First Time Home Buyer's Guide
Benefits of Home Ownership
1. Pride of Home Ownership
Pride of home ownership is the number one reason why Canadians desire their own home. There is no landlord looking over your shoulder. You are able to make home improvements knowing that any appreciation that results, will be to your benefit. Home ownership gives you and your family a sense of stability and security. It's making an investment in your future.
In Canada, especially in the last few years, homes have appreciated considerably and in doing so have added substantially to owners net worth. Unlike stocks and bonds, you get to live in your real estate investment. Also, in Canada your principal residence is exempt from capital gains taxes.
3. Mortgage Reduction Builds Equity
Each month, part of your monthly payment is applied to the principal balance of your home loan, which builds your equity. You can borrow against a home's equity for a variety of reasons such as home improvement, sending your kids to university or college, or starting a new business. Why pay-off your landlord’s property when you can own your own?
Homeowners accumulate wealth for the future while enjoying the benefits of a shelter that they have can use, improve and sell. Their home is a safe haven for investment.
Are You Ready to Buy a Home?
First – do you have the financial resources? You should have 5% of the purchase price of a home for the down payment, but ideally even more. If you put less than 20% down for a property under $1 million, your mortgage needs to be insured by Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) and you will incur additional fees as it is considered a “high-ratio” mortgage.
Are there other priorities in your life e.g. starting a new business, which require your savings? If not, buying a home should be on your radar.
Second – do you expect to stay in your new home for some time? Moving can be expensive and you will want to build some equity before having to relocate. Your job and home life should be stable.
What Can You Afford?
If you haven't already gone through the mortgage pre-qualification process, you will need to meet with a lender or mortgage broker. They will establish how much of a mortgage you will qualify for. Mortgage rates vary considerably and it is paramount that you shop around for the best rate, terms and options.
Our Mortgage Calculator will help you determine what monthly mortgage payment and the maximum mortgage you can manage. Note: if you are buying a condo, the amount of your monthly assessment has a direct impact on how much you can afford to spend on your mortgage.
First time home buyers may want to take advantage of the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan. This plan allows each first-time home buyer to withdraw $25,000 from their RRSPs to purchase a residential property without having to pay taxes at the time of withdrawal. This amount must be repaid over a period of 15 consecutive years.
Choosing a Property
You may be looking for a home to live in, a piece of land, or space for retail or commercial activities. Owning a home can mean a wide variety of things to different people. Typically your income level will determine the housing type most appropriate for you. Whatever you are looking for, make a list of must-have features and list them according to importance. It can be helpful to evaluate prospective homes against a prepared list of your desired interior and exterior amenities in order to make a rational comparison. Almost all property purchases require some level of compromise. So you may need to look longer and harder, or remove some of the must-haves from your list to find the property you want and need.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Community and Neighbourhood:
- Location, location, location!
- Is there a particular area you’d like to be in?
- What facilities are nearby including community centres, malls, recreation and schools? Are there any future developments that you should consider?
- Do you prefer outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, or paddling, or do you prefer a busy, action-packed hub with shops, restaurants and nightlife?
- Do you plan to have children? Downtown or suburbs?
- After deciding between an urban, suburban or rural environment, another consideration is the type of community you are seeking. What is the neighbourhood like?
- What types of people live here? Are their lifestyles compatible with yours?
- How are property values in this area?
- Are you looking for an area that is expected to grow significantly or offer more job opportunities in the near future? Are businesses moving in? Is there government investment?
- Adjacent undeveloped land - what is proposed for this or other green space?
- Access to schools, work, recreation, shopping centres, public transportation, cultural attractions, libraries, churches and hospitals
- Does this neighborhood, for any reason, have a poor reputation?
- Do you want to see the latest crime statistics or learn about the municipality’s capacity to respond to service requests such as requests for snow removal?
- How close are you to the nearest public transit?
- How quickly can you or others drive to work (factor in cost of fuel), friends and family if needed?
- How accessible will the property be to future clientele or other commercial infrastructure?
- Where will your children attend school and how will they commute?
- Are there recreational facilities and parks close by?
- Proximity to highways, driveways, parking lots, playgrounds, trains.
- Proximity to elevators, garbage disposal, fire exits, heating and air conditioners.
- How well is the building soundproofed.
- Visit at different times/weekends to check noise levels and activity.
- Is the property close to an obstacle or negative influence? (i.e. an apartment building, shopping centre, school, radio tower, power lines, LRT or railroad track, highway, airport or commercial project).
- Heavy traffic can be noise nuisance and hazard for children
- Do you have a preference for style, size, and character?
- What type of layout do you require? Are there any special features that are important to you such as a bathtub, a fireplace, a finished basement?
- Do you need several bedrooms, more than one bathroom, space for a home office, a two-car garage?
- Would the home be able to accommodate future life changes such as a growing family or elderly family members moving in with you?
- Do you want air conditioning, storage or hobby space, a fireplace, a swimming pool? Do you have family members with special needs?
- Do you need a substantial backyard? Fenced yard for your pets?
- Is there adequate storage space?
- Will any remodeling be required to make the home move-in ready for you?
- What service providers (cable, internet, telephone, satellite) are available in the area, and is the house completely wired for each? Can you hear me now – how good is the cell phone reception?
- How much are the yearly property taxes?
- How much do utilities run each month? Does the house use gas or electric for the furnace, water heater, and appliances?
- How old are the major appliances, and which are included with the house?
- Have there been any major repairs to the house, and if so, when were they completed? For example, how old is the roof? Has water ever damaged the basement or foundation?
- Ever had problems with insects, such as termites and spiders, or rodents?
- Older homes need to be carefully examined - Windows may need caulking or new sashes, bathroom tiles may need grouting, home may need rewiring (planning on a hot tub or sauna?), a new hot water heater, or a new furnace.
Types of homes
Single family detached home
A detached home does not share common walls with another residential structure and has its own front, back and side areas.
A duplex includes two separate dwellings that are attached by a common wall (semi-detached) or located above one another. Duplex dwellings may also be subject to monthly maintenance fees for common assets.
A manufactured home is a factory-built residential structure that may be movable from one location to another. It is usually kept in a rented space in a manufactured home park.
An apartment is a single building that contains multiple dwellings usually joined by a common entrance and shared amenities like a parkade, elevator or hallway. Buildings can range from three storeys and upwards. Apartment owners are required to make monthly payments to maintain the building and shared features, known as condominium or strata fees. These fees are typically determined by the amount of space allocated to an owner and are clearly described in the property listing.
A townhouse is a group of dwellings that are joined together with common walls and usually have their own exterior entrance. Townhouse owners typically pay monthly maintenance or strata fees for the upkeep of common areas such as parking lots and landscaping. These fees are clearly described in the property listing
Types of ownership
Freehold, also known as fee simple, is the term typically referred to as ownership of a home. In this case, the owner is in full control over the land and buildings on it, subject to any rights of the Crown, local land-use bylaws and other restrictions.
With strata title, an owner retains exclusive use and ownership of a specific housing unit and shared use of common areas like elevators, hallways, entertainment rooms and garages. This is used for apartments, townhouses and possibly duplexes.
Bare land strata
A bare land strata plan pertains to the land only and does not include the structures on the lot. In this instance, the strata corporation has no interest in the buildings on the land, so each individual owner is responsible for all maintenance, repair and insurance for his/her individual lot. However, there are often common properties and shared amenities that are maintained by monthly maintenance fees, such as clubhouses, street lamps, private roads and on-site services such as power, water and sewer.
This is when an owner purchases the rights to use a residential property for a long but limited period of time. Leaseholds are typically set for a period of 99 years, but only the remaining term is available for purchase. At the end of the leasehold, the property can be returned to the original owner, which is usually the municipality or the First Nations. The shorter the remaining time left, the less a buyer will be willing to pay.
This is where each owner owns a share in the cooperative association and each shareholder is assigned a particular unit for living. Housing co-ops typically have rules that must be followed and the owners work together to manage the co-op.