3 Things First-Time Homebuyers Do Right


Source: Adapted from RateHub.ca


Here are three things first-time homebuyers are doing right, before entering homeownership.


1. Changing their lifestyle to save for a down payment


According to the results of a BMO survey, 61% of first-time homebuyers have made cutbacks to their lifestyle in order to save for their first home. Your “lifestyle” includes your habits, possessions and attitudes, so cutbacks to it could include everything from nixing your daily takeout coffee (habit), to giving up shopping after realizing that what you own right now is enough (possession) and deciding it’s time to focus on saving money versus spending it (attitude).


While changing your lifestyle to save may seem tough at first, it’s important for first-time buyers to do so because it preps them for life as a homeowner. Once they’ve saved their down payment, purchased a home and started making mortgage payments, first-time buyers enter a whole new world: one full of maintenance, upgrades and renovations. By learning how to make cutbacks now, they’re better prepared to do so again when their home begs for an extra bite out of their budget.


2. Delaying homeownership until they can save more money


Another smart move 60% of first-time homebuyers are making is delaying their home-buying timeline in order to save more money. Of course, 39% cited rising real estate prices as the main reason for doing so, but there are a couple of reasons this is still a smart move, and both have to do with the average down payment first-time buyers are making, which is 16%.


The first is obvious: the more money you put down, the less you need to borrow for a mortgage. And the less you have to borrow, the less you have to repay – especially in interest costs. Sounds good, right? But the best reason for first-timers to wait to buy until they can afford to put more money down is so they can pay less – or completely avoid – CMHC insurance. Sixteen per cent isn’t enough to avoid it altogether though, so a 20% down payment should be the goal.


3. Unwilling to break their budget


Finally, and this one is my favourite, 60% of first-time homebuyers plan to set a fixed budget with a maximum amount and refuse to go over. This is smart for so many reasons. First, as I mentioned in my top point, homeownership is expensive. On top of the mortgage payments, home insurance, condo fees, etc., regular home maintenance can cost anywhere from 1 to 4% of the value of your home each year!


Second, homeowners don’t just want to sit around at home all day, do they? No, they want to go out, do things, travel, etc. By deciding on a max budget and sticking to it, these first-time buyers are keeping some wiggle room in their budgets for their home, life and fun.


The best way to decide on a max budget is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. By sitting down with a mortgage broker or lender, first-time buyers can have their income and current debt commitments evaluated, in order to determine exactly how much they can afford to borrow for a home. They’ll be given a max purchase price, and learn what the corresponding monthly mortgage payment would be at that price, which can help them start their house-hunt.


So, the lessons first-time homebuyers in Canada can teach us are to: cutback where necessary, save more and not go over budget. Sounds like good financial advice to me – especially for anyone who is thinking of getting into the housing market.


*The survey results are based on interviews with 513 first-time homebuyers in Canada, ages 18 and older, conducted in early 2014.

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