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A (really smart) starter guide to buying your first home.

Excited kid

Excited as a little kid to own your first home?

Before you start getting a bunch of boxes to move your stuff, it's important to have your first-mortgage steps in mind.

Have you got the first-home bug? Here are some questions to ask yourself, just to be completely sure:

  • Are you excited for DIYs and already make regular trips to Home Depot (maybe they know you by name)?
  • Do you have (some?) money saved for a down payment?
  • Do you have a stable job, with money coming in every month over and above your expenses?
  • Have you done a pretty good job of paying all your bills on time?
  • You can't wait to have your own space to be able to style it your way (your chance to really be you, or to get out of your parent's basement)?

If you answered yes to one or all, then you're probably already thinking about taking the plunge and buying your first home. Whether you've started the process, or are about to, here are some great tips to consider.

Getting a new home is full of possibilities. Get off to the best start, with a rate and mortgage that fits your style.

First, what are the key details of a mortgage?

Here are the main things to know about a mortgage: down payment, rate, type, term, amortization, and payment frequency. For more terms and definitions, check out our Mortgage Glossary.

  • Down payment. You may be able to get a home with only 5% down, though price-restrictions apply, and any down payment of less than 20% requires mortgage default insurance and premiums. Over 20% is considered a 'conventional' mortgage, which doesn't require insurance. Whether or not you've already put some money aside, there are federal programs and incentives to help get you into your first home.
  • Mortgage rate. You'll choose either a fixed or variable rate mortgage, and you'll need to qualify for your lowest rate. Variable rates are often lower but involve more risk, as your payments may fluctuate with the prime rate set by the Bank of Canada. Fixed rates (the typical choice for most Canadian home owners) are locked in for the full term chosen.
  • Mortgage type. An open mortgage carries higher rates, but allows the most flexibility in pre-payments or other changes without penalty. A closed term comes with lower rates, but assumes that you won't be paying out your mortgage before the end of your term, and so comes with more restrictions and penalties.
  • Mortgage term. The length of time that you're 'locked' into your particular rate and conditions. The most popular term is 5 years, as it allows home owners to settle in with their rate and payments. Of course, shorter and longer terms are available, depending on your goals. You'll likely have several terms through the life of your mortgage until maturity (when it's paid out in full at the end of your original amortization).
  • Amortization. The number of years it takes to repay your entire mortgage loan amount, based on a fixed payment schedule. Most lenders now offer 25, though some may offer 30-year amortizations.
  • What will your payment frequency be? When you take out a mortgage, you agree to make regular payments. The amount and frequency depends on the mortgage product offered and the lender who offers it. What can you afford? There can be six different mortgage payment options: monthly, semi-monthly, biweekly, accelerated biweekly, weekly, or accelerated weekly. If you are looking to pay down your mortgage faster, an accelerated option will increase your payments, but shorten your amortization (which means you can save thousands over the life of your mortgage).

Here are some other important tips for your first mortgage.

Mortgage stress-test. Recent federal regulations have made qualifying for a mortgage a little bit tougher. Regardless of low rates offered, you'll need to qualify for yours, to ensure that if mortgage interest rates go up, you'll still be able to afford your payments. Use our Afforability Calculator for an idea of what your numbers may be. And, at True North Mortgage, we can offer your best rates, to help ensure that you save as much as possible on your first home.

Your credit and income. Have you started to build up a credit score? Plus, you'll need to provide proof of a steady source of income. Our brokers can help answer questions on both topics, and outline any steps you can take.

Your mortgage broker. Having a great, highly-trained broker at your side will not only make your first mortgage experience a smooth and happy one, you'll save stress and money with your best rate and the right mortgage product — from the right lender. Our brokers check with all lenders on your behalf, and are salaried for completely free, unbiased advice.

Ultra-ultra low rates. Whatever the 'Internet' offers, be careful that the ultra low rate you see is actually one that you'll qualify for, or that it comes with a mortgage that will work for you in the future. You'll especially want to avoid a bona-fide sales clause (unless this type of restriction works for you). We have the lowest rates around because of our unified, salaried brokers and volume discount — but we also make sure you have the right rate and mortgage product for your situation and goals.

Try our really cool Compare & Save calculator to see how our rates stack up.

The right mortgage. Right off the start, we'll help you get the mortgage you need, for flexible options or even a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) if you'll need to renovate in the near future. There are pre-payment privileges and penalties you need to be aware of.

Realtor and real-estate lawyer. It's important to have the right professionals when house-hunting and to help you finalize the legal and sale-related stuff. Do the research, look at online reviews, and ask for past client references. Need a referral? We can help with that too — our referrals are based on our long-standing, trusted relationships within the industry.

Closing costs. Don't forget about these costs — they're in addition to your home price. Some additional costs are: home inspection, moving expenses, utility hookups, land transfer taxes (where applicable), property taxes and legal fees. Lenders typically like to see that you have at least 1.5% (sometimes as much as 4%) of the purchase price as additional savings to cover these costs.

Your mortgage renewal reminder. Okay, maybe it seems too soon, but you'll be surprised how quickly your term comes up for renewal. It's important to take that time to review your rate and terms, to see if you can get an even lower rate or a mortgage that fits your changing needs.

Get a helpful renewal reminder!


Are you self-employed? Do you qualify for first-time home buyer programs?

Entrepreneurship is one of the most rewarding choices you can make, though it comes with its own risks. There are lenders and programs that may be right for you as a self-employed entity or business owner looking for your first mortgage.

We recommend sitting down with one of our brokers to review your financial situation. From there, we'll help determine your mortgage qualification and the best fit for your situation, including whether you qualify for any first-time home buyer programs or rebates.

Child in box

Ready to get started? Here’s what’s next:

  • Walk into one of our 11 locations across Canada, apply online, start an online chat (click the bubble!), or give us a call and one of our specialized brokers will start your approval.
  • Together, we’ll go through your process easily and stress-free. How many questions do you have? We'll answer them all!
  • Get pre-approved! Or, we can discuss the steps on how to put yourself in a position to be pre-approved in the future. We really know mortgages and can provide great advice.
  • Work with a Realtor to find the perfect home. You'll make an offer, and once it's accepted, the real fun begins.
  • Connect with your True North mortgage broker again to finalize your mortgage application, and get approved at your best rate, with the right lender.
  • Once your home purchase is official, time to celebrate!!
  • Move in, and enjoy the spectacle of all those boxes. Don't forget to receive copious amounts of plants at your housewarming.
  • We'll stay in touch with annual courtesy calls to say hello or to provide you with any needed advice. We're here for a lifetime of mortgage help, if you need it — always with the best rates and great advice to save you thousands.

Looking to buy a vacation or income property? We're with you — all along the mortgage way.

No matter what mortgage help you need throughout your life — we'll always have spot-on advice, unbeatable service and the best rates for your mortgage renewal, refinance, vacation home or rental property purchase.

But don't just take our word for it. We're proud to have the most 5-star reviews in the industry. Check out what our clients have to say.

Feel the joy of your first mortgage application. We make it easy.