How to finance your first home in Canada

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Owning a home in Canada is a goal many newcomers dream of achieving. Unlike other smaller assets, buying a home or property involves a significant amount of financial investment.

As a newcomer, you may have many questions about the process of financing your first home in Canada. can be the best choice. In this article, we will walk you through the basics of getting a mortgage, outline the hidden costs, and share some budgeting tips and advice to help you buy a home.

What is a mortgage?

A mortgage is a loan from a bank or a lender. It enables a potential buyer to purchase a home or a property without having to pay the full amount by themselves. The maximum mortgage offered by a bank is 95 per cent, with some limitations.

Fixed vs variable mortgage rates

In Canada, mortgages have two types of interest rates. Borrowers can choose between –

  • A fixed interest rate: Does not fluctuate and is applicable for a pre-defined time period (called a “term”). Generally, the term most people opt for is five years.
  • A variable interest rate: Fluctuates based on the prime lending rate – which is primarily influenced by the policy interest rate set by the Bank of Canada (BoC). The prime lending rate is the annual interest rate that Canada’s major banks and financial institutions use to set interest rates for variable loans and lines of credit, including variable-rate mortgages. Depending on your financial institution or the lender, you may be able to switch from a variable interest rate to a fixed-rate at no additional cost. Be sure to check with your lender of any payment changes based on the prime rate and review all potential risks.

1. Reach out to a mortgage specialist

The first step in buying a home or any property in Canada is to reach out to a financial institution or lender that does mortgages. They will be able to guide you considering your own unique situation.

Generally speaking, there are three main requirements to be fulfilled as part of a mortgage application:

  • A down payment: This is the cash that you would pay for the purchase of your house or property. For a purchase of up to $500,000 CAD, the minimum down payment required is generally five per cent of the total cost, but it can also vary based on other factors such as your status in Canada (permanent resident, temporary foreign worker, student, etc.), assets owned, and your income. For purchases worth $500,000 to $999,000 CAD, you would need 10 per cent, and for homes that cost over a million dollars, you have to pay a minimum of 20 per cent as a down payment.
  • Credit history: Borrowers are usually expected to provide a year-long credit history either from Canada or your home country. The requirement for a credit history may be excluded if a large down payment is made. In this scenario, your other personal assets in Canada may be considered. Building good credit history takes time; therefore, get started as soon as you move to Canada.
  • Assurance of mortgage repayment: The financial institution or lender will typically assess the means through which you would be able to repay the loan. Existing sources of income (with a 90-day history) and your potential to earn an income in Canada are taken into consideration while approving a mortgage application.

2. Get pre-approved and budget for your new home

Next, it is recommended to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Having pre-approval indicates that you’ve met the basic eligibility criteria (down payment, credit history, and income) for getting a mortgage. As part of the pre-approval process, the bank will let you know the maximum purchase price and outline the down payment.

Once all required documents are provided, a pre-approval can be granted within a short period of time.

3. Evaluate leveraging the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive

The government of Canada offers the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive to help people across Canada purchase their first home. The program provides buyers with five (or 10 per cent, if it’s a new home) of the home’s purchase price, in the form of a no-interest loan, to put toward a down payment. This addition helps lower your mortgage carrying costs, making homeownership more affordable. You pay back the same percentage of the value of your home when you sell it or within a 25-year window.

4. Submit mortgage application after finding a home or property you’d like to buy

If you had your mortgage application pre-approved, the final approval process could take up to a week. But there’s no need to worry because your application will be prioritized to meet the financing condition date mentioned on your purchase contract.

If you didn’t have pre-approval, as long as you are able to provide all the required documentation in a timely manner, it could still take the same time to be approved. Pre-approvals are recommended prior to finding a home/property to avoid any delay in completing your purchase – and to ensure you have time to gather all required documents.

5. Repaying the mortgage

Most borrowers set up a mortgage that’s repaid over a 25-year time period. Usually, you have the ability to make extra payments – this will help reduce amortization and the duration of the mortgage.

If you default on a mortgage payment and continue to default, you could potentially risk losing your home.

If you decide to sell your home/property before you’ve finished paying off the mortgage, money earned from the sale would be used to pay off the remainder of your mortgage, and any additional amount would be paid to you as equity of the property.