Two years is an important time frame when it comes to buying your first home. According to Genworth Canada’s 2018 Financial Fitness & Homeownership Study, nearly one-fifth of aspiring first-time homebuyers expect to buy their home within the next two years. This preparation period provides a healthy amount of time to get your finances in order. Strengthening your financial position should be a priority given the mortgage stress test criteria to qualify and rising interest rates. Set yourself up for homeownership success with the following tips.
Determine how much home you can afford
Affordability is the cornerstone of responsible homeownership. Buying a home you can comfortably afford will ensure satisfaction and security. Mortgage changes introduced by the federal government over the past two years have helped to reduce the likelihood of buyers taking on more debt than they can reasonably afford. Want an estimate of how much home you can afford? Visit Homeownership.ca and use the What Can I Afford Calculator to find out what mortgage amount a bank or other conventional lender would likely qualify you for.
Build a monthly budget
Once you have an estimate of how much of a mortgage you’d be working with, use Homeownership.ca’s Mortgage Payment Calculator to determine your regular mortgage payments. Build a monthly budget around this amount, plus your other expenses. Live on this new-homeowner budget as early as possible so you get into the habit of spending within your means. Put any savings into your down payment savings account.
Save, save and save even more
Save aggressively so you can build that nest egg; in other words, it would be smart to save for your down payment, closing and moving costs in advance. Think about new ways to save more money every day. For example, even if you prefer to buy your latte at your local coffee shop, switching to the free coffee at your office will allow you to save an average of $3 daily, which you can put into your savings account. In two years’ time, that $1,400-plus will make a nice addition to your down payment.
Improve your credit score
Order your credit report from Equifax or TransUnion and check it thoroughly, contacting the credit reporting agencies if there are any errors. Between now and two years from now, work on improving your credit as much as you can.
Key steps you should take include the following:
- Always make payments on time.
- Pay down your consumer debt. (Avoid using more than 35 per cent of your available credit from credit cards and lines of credit.)
- Don’t apply for more credit. (One exception to this rule is if you have no existing credit card. In that case, apply for a no-fee credit card, use it on a few small purchases and pay it off monthly. This will help you build your credit history.)
Stay the course
Job changes, car financing and applying for more credit can all affect your credit report or mortgage application, or both. Limit any major lifestyle changes or purchases to the start of your two-year homeownership countdown. As you move toward the mortgage pre-approval stage and house-hunting stages, avoid lifestyle or financial changes that could have a negative impact on your credit score or raise questions about your employment history.
Start dreaming and researching!
Use your free time to explore neighbourhoods and research the local real estate market. Go for a long walk and visit some open houses. These obligation free walk-throughs can help you refine your new-home wish list, clarifying priorities versus nice-to-have features. Even if you don’t have children right now, consider park and school proximity because your family situation may change one day in the future.