Published in April, 2022

Being a first-time homebuyer in today’s market feels a bit like being picked last for your elementary school dodgeball team. That sinking feeling of “When is it my turn?” With the prices as high as they are in the housing market right now, is it even possible to get into the market? 

 

The short answer is yes. But how? When the average price of a detached home is over 1 million dollars, how are first-time homebuyers supposed to dip their toes into the market, let alone go all in?

 

Here is what some of our partners from the OJO Select Network had to say:

Judy Sehling, an agent with the OJO Select Network from the Greater Vancouver area:

“You need to be realistic and set yourself up for success. No, you might not be able to afford a detached home right off the bat, but there are other options, like condos.”

 

“Condo prices don’t typically increase at the same rate as detached homes. They’re a great way to get your foot in the real estate door and the likelihood of being approved for a mortgage for that amount is very plausible.” 

 

Here are a few tips:

 
  • Get pre-approved through a mortgage broker or mortgage provider that works regularly with your Realtor or is recommended by them. This is the most important step.
  • Work with a Realtor that will create a personal property website tailored specifically to your exact needs.
  • If there is a possibility of multiple offers on a property, find out when the seller is reviewing offers and have a pre-inspection before this date so you are familiar with the property’s condition and don’t need to include an inspection as a subject condition.
  • Find out what terms are important to the seller, such as the closing date and which day they would like to hand over the keys.
  • First-time homebuyers usually get into the market by purchasing a condo or townhouse. This means there will often be hundreds of pages of strata documents to review. Make sure you know what to look for and that your Realtor is familiar with strata bylaws and common points to look out for. Carefully review the restrictions mentioned in the bylaws. Also, review the depreciation report so that you know what improvements are upcoming and whether or not there is enough money in the contingency reserve fund. If there isn’t enough saved, the owners will have to pay for the improvements with special levies.

Be encouraged—there are ways to buy in this market, even with prices as high as they are. All of my clients have been successful in purchasing a home because they didn’t try to time it with the market. Again, start by finding an experienced Realtor who knows the ins and outs of the real estate market you’re looking to purchase in. Then, qualify for a mortgage. My clients have been able to purchase as soon as they were able to qualify for a mortgage, for as little as 5% for a down payment.”

 

You could be next!

Mike with Marko & Mike Team at Realty One Group Insider in Leduc, Alberta

Many new first-time homebuyers are entering the market in Edmonton and the surrounding area at a very competitive time, paying inflated prices due to the lack of home inventory and competing against numerous out-of-province buyers. Here are some options you can consider:

 

Continue to sit on the sidelines and rent. Wait for the home market to cool off to enter the market.

 

  • Pros – it allows you to save more money for a down payment, you won’t be buying in an inflated market, and you can buy with less pressure.

 

  • Cons –The market doesn’t slow down and interest rates continue to rise.

 

Consider getting into the Condo Market in Edmonton. 

 

  • On March 17, 2022, there were 1,680 active condo listings in the city of Edmonton under 400k. There were only 409 single-family homes listed in Edmonton in that price range. First-time homebuyers looking for a single-family home under 400k are facing a limited inventory, which makes the market pretty quick and competitive.

 

  • It would be worth considering a condo purchase to get into the market and start to build equity in your home versus paying your landlord’s mortgage. A few concepts to consider:
  • Buy the condo and finance it with a 3 year term on your mortgage. Wait out the market and continue to save towards a down payment on your dream home.
  • Look to keep the condo as an investment property once you purchase the dream home. Refinance the condo after 3 years and take out any equity. Look to use the condo as an investment property. Use the Condo equity to help with financing the next home. I’d look for condos near the University of Alberta, Macewan University, or NAIT to eventually rent out the condo to students. The condo market is currently flooded due to the number of students virtually attending school and not living in Edmonton.
  • Keep in mind that your buying power is diminished when you buy a condo. This is because of the condo fees that you pay. A good rule of thumb for condos and diminished buying power is to multiply the condo fee by 12 months for 5 years. As an example, if the condo fee was $300 per month, you would calculate this as follows: $300 x 12 x 5 = $18,000. If the condo was listed for $200,000, you would need to qualify for a $218,000 mortgage.

A condo isn’t for everyone so be sure to do your homework. If you purchase a condo, make sure that you budget to have a professional company complete a Condo Document review so that you understand the financial status of the condo board. Make sure that there is a healthy reserve fund, a solid capital maintenance program, and a well-run condo corporation.

Megan Sun and Damien Marks, realtors with OJO Select Network from Vancouver, BC.

Scenario 1

M: Damian, I really want to buy a detached home or a townhouse but I’ve been priced out of the market. Is it a good idea to buy a condo? Or should I just wait and save up money?

D: It’s a great question! A lot of first-time buyers in Canada are asking themselves this question today. Though it’s a complicated question the short answer is yes! Getting into the real estate market and holding an asset is a benefit. If for no other reason, you already paying a mortgage but not your own. Wouldn’t you rather invest in yourself every month?

 

M: But hold up! What if prices go down in a year or two? 

D: This is also a great question! Nothing goes up forever and the real estate market is not immune to that either. There will be fluctuations in the market. If you’re buying a home you’re planning to be there for the next 5-7-10 years.  So I wouldn’t be nearly concerned about what is going to happen in the next year or two.

Scenario 2

D: So Megan, I just bought a condo as my first home. What are my options going to be with this whole thing in the future?

M: Damien, you want to use your condo as a stepping stone to buying your next property. By buying the condo you are paying off your mortgage each month and you’re also building equity. Once you sell your condo in the next couple of years you will be able to pull out that equity and put a down payment on your next property, maybe a townhome or a detached house.

Scenario 3

M: So Damian, I have a family of 4-five people I can’t live in a condo. What should I do? 

D: Nowadays people are getting really creative with their homeownership. Some of the more common things we’re seeing is shared ownership.  For example, a couple of friends with families that come together and buy a home, or even siblings. Another option you have is to co-sign with somebody. Maybe you have a family member who has owned a property for some time and has built a significant amount of equity. They can co-sign with you on your mortgage and guarantee that you will be making those payments. This also helps you to get into a home you want to be in. 


Now, these may not be options that you have. You could look further east outside of the lower mainland or outside of the province if you have this flexibility. 

Scenario 4

M: Let’s say I want to buy a condo now and I want to put down 20%. What are the pros and cons of that? 

D: You have to ask yourself a question: how fast can you save? Do the benefits of saving that 20% outweigh the costs of having a CMHC insured mortgage. Typically a CMHC insured mortgage will cost you 2 to 4% of your total mortgage amount. So let’s say it is going to take you five years to save up 20%. If the market increases even just 5% in that period, the cost of you trying to save that 20% has already outweighed what it would cost you for that CMHC insured mortgage. And, you’re also not getting that 5% bump in the equity, as opposed to if you had purchased, you’d actually have gained it.

Looking for local advice for your home search?

The OJO Select Network is Canada-wide, with expert knowledge pertaining to each market. Whether you’re searching for a home in an urban centre like Toronto, or Vancouver, or looking to buy in a small town or rural area like Elk Point, Alberta, or Dundas, Ontario, we’re here to help. 

Ready to get started on your home search? See what’s on the market near you and to connect with your local agent at OJO.ca.

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