Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a home inspection and should I have one done?

A home inspection is a visual examination of the property to determine the overall condition of the home. In the process, the inspector should be checking all major components (roof, ceilings, walls, floors, foundations, crawl spaces, attics, retaining walls, etc.) and systems (electrical, heating, plumbing, drainage, exterior weather proofing, etc.). The results of the inspection should be provided to the purchaser in written form, in detail, generally within 24 hours of the inspection. A pre-purchase home inspection can add peace of mind and make a difficult decision much easier. It may indicate that the home needs major structural repairs which can be factored into your buying decision. A home inspection helps remove a number of unknowns and increases the likelihood of a successful purchase.

What is the minimum down payment needed to purchase a home?

The minimum down payment in Canada depends on the purchase price of the home:

  • If the purchase price is less than $500,000, the minimum down payment is 5%.
  • If the purchase price is between $500,000 and $999,999, the minimum down payment is 5% of the first $500,000, and 10% of any amount over $500,000.
  • If the purchase price is $1,000,000 or more, the minimum down payment is 20%.

What is mortgage loan insurance?

Mortgage loan insurance is insurance provided by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a crown corporation, and Genworth, an approved private corporation. This insurance is required by law to insure lenders against default on mortgages with a loan to value ratio greater than 80%. The insurance premiums, ranging from 0.50% to 7.0%, are paid by the borrower and can be added directly onto the mortgage amount. This is not the same as mortgage life insurance.

What is a conventional mortgage?

A conventional mortgage is usually one where the down payment is equal to 20% or more of the purchase price; a loan to value of or less than 80%, and does not normally require mortgage loan insurance.

How does bankruptcy affect qualification for a mortgage?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your bankruptcy, generally, some lenders will consider providing mortgage financing.

How will child support affect mortgage qualification?

Where child support and alimony are paid by you to another person, generally the amount paid out is deducted from your total income before determining the size of mortgage you will qualify for.

Where child support and alimony are received by you from another person, generally the amount paid may be added to your total income before determining the size of mortgage you will qualify for, provided proof of regular receipt is available for a period of time determined by the lender.

What is a pre-approved mortgage?

A pre-approved mortgage provides an interest rate guarantee from a lender for a specified period of time (usually 60 to 120 days) and for a set amount of money. The pre-approval is calculated based on information provided by you and is generally subject to certain conditions being met before the mortgage is finalized. Conditions would usually be things like ‘written employment and income confirmation’ and ‘down payment from your own resources’, for example. By no means does a ‘pre-approval’ mean you are 100% approved for financing. The lender is ultimately placing their security against the property that you buy, so that will definitely be subject to examination by the lender to make sure they are making a great investment for their investors.

Should I wait for my mortgage to mature?

Lenders will often guarantee an interest rate to you as much as 120 days before your mortgage matures. And, as long as you are not increasing your mortgage, they will cover the costs of transferring your mortgage too. This means a rate promised well in advance of your maturity date, thus eliminating any worries of higher rates. And if rates drop before the actual maturity rate, the new lender will usually adjust your interest rate lower as well.

Most lenders send out their mortgage renewal notices offering existing clients their posted interest rates.The rate you are being offered is usually not the best one. Always investigate the possibility of a lower interest rate with the lender and or another lender. Call us; we can do all the research for you!

What is a down payment?

Very few home buyers have the cash available to buy a home outright. Most of us will turn to a financial institution for a mortgage; the first step in a potentially long-standing relationship. But even with a mortgage, you will need to raise the money for a down payment.

The down payment is that portion of the purchase price you furnish yourself. The amount of the down payment (which represents your financial stake, or the equity in your new home) should be determined well before you start house hunting.

The larger the down payment, the less your home costs in the long run. With a smaller mortgage, interest costs (and possibly insurance fees – for high ratio mortgages) will be lower and over time this will add up to significant savings.

What are the three main factors of any mortgage application?

The three main factors of any mortgage application are: income, down payment, and credit (ICD).

How can you pay off your mortgage sooner?

There are ways to reduce the number of years to pay down your mortgage. You’ll enjoy significant savings by:

  • Selecting a non-monthly or accelerated payment schedule.
  • Increasing your payment frequency schedule.
  • Making principal prepayments.
  • Making Double-Up Payments.

How can you use your RRSPs to help buy your first home?

Today, about 50% of first-time home buyers use their RRSP savings to help finance a down payment. With the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan, you can use up to $60,000 in RRSP savings ($70,000 for a couple) to help pay for your down payment on your first home. You then have 15 years to repay your RRSP.

To qualify, the RRSP funds you’re using must be on deposit for at least 90 days. You’ll also need a signed agreement to buy a qualifying home.

Even if you have already saved for your down payment, it may make good financial sense to access your savings through the Home Buyers’ Plan. For example, if you had already saved $60,000 for a down payment – and assuming you still had enough “contribution room” in your RRSP for a contribution of that amount, you could move your savings into a registered investment at least 90 days before your closing date. Then, simply withdraw the money through the Home Buyers’ Plan.

What’s the advantage? Your $60,000 RRSP contribution will count as a tax deduction this year. Use any tax refund you receive to repay the RRSP or other expenses related to buying your home.

While using your RRSP for a down payment may help you buy a home sooner, it can also mean missing out on some tax-sheltered growth. So be sure to ask your financial planner whether this strategy makes sense for you, given your personal financial situation.

What are the costs associated with buying a home?

First and foremost, you have to make sure you have enough money for a down payment – the portion of the purchase price that you furnish yourself.

To qualify for a conventional mortgage, you will need a down payment of 20% or more. However, you can qualify for a high ratio insured mortgage with a down payment as low as 5%.

Secondly, you will require money for closing costs (can be up to 4% of the basic purchase price).

If you want to have the home inspected by a professional building inspector – which we highly recommend – you will need to pay an inspection fee. The inspection may bring to light areas where repairs or maintenance are required and will assure you that the house is structurally sound. Usually the inspector will provide you with a written report. If they don’t, then ask for one.

You will be responsible for paying the fees and disbursements for the lawyer or notary acting for you in the purchase of your home. We suggest you shop around before making your decision on who you are going to use, because fees for these services may vary significantly.

There are closing and adjustment costs, interest adjustment costs between buyer and seller and (depending on where you live) land transfer tax – a one-time tax based on a percentage of the purchase price of the property and/or mortgage amount.

Finally, you will be required to have property insurance in place by the closing date. And you will be responsible for the cost of moving.

Remember, there will be all kinds of things you’ll have to purchase early on – appliances, garden tools, cleaning materials etc. so factor these expenses into your initial costs.

What should the length of my mortgage term be?

The length of mortgage terms varies widely – from six months right up to 10 years. As a rule of thumb, the shorter the term, the lower the interest rate; the longer the term, the higher the interest rate.

While four- or five-year mortgages are what most home buyers typically choose, you may consider a short-term mortgage if you have a higher tolerance for risk, if you have time to watch rates or are not prepared to make a long-term commitment right now.

Before selecting your mortgage term, we suggest you answer the following questions:

  1. Do you plan to sell your house in the short-term without buying another? If so, a short mortgage term may be the best option.
  2. Do you believe that interest rates have bottomed out and are not likely to drop more? If that’s the case, a long mortgage term may be the right choice for you. Similarly, if you think rates are currently high, you may want to opt for a short to medium length mortgage term hoping that rates drop by the time your term expires.
  3. Are you looking for security as a first-time home buyer? Then you may prefer a longer mortgage term, so that you can budget for and manage your monthly expenses.
  4. Are you willing to follow interest rates closely and risk there being increased mortgage payments following a renewal? If that’s the case, a short mortgage term may best suit your needs.

What are the monthly costs of owning a home?

Needless to say, you’ll have financial responsibilities as a home owner.Some of them, like taxes, may not be billed monthly, so do the calculations to break them down into monthly costs. Below you will find a list of these expenses.

The Mortgage Payment 
For most home buyers, this is the largest monthly expense. The actual amount of the mortgage payment can vary widely since it is based on a number of variables, such as mortgage term and amortization.

Property Taxes 
Property tax can be paid in two ways – remitted directly to the municipality by you, in which case you may be required to periodically show proof of payment to your financial institution; or paid as part of your monthly mortgage payment.

School Taxes 
In some municipalities, these taxes are integrated into the property taxes. In others, they are collected separately and are payable in a single lump sum, usually due at the end of the current school year.

Utilities 
As a home owner, you’ll be responsible for all utility bills including heating, gas, electricity, water, telephone and cable.

Maintenance and Upkeep 
You will also have to cover the cost of painting, roof repairs, electrical and plumbing, walks and driveway, lawn care and snow removal. A well-maintained property helps to preserve your home’s market value, enhances the neighbourhood and, depending on the kind of renovations you make, could add to the value of your property.