With interest rates still sitting near historically low levels – with nowhere to go but up – now is an ideal time for first-time homebuyers to embark upon homeownership.
But if low interest rates still don’t tip the scales on your decision to enter the property market, perhaps the information below will.
The main reason many renters feel they can’t afford to purchase a home has to do with saving for a down payment. But there are many solutions available today that can help first-time buyers with their down payments.
Many lenders will allow for a gifted or borrowed down payment. And of those lenders that will not provide this alternative, many offer cash-back options that can be used as a down payment.
Better yet, there are programs available from some financial institutions where they will offer a “free down payment” or a “flex down”. Of course, you will end up paying about 1% more in your interest rate, but the program will help you get in the homeownership door and start accumulating equity earlier. The only catch, however, is that you must remain with the original lender for the full initial five-year term or else you’ll have to pay the down payment back.
Under the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan, first-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSPs for a down payment – tax- and interest-free.
And if there’s a couple making a home purchase together, they can each withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSPs.
Making an informed decision
There’s an endless amount of information available to prospective homeowners – through the Internet, friends, family members and anyone willing to voice their opinion on a given subject. What you need, therefore, is education and coaching as opposed to being bombarded with more information.
That’s why it’s important to speak to me – a mortgage professional – in order to get a pre-approval prior to setting out home shopping. This will help set your mind at ease, because many first-time buyers are overwhelmed by the financing and buying processes, and often don’t know what it truly costs to purchase a home. I can provide you with real examples that can go a long way in showing you what it really costs to buy a home in your area versus what you’re currently paying in rent.
You may be pleasantly surprised by how manageable it is to start building equity in your own property as opposed to helping pay someone else’s mortgage each month!
As always, if you have any questions about down payment options or your mortgage in general, I’m here to help!
First, buyers should understand the 1% rule. This rule postulates that normal maintenance on a home is about 1% of the value of the home per year. For example, a $250,000 home would require $2,500 per year to maintain. This would be enough to replace the roof covering...and then, a few years later, to replace a failed hot water tank...and then a few years more until a new central air system is required.
Then there is the 3% rule. Some experts say that home buyers should plan on spending 3% of the value of the home in the first year of ownership. This is because new homeowners will most likely have to buy drapes, blinds, a washer and dryer, a stove, maybe even a new roof covering. Also, new homeowners often customize the environment to their taste, so they need to budget for repairs, replacements and maintenance.
In addition, most home components have fairly predictable life cycles. For example, the typical life cycle of a high-efficiency furnace is 15 to 20 years. What this means is that most high-efficiency furnaces last between 15 and 20 years.
One way to know the extent of the maintenance needed and the costs to repair and/or replace items is to have a home inspection conducted. Home inspectors are required to let the buyer know if a component is significantly deficient or if it is near the end of its life cycle (service life), and a reputable home inspection company may offer up-to-date repair-cost guides to help clients with their planning.
Home inspectors work with Realtors and buyers to help them understand the issues that are found in the home, regardless of age, offering the right perspective and objective information. Home buyers need to understand that it's normal for items in a home to wear out. This should be regarded as normal "wear and tear" and not necessarily a defect.
A good home inspection determines the current condition of the house, offering a report of all the systems and components in need of maintenance, service, repair or replacement.
For example, consider a home inspection that uncovers that the heating system is old and requires replacement. A home buyer may see this as a huge problem. However, this problem may be the only item in the home that requires attention. If a buyer were to look at this situation in perspective, this home could be well above average-a home merely requiring a new furnace.
A good home inspection provides objective information to help the buyer make an informed decision. Knowing what items need to be budgeted for repair or replacement will help home buyers plan or negotiate better and not be stuck with unexpected costs of hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in the long run. Also, fixing these items will make a marked improvement on the performance of a home and minimize issues that could affect its future integrity...and value.
Provided courtest of:
Registered and Certified Home Inspector
Professional Home Inspections in Langley, White Rock and South Surrey
We know our stuff!
Qualifying home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 (couples can withdraw up to $50,000) from their RRSPs for a down payment. Home buyers who have repaid their RRSP may be eligible to use the program a second time.
New home buyers can apply for a rebate of the federal portion of the HST (the 5% GST) if the purchase price is less than $350,000. The rebate is up to 36% of the GST to a maximum rebate of $6,300. There is a proportional GST rebate for new homes costing between $350,000 and $450,000.
Buyers of new or substantially renovated homes priced up to $525,000 are eligible for a rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion (7%) of the 12% HST paid to a maximum rebate of $26,250. Homes priced at $525,000+ are eligible for a flat rebate of $26,250.
Landlords buying new or substantially renovated homes are eligible for a rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion of the HST, up to $26,250 per unit.
Qualifying first-time buyers may be exempt from paying the PTT of 1% on the first $200,000 and 2% on the remainder of the purchase price of a home priced up to $425,000. There is a proportional exemption for homes priced up to $450,000.
This federal non-refundable income tax credit is for qualifying buyers of detached, attached, apartment condominiums, mobile homes or shares in a cooperative housing corporation. The calculation: multiply the lowest personal income tax rate for the year (15% in 2010) x $5,000. For the 2010 tax year, the maximum credit is $750.
Reduces school property taxes by up to $570 on properties with an assessed value up to $1,150,000. For 2011, the basic grant is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of value over $1,150,000, and eliminated on homes assessed at $1,264,000. An additional grant reduces property tax by a further $275 for a total of $845 for seniors, veterans and the disabled. This is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of assessed value over $1,150,000 and eliminated on homes assessed at $1,319,000+.
Property Tax Deferment Program for Seniors: Qualifying home owners aged 55+ may be eligible to defer property taxes.
Financial Hardship Property Tax Deferment Program: Qualifying low-income home owners may be eligible to defer property taxes.
Property Tax Deferment Program for Families with Children: Qualifying low-income home owners who financially support children under age 18 may be eligible to defer property taxes.
This federal program provides financial aid to qualifying low-income home owners to repair substandard housing. Eligible repairs include heating, structural, electrical, plumbing and fire safety. Grants are available for seniors, persons with disabilities, owners of rental properties and owners creating secondary and garden suites.
Provides home buyers with CMHC mortgage insurance, a 10% premium refund and possible extended amortization without surcharge when buyers purchase an energy efficient mortgage or make energy saving renovations.
11. Energy Saving Mortgages
Financial institutions offer a range of mortgages to home buyers and owners who make their homes more energy efficient. For example, home owners who have a home energy audit within 90 days of receiving an RBC Energy Saver Mortgage, may qualify for a rebate of $300 to their RBC account.
12. Low interest renovation loans
Financial institutions offer 'green' loans for home owners making energy efficient upgrades. Vancity's Bright Ideas personal loan offers home owners up to $20,000 at prime + 1% for up to 10 years for 'green' renovations. RBC's Energy Saver loan offers 1% off the interest rate for a fixed rate installment loan over $5,000 or a $100 renovation on a home energy audit on a fixed rate installment loan over $5,000. For information visit your financial institution.
Home owners improving the energy efficiency of their homes may qualify for cash incentives through this provincial program provided in partnership with FortisBC and BC Hydro. Rebates are for energy efficient products which replace gas and oil furnaces, pumps, water heaters, wood stoves, insulation, windows, doors, skylights and more. The LiveSmart BC program also covers $150 of the cost of a home energy assessment, directly to the service provider.
Home owners and residential landlords buying heating fuel receive a BC government point-of-sale rebate on utility bills equal to the provincial component of the HST.
Mail-in rebates for purchasers of ENERGY STAR® clothes washers, refrigerators, dishwashers, or freezers.
This ongoing program rebates BC Hydro customers $30 to turn in spare fridges in working condition.
Pay no HST when you buy ENERGY STAR® high-performance windows and doors. Call 604.759.2759 for a free in-home estimate.
To save energy, BC Hydro offers rebates including 10% off an ENERGY STAR® cordless phone. Check for new offers and for deadlines.
A range of rebates for home owners include a $50 rebate for upgrading a hot water tank, $150 rebate on an EnerChoice fireplace and a $1,000 rebate for switching to natural gas (from oil or propane) and installing an ENERGY STAR® heating system (each good to December 31, 2011).
For commercial buildings, provides a cash rebate of up to 75% of the purchase price of an energy efficient boiler, for new construction or retrofits.
In partnership with the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Vancity provides grants up to $50,000 each to qualifying charities, not-for-profit organizations and co-operatives for projects which focus on building renovations/retrofits, regulatory changes that advance green building development, and education to increase the use of practical green building strategies.
22. Local government rain barrel programs
Many local municipalities sell rain barrels and downspout kits to help you collect water for watering your garden or washing your vehicle(s). Contact your local municipality's Engineering department for information.
23. Local government water conservation incentives
Your municipality may provide grants and incentives to residents to help save water. For example, the City of Abbotsford, District of Mission and Township of Langley offer rebates for low-flow toilets. Some municipalities sell indoor and outdoor water saving kits. For more information, contact the municipal Engineering departments.
24. Local government water meter programs
Your municipality may provide a program for voluntary water metering, so that you pay only for the amount of water that you use. For example, Delta and Surrey have programs and other municipalities may soon follow. Visit your municipality's website and search "water meter" to find out if there is a program.
Source: Adapted from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver