Saving for a down payment

If you want to buy a home, you'll need a down payment toward the purchase price. This money is not financed as part of the mortgage.

The amount you'll need depends on the price of the home you want to buy and whether or not you want to pay for mortgage insurance. Your down payment must be at least 5% of the purchase price, so if the house you want costs $300,000 you'll need a minimum of $15,000. To avoid paying mortgage insurance, you'll need to put 20% down.

Saving that amount means you need to be deliberate about your savings plan. Here are some tips to help you along:

Open a separate account to save the money
Don't keep your savings in the same account you use to pay your bills. The temptation to spend a little "just this once" will be too strong. Open a separate account that will help you grow your savings. Depending on the amount of risk you are comfortable with you may want savings options that will protect your money but still pay interest, such as GICs and investment savings accounts.

Make it difficult to access your savings on a whim
If you're an impulse shopper or likely to be tempted to use the money for something else, make it difficult to access. If you have to wait to get to the money, maybe the urge to spend it will pass.

  • Lock the money into a term deposit/Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC). Even cashable GICs have restrictions on how quickly you can access the money.
  • A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) may also be a great way to set money aside.
  • Choose an account with fees for more than one withdrawal transaction a month.
  • Don't give yourself access to the money through an ATM or in-store debit machines. If you have to go into a branch to withdraw the money you'll have time to consider the purchase.

Control your budget and spending
You can't save money if you spend all the money you earn. Develop a budget, track expenses and introduce some savings strategies into your daily finances.

Save for other costs
Don't forget there are other costs associated with buying a home so you'll need to save enough for those as well.

Begin making mortgage payments to yourself
There's no time like the present to begin working mortgage payments into your budget. You'll have to pay them at some point so it's a great way to be sure you can afford them.

  • Use a mortgage calculator to get a rough idea of how much your mortgage payments will be each month.
  • Add to that the cost of property taxes and utilities.
  • If you are currently paying rent, subtract up to the amount of your rent payment (most people can't afford both rent and mortgage payments at the same time).
  • Calculate the total you would be paying each month.
  • Put that amount into savings.

Look at the Home Buyers' Plan
If you are a first time home buyer, the Home Buyers' Plan allows you to withdraw up to $25,000 from your registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to use as a down payment to buy or build a home. Depending on your circumstances, borrowing against your retirement savings may or may not be the best decision. Unlike a TFSA, RRSP contribution room is not reset. On the other hand, a bigger down payment means less interest is paid on a mortgage.

Talk to a financial advisor about your situation.
Understand that there are multiple options available to achieve your goal of buying a home. Talk to a financial advisor to determine what best fits with your personal circumstances.

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