Frequently asked questions
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.
A pre-approved mortgage provides an interest rate guarantee from a lender for a specified period of time 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. Most successful real estate professionals will want to ensure you have a pre-approved mortgage in place before they take you out looking for a home. This is to ensure that they are showing you property within your affordable price range. In summary, a pre-approved mortgage is one of the first steps a home buyer should take before beginning the buying process.
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 will be lower and over time this will add up to significant savings. The minimum down payment allowed in Canada is 5% for houses under $500,000 and 10% for for any portion over $500,000- $999,999 and 20% for the portion above $1,000,000. For more information about down payment regulations in Canada click here to go to the Federal Government’s website.
The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage is set for a pre-determined term – usually between 6 months to 25 years. This offers the security of knowing what you will be paying for the term selected.
A mortgage in which payments are static for a period of one to two years although interest rates may fluctuate from month to month depending on market conditions. If interest rates go down, more of the payment goes towards reducing the principal; if rates go up, a larger portion of the monthly payment goes towards covering the interest. Open variable rate mortgages allow prepayment of any amount (with certain minimums) on any payment date.
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 (roofs, 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.
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Mortgage loan insurance is insurance provided by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a crown corporation, Genworth Canada, Canada Guaranty, both are approved private corporations. This insurance is required by law to insure lenders against default on mortgages with a High Ratio (less than 20% down payment). The insurance premiums are paid by the borrower and can be added directly onto the mortgage amount. This is not the same as mortgage life insurance.
Today, about 50% of first-time home buyers use their RRSP savings to help finance a down payment. If you are a first-time home buyer, the Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP) allows you to withdraw money from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) tax-free to make your down payment. The HBP is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). There are certain conditions you must meet to be eligible for the HBP. For more information, contact CRA at www.canada.ca
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. Secondly, you will require money for closing costs. 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.
The length of mortgage terms varies widely. As a rule of thumb, the shorter the term, the lower the interest rate the longer the term, the higher the 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 their being increased mortgage payments following a renewal? If that’s the case, a short mortgage term may best suit your needs.
Needless to say, you’ll have financial responsibilities as a homeowner. 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 or 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 homeowner, 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 worth of your property.