May 10, 2009
Financing your first home
Even if you think you couldn’t possibly afford a home, these creative solutions can turn you from a renter into an owner.
Like many would-be homeowners, you may be wondering how you can possibly afford to buy your first home, especially if you live in a hot real estate market. But these savings and financing strategies can take you there sooner than you think.
Coming up with the cash
Saving for a down payment can be a financial challenge. Here’s how to do it.
• Make saving automatic. Set up an automatic savings plan at your bank to regularly move a specific amount of money directly from your chequing account to a savings account — on payday, for instance. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the “pay yourself first” approach adds up.
• Take a holiday from tax. If you open a new Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), you won’t pay any tax on earnings — helping you compound your savings. You can contribute up to $5,000 a year to a TFSA, and save for anything you like, tax-free.
• Borrow from yourself. The federal government’s Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP) lets you borrow from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to help purchase your first home. You and your partner can each withdraw up to $20,000, provided it’s not locked-in and the money has been in the RRSP for at least 90 days. You have to repay the loan in installments over the next 15 years to avoid a tax hit.
Review your mortgage options
With many alternatives to choose from, finding the right mortgage product and terms can make a big difference to your ability to carry the costs of a new home.
• Stretch out your term. You can now choose to pay back your mortgage over 30 or 35 years, instead of the traditional 25-year amortization period. It means you will pay more interest over the long term, but you can reduce monthly payments to get into your starter home. You can always change this later, once your income rises and you can pay your mortgage down faster.
• Look for perks. Find out about mortgage programs that may offer valuable incentives, such as cash back options, points programs or retail discounts. The right program could help you keep cash in your pocket.
Remember, once you’ve bought a home, you can look for ways to pay the mortgage off sooner, which will reduce the long-term interest costs on that home of your own.