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A first-time homebuyer’s guide to Canadian government programs and incentives

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Photos: James Bombales

Whether you want to stop paying skyrocketing rental rates, start building equity, or own property that can be passed down to your children, purchasing a home is likely a long-term goal of yours. However, with rising home costs and the mortgage stress test introduced in 2018, achieving that goal can be a challenge for many Canadians. Fortunately, there are a number of programs and incentives offered by the federal government that first-time homebuyers can apply for.

“First-time homebuyers in Canada have the opportunity to take advantage of some great federal government programs to assist them when purchasing their first home,” says Michael Therriault, Financial Advisor at Scotiabank. “They can apply for multiple programs as long as they are eligible, so it is strongly recommended for potential first-time homebuyers to meet with a financial advisor at their bank to go over their individual circumstances and to help determine the best program(s) for them.”



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1. Home Buyer’s Plan

Early withdrawals from an RRSP are usually considered taxable income, but with the Government Home Buyer’s Plan, you can apply your RRSP savings toward the price of your home — tax free.

“The Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP) is a program that allows you to withdraw up to $25,000 ($50,000 per couple) in a calendar year from your registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability,” says Olga Coulter, Senior Account Manager at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “To be eligible, you must be a first-time homebuyer (ie. you haven’t purchased a home or lived in a spouse’s home within the last four years) and have a written agreement to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability.”

However, it’s important to note that that these funds must have been in your account for at least 90 days before the purchase of your home and they do have to be paid back within a 15-year timeframe. “Essentially, you are ‘borrowing’ these funds from your RRSP as they need to be repaid over a 15-year period beginning the second calendar year after the withdrawal,” adds Therriault.



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2. First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit

Introduced in 2009, the First-Time Home Buyers’ (FTHB) Tax Credit helps to make purchasing a home more affordable by allowing Canadians to claim a portion of their home purchase on their personal tax return that same year. This helps to offset expenses like legal fees, home inspections and other closing costs.

“The FTHB Tax Credit offers a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit amount on a qualifying home acquired after January 27, 2009,” says Coulter. “For an eligible individual, the credit will provide up to $750 in federal tax relief.”

To be eligible, you, your spouse or common-law partner must have acquired a qualifying home (a unit located in Canada purchased after January 27, 2009) and cannot have lived in another home you or your partner owned in the year of acquisition or in any of the four preceding years.



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3. GST/HST New Housing Rebate

If you are purchasing a new construction home, performing substantial renovations to an existing home, or rebuilding a home that was destroyed by fire, you will want to apply for the GST/HST New Housing Rebate. Filling in this form can save you thousands of dollars, as it recovers a portion of the goods and services tax (GST) or the federal part of the harmonized sales tax (HST) if all eligibility conditions are met.

“You may qualify for a rebate of part of the GST or HST that you paid on the purchase price or cost of building your new house, or on converting a non-residential property into a house,” explains Coulter. “You may also be eligible if you are doing substantial renovations or have hired someone to complete substantial renovations to an existing home, such as an addition.”

CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance Programs

In addition to tax-related programs, first-time homebuyers have access to several CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance Programs that can help them achieve the dream of homeownership. Listed below, these programs offer flexible terms and conditions to meet a variety of financing needs and are available throughout the country.



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4. CMHC Purchase

While it’s ideal to put at least 20 percent down, home prices in cities throughout Canada are rising faster than many homebuyers can save. “CMHC Purchase can help open the doors to homeownership by enabling homebuyers to buy a home with a minimum down payment of 5 percent,” says Coulter. “The premiums can either be paid up front in a lump sum or incorporated into an applicant’s mortgage loan payments.”



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5. CMHC Improvement

With such tight housing markets throughout the country, homebuyers may be interested in purchasing a fixer-upper that needs a little TLC. “CMHC Improvement allows the purchase of an existing residential property with improvements and new construction financing,” explains Coulter. “Features include flexible financing options with the option for CMHC to manage up to four advances at no cost to the borrower.”



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6. CMHC Newcomers

Obtaining a mortgage can be especially difficult for newcomers to Canada. If you’re a permanent resident with a strong credit rating you may be able to qualify for a typical bank mortgage, however, if you don’t meet all the criteria, the CMHC Newcomers program can help.

“We have helped newcomers with permanent resident status become homeowners with a minimum down payment starting at 5 percent – regardless of how long they have been in Canada,” says Coulter. “Non-permanent residents can also purchase a home with a minimum down payment of 10 percent of the value of the home.”



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7. CMHC Self-Employed

Homebuyers who are self-employed may have difficulty qualifying for a mortgage given that their monthly income may be less predictable. CMHC’s Self-Employed program allows business owners with proper documentation to access mortgage loan insurance under the same criteria and insurance premiums as those with more calculable income.

“Self-employed Canadians make up about 15 percent of Canada’s labour force,” says Coulter. “CMHC facilitates access to mortgage loan insurance for business owners by providing enhanced flexibility for satisfying income and employment requirements for all self-employed borrowers at no additional cost.”



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8. CMHC Green Home

“CMHC Green Home encourages homebuyers to choose more energy-efficient housing options to increase comfort and healthier living, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Coulter. “The program offers a partial premium refund of up to 25 percent directly to borrowers who either buy, build or renovate a home to make it more energy-efficient using CMHC insured financing.”

The amount of the refund varies depending on the level of energy-efficiency achieved by your home as assessed by Natural Resource Canada (NRCan). Condo buyers are also eligible for the CMHC Green Home refund if the building is built to the LEED Canada New Construction standard.

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5 DIY Home Improvements for the COVID-19 Lockdown

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The global coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people around the world, to spend more time in their homes this year than they have spent in a long time. As people sit around day after day within the confines of their home, it becomes easier to notice all the areas of the house that need some work. Fortunately, everyone can now afford the extra free time to do the home renovation project they’ve been putting off for years.

Due to the on-going global health crisis, you may not be able to hire any help for your home improvement project; this means that whatever new project you plan to do around the house, whether it’s repainting the home, or installing floor heating systems, you would have to do it yourself.

Here are some do-it-yourself that you may like to try out.

Upgrade to Smart Home Appliances

It’s 2020, what better year to embrace the future by installing a range of high-tech devices that make life extra easy. For instance, with a smart thermostat, your home’s heating and cooling system can go off on their own when not needed, keeping your electricity bills lower. Other appliances that you can make smart include your lighting, home security, music and more.

Clean out your Garage

Homeserve suggests a garage cleanout as a great home improvement project for this season because cleaning out your garage provides some fresh air, the heavy lifting provides some workout and you feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s done.  What’s more, the day would be far spent by the time you’re done with this project. Cleaning out your garage would require you to sweep out any dirt or debris, and get rid of other useless items that may have been stored there for a long time.

Start a Repainting Project

There’s always room for a fresh coat of paint to make everywhere look more alive, so grab a paintbrush and add some extra character to your home. The good news is that you don’t even have to go out for the paint, you can have it shipped directly to your door. Southlandremodeling suggests that if you had 2019 palette or older in your home, now is the time to embrace the latest colour hues of 2020, that show off a more contemporary style and make your home look more sophisticated.

 Build a Patio

Now is the time where every family would enjoy having a paver patio or an outdoor deck, somewhere to sit and get some fresh air when you’re tired of being cooped up inside all day. First you have to ensure that your home has enough space for a patio and that you have enough skills to handle a hammer and other tools for simple construction.

Next you order your needed materials online and get started. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes with being able to create an outdoor space that your family can enjoy while being stuck at home.

Install some floor heating systems

Installation of floor heating systems is one of the best home improvement projects that one can get. Many people prefer to hire professionals to do these kinds of installation but if you are up for it, it’s not impossible to do this on a DIY project and get a valuable addition to your home for about half the cost.

Finally

There is no reason to continue holding out on your dream DIY home renovation projects, especially now that you have all the time in the world due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Now is the perfect time to transform your home all by yourself!

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13 Montreal Apartments For Rent That Have Breathtaking Outdoor Spaces

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With Quebec’s moving day just around the corner, many people are starting to look for a new property to rent. And, now that Montreal real estate activity is back in action, you can start trying to find the perfect space again. And, if you ask me, an apartment that comes with outdoor space is a must when living in the city.

From balconies to shared rooftop spaces, we’re all looking for a place where we can be outdoors. 

Now, more than ever, fresh air is something that we’re all craving. And, with summer coming faster than we think, finding a place with access to the outside is on so many of our checklists. 

Luckily for you, we at MTL Blog have made your job very easy and have gone through listings throughout the city to showcase some of the best rentals, all of which have outdoor spaces. 

Some of these properties offer private balconies while others have surreal rooftops you get access to. Regardless of which one you fall in love with, you’ll be sure to have a summer to remember living in any apartment on this list. 

Get ready for moving day because after looking at these properties, you’re going to be ready to pack your belongings.

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Montreal real-estate market hit hard by pandemic

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Like many industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the red-hot Montreal real-estate market has suddenly chilled.

After 61 consecutive months of increases, the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area reported a 68-per-cent decrease in residential sales transactions in April 2020 compared with the year-earlier period, according to the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers.

The most recent residential real-estate market statistics for the Montreal area showed 1,890 residential sales transactions were concluded last month. Those figures are based on the real-estate brokers’ Centris provincial database.

Montreal has been hit harder than other Canadian cities by the pandemic, and the drop in sales was seen in all six main areas of the Montreal CMA.

The drop in sales applied to all three property categories. Single-family home sales fell 68 per cent (1,048 transactions): plex sales dropped 67 per cent (161 transactions); and condominium sales tumbled 69 per cent (675 transactions).

Despite the drop in sales, real-estate prices rose in the CMA. The median price of single-family homes increased by nine per cent to reach $360,000, while the median price of condominiums climbed 12 per cent to $289,900.

Compared with April 2019, the median price of plexes (two to five dwellings) increased 10 per cent to $595,000.

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