances, how much you can afford, who you borrow from and the structure of your mortgage – take your time. Take months. Don’t rush anything.