Tips, Advice, and Explanations from a Vancouver Mortgage Broker  

Posts Tagged ‘first time homebuyer’

5 Steps in Arranging Financing – A How To Guide

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

In this video I cover the 5 major steps in arranging financing on your home. Enjoy!

Transcription of Video:

Hi, everybody. It’s Rowan Smith at the Mortgage Centre. I’m going to cover today the five simple steps that you’re going to go through when you’re purchasing a home. There are many, many steps, and each of these steps has a sub step. But I think it’s important just to explain what you should be doing first. Now before you go looking at homes, before you go taking a Realtor and having them spend time driving you around, first you need to be pre approved. That’s number one.

During that pre approval process, what I’m going to do is work to get you the best rate held I can. I’m also going to let you know what documentation and paperwork you’re going to require in order to actually get a final approval.

A pre approval is just that, it’s a pre approval. You can’t rely 100 percent that that mortgage will be there. All that it really is doing is holding your rate, and the bank is saying if your financing documents show what you tell us, then you’re approved and we’ve got the rate sitting here for you. Step one, pre approval.

Step two is find a good Realtor. Now if you’re looking around, and you don’t know a Realtor in your area, usually I can point you in the direction of someone if you’re in the Vancouver/Greater Vancouver area.

However, I caution you against what we call DNA Realtors, which is a Realtor you’re dealing with just because of a blood relation. You’re going to want to get somebody that knows the market. Number two, get a good Realtor.

Number three, you want to start looking at homes at this point. Now you can start touring around. If you’re looking at condos or you’re looking at properties that you would call as unique properties, you’re
going to want to bounce them off the person that gave you that pre approval.

Many banks don’t finance certain types of property. Some banks aren’t doing rentals right now. Other properties aren’t doing rental condominiums. It depends on who your bank is and who you’re dealing with. Your mortgage broker can help you in that matter.

Step four, write an offer. Once you’ve got that offer accepted, that’s when the real process begins. That’s where I have to sit down with you now and provide all that documentation.

Hopefully, you’ve given it to me. I’ll have asked for it up front so I can review it ahead of time. But I’ll ask you for all that paperwork which we submit to the lender.

During that time, they’re going to give you an approval. Once you’ve got that approval, then you can remove your subjects. Your subjects are the “if” clauses in your contract, that your offer is, say, $400,000 subject if you get financing.

So those are the steps; find a good mortgage broker, find a Realtor, start looking at homes, write an offer, and remove subjects. Those are the five big things where the stress, and the time crunch, and the pressure is going to be more extreme.

Now after that period of time, there’s usually a period of waiting until you close at the lawyer’s office, but that comes much, much later.

If you have any questions or you want to know more about the process for your unique situation, please give me a call. It’s Rowan Smith from the Mortgage Centre.

Stephen Harper Proposed First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

Friday, October 17th, 2008

On September 16th, Stephen Harper made an election announcement of a tax credit of up to $5,000 for First time home buyers which will provide tax savings of up to $750. The announcement was welcomed warmly by the Canadiam Home Buyers Association (CHBA).

CHBA President, John Hrynkow said, “This is a practical measure that will help many first-time buyers as they struggle to realize their dream of owning a home.”

This annoucement provides a subtle clue to the stance of the Conservatives as to the importance of home ownership to Canadians as well as the impact that the New Housing industry has on the national economy and overall well being. The New Housing market has been one of the key reasons, speculate economists, that Canada has fared well in the slowing economy as the New Housing industry has remained strong.

Mr. Harper indicated that if elected (and as of the writing of this article he has been re-elected) the Conservative government will phase in a tax credit over four years for up to $5,000 of the closing costs on the purchase of a new home. According to Mr. Harper, this will result in tax savings of $750 for first-time home buyers.

My opinion on this announcement is, “In this market? (Vancouver) Who cares?”

This $750, or even $5,000 is a drop in the bucket in terms of home ownership in Vancouver. Also, the only mention in the announcement is that this will be a tax savings of UP TO $750 for those first time home buyers who buy a “New Home,” not just “their first home.” So, it seems to imply that if a first time homebuyer is buying their first home, and it is NOT a brand new home, then they may not receive the tax credit. While I am not sure about precise percentages, I suspect that the RE-sale market is far, far larger than the new home market, and furthermore, that most of the people buying brand new homes are NOT first-time home buyers (unless buying a condo – to which it is unclear if this tax credit will apply).

In a market where a 1 bedroom condo is selling for upwards of $400,000 a $750 sounds like it will hardly make a dent. I know the government’s heart is in the right place, and across the country I am sure it adds up, in the aggregate, to a substantial tax savings for everyone. But on an indvidual basis, it doesn’t look all that great. Also, what elements of closing costs constitute a deductibe expense is another thing that isn’t clear.

Regardless, I don’t think it will have much economic impact, although I am pleased to see the government recognizing the importance of home ownership to Canadians.

First Time Homebuyer Benefits. What are they?

Friday, September 19th, 2008

I frequently have people come to me for a mortgage, and after I get them approved, get them a rate, and get it all lined up, they drop this line on me, “we are first time home buyers. Do we get a better rate or something like that?”

The answer: no.

There ARE benefits to being a first time homebuyer, but mortgage rate is not one of them. First time homebuyers pay the same rate (sometimes higher if they don’t have an established banking relationship with their bank) than people with established credit repayment histories.

The second question is: “do we have to pay the full CMHC fees as first time buyers?”

The answer: yes.

The only way to get a reduced CMHC premium is by purchasing an energy efficient home with an R rating of 77 or higher, or by already paying CMHC premiums in the past and needing to buy again.  Being a first time homebuyer doesn’t help you with the banks.

So where does it help you?

In most cases, it doesn’t. However, there are two elements of being a first-time buyer that are helpful:

1. You can withdraw up to $20,000, tax free, from your RRSP to assist in purchasing a home. This money can be used for a down payment, furniture, moving costs, or none of the above. It is up to you. This is only available to first time homebuyers (or those that have not owned property for 7 years or more). There are some repayment terms that you will need to be aware of. You will have to repay the $20,000 (or whatever you took out) over the next 15 years in 1/15th instalments. Failure to make an instalment simply means that the 1/15th for that year gets added to income and taxed. Alternatively, if you just continue making RRSP contributions, you can allocate whatever portion you like as a Home Buyer plan Repayment.

2. Property Transfer Tax. As a first time homebuyer, you can avoid the Property Transfer Tax (PTT) one time in your life. This can be a substantial savings, and should not be overlooked. If you are purchasing a property up to $425,000 (up to $450,000 with a pro-rated tax payment) you can avoid the tax altogether. The tax is calculated as 1% of the frist $200,000 of purchase price and 2% of the balance. So, on a $400,000 purchase, the tax would be (200,000 x 0.01) + (200,000 x 0.02) = $6,000!!! This is a huge savings a first time homebuyer, and is what people are referring to as first time home buyer discounts or advantages.

People often lose their ability to avoid this tax when their parents put the family home in their name as a child. The parents often are just trying to avoid the tax themselves, and fail to realize that this will have a huge impact on their children in the future. If you have owned a principle residence (technically anywhere in the world although it is tough for the government to police) then you are disqualified from this first-time home buyer savings.

Other than that, being a first time home buyer is the same as being a fifth-time home buyer or tenth-time home buyer. The process is costly, and there is little that can be done to get around this reality.

Home Buyer’s Guide

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

This is a reproduction of a 4 page hand-out that I give to first time homebuyers and should considered as a “Macro” look a the overall process. A more detailed guide will be coming soon for the Canadian Real Estate Market.



Before bothering to start looking at properties, getting excited, and writing offers, you should first speak to a mortgage broker and get pre approved. A pre approval is, normally (but not always), a written offer by a bank or financial institution indicating the amount they are interested in lending to you, and the rate that will be applicable. It is very important to note that this is just a PRE approval. The bank looks at the application as submitted, and says, “should your paperwork support what you have put in the application, we will lend you this amount at this rate.” A pre approval is not a guarantee, no matter what bank you deal with, that your mortgage will be approved when you have an accepted offer. The only time that a bank will fully underwrite and review the documents on a mortgage application is when they receive a “live” deal with an accepted offer. A very high percentage of pre approvals never turn into “live” deals, and therefore banks and lenders of all kinds, will only review documentation and provide a firm, binding mortgage commitment when you have an accepted offer. Many borrowers make the mistake of assuming that because they are pre approved, they do not require a financing subject in their offer. This is incorrect, and is a very financially dangerous assumption that many buyers make. Unless you have sufficient financial resources to purchase the property without a mortgage, an offer with no financing clause is not advised. If you are writing an offer on a property on which there are many offers, and feel that the financing clause is impacting the strength of your offer, speak to Rowan Smith about what additional steps are possible during the pre approval phase to put you in a stronger financial position.


Now that you know how much you will approved for when you write an offer, it is now time to find a suitable realtor. Realtor commissions are paid by the seller in a real estate transaction, so there is no cost to you to utilize their services, skills, and expertise. Many buyers make the mistake of selecting a realtor that is their friend or family member, but not necessarily an expert in the market they are looking to buy in. You would not go to a foot doctor for a stomach ailment, and nor should you use just any realtor on your purchase. You will want a realtor that is familiar with the market you are buying in, has hopefully done many transactions in the market, and also has a good working rapport with you. If you are a detail oriented person, it would be prudent to select a realtor that is of a similar mind set to avoid any professional confrontations during the emotional and stressful process of buying a home.

Many buyers are tempted to approach the seller (or the seller’s realtor) directly, incorrectly assuming that because they are cutting a realtor out of the transaction, that they will get a better deal by using the same realtor that is selling the property as their buyer’s agent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Using one realtor for both sides of a transaction (referred to as “Dual Agency”) is not allowed in most provinces in Canada, with BC being an exception. By using one realtor, it becomes unclear whose interests they are serving: yours or the seller’s. Given that realtors are compensated based on the sale price of the home, it stands to reason that they will likely want the property to go for the highest price possible both for their own sake, and the sake of their selling client. They have a fiduciary duty to the seller as well. This is a clear case of “conflict of interest” and should be avoided. Get your own realtor. You will be happy you did.


Before going and looking at properties that are unsuitable, determine what characteristics you want in home such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, location, size, location relative to schools and amenities, location relative to restaurants and entertainment, and most importantly, price (based on the pre approval you should already have received). It does you no good to look at properties well beyond your pre approval limit, and it wastes your realtor’s time driving you around and arranging appointments with other realtors whose time and efforts can be better put to use finding a more suitable home. Once you have found a suitable property, get ready to have your realtor prepare an offer.


At this point in the process you will have to rely heavily on your realtor to prepare the proper documentation and observe the rules of the process. You will sit down with your realtor and determine what price to offer based on a multitude of variables that include (but are not limited to): the price of comparable sales in the area (not listings), the number of competing offers (if any), the condition of the property, what fixtures are included in the property, and any other mitigating factors. There are a lot of tricks and tips that your realtor will advise you on at this point to get an optimal price. It is important that your offer not be so low as to be insulting, but not so high that it makes financing difficult. Your broker and realtor can discuss this prior to writing the offer to ensure that all parties and parts of the process are properly aligned.

It is at this point that you and your realtor will need to discuss the subjects to the offer. Subjects are the conditions that you place in your offer upon which your offer is contingent. Your offer is not binding on you until you “remove subjects,” which means you sign a form stating that all conditions have been satisfied. Depending on the property, you might make your offer “subject to a viewing” or “subject to a review of the strata documentation” or “subject to a property inspection.” The precise subjects will be dictated to you by your realtor and will depend heavily on the property and its history. However, the most important subject that you should include is the “subject to financing” clause which will state that your offer is not binding unless you receive financing by a specific date (usually 5 business days). Once you and your realtor have sorted all these factors out, you will sign the offer, and your realtor will submit it to the seller’s realtor for presentation to the seller. The seller will then review your offer (and the others) and determine which is best.


Now that you have an accepted offer, you should get your mortgage broker to get you final approval from the bank. You will be expected to provide several pieces of documentation to support your application such as (but not limited to): job letters, pay stubs, bank statements, and, depending on the lender and property, an appraisal of the property by a qualified, unbiased, licensed third party appraiser. Don’t be surprised if the lender calls your employer to verify the content of your job letter, or requests additional documentation of where your down payment originated from. For self employed people, the last two years Notice of Assessment from Revenue Canada may be required along with your T1 Summary that you submitted and possibly business licenses (if applicable). Don’t take this request for information or verification on the part of the bank personally! The banks need to do their due diligence both to ensure they follow the law as well as to ensure that all information submitted is accurate. After all, they are going to be lending hundreds of thousands of dollars to you, and you should expect them to act accordingly. Once you satisfy the lender’s conditions, you will receive a final approval letter from your broker indicating that your financing is secured and that you can proceed. You should not proceed under any circumstances until you receive a letter of final approval from your broker!


Depending on your level of knowledge and confidence in the property, you may elect not to perform an inspection. The inspection process is where a neutral 3rd party inspector of your choice walks through the property and prepares a report indicating any deficiencies noted. Many people buying a strata unit (condo or townhouse) often elect not to have an inspection conducted as inspectors are not allowed to comment on building envelope or roof issues. These issues are the domain of a building engineer and are beyond the scope of a simple purchase transaction.


Once you have received final approval of financing, are satisfied with the results of the home inspection (if conducted), and have read and approved any documentation regarding the property (if applicable) you and your realtor will prepare a subject removal addendum where you legally sign off on the removal of the conditions to the contract that you placed when you initially wrote the offer. At this point the contract is binding, and you will be required to give your initial deposit (usually approximately 5% of the purchase price) to the seller’s realtor, in trust. This deposit will be included in your down payment that you will ultimately be required to produce.

It is important to note that the moment you remove subjects, your financial position has changed. You are legally bound to complete on the purchase according to the terms of the contract. No further negotiation will be possible unless something arises that was concealed or materially impacts the value of the property. Should you walk away at this point, your deposit can be forfeit to the seller as liquidated damages. It can be possible, though unlikely, that you can get your deposit back should you walk away, but this will surely require the initiation of legal proceedings.

The fundamental message to take away from this step of the process is that once you remove subjects, you are committed to buying the property. As a result, you should only be removing subjects when you are 100% sure that your financing is in order and that you are satisfied with the property.


Now that you are sure you are proceeding, you should pool your down payment in one account before the closing date. It might take several days to get funds from one company to another, out of RRSPs, out of stocks, and you should take the processing time into account and ensure you have sufficient time to get the funds together. Ultimately, you will be required to give the balance of your down payment in the form of a certified cheque so be prepared for this step. If your down payment is coming from the sale of another property, your broker will have sorted this out with you during the approval phase and, if necessary, arranged “bridge financing” if the dates of your sale and new purchase don’t line up.


The lender doing your mortgage will send “mortgage instructions” to the solicitor that you have chosen to use on your purchase. From these instructions, your solicitor will prepare all the final documents for signing. In this day and age, real estate transactions are very common, and as a result you should choose a lawyer with a competitive price, good communication, and fast turn around. Some lenders will require you choose from their list of approved lawyers / notaries who are familiar with their documentation. Other lenders will allow you to choose whichever lawyer or notary you like.

Upon receipt of the mortgage instructions, the solicitor will prepare all the final documentation (which in BC must be signed in the presence of a lawyer or notary), and will provide you with a “statement of adjustments” outlining all closing costs, taxes, and the balance of your down payment that is due. You will collect the funds from your bank in a certified cheque, and will arrange a final signing appointment (usually 3-7 days prior to the closing date) where you will sign off on all documents, pay the legal bills and taxes (if applicable) for your transaction and then wait for the closing date.

Closing costs often surprise people both in amount and number. See Rowan’s other Closing Cost Write Up for details


The date that your purchase completes, and the date that you take possession are not always the same date. The completion date is the day when the money and legal title to the property changes hands. The possession date is the date when you physically get the keys to your new home. Common practice has the possession date usually following the completion date by one day (unless other mitigating circumstances make this impossible). On the completion date your solicitor will receive the funds from the bank (if required), and will take the funds from your certified cheque, and will transfer them to the seller’s lawyer who will then register the transfer documents and the property will be transferred into your name.

Congratulations! The home is now yours! You will take possession shortly (your realtor will give you your keys) and you will have completed a complex and difficult transaction that may have spanned several months and included the services of many professionals.


All that remains are the small, nitty-gritty details. If you are buying a detached house, you will need to arrange your fire insurance coverage (all lenders will require this). If you are buying a strata unit your fire insurance will be included in your monthly maintenance fees. However, you may want to consider content insurance to protect your personal belongings as these items are not covered in your strata plan’s insurance. You should try to arrange a moving company far in advance if you will be using one. If your completion date is near the end or middle of the month, you can expect a high demand during those times and you may pay a premium for the mover’s services. Reserve early to save yourself money and hassle. One of the most commonly overlooked details is remembering to update your existing monthly bills with your new address. Remember to update all your utilities, credit cards, retail store cards, banks, and lenders with your new address so that they can continue to keep in touch with you and so you have no accidental arrears on your accounts. Arrears can harm your credit score making future loans and lending difficult due to a simple error.

THINGS NOT TO DO PRIOR TO COMPLETION: Do not take on any additional debt. Do not change jobs. Do not go buy a new car or new furniture unless you are able to pay cash. Changing your financial situation may affect your financing approval, and can result in you no longer qualifying. Speak to your broker before making any changes!

This post outlines and explains only the major parts of the property purchase process. A more complete list applicable to your individual situation can be obtained by contacting me directly.

This information is being provided to assist in the planning of a home purchase. It is not intended to be legal advice, and the information set out may not be applicable in all cases. In addition, there may be additional costs and steps not included in this information brochure.

The Mortgage Centre – City Wide is as independent member of The Mortgage Centre Network