Seneca Bates sits in her denim blue office, frantically opening her internet browser as she heads to Google – she just found out that not everyone qualifies for Canada’s first-time homebuyer incentives and it has come as a major surprise to the 29-year-old.
“I had no idea you had to qualify for the first-time home buyers’ program – that actually scares me,” she says. Bates is one of the many Canadians looking to buy their first home in the near future, but with the housing market in its current state, the dream seems farther away than ever.
The start of the COVID-19 pandemic saw interest rates plummet, leading many people to buy or sell their homes, and causing a frenzy within the market. Two years into the pandemic, Ontario is now facing a housing shortage resulting in over-priced homes that seem impossible for anyone to buy, let alone first-timers.
Prospective buyers often hear of the first-time homebuyer incentives and hope to use them alongside their down payment, though they may not have all the details.
There are five incentive programs to benefit from based on what you’re buying and what you qualify for: The Home Buyers’ Plan, GST/HST new housing rebate, the First-Time Home Buyer incentive, The Home Buyer’s Tax Credit, and the Land Transfer tax rebate. Potential buyers can apply and benefit from one or more of the programs if they qualify based on income and purchasing details.
Researching and understanding what is available – and on what conditions – can help future buyers before they even start saving.
“I had to look it up,” says Bates. “I just thought everyone got them because you were a first-time home buyer, but I Googled it and I don’t qualify for them.”
Bates and her husband say they plan to keep this new information in mind as they adjust and continue forward with their saving plans before officially starting their house hunt in 2023.
Beyond incentives and savings, homebuyers must also deal with competitive bidding wars that have seen prices skyrocket.
Vicki Rolph and her fiancé currently live in a basement apartment and have been actively looking for and bidding on homes for seven months.
“We started putting in offers in August of last year, and then from then we’ve put offers in for about eight houses,” she says. She sounds discouraged as she explains that house prices have continued to jump even since starting their journey last year.
Like Bates, Rolph and her fiancé are unable to benefit from any of the first-time homebuyer plans and have had to rely heavily on routinely saving their money for a deposit. Being outbid repeatedly feels like the cherry on top of an already crummy situation and it’s enough to discourage the most patient people.
“It’s crushing… you spend a lot of time getting your hopes up and then you have that come crashing down. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of hope,” says Rolph.
Real estate professional Kelley Bartlett understands buyer frustrations, and she encourages potential first-time homebuyers to continue being patient and putting together a deposit.
“If you haven’t already started, save your money – really, that’s the best thing you can do,” says Bartlett.
Some people may not mind renting long-term, some may like being able to move every couple of years, and then there are others who don’t know if home ownership will ever be possible for them financially. Owning a home comes at a different time, and a different priority level, for everyone and it’s important not to compare yourself with others, be patient and always keep your eye out.