Major Improvements Required, Budgeting for First Home
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Dear David: We fell in love with a house that needs a new roof & furnace. We can’t afford these projects right now, but don’t want to miss this opportunity. What can we do? — Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken: A roof and furnace are major improvements, but not necessarily a reason to walk away from a house that you love. If the sale is to move forward, your options will include asking the seller to replace the roof and furnace, splitting the renovation costs with the seller, or managing the repairs yourself once you take possession of the home.

For most buyers, an obvious preference would be to have the seller cover the cost. But quite often, if a sale is to move forward, the buyer will need to foot the bill, at least in part. Fortunately, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Improvements Program offers flexible financing in situations where the renovations will increase the property value. Formerly known as “Purchase Plus Improvements”, the program allows qualified buyers to borrow up to 10 percent of the “improved” value of the home, then lump the cost of those repairs into the mortgage.

I explain it to my clients like this: a $10,000 repair, when blended into your mortgage payment, could cost you about 50 dollars each month — or less than 2 dollars a day. The thought of saving a lump sum of $10,000 can be overwhelming. But for most of us, socking away a couple of dollars each day is much more attainable.

Dear David: We are currently renting a 3-bedroom townhouse and are trying to budget for our first home. How do we calculate our monthly expenses?

— Budget-Minded

Dear Budget: You’ll want to start by comparing the cost of your rent to a monthly mortgage payment. You might be surprised to find that it’s not as big of a stretch as you’d think. A few basic comparisons will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect:

First, compare the cost of your current rent to what you’ll pay each month for your mortgage payment and property taxes. It might help if you speak to a mortgage specialist about pre-approval — this will help to identify what your mortgage payments will be. The conversation is free.

Second, you’ll want to compare the cost of tenant insurance and home insurance. Talk to you insurance company about giving you a ballpark figure for a property in your price range.

Third, you’ll want to include the cost of utilities, which are probably already in your budget if you’re renting a townhouse. I wouldn’t expect this figure to change much when compared to what you’re likely already paying.

In your case, the cost of renting versus owning is probably very similar. Home ownership is like a forced savings plan that starts building your equity from the very first month. Property values in Waterloo Region are on the rise, so it’s quite possible that you’ll be gaining as much in equity as it’s costing you each month to live in a home of your own!