Buying a home

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Figure out how much you can afford for a home

Homeownership can be very exciting, but it isn’t always the best thing for everyone. Before you decide to buy a home, make sure you carefully consider the costs.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), your monthly housing costs should not be more than about 35% of your gross monthly income. This includes costs such as mortgage payments and utilities.

Your entire monthly debt load should not be more than 42% of your gross monthly income. This includes your mortgage payments and all your other debts.

Use CMHC’s step-by-step guide to help you decide if homeownership is right for you.

Saving for your home

To buy a home, you need a down payment. You also need money to pay for the upfront costs.

Make saving part of your monthly budget. Most employers deposit your pay directly into your chequing or savings account. Increase your chances of reaching your savings goals by setting up automatic transfers to a savings account each pay cheque.

Use the Financial Goal Calculator to help you determine how long it will take you to reach your savings goals.

Saving with a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)

A TFSA is an account that lets you save or invest your money tax-free. You won’t pay tax on money you withdraw from your TFSA. You can also use your TFSA to help you buy a home.

Find out about TFSAs.

Saving with a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)

An RRSP is an account that allows you to save money for your retirement. You don’t pay taxes on your savings until you withdraw money from the RRSP.

Find out about RRSPs.

The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP)

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, the HBP allows you to withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSPs tax-free to put toward buying your first home.

Learn more on how to participate in the Home Buyers’ Plan.

Using savings and investment

If you plan to buy a home in the near future, focus on building your savings. You’ll want to keep your money protected and easily accessible.

Short-term savings and investment options may include:

  • savings accounts
  • short-term guaranteed investment certificates (GIC)
  • low-risk mutual funds

Ask your financial institution or advisor about the short-term investments they offer and how they work.

Learn more about setting savings and investments goals.

Paying for your home

Most people need to borrow money to buy a home. You also need to put some of your own money into the purchase.

Down payment

When you buy a home, you must put a certain amount of money toward the purchase upfront. This is called a down payment. Your mortgage loan will cover the rest of the price.

Find out how much of a down payment you need to purchase a home.

Mortgage process

A mortgage is likely the biggest loan you get in your lifetime. It’s important that you understand the process.

Check your credit report before you apply for a mortgage

A potential lender considers your credit history before they decide whether or not to approve your mortgage application.

Before you start shopping around for a mortgage:

Shop around for a mortgage

Lenders may have different interest rates and conditions for similar mortgages. Talk to several lenders to find the best mortgage for your needs.

You can get a mortgage from:

Mortgage lenders – These institutions lend money directly to you. Explore the different types of lenders that are available, including banks and credit unions.

Mortgage brokers – They don’t lend money directly to you. Mortgage brokers arrange transactions by finding a lender for you. Since brokers have access to many lenders, they may give you a wider range of mortgages to choose from. The lender pays a commission to the mortgage brokers, so there’s no cost to you.

Find a local certified mortgage broker with Mortgage Professionals Canada.

Find out about getting pre-approved and qualified for a mortgage.

Get the mortgage that meets your needs

Mortgages have different features to meet different needs. It’s important that you understand the options and features.

Questions you should ask yourself include:

  • do you want a mortgage with a fixed interest rate or one that can rise or fall
  • how long of a term do you want
  • how often would you like to make payments toward your mortgage

Find a mortgage that is right for you.

Mortgage loan insurance

If your down payment is less than 20% of your home’s price, you need to purchase mortgage loan insurance. In some cases, you may need to get mortgage loan insurance even if you have a 20% down payment.

Mortgage loan insurance protects the mortgage lender in case you’re not able to make your mortgage payments. It does not protect you. Mortgage loan insurance is also sometimes called mortgage default insurance.

Optional mortgage life, critical illness, disability and employment insurance

Your lender may ask whether you would like to purchase life, critical illness, disability and employment insurance.

These products that can help make mortgage payments, or can help pay off the remainder owing on your mortgage, if you:

  • lose your job
  • become injured or disabled
  • become critically ill
  • die

There are important exemptions for each of these insurance products. An exemption is something not covered by your insurance policy. Read the insurance certificate before you apply to understand what this insurance covers.

These insurance products are optional. You don’t need to purchase this insurance coverage for your mortgage to be approved. You must clearly agree to sign up for this insurance before the lender charges you for it.

Learn more about optional mortgage insurance products.

Tax credits for homebuyers

The Government of Canada offers two tax credits for specific types of homebuyers. Your provincial or territorial government may also offer other home-buying incentives.

The Home buyers’ amount

You get access to this tax credit when you purchase your first home and submit a tax return. It’s an effective means of offsetting some of the upfront costs associated with buying a home. Eligible homebuyers may receive a tax credit of up to $750.

Find out if you’re eligible for the Home buyers’amount.

GST/HST housing rebates

Generally speaking, sales of new homes are subject to the GST/HST. You may qualify for a rebate for some of the tax you paid.

Learn more about the GST/HST housing rebates that may be available to you.

Moving expenses

You may move into a new home to work or run a business in a new location. You can deduct eligible moving expenses from the employment or self-employment income that you earn in the new location.

Find out if you’re eligible to claim moving expenses.

Home buying costs

When you buy a home, you have to pay for upfront costs in addition to your mortgage. These are called closing costs. You can expect to spend between 1.5% and 4% of the home’s purchase price on closing costs. You usually pay these costs by the time the sale is completed or “closes”.

Legal costs

You have to pay legal fees on your closing day. This is the day that your home purchase is complete. These fees are usually range between $400 to $2,500 but will vary depending on your lawyer’s or notary’s rates.

A lawyer or notary can help protect your legal interests. They make sure that the home you want to buy does not have a lien against it. A lien is a legal claim over another person’s property that someone files to ensure a debt gets paid.

A lawyer or notary reviews all contracts before you sign them. They also review your offer or agreement to purchase.

Home insurance

You must have home insurance in place as a condition of getting a mortgage.

Home insurance can help protect your home and its contents. It typically covers the inside and outside of your home in case of theft, loss or damage.

Learn more about how home insurance works and the different types that are available.

Land registration

Before the sale closes, you’re required to pay to register your property’s title under your name. This may be called a land transfer tax, a deed registration fee, a tariff, or a property transfer tax.

The cost is a percentage of the home’s purchase price. For example, if your land transfer tax is 1.5% and your home cost $300,000, you pay $4,500.

Adjustment costs

The seller of the home you’re buying may be entitled to adjustments. For example, the seller may have already paid the property tax on the home past the purchase closing date. If that’s the case, the seller receives a credit on the closing date. You must then pay this credit amount to cover the money already paid by the seller.

New build GST/HST

Generally, if you buy a new build home, you pay GST or HST. Some builders include the HST in their sale price while others don’t. Make sure to check. Otherwise, you have to pay this cost upfront on closing day.

Other closing costs

Other closing costs may include:

  • interest adjustments (period between your purchase date and your first mortgage payment)
  • Certificate of Location cost
  • estoppel certificate (for condominium units)
  • township or municipal levies (may apply to new homes in subdivisions)
  • mortgage default insurance premium (if paying premium up front instead of adding it to mortgage loan)
  • provincial sales tax on premiums for mortgage default insurance (applicable in some provinces)

Other home-buying costs

Other costs you may need to budget for include:

Home appraisal

Mortgage lenders may ask you to have an appraisal done as part of the mortgage approval process.

An appraiser provides a professional opinion about the market value of the home you want to buy. An appraisal fee is generally between $350 and $500.

For more information on the appraisal process, read the guide from the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

Home inspection

An inspector provides a comprehensive visual inspection of a home’s overall structure, major systems and components such as:

  • electrical and plumbing systems
  • the foundation
  • the roof

CMHC recommends that you include a home inspection as a condition when you make an offer.

Use tips from the Office of Consumer Affairs to find an inspector and learn about home inspections.

Moving costs

Before moving in, you may also have to pay for:

  • moving costs
  • storage costs
  • real estate costs for selling your home (if applicable)
  • redirecting mail

Find out what to consider when choosing a moving company, and how to plan for moving day costs.

Once you move in, you may immediately face other costs, including:

  • utility hook-up fees
  • basic furniture and appliances
  • painting and cleaning
  • water tests
  • septic tank tests (if applicable)

Use this home purchase cost estimate form to estimate your home-buying costs.

Working with a real estate agent

Using a realtor is optional. A realtor typically searches for homes, negotiates a purchase price, fills out and file paperwork, and more.

The seller pays the realtor’s fees when you buy a home.

Learn more about a realtor’s involvement in the home-buying process.

Home buying and newcomers to Canada

CMHC has a guide with comprehensive information on housing for newcomers.

Consult Buying Your First Home in Canada: What newcomers need to know.

Buying a condominium

Condominiums, or condos, are shared properties that contain individual housing units. Each unit has its own owner. Owners share the common areas outside of the unit such as the lobby and parking lot.

There are pros and cons to owning a condo. For example, if you buy a condo, you pay monthly condo fees. However, you may like the idea of sharing the building maintenance costs with the other unit owners.

Learn about condo fees and other ongoing costs of maintaining a home.

Use this Condominium Buyers Guide for tips on what to consider before buying.

Buying to rent

You can buy a property with the intention of renting it out. Keep in mind that you have to declare your rental income at tax time each year.

Find out how to calculate your rental income and which expenses you can deduct.

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