With interest rates currently at all-time lows, many Canadians are feeling that now is the time to enter the housing market. But with housing prices continually on the rise, saving up for a down payment is no easy task, no matter where you live in Canada. It’s even harder if you’re already shelling out money for rent each month. The good news is that by following a few key steps, saving for a down payment is easier than you might think.
How Much Will I Need for a Down Payment?
To buy a home in Canada, you’ll need to contribute a minimum of 5% of the purchase price as a down payment. This won’t be your only upfront expense, however. In addition to the down payment, home buyers must budget another 1.5% to cover the closing costs, which includes legal fees. For example, to purchase a $300,000 home, you’ll need at least $19,500, or 6.5% of the purchase price.
What Is CMHC Insurance?
Any mortgage with less than 20% down payment must be covered by default insurance, often referred to as CMHC insurance. While default insurance is designed to protect the mortgage lender, the cost is passed along to the home buyer in the form of a CMHC premium.
The CMHC premium is almost always included in the mortgage financing, so it’s not an expense you’ll have to pay upfront. For more information on how default insurance works, visit the CMHC website. To avoid being charged a CMHC premium, you’ll need to come up with 20% as a down payment. This is referred to as a conventional mortgage. A larger down payment will save you a lot of money in the long run, but it will take some careful planning to come up with the funds.
Ways to Save For a Down Payment
Below is a list of 5 ways to save for your down payment. If you follow these steps and stay the course, you will reach your savings goal sooner than you think. Ready? Let’s dive in!
1. Establish a Savings Goal
Before you start saving, you need a down payment goal to shoot for. Figure out how much you plan to spend on a home, the percentage you will be putting down upfront, and when you plan to buy. Once you know these things, you can figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to reach your goal by a certain date. If you need help, consider reaching out to a mortgage broker, or a realtor in the area you are wanting to buy.
2. Cut Back on Expenses
Often, the easiest way to start saving is to cut your spending. Especially when you’re saving for something big, like your first home. To improve your cash flow, start by looking at your bank statements for the last three months. You might be surprised at how much money you’re spending on extras, things like eating out, or your daily Starbucks habit. That caramel latte may not seem like a big deal, but when you need to get serious about saving money, the little things add up.
3. Automate Your Savings
Once you know how much you need to save each month, automate the process by setting up a recurring transfer from your chequing account to a high-interest savings account (more on that later) every time you get paid. This will ensure you are paying yourself first, as you learn to live on the money that’s left over.
4. Plan to Save Your Windfalls
Every now and then, you may receive lump sums of money over and above your regular paycheque. A good example would be an income tax refund or a bonus at work. Avoid the temptation to spend these financial windfalls. Instead, transfer them to your savings as soon as they arrive. If you can do this over and over, you’ll reach your down payment savings goal in no time.
5. Borrow from Your RRSP
Did you know? If you’re a first time home buyer, the federal government will let you borrow from your RRSP for the purpose of building or buying a qualifying home. The program is called the Home Buyers Plan, and it’s designed to make it easier for Canadians to enter the housing market. There are no penalties when you withdraw, but you must repay the amount borrowed over a period of 15 years. The maximum withdrawal amount under the HBP is $35,000. If you have money in an RRSP, the HBP could provide an immediate boost to your down payment savings.
Where Should I Invest My Down Payment Savings?
You know how much money you need to save, but how should you invest it? Unless you plan to wait 5 years or more before buying a home, do not invest in the markets. There is too much risk, and you won’t have the time to wait for your investments to recover if we encounter a sustained downturn in the markets.
Instead, I recommend that you use a high-interest savings account to save for your down payment. These accounts are offered by most financial institutions, with the online banks offering the highest rates. At the moment, interest rates are very low, but there are some attractive offers to be had.
A high-interest savings account isn’t going to make you rich, but it’s a safe place to put your down payment funds, and you’ll benefit from not having to pay any fees.
Final Thoughts on Saving for a Down Payment
There you have it, five ways you can save for a down payment. It’s not an exhaustive list; there are other ways to come up with the money to buy a house. You could start a side hustle to make extra money. You might even receive part of your down payment in the form of a gift from a close family member. Whatever step you take, my hope is that you feel more confident about down payment savings, as well as the overall home buying process.
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