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The federal government has discontinued the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, a much-criticized program aimed at improving housing affordability for new buyers that saw muted uptake in major markets.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the national housing agency, said in a statement on its website that the program was winding up, with no new or updated submissions to be accepted after midnight ET on March 21.

Applications resubmitted after that date will be subject to a manual review, with review requests to be submitted no later than midnight ET on March 25 and no new approvals to be granted after March 31.

Introduced in 2019, the Incentive was aimed at reducing monthly mortgage payments for qualified first-time buyers through a shared-equity scheme. It offered a contribution of 5% or 10% towards the purchase of a newly constructed home, and 5% of the purchase of a resale existing home or new/resale mobile or manufactured home.

Still, that shared-equity component, which meant the government would also benefit from the potential future sale of a home, proved unpopular with buyers, who would have to repay the Incentive either after 25 years or upon sale.

The program faced challenges from the off. In 2020, federal Conservative MPs Tom Kmiec and Stphanie Kusie slammed its cost and low levels of consumer interest, urging CMHC to topdeo the scheme,  after an annual report showed its uptake lagged far below projections.

Mortgage Professionals Canada (MPC) also criticized the Incentive at its 2022 summit, when vice chair Veronica Love said the scheme was “simply failing” with data showing participation in the program was less than a third of what the government had originally envisaged.

Between its launch in September 2019 and the end of March 2021, the program had seen  LESS THAN 10,000 sucessfull applicants across Canada with Edmonton and Calgary accounting for nearly 2,000 of that total.

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Navigating High Interest Rates: Strategies for New Home Buyers Across Canada
 December 19 2023     Posted by John C Filice


Introduction

In today's economic landscape, we're seeing a trend that can be quite intimidating for anyone looking to step into the world of home ownership high interest rates. But fear not! This blog is here to guide you through these choppy waters with practical and actionable strategies. Whether you're a first-time buyer or just in need of a refresher, we've got you covered.

Understanding the Impact of High Interest Rates

Let's start with the basics: what do these high-interest rates really mean for you as a potential home buyer? In simple terms, higher interest rates mean higher monthly mortgage payments. This can affect your overall budget and the type of home you can afford. But don't let this dishearten you. With the right approach, you can still find a comfortable and affordable path to owning your dream home.

Importance of a Strong Credit Score

One of the first strategies in your arsenal should be your credit score. A strong credit score is like a golden ticket in the mortgage world. It can open doors to better interest rates, even when the rates are generally high. So, how do you ensure your credit score is in top shape? Start by checking your credit report for any errors, paying your bills on time, and reducing your debt-to-income ratio. Remember, small steps can lead to big leaps in improving your credit score.

Larger Down Payments: A Wise Move?

Now, let's talk down payments. In a high-interest rate environment, a larger down payment can be a game-changer. It reduces the amount you need to borrow, which in turn reduces your monthly payments. Plus, it can help you avoid the extra cost of mortgage insurance. Think of it as paying a bit more upfront to save a lot more down the line.

Fixed-Rate vs Variable-Rate Mortgages

Choosing between a fixed-rate and a variable-rate mortgage is a crucial decision, especially now. A fixed-rate mortgage locks in your interest rate for the term of the loan, providing stability and predictability. On the other hand, a variable-rate mortgage might start lower but can fluctuate with the market, which might be risky in a period of rising rates. Consider your risk tolerance and financial stability when making this choice.

Budgeting for Your Mortgage

Budgeting might not be the most exciting part of home buying, but it's undeniably crucial, especially when dealing with high-interest rates. Start by getting a clear picture of your monthly income and expenses. There are plenty of online tools and apps to help with this have you tried any? They can be game-changers in tracking your spending and identifying areas to save.

Consider also the hidden costs of home ownership property taxes, home insurance, maintenance, and potential Homeowners Association (HOA) fees. These can add up, so factor them into your budget from the start. And here's a pro tip: always keep an emergency fund that covers at least three to six months of living expenses, including your mortgage payments. This fund is your safety net during unexpected financial changes.

Government Programs and Incentives

Did you know there are several government programs and incentives designed to help new home buyers, especially during challenging economic times? In Canada, programs like the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive can be a big help. These programs offer shared equity loans, tax credits, and other forms of support that can make your home purchase more affordable. Make sure to research and take advantage of these opportunities they can be a huge help in offsetting the impact of high-interest rates.

When to Consider a Co-Signer

Sometimes, securing a mortgage with favorable terms requires a little extra help. This is where a co-signer can come into play. Having a co-signer typically a family member with a strong credit score and stable income can improve your loan terms significantly. However, it's a big responsibility for the co-signer as they are equally liable for the mortgage. Ensure you and your co-signer understand the implications and are comfortable with the arrangement.

Long-Term Planning and Patience

Home buying should always be viewed as a long-term investment, especially in a high-interest rate market. Rushing into a purchase can lead to unfavorable terms that could affect you for years to come. Be patient and keep an eye on the market trends. Sometimes, waiting a bit can lead to more favorable conditions.

Also, think long-term regarding your living needs. Buying a slightly smaller or less expensive home now can mean more financial flexibility in the future. You can always upgrade as your financial situation improves or as the market changes.

Navigating high-interest rates as a new home buyer can seem daunting, but it's far from impossible. By understanding the market, improving your credit score, considering a larger down payment, choosing the right mortgage type, budgeting wisely, exploring government incentives, considering a co-signer, and planning for the long term, you can make a well-informed and financially sound decision.

Remember, every journey to home ownership is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's about finding the right path for you.

Still feeling unsure about how to proceed? That's perfectly normal, and I'm here to help. Contact me for a personalized consultation, where we can discuss your specific situation and explore your options in detail. Your dream home might be closer than you think!


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