First-Time Home Buyer Budgeting: What You Need to Know
As a first-time home buyer, you probably already know you’ll need a chunk of cash for a down payment. But lots of other costs can creep up when it’s time to jump into the real estate market, so it’s a good idea to save up for them and be ready for when the time comes to make an offer.
We know the thought of buying your dream home is exciting, and you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about what you can afford. Before you get too far into the house hunting process, make sure you’ve factored closing costs into your budget. These are upfront transactional expenses you’ll need to pay to finalize the buying process, above and beyond your down payment. Depending on how much your property costs, these fees can add up to thousands of dollars. Here’s what you can expect to spend before being handed the keys.
What are closing costs?
Closing costs refer to the legal and administrative fees you’re required to pay leading up to when your house closes. These charges include your mortgage broker’s fee, real estate appraisals and commissions, lawyer’s fees, and title insurance. Generally, closing costs range from 1.5% to 4% of the purchase price. Most of these costs can’t be rolled into your mortgage, so it’s important to save for them in advance.
What types of expenses are considered a closing cost?
Below are a list of the expenses included in most closing costs:
Land transfer tax
All provinces–except Alberta and Saskatchewan–charge a land transfer tax (LTT), which is a provincial or municipal tax based on a percentage of your property value. This one-time fee only applies to resale homes, not new construction, and is payable on closing day.
The amount varies depending on where you live, ranging between 0.5% and 2.5% of your purchase price. Consider using an online calculator and entering the purchase price of your home. The closing costs for a home in Halifax will be different than one in Toronto.
To help offset this cost, Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and the City of Toronto offer land transfer tax rebates for first-time home buyers. In Toronto, however, you’re required to pay both Ontario land transfer tax (OLTT) and Toronto land transfer tax (TLTT), which are calculated on the purchase price.
Mortgage default insurance fees
If you plan to put down less than 20% on your down payment, you’ll need to obtain and pay CMHC insurance. This cost, which can be rolled into your monthly mortgage payments or paid upon closing, is meant to protect the lender if you default on your payments.
You’ll need to hire a lawyer or notary once you’ve signed the Offer to Purchase. Your legal team will protect your rights by doing a title search, getting title insurance proving you’re the legal owner, preparing and filing the mortgage paperwork, registering the transfer of property, and making sure the transaction goes through without a hitch. Expect to pay anywhere between $500 and $2,000 depending on where you live and what you require. Many lenders also require you purchase title insurance–available from your notary or lawyer at about $200 to $300–that protects against losses in case there’s a property ownership dispute.
You must have property insurance in place by closing day, which insures your house against fire, or major damage for an amount that matches the value of the home. Costs vary depending on the type of coverage you purchase, so be sure to shop around before you purchase your policy.
You’ll likely owe a portion of the utilities, property taxes, and other bills for the property, which will be reimbursed to the previous owner of your home. These are calculated by your notary or lawyer, and they’re based on your closing date within a given monthly payment cycle. You’ll also owe the interest on whatever gap there is between your closing date and your first mortgage payment date.
How much can homeowners expect to spend on closing costs?
Some experts recommend saving three to four per cent of your home’s purchase price to put toward closing costs. So if you buy a $400,000 home, set aside at least $12,000 to $16,000 to cover fees. Keep in mind, the costs mentioned above aren’t the only ones you might encounter. Other costs include prepaid utilities, a home inspection, your deposit, testing septic tanks or wells in rural areas, your appraisal fee, and more.
Once you have a firm Agreement of Purchase and Sale in place it’s always a good idea to:
Start budgeting early
On top of preparing for the biggest purchase in your life, you also have to consider your other (living) expenses, including car payments, home insurance, property taxes, utility costs, and in some cases Condo Fees.