How can you know if you are financially ready to become a condominium homeowner?
This step-by-step guide walks you through some simple calculations to figure out your current financial situation, and the maximum home price that you can afford. Follow these rules to get yourself condo-ready in 10 steps.
1. Calculate Your Household Expenses
Start figuring out your financial readiness by evaluating your present household budget. How much are you spending each month? Knowing exactly how much will give you a better idea about whether you can afford to become a homeowner.
2. Calculate Your Monthly Debt Payments
Do you know how much debt you are carrying? You need this information to figure out whether you are financially ready for homeownership. If you decide to buy a home, mortgage lenders will ask for this information.
3. Calculate Your Total Monthly Expenses
Your total monthly expenses are your household expenses plus your debt payments. To calculate your monthly expenses, add the total from the Current Household Budget as Homeowner to the total from Monthly Debt Payments form.
Household expenses (Total from Current Household Budget) Debt Payments (Total from Monthly Debt Payments form) TOTAL
4. How Much Can You Afford?
Before you begin shopping for a home it’s important to know how much you can afford to spend on home ownership. You will want to plan ahead for the various expenses related to home ownership. In addition to purchasing the home, other significant expenses will include heating, property taxes, home maintenance and renovation as required. Two simple rules can help you figure out how much you can realistically pay for a home.
Affordability Rule 1
The first rule is that your monthly housing costs shouldn’t be more than 32% of your gross monthly income. Housing costs include your monthly mortgage payments (principal and interest), property taxes and heating expenses. This is known as PITH for short — Principal, Interest, Taxes and Heating.
If you are thinking of buying a condominium or leasehold tenure:
For a condominium, PITH also includes half of the monthly condominium fees. For leasehold tenure, PITH also includes the entire annual site lease.
Lenders add up your housing costs and figure out what percentage they are of your gross monthly income. This figure is called your Gross Debt Service (GDS) ratio. To be considered for a mortgage, your GDS should be 32% or less of your gross household monthly income.
Affordability Rule 2
The second rule is that your entire monthly debt load should not be more than 40% of your gross monthly income. Your entire monthly debt load includes your housing costs (PITH) plus all your other debt payments (car loans or leases, credit card payments, lines of credit payments, etc.). You have calculated these on the Monthly Debt Payments form. This figure is called your Total Debt Service (TDS) ratio.
TDS Ratio (A) Total monthly income (A) from your GDS calculation (B) Multiply (A) X 0.40 = TDS
5. Calculate Your Maximum House Price
The maximum home price that you can realistically afford depends on a number of factors. The most important factors are your household gross monthly income, your down payment and the mortgage interest rate. For many people, the hardest part of buying a home — especially their first one — is saving the necessary down payment.
Note: For CMHC-insured mortgage loans, the maximum purchase price or as-improved property value must be below $1,000,000.
Interest is compounded semi-annually not in advance. The interest rate is fixed for the term of the mortgage. The interest rate is usually renegotiated at the end of the term of the mortgage. Minimum down payments may vary.
6. Mortgage Loan Insurance
Mortgage loan insurance helps protect lenders against mortgage default, and enables consumers to purchase homes with a minimum down payment of 5% — with interest rates comparable to those with a 20% down payment.
The CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance premium is calculated as a percentage of the loan and is based on a number of factors such as the intended purpose of the property (owner occupied or rental), the type of loan (i.e. purchase/construction or refinance loan), and the size of your down payment. The higher the percentage of the total house price/value that you borrow, the higher percentage you will pay in insurance premiums. The cost for mortgage loan insurance premiums is usually offset by the savings you get from lower interest rates.
7. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report
Before approving a mortgage, lenders will want to see how well you have paid your debts and bills in the past. To do this, they consider your credit history (credit report) from a credit bureau. This tells them about your financial past and how you have used credit.
Before looking for a mortgage lender, get a copy of your own credit history. There are two main credit-reporting agencies: Equifax Canada Inc. and TransUnion of Canada. You can contact either one of them to get a copy of your credit report. There is often a fee for this service.
Once you receive your credit report, examine it to make sure the information is complete and accurate. If you have no credit history, it is important to start building one by, for example, applying for a standard credit card with good interest rates and terms, making small purchases and paying them as soon as the bill comes in.
If you have poor credit, lenders might not be able to give you a mortgage loan. You will need to re-establish a good credit history by making debt payments regularly and on time. Most unfavourable credit information (including bankruptcy) drops off your credit file after seven years. Consider getting some credit counselling if you have a history of poor credit or talk to your lender to discuss options.
8. Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval
It’s a very good idea to get a pre-approved mortgage before you start shopping. Many realtors will ask if you’ve been approved. A lender will look at your finances and figure the amount of mortgage you can afford. Then the lender will give you a written confirmation, or certificate, for a fixed interest rate. This confirmation will be good for a specific period of time. A pre-approved mortgage is not a guarantee of being approved for the mortgage loan.
Even if you haven’t found the home you want to buy, having a pre-approved mortgage amount will help keep a good price range in mind.
Amortization refers to the length of time you choose to pay off your mortgage. Mortgages typically come in 25 amortization periods but they can be as short as 15 years. Usually, the longer the amortization, the smaller the monthly payments. However, the longer the amortization, the higher the interest costs. Total interest costs can be reduced by making additional (lump sum) payments when possible.
9. Payment Schedule
You have the option of repaying your mortgage every month, twice a month, every two weeks or every week. You can also choose to accelerate your payments. For example, for a $250,000 mortgage (5% interest rate and 25 year amortization) choosing an accelerated bi-weekly payment over a bi-weekly regular payment ($727 vs. $670) allows you to pay down your mortgage more quickly. You could pay off the mortgage in just over 21 years and reduce your interest costs by almost $30,000.
This usually means one extra monthly payment per year.
10. Interest Rate Type
You will have to choose between “fixed”, “variable” or “protected (or capped) variable”. A fixed rate will not change for the term of the mortgage. This type carries a slightly higher rate but provides the peace of mind associated with knowing that interest costs will remain the same.
With a variable rate, the interest rate you pay will fluctuate with the rate of the market. Usually, this will not modify the overall amount of your mortgage payment, but rather change the portion of your monthly payment that goes towards interest costs or paying your mortgage (principal repayment). If interest rates go down, you end up repaying your mortgage faster. If they go up, more of the payment will go towards the interest and less towards repaying the mortgage. This option means you may have to be prepared to accept some risk and uncertainty.
A protected (or capped) variable rate is a mortgage with a variable interest rate that has a maximum rate determined in advance. Even if the market rate goes above the determined maximum rate, you will only have to pay up to that maximum.