Home Sweet First Home

Making the decision to purchase your first home is huge.  In fact, it’s probably the biggest financial decision you will ever make – and one not to be taken lightly.

First time home buyers often have a daunting and scary task in front of them. That is why it is important to do your research and understand the true costs of ownership before you take the plunge.

If you’re ready to jump into the housing market, there are a few things to think about before you fall in love with the house of your dreams:

Check your creditCredit scores have a major impact on the amount of money a lender will be willing to give you, and at what interest rate.  Before you even begin the house hunting process, get copies of your credit reports.  If your scores are low or your report contains inaccurate information, take the time to correct errors and repair your credit.

Learn to budgetBuying a home is the biggest financial decision you will probably make.  Sit down with your budget and figure out how you’re going to comfortably carry a mortgage and still live the life you want.  Don’t forget to leave yourself a little wiggle room.

Research the true costsThere is a lot more to owning a home than paying your mortgage and calling the place your own.  Assess all of your monthly costs; including mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, utilities and potential condo fees.  Add these to your monthly budget.

Pre-approvalIt’s a good idea to understand how much you can spend before you start looking for your first home.  Speaking to your lender or mortgage broker about a pre-approval will give you a better idea of how much mortgage you qualify for.

Buy what you can affordHowever, just because the bank pre-approved you for a substantial mortgage doesn’t mean you can actually afford it.  In fact, lenders will often pre-approve you for far more than you need or want.  Again, take a look at your budget.  Looking at the true costs of homeownership and the lifestyle you want to live will give you a better idea of the monthly payment you can realistically afford.

Put 20% downSaving enough money to make a down payment of 20 per cent or more will result in huge savings over the term of your mortgage.  Simply put, a larger down payment results in lower mortgage payments and greater savings on the total interest paid. Anything under 20 per cent is considered high risk and will require you to obtain mortgage insurance, resulting in an added monthly cost.

Get your house in orderIn addition to the monthly costs associated with home ownership, you also need to be prepared for the hidden costs of buying your first home.  Before you make an offer, be sure to have enough money set aside to cover your closing fees, lawyer’s costs, home inspection, utility hook-ups, renovations fees, land transfer taxes and home furnishings.

Save for a rainy dayFinally, be prepared for the ongoing and unexpected costs of home ownership. These include maintenance fees, repairs and replacement costs.  By setting up an emergency fund you can create a financial buffer in case a leaky roof or broken water heater catches you off guard.