Buying your first house is an exciting time. Whether you have spent years renting or stayed at home with your parents a little longer so you could save up, it’s a big step in the next chapter in your life. Although the housing market has become an increasingly hot topic over the past few years, home ownership remains a great option for many folks.
I don’t want to see low-income and first time buyers priced out of the market. I also don’t want them to be without their dream home. Affordable housing is still possible, and I have put together five helpful tips if you as a first-timer are shopping around. Let’s get started.
For many, buying a house feels like a right of passage. Putting down your roots and having room to grow is a great feeling. It’s a step that shouldn’t be taken lightly, however, as the responsibilities of homeownership are no joke! That’s why I encourage all buyers to ensure that their finances are in a good place before taking the leap. Beyond saving for your down payment, sit down and budget out your monthly expenses. What will you have to start paying for once you own a home? If you have debt, which is completely normal, is your credit score good? Will paying for a mortgage cause your debt repayment plan to slip through the cracks? It’s important to ask yourself the hard questions. If you are struggling to answer them, I’m happy to review things with you and provide suggestions on how your dream of owning a home can become a reality.
On that note, saving for a down payment can be a lengthy process. Once you decide on a comfortable amount you can save, your next step could be making an appointment to see if you prequalify for a mortgage. This process evaluates your financial situation to see how much the bank is willing to loan you. As a mortgage broker, I can take you through the steps by reviewing your income, credit score, and debt load. During this time, you will also need to specify your down payment, which will help result in the interest rate and term of your mortgage. This is a great tool to help you budget in advance and see how much it could cost you every month. It also might help you decide if you want to save a bigger down payment to cut back on monthly payments. Paying over 20% down means you don’t have to get mortgage insurance, whereas a down payment of less than this amount requires it.
This might seem a bit obvious, but I can’t stress how helpful these programs can be to home buyers. The federal and provincial governments have worked to reduce the barriers of homeownership, and some municipal programs also exist depending on where you plan on living. The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) is a federal program with criteria that many first time buyers already meet. In fact, it specifies that your down payment must be less than 20% of the home’s purchase price, which is a big relief for many. You are not charged interest on this loan, but you will have to pay it back within 25 years or when the home is sold. In addition, the Ontario provincial government offers first-time buyers a land transfer tax refund up to the full amount that they paid. As long as your home is your principal residence for nine months within the date the land was transferred, you are eligible for a refund of up to $2,000. If you are looking at purchasing a home somewhere in Ontario, I am well-versed in municipal programs that help buyers out in such ways.
After watching plenty of HGTV shows and house tours on YouTube, you probably have a good idea of what you want your house to look like, inside and out. While these shows are helpful when it comes to finding your aesthetic, most places you look at will likely need a bit of TLC to get there. I recommend creating a list of needs, separating them from “nice to haves”. This will help narrow down your choices to a home you can not only afford, but that fits your lifestyle. Remember, those less important aesthetic improvements and even some renovations can wait. Maybe you have a dog as well, in which case a fenced-in yard is likely a must, or you are determined to have a shorter commute. Deciding on dealbreakers early will help to ensure you don’t fall in love with a home that isn’t a realistic option at the moment.
As a first-time home buyer, chances are that you’re going to have plenty of questions when it comes to mortgages and what you can afford. Personally, I love questions, along with helping people find solutions that work for them. Brokers such as myself not only simplify and streamline the process, but we also have connections to some excellent lenders. Plus, we take the guesswork out of terms and paperwork that many homeowners might not understand. This is likely the biggest purchase of your life, you don’t want to feel lost in the shuffle.
My years of experience mean that I have dealt with buyers in all kinds of situations, and there is nothing I love more than delivering the best option that works for you. So, if you are looking to buy your first home, consider connecting with me to help you get started on the right foot!
Andrew Thake is a seasoned mortgage broker with over 15 years of industry experience. He’s assisted more than 2,200 clients in finding their ideal mortgage solutions. Recognized for his excellence, Andrew has received high honours and awards, including the National Rookie of the Year from TD Canada Trust and recognition as a Top 10 Ottawa Mortgage Broker in 2023. He has also been inducted into the Hall of Fame at Dominion Lending Centres and has consistently received their Platinum Award during his tenure as a mortgage broker.
Andrew’s dedication lies in serving his clients and prioritizing their needs with an empathetic approach. Throughout the application process, he provides tailored, informed, and efficient services to ensure the best mortgage solutions for his client’s unique circumstances. The best part of Andrew’s job is when he gets to see the joy on his clients’ faces following their mortgage approval.