10 Nov

Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate


Posted by: Vaughn Leroux

Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate

There are 9 million Millennials in Canada, representing more than 25 percent of the population. Born between 1980 and 1999, the eldest are in the early stages of their careers, forming households and buying their first homes. Buying a home is a daunting process for anyone, but especially so for the first-time home buyer. This is the largest and most important financial decision you will ever make and it should be done with the appropriate investment in time and energy. Making the effort to be financially literate will save you thousands of dollars and assure you make the right decisions for your longer-term financial security.

Don’t rush into the housing market–do your homework: learn the basics of savings, credit and budgeting.

Lifelong savings is a crucial ingredient to financial prosperity. You must spend less than you earn, ideally saving at least 10 percent of your gross income. Put your savings on automatic pilot, having at least 10 percent of every paycheck automatically deducted. Money you don’t see you won’t spend. Contributing to an RRSP, at least enough to gain any matching funds your employer will provide, is essential. The Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) is an ideal vehicle for saving for a down payment and now you can contribute as much as $10,000 a year.

You also need to establish a good credit record. Lenders want to see a record of your ability to pay your bills. As early as possible, get a credit card and put your name on cable, phone or other utility bills. Pay your bills and your rent in full and on time. Do not run up credit card lines of credit. The interest rates are exorbitant and the only one who benefits is your bank. Keep your credit card balances well below their credit limit.

Do a free credit check with Equifax every six months to learn your credit score and to see if there are any problems. Equifax tracks all of your credit history, which includes school loans, car loans, credit cards and computer loans. Equifax grades you based on your responsible usage and payments.

Budgeting is also essential and it is easier than ever with online apps. You need to know how you spend your money to discover where there is waste and opportunity for savings. The CMHC Household Budget Calculator helps you take a realistic look at your current monthly expenses.

Make a realistic projectory of your future household income and lifestyle and understand its implications for choosing the right property for you.

Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate Millennials are likely relatively new to the working world. Lenders want to see stability in employment and you generally need to show at least two years of steady income before you can be considered for a mortgage. This also applies if you have been working for a few years in one career and then decide to change careers to something completely different. Lenders want to see continuous employment in the same field. If you are self-employed, it is more challenging, and you need professional advice on taking the proper steps to qualify for a mortgage.

Assess the stability of your job and the likely trajectory of your income. Millennials will not follow in the footsteps of their parents, working for one employer for forty years. In today’s world, no one has guaranteed job security. Take a realistic view of your future. Will your household income be rising? Will there be one income or two? Are there children in your future? Will you remain in the same city? The answers to these questions help to determine how much space you need, the appropriate type of residence, its location and the best mortgage for you.

Financial planning is key and it is dependent on your goals and expectations.

This is not a Do-It-Yourself project: build a team of trusted professionals to guide you along.

You need expert advice. The first person you should talk to is an accredited mortgage professional. There is no out-of-pocket cost for their services. Indeed, they will save you money.

These people are trained financial planners and understand the ever-changing mortgage market. Take some time with them to understand the process before you jump in and find your head spinning with all the decisions you will ultimately have to make. They will give you a realistic idea of your borrowing potential. Before you fall in love with a house or condo, make sure you understand where you stand on the mortgage front. Mortgages are complex and one size does not fit all. You need an expert who will shop for the right mortgage for you. There are more than 200 mortgage lenders in Canada and they will compete for your business.

It is a very good idea to get a pre-approved mortgage amount before you start shopping. This is a more detailed process than just a rate hold (where a particular mortgage rate is guaranteed for a specified period of time). For a pre-approval, the lender will review all of your documentation except for the actual property.

There is far more to the correct mortgage decision than the interest rate you will pay. While getting the lowest rate is usually the first thing on every buyer’s mind, it shouldn’t be the most important. Six out of ten buyers break a five-year term mortgage by the third year, paying enormous penalties. These penalties vary between lenders. The fine print of your mortgage is key and that’s where an expert can save you money. How the penalty for breaking a mortgage is calculated is key and many monoline lenders have significantly more consumer-friendly calculations than the major banks.[2] A mortgage broker will help you find a mortgage with good prepayment privileges.

The next step is to engage a real estate agent. The seller pays the fee and a qualified realtor with good references will understand the housing market in your location. Make sure the property has lasting value. Once you find the right home, you will need a real estate lawyer, a home inspector, an insurance agent and possibly an appraiser. Make any offer contingent on a home inspection and remediation of significant deficiencies.

Down payments, closing costs, moving expenses and basic upgrades need to be understood to avoid nasty surprises.

Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate The size of your down payment is key and, obviously, the bigger the better. You need a minimum of 5 percent of the purchase price and anything less than 20 percent will require you to pay a hefty CMHC mortgage loan insurance premium, which is frequently added to the mortgage principal and amortized over the life of the mortgage as part of the regular monthly payment.

Your lender will want to know the source of your down payment. Many Millennials will depend on the largesse of their parents to top up their down payment.

The down payment, however, is only part of the upfront cost. You can expect to pay from 1.5-to-4 percent of the purchase price of your home in closing costs. These costs include legal fees, appraisals, property transfer tax, HST (where applicable) on new properties, home and title insurance, mortgage life insurance and prepaid property tax and utility adjustments. These amount to thousands of dollars.

Don’t forget moving costs and essential upgrades to the property such as draperies or blinds in the bedroom.

Test drive your monthly housing payments to learn how much you can truly afford.

Affordability is not about how much credit you can qualify for, but how much you can reasonably tolerate given your current and future income, stability, lifestyle and budget. Most Millennials underestimate what it costs to run a home, be it a condo or single-family residence.

The formal qualification guidelines used by lenders are two-fold: 1) your housing costs must be no more than 32 percent of your gross (pre-tax) household income; and, 2) your housing costs plus all other debt servicing must be no more than 40 percent of your gross income.

Lenders define housing costs as mortgage payments, property taxes, condo fees (if any) and heating costs.[3] But homes cost more than that. In your planning, you should also other utilities (such as cable, water and air conditioning), ongoing maintenance, home insurance and unexpected repairs. Taking all of these costs into consideration, the 32 percent and 40 percent guidelines might well put an unacceptable crimp in your lifestyle, keeping in mind that future children also add meaningfully to household expenses and two incomes can unexpectedly turn into one.

The best way to know what you can afford is to try it out. Say, for example, you qualify for a mortgage payment of $1400 a month and adding property taxes and condo fees might take your monthly housing expense to $1650. A far cry from the $500 you pay now to split a place with 3 roommates. Start making the full payment before you buy to your savings account and see how it feels. Do you have enough money left over to maintain a tolerable lifestyle without going further into debt?

Keep in mind that this is not a normal interest rate environment. Don’t over-extend because there is a good chance interest rates will be higher when your term is up. Do the math (or better yet have your broker do it for you) on what a doubling of interest rates five years from now would do to your monthly payment. A doubling of rates may be unlikely, but it makes sense to know the implication.

Do Your Calculations Look Discouraging?

If so, here are some things you can do to improve your situation:

Pay off some loans before you buy real estate.Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate
Save for a larger down payment.
Take another look at your current household budget to see where you can spend less. The money you save can go towards a larger down payment.
Lower your home price — remember that your first home is not necessarily your dream home.


[1] I would like to acknowledge and thank the many mortgage professionals of Dominion Lending Centres who made contributions to this report.

[2] People break mortgages because of job change, decision to upsize, change neighbourhoods, change in family status or refinancing. The last thing you want to discover is that discharging a $400,000 mortgage 3.5 years into a 5-year term is going to cost you $15,000.

[3] Lenders now also assess your qualification compliance if interest rates were to rise meaningfully, a likely scenario in this low interest rate environment.

10 Nov

Moving on up from condo to house, these young homeowners prove age is just a number


Posted by: Vaughn Leroux

Moving on up from condo to house, these young homeowners prove age is just a number

For Jordan Rothwell and Karissa Roed, the timing to find their forever home couldn’t be more perfect. The couple, who recently moved to Mission, B.C., are expecting their second child and are ready for the family to grow.

It’s quite the responsibility for Jordan and Karissa, aged 23 and 24, respectively. But it’s a challenge the young couple has been preparing for since they first resolved to get into the housing market a couple of years back. And the pair see their story as motivation for what other young people can achieve if they set their minds to it.

“If younger people would just set goals for themselves, especially when it comes to buying property, it’s such a blessing when you do it. You’re instantly further ahead as an adult when you do it,” Jordan says.

Their property story began when Jordan’s grandfather offered to match the couple’s savings for a down payment on a condominium. So Jordan and Karissa went about saving money wherever they could. That meant a lot of sacrifice—especially missing out on trips and events they might have attended.

“It basically became an addiction for a while, just saving up every penny to try and get to the point where we could go in and buy a condo,” Jordan notes.

It paid off. By 2014, they saved up $5,000 and, with matching funds, moved into a two-bedroom condo in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Jordan and Karissa were looking to upsize. By then, they had some equity, in part because they bought their condo at the right time, taking advantage of the hot Metro Vancouver real estate market, and were ready to move into their forever home.

Once again they looked to family, partnering with Karissa’s mother and stepfather to purchase a 3,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house in Mission for $605,000. Jordan, Karissa and their young family will live upstairs, while her parents will take the ground floor.

The couple couldn’t be happier in their new home. “It’s definitely nice moving from a condo to a house,” Karissa says, adding they have nearly double the square footage as their old condo, along with a backyard for her children to play.

Dominion Lending Centres mortgage specialist Pauline Tonkin says she couldn’t be more impressed by the couple’s smart financial habits. Tonkin helped them secure a mortgage for their first condo and wasn’t surprised to see them make a jump to a house.

“I wasn’t concerned for them because they really do the right things. They really get it,” Tonkin says. “Age is not indicative of how people handle finances.”

She describes the couple, especially Karissa, as very diligent at considering all the costs involved in the purchase. The pair wanted all the details, something Tonkin says isn’t often the case with young buyers.

Besides securing the proper financing, Tonkin helped Jordan and Karissa through the process, giving them a “road map” to where they wanted to be. It was help the couple appreciated. “When you’re buying a condo or a house, it’s such a blur,” Karissa says, adding that their mortgage broker was someone they could trust and call at all hours if they needed to.

Jaclyn LaRose has enjoyed similar success as a homeowner. This spring, she sold her first condo to upsize to a bigger one in Surrey, B.C., close to her work as a schoolteacher.

LaRose was 26 when she and her sister decided to buy their first place with a little help from their parents. Her parents didn’t like seeing them throw away money on rent, she explains, so they helped out with a five per cent down payment for an apartment in nearby Coquitlam, B.C.

“I definitely considered at the time that I was young because I hadn’t been thinking about it for a few more years at least,” she says.

Not having even hit the age of 30, Larose is now on her second home. She said she has friends who believe it’s impossible to get into the market, especially in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. But she also points out those friends are looking in prime spots where the prices are highest. LaRose chose to look a little further afield to get into the market. She’s gone from a 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom with more than 800 square feet.

While Larose points out there is a sacrifice related to home ownership, she now feels lucky to be in her position. “It’s just about getting in when you can,” she said. There are places out there where you can get in.” And now that she has home ownership all sewed up, she’s able to focus on her career and personal goals.

“For the short term I feel settled,” LaRose says.

Back in Mission, Karissa and Jordan have settled into their new home. They are also way ahead of their peers and looking forward to the future. A lot of people his age look at owning a home as something they’re not supposed to do, or able to do at their age, Jordan says. But he doesn’t see it that way at all: “If you just stick to your guns and build a goal of what you want to accomplish… you’ll get there.”