Fifty-one per cent of Canadians are considering buying a home in the next five years, according to a recent RE/MAX survey. This number is up from 36 per cent one year ago. As the price of real estate in Canada rises in many major urban markets, this shift comes as homebuyers adapt to the mortgage stress test, and enjoy increased purchasing power as Millennials enter their peak earning years. Despite these intentions, the high price of homes continues to impact market activity in Greater Vancouver and real estate in Ontario – specifically the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area, with tertiary effects on more-affordable housing markets surrounding Toronto and reaching as far as Niagara, Ottawa and even the Atlantic provinces. These factors have prompted an evolution of property types and how consumers are buying them. Ultimately, if your goal is to become a homeowner, you’ve got options.
Creative ways people are buying real estate in Canada
1. Widen your search.
Condos offer affordability by virtue of their design – their compact size comes with a smaller price tag. Shared amenities mean you’ll have to pay condo fees, but the cost is lower than what you’d pay for the same services in a freehold home. And oftentimes condos are located on or near transit hubs that allow you to get by without owning a car.
If you’re not willing to compromise on square footage, then you could be a “move-over” buyer on a suburban trajectory. Living in the suburbs or even in a neighbouring city often means longer commutes to work, family and friends, shopping and daily errands. But for those who want the extra bedroom, a backyard and perhaps a pool, it could be worth the trade-off.
2. Increase your funds.
First of all, let’s look at the money you may already have that can help you buy a home. Have you been contributing to an RRSP? Aside from the tax benefits of doing so, the first-time Home Buyers’ Plan lets you borrow up to $35,000 from your RRSP to put toward the purchase of a home. If you’re buying a home with someone else who qualifies as a first-time buyer, they can also borrow $35,000 for a total of $70,000!
Keep in mind that the HBP is essentially an interest-free loan from your retirement fund. Beginning the second year after your withdrawal, you’ll need to start re-funding your RRSP with the amount you borrowed. You’ll have 15 years to repay and if you don’t, you will be taxed.
Now, let’s look at the money you don’t have, but could have with some careful planning and self-control. Assuming you are employed (and for most of us, there’s no way around this one), set aside as much as possible from every paycheque into a high-interest savings account, a Tax Free Savings Account or another low-risk investment vehicle. The amount you can realistically save will depend on factors like your income, regular bills, debt payments and lifestyle. Some of these you can’t control while others you can.
Admittedly, the saving process takes time, but this is nothing new. With time, willpower and a plan, home ownership is within your reach.
The First Time Home Buyer Incentive
The federal government introduced the First Time Home Buyer Incentive in fall of 2020, to help homeowner carry the hefty weight on their mortgage payments. Here’s how it works: the FTHBI is a shared-equity mortgage aimed at middle-class first-time homebuyers. The government contributes five per cent of the price of a resale home, or five to 10 per cent of the price of a newly constructed home. This amount is applied is a second mortgage on the title of the property, but no regular principal payments are required. The loan is interest free, and it can be repaid at any time without incurring penalties. While homebuyers are off the hook for interest payments on this loan, this “shared equity mortgage” which means the government benefits from increases in your property value when you sell (or after 25 years, whichever comes first). However, if the value of your home falls, your repayment amount to the government will be lower than the amount originally borrowed.
3. Buy with a buddy.
If you’re not crazy about the idea of the government owning a share of your home, consider buying with a buddy. There’s (purchasing) power in numbers! Those who find they can’t afford to buy a home on their own in their preferred area and increasingly looking to co-ownership as a feasible option. The pooling of resources allows buyers to boost their collective down payment and the amount of mortgage they’ll qualify for. Buying a home with family or friends also eases the pressure of the ongoing expenses associated with home ownership, such as property taxes, utilities and maintenance. Share in the cost, share in the rewards! But buyer beware: make sure you work with an experienced real estate lawyer who handles these types of purchases. Remember, this is a legally binding contract with obligations.
Canada has heightened its response to COVID-19 in recent days. From coast to coast, individuals, organizations, and all levels of government are working together to minimize impact on our communities. To underscore the need to work together for the good of Canada and Canadians, politicians from all parties have approved a historic aid package to stabilize the economy and assist those most affected by the pandemic. Unprecedented relief measures for unprecedented times.
We’ve compiled a list of some pre-existing and newly announced programs and incentives intended to assist current homeowners, buyers and sellers, along with some links to further inform anyone seeking some COVID-19 relief.
The situation is changing hourly, so GARYDEHLON.CA will continue to update this list as things develop.
COVID-19 Relief Measures
Federal Government Pledges Up To $52 Billion in Direct Support to Canadian Workers and Businesses
On March 18, 2020, the Prime Minister announced $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses during this challenging time. On March 25, an emergency federal bill received royal assent to increase that amount to $52 billion, including support for workers unable to do their job due to Coronavirus. For more information, click here.
Mortgage Payment Deferral Programs
Many homeowners who’s employment and income have been interrupted due to COVID-19 are struggling to make their mortgage payments. In response to this, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers offer tools that can assist homeowners experiencing financial hardship at this time.
In addition to this, a number of Canadian’s large banks will be allowing mortgage payment deferrals for up to six months as part of their measures to help customers who may be struggling with the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage you to talk to your bank if you are under any sort of financial strain.
Bank of Canada Lowering Rates
The Bank of Canada’s benchmark interest rate has been on a downward trend recently. In its latest scheduled interest rate announcement on March 4, the Bank cut its rate from 1.75 to 1.25 per cent. The Bank followed up with an unscheduled announcement on March 16, announcing a further reduction in its key interest rate by a further 50 basis points to 0.75 per cent. On March 27, the Bank again cut its rate by another 50 basis points, to 0.25 per cent, with a goal of bolstering economic activity and keeping inflation low and stable. For more information on what the Bank of Canada is doing, click here.
First Time Home Buyer Incentives
The First Time Home Buyer Incentive was implemented in September 2019 to help qualified first-time homebuyers reduce their monthly mortgage payments without adding to their financial burdens. The incentive is a shared-equity mortgage with the Government of Canada and offers a number of different options for first-time homebuyers. You can read more about the First Time Home Buyer Incentive here.
Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (IMPP)
The Government of Canada implemented measures intended to bolster the financial system through the launch of its Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (IMPP). The government is prepared to purchase up to $150 billion of insured mortgage pools through CMHC, increased from the original $50 billion announced on March 16 as part of the Emergency Response Act. This will allow stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders that will help ensure lending to continue to Canadian consumers and businesses. For more information on the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program, click here.
BC Hydro Refief Fund
If you're a residential customer and you or your spouse/partner have lost employment or have become unable to work due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for free credit on your BC Hydro bill., click here.
Internet Usage Rules Relaxed by Major Telecommunication Companies
Some major telecommunication companies, such as Telus and Shaw, are changing their phone and internet plans and adapting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The Shaw website notes that they do not have data caps on their internet plans, allowing you to keep kids entertained and work from home without having to worry about data caps on your internet.
CRA Sets New Deadline to File your 2019 Income Taxes
The CRA has announced that there are new tax filing and payment due dates. The new due date for filing individual tax returns has been extended to June 1st, 2020. Taxpayers will have until September 1st, 2020 to pay any 2019 income tax amounts owed. For more information regarding the new dates for filing taxes, click here.