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How to Prepare and Save for Your Down Payment on a House

Let Good Planning Lead You to Your Dream Home

Do you ever feel like you’ll never be able to save enough for a down payment? If so, you’re not alone.

Coming up with a large enough sum for a house down payment is often the biggest obstacle people face when trying to pave the path to homeownership. In fact, many hopeful buyers feel saving up enough for a down payment is an almost impossible task.

That being said, with the right strategy and personal commitment on your end, you can achieve your dream of buying a home.

We’ve taken the time to pull together a wealth of mortgage info in one convenient location to help you plan and save for your first down payment.

Here’s what you need to know about what to expect, strategies to find mortgage rates that set you up for success, and how to save up for a good down payment.

Understanding Down Payments and Mortgages

By definition, a down payment is the amount of money given to the seller during the closing process when you buy a home. Mortgage down payment money usually comes from personal savings or money received from the sale of a previous home or property.

The remaining balance of the home’s price is covered by the mortgage, which is essentially a loan from a bank, credit union, or another lender willing to provide money to help you get a home.

When pursuing mortgage financing you’ll need to:

  • Agree to the terms and conditions of the mortgage, including the designated interest rate. You’ll have a choice between fixed (rate stays the same for the life of the loan), adjustable rates (rate fluctuates depending on current rates) or a hybrid type of loan where you start at a fixed rate for a specified period of time after which time the lender can adjust it based on set terms.
  • Specify the amount of time you will pay back the money (i.e. 15 or 30 years).
  • Make monthly payments consisting of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. (Some people choose to separate taxes and insurance and pay it outside of the mortgage, but it’s common for people to prefer making one lump payment and send funds to an escrow account designated for this purpose).
  • Understand mortgages are secured by the home itself. For instance, if you default on your loan, lenders can rightfully take possession of the home and sell it to recover its losses.
  • Prior to funding a mortgage, due to anti-money laundering laws, lenders will need to see a 90-day history of where the down payment funds come from.

What is a “Good” Down Payment?

In Canada, the minimum down payment is 5% of the purchase price.  However, if you have the means to do so, you can avoid costly mortgage insurance premium by providing a down payment of at least 20 percent of the purchase price.

Ideally, the more you can put down the better as it brings down the total of your overall loan. In turn, this means you will have smaller mortgage payments and pay less interest over time.

Finding the Best Mortgage Rates

To maximize your down payment and get the most for your money, you’ll want to find the best mortgage rates.

Before you start house hunting, get pre-approved by a lender to see what type of loan and interest rates you qualify to receive. This will give you a better idea of the price range you should be looking at—keep in mind you may be approved for more than your budget can handle.

A good mortgage broker can advise you, help you shop around for the best mortgage rates, and assist you in finding any potential programs you might qualify for, such as ones for veterans or first-time home buyers.

Down Payment Savings Tips

The sooner you start planning and saving for your new home, the better. It’s never too early to start.

A year before you plan to buy, check your credit score a year before. If you see errors, fix them because the higher you boost your score, you increase your chances of getting better interest rates.

Next, set up a budget and, if needed, make some lifestyle changes. It might surprise you to learn all the ways you can save.

  • Set a fixed amount to put into savings each paycheck. (Tip: Place money in a Tax-Free Savings Account to avoid paying taxes on the money you’re saving for your home.)
  • Reduce high-interest debt ASAP by paying down or transferring credit card debt to lower rate cards.
  • Find a cheaper or smaller apartment to cut back on your rent expense.
  • Trade your car in for a less expensive one or sell it and use public transportation.
  • Cut back on cable TV and landline costs by streaming shows and using your cell as your primary phone.
  • Avoid take-out and make your own meals.
  • Dial back vacation spending by travelling to low-cost destinations or by taking staycations.
  • After you set a budget and pinpoint ways you can scale back on your current spending, be sure to stick to it.

Using RRSPs As a Down Payment

If you’ve been more focused on saving for retirement than saving for a home, don’t worry! You don’t have to spend months and months saving thanks to a few handy programs.

The Government of Canada’s Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) allows first-time homebuyers to borrow up to $25,000 in a calendar year from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). In its most basic terms, you’re loaning yourself the money from your own retirement plan and will need to repay this loan within 15 years.

This plan gives you tremendous flexibility if you’ve been planning for retirement but now want to put roots down in a community. Better still, if you’re buying with a partner, and you’re both eligible for the plan, you can access up to $50,000 for a down payment on a qualifying home!

The catch? You will have to pay back this loan, but that’s about it!

Put all your savings into the bank to put towards your down payment. A firm commitment to cost-cutting and saving helps you reach your goal.

Finally, as you save money and prepare to buy, be sure to also learn everything you need to know about avoiding the top mortgage mistakes.

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