We’ve heard all the home buying questions before. That’s why we decided to put them all together so that you can learn a little bit more about the process and the common hurdles.

Have a look at our most frequently asked home buying questions, and learn a little more today.

Q – What’s the minimum down payment required to buy a house?

A –  Typically down payments range from 5%-20% of the purchase price of a home – in Canada you’re required to put down a minimum of 5% (note that if you’re self-employed you’ll likely be required to put down a minimum of 20-25% so if you make sure to talk to your bank or mortgage broker to determine your minimum down payment).

Q – When should I get pre-approved for a mortgage?

A – When it comes to home buying questions, ideally you should have a mortgage pre-approval in place before you start your home search. There’s nothing more frustrating than having spent months looking for a home, getting a conditional sale on the property and then not being able to get your financing approved because you bought a house that you couldn’t afford.

A pre-approval from your bank will let you and your agent know how much you can afford and provides you with a written confirmation of a fixed interest rate for a specific period of time. To get a pre-approval just contact your bank or mortgage broker. Typically they should be able to get you a written pre-approval within 24-72 hours.

Q – What’s the difference between a conventional mortgage and a high ratio mortgage?

A – Conventional Mortgage: To obtain a conventional mortgage, which is the most common mortgage type, home buyers are required to put down at least 20% of the purchase price as a down payment (in other words the bank will loan you up to 80% of the purchase price or appraised value of your home, whichever is lower). High Ratio Mortgage: If you don’t have the resources to put down a full 20%, you can choose a high ratio mortgage, which allows you to buy a home with a down payment of as little as 5%. This option is called a high ratio mortgage – if you have one you’ll be required to buy insurance to protect against default.

Q – How much will it cost for me to buy a home?

A – Costs to buy a home are generally broken up into two categories: Pre-Purchase Costs and Closing Costs. Your Pre-Purchase Costs are made up of the Deposit on your chosen property (this is typically 5% of the purchase price and is due 24 hours after your offer is accepted) and your Home Inspection costs (this could be anywhere from $400-500).

On closing, you’ll need to come up with your Closing Costs. These include legal fees and title insurance, Land Transfer Tax, CMHC insurance + HST (this is required if you have less than 20% down payment), adjustments for items the seller has pre-paid beyond the closing date like property taxes) and costs to physically move. You should budget approximately 2-4% of the purchase price for your closing costs. Of course, don’t forget about your mortgage! The balance of the purchase price less your original Deposit (and remaining down payment if applicable) is due on closing – typically the bulk of this comes from your lender and is your mortgage.

Q – What are the costs of owning a home?

A – To find out what your approximate monthly mortgage payments will be based on the amount of your down payment, interest rate, amortization, etc. Once you’ve moved in, over and above these payments you’ll also have to pay for property taxes and utilities like heat, hydro, water, and solid waste management. Additionally, you’ll be required to pay home insurance, which is mandatory in order to obtain a mortgage (premiums are based on the replacement cost of the building). Your property tax could cost anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 a year depending on the size and location of your property.

You should have the option of paying in instalments over the course of the year or your lender may insist that they pay the property tax and collect it with your monthly mortgage payment. Utilities will vary based on the size of your home and usage but on average heat could cost approx. $1,500 a year, hydro could cost approx. $1,500 a year and water/solid waste management could cost approx. $400 a year. Don’t forget that your home will need general maintenance too – to be on the safe side you should put aside approx. 1% of the value of your home per year for this purpose.

Q – Should I continue renting or should I buy?

A – There are advantages to both but based on your individual circumstances one may make more sense for you than the other. Let’s look at renting first. Here are the pro’s: no maintenance is required; you have more flexibility to move if you don’t like your landlord, neighbours or area; you only have one payment a month for your rent and don’t have to worry about property tax, condo fees, utilities, etc.

Lastly, if you don’t have much money saved for a down payment it might actually be cheaper for you to rent in terms of your monthly expenses. The pro’s to buying, on the other hand, are as follows: you’re not paying someone else’s mortgage; you’ll gain the capital appreciation benefits over time as property values go up; there will be no landlord for you to worry about and you can modify your property as you wish without needing permission; and your monthly expenses could end up being cheaper if you buy, especially if you have a decent down payment. Typically, it will be cheaper for you to buy a property instead of continuing to rent if you plan of living there for at least two years.

Q – I want to buy a home. How much can I afford?

A – This is one of the most common home buying questions. There are two affordability rules to keep in mind when determining how much you can afford to spend on a home. The first is your ratio of debt to income called Gross Debt Service or GDS. Lenders typically allow you to spend approx. 32% of your gross monthly income on your housing costs. To calculate your GDS take you and your spouse’s gross monthly income and any other income you have and multiply it by 32%. This will tell you how much you can afford to spend on monthly housing costs (this includes property tax, heating and 50% of your condo fees if applicable).

The second affordability rule is that your total monthly debt load (this includes housing costs, credit card payments, car loans, etc.) should not exceed 40% of your gross monthly income. This is your Total Debt Service or TDS ratio. To calculate it take your total monthly debts and divide it by your total monthly income. If your TDS is under 40% then in theory you can afford to purchase a home.

In addition to your GDS and TDS ratio’s banks will also look at your job stability, amount of your down payment, your credit score and current interest rates to determine whether you will qualify for financing. These are general guidelines – some lenders may be more flexible. Talk to your bank or mortgage broker for more information.

Q – If I have bad credit can I still buy a home?

A – There are a number of options available for people who want to buy a home but because they have bad credit have been turned down by the major banks. The first thing that you need to do to determine your creditworthiness is find out your credit score. You can do this by visiting credit score sites such as Equifax.ca. If you have a credit score above 600 it’s more likely that you’ll be able to get a mortgage with a major bank, otherwise known as an “A” lender. These are the lenders that will be able to get you the lowest mortgage rates.

Other factors that banks consider are: is your debt load manageable, have you had any bankruptcies and do you pay all of your bills on time? If your credit score is below 600 you’ll need to look for a “B” lender, also known as a “subprime lender.” These financial institutions include trust companies and do most of their work with people who have bad credit scores. If you’ve declared bankruptcy within the previous two years you may need to work with a private mortgage lender. A qualified mortgage broker will be able to connect you with a lender that’s right for you.

Q – Do I need a home inspection when I buy a home?

A – Every buyer should have a home inspection done before purchasing a property. This will help ensure that there are no surprises once you’ve moved into your new home. In the case of the hot seller’s market where the best way to secure the property is with an unconditional offer your best course of action may be to do your own home inspection in advance of the offer date. In some cases the seller may have prepared a pre-listing inspection to save buyers the time and money of doing their own inspections. Although these pre-listing inspections have their advantages nothing will take the place of doing your own inspection with the inspector of your choice.

Q – Can I use my RRSP’s to buy a home?

A – Yes you can. Each RRSP holder can borrow up to $25,000 from their plan towards their down payment. If you’re using your RRSP’s you have up to 15 years to return the money, interest free, back into your RRSP’s. There are four guidelines that you have to adhere to in order to qualify: you must be a first-time buyer or have not owned a principal residence in Canada during the previous four years; the RRSP must have been in existence for at least 90 days; you must be a resident of Canada both at the time the funds are withdrawn and at the time the home is purchased; and you must have an Agreement of Purchase and Sale in place on a property.

Q – When will be a good time to buy a home?

A – Definitely one of the more important home buying questions. Ideally the best time for you to buy a home is when the real estate market is either balanced or a buyer’s market – this means there is more supply of housing inventory than there is demand, meaning you shouldn’t be involved in multiple offer bids that raise selling prices or have to scoop up a house within a day or two or it will be sold. However, the caveat to this is that if prices continue to rise at an average rate of 4-6% as is the case in Toronto (prices are rising even more in some neighbourhoods) if you wait until the market is more balanced a home might be out of your financial reach and getting into the market might be impossible. Ultimately the best time for you to buy a home is when it makes sense for you and your family and you can afford the costs involved.

Q – I live overseas. How do I buy a property in Canada?

A – Although as a foreigner you can buy as many properties and types of properties in Canada as you’d like there are some differences in what’s required. Canadian residents, unless they’re self-employed, only need to put down a minimum of 5% for their down payment but as a foreigner you’ll be required to put down 35%. You’ll likely also have to pay a higher interest rate for your mortgage than a resident. Also, although you won’t have to pay any additional taxes (other than land transfer tax – see below) when buying a home, there are tax implications for non-residents when it comes time to sell so make sure to talk to your accountant. Will you still have to pay the Ontario and Toronto land transfer taxes? Yes. But if you’re a first-time home buyer you may be eligible for the same rebates. Lastly, it can be more expensive and complicated to get insurance for your property if you’re a non-resident living overseas. Proof of home insurance will be required by your lender so it’s important to do your due diligence before making an offer. As far as the offer paperwork goes that is fairly straightforward and can be done electronically although many lenders will require a foreign buyer to sign mortgage paperwork in person (although Power of Attorney’s used to be acceptable in lieu of this with many banks that’s no longer the case). Working with an agent who specializes in non-resident property purchases will help ensure the process goes smoothly.

Have more home buying questions?

Feel free to contact us today and we can talk about your needs.

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