Handy tips for first-time homebuyers

Handy tips for first-time homebuyers

Prepare yourself ahead of time before you seek a loan this year.

With mortgage rates near all-time lows and the government of B.C. saving first-time buyers up to $7,500 by increasing the First Time Home Buyer’s Property Transfer Tax limit from $425,000 to $475,000 (and partial savings up to $500,000), now could be the perfect time to finally take the plunge into home ownership.

If you are thinking of obtaining a loan of any kind, like a new mortgage, vehicle loan or any other loan, it is important to understand how the banks think. By setting up your finances as optimally as possible, you can increase your chances of getting approved instead of declined. Here are some tips for increasing your borrowing power in 2014.

Also, having all of your documents ready may allow you to make a more competitive offer on a timesensitive deal like a foreclosure in real estate. Here are some of the documents you will likely need: Two years of T1 Generals (tax returns filed to the CRA); Two years of Notice of Assessments (document sent back from the CRA once income taxes have been filed); Job letter and paystubs if an employee; Mortgage statements and lease agreements if you own real estate; And more, depending on your circumstances.

Find out what your credit score is

It is always a good idea to obtain a copy of your own credit bureau report ahead of time. Every time a lender does a credit inquiry, your credit score will take a small hit. Learning ahead of time whether your credit score is good or bad will allow you to prepare and fix anything that may appear on your credit rating.

You can obtain a copy of your own credit rating yourself at Equifax.ca.

Get pre-approved

If you plan on purchasing real estate or a vehicle in 2014, it would be a good idea to discuss your options with your broker or bank to learn more about what you qualify for. You don’t want to be wasting your time looking at making a major purchase only to find out you won’t qualify for the loan you need to make that purchase.

If looking to obtain a mortgage, get a pre-approval so that you will have a sense of what your borrowing cost will look like and lock in your interest costs.

Investigate RRSPs

If you are a first-time homebuyer, you can pull out up to $25,000 per person out of your RRSPs to be used towards the purchase of your first home. Important points about the first time homebuyer plan are: The $25,000 is tax free, but must be repaid into the RRSP over a 15-year period.

The funds have to be in the account for 90 days before you pull them out, so make sure if you plan on buying a house in the spring, you make an RRSP contribution this fall.

You can create “money out of thin air” by making an RRSP contribution shortly before purchasing because of the tax refund.

Example: If you deposit $20,000 into your RRSP and earn between $30,000 and $62,500 annually, you will get an approximate $6,500 tax refund once your taxes have been filed. You will now have $26,500 available for the down payment, not $20,000.

Filing your taxes

Generally, the sooner you file your taxes, the better. There are some exceptions, however.

Lenders will generally use either your minimum guaranteed income (common for salaried employees) or what you have averaged for the past two years on your income taxes (the net income on Line 150 on your taxes).

So, if you had a very good year in 2013 and have a variable income (self employed, or a large amount of your annual income is derived from commissions, bonuses, etc.) you should file ASAP. However, if 2013 was a very poor year, you can still get away with using your 2011 and 2012 income taxes to qualify for a mortgage or other loan until the summer. If you had a bad year, you may want to buy in the first half of 2014 instead of waiting.

Presales completing in 2014

If you have a presale completing in 2014, it is important to prepared ahead of time. The developer will usually give you an idea of the estimated closing date well in advance, but the dates often change.

Make sure you are prepared in advance. Once the developer is ready to close, they usually only give about 10 business days’ official notice which means you should already have your financing arranged. Rates can be held for 90-180 days depending on the lender (most lenders are 90-120 days) so start early to make sure you get the best possible rate by the completion date.

If you are buying a new presale that doesn’t complete until after 2014, make sure you find out if the developer has arranged a rate hold guarantee with a bank. The rate will usually be higher than current market rates but it’s important to have a worst-case scenario. Financing is harder than it has been in a long time. Make sure you get the update on what is new and how some of the new rules may impact you. Particularly for real estate investors, it is much more difficult to qualify for rental properties.

Source: Kyle Green is a mortgage broker with Mortgage Alliance Meridian Mortgage Services Inc.