24 May

Budgeting Towards Homeownership


Posted by: Peter Puzzo

Transitioning from renter to homeowner is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make throughout your lifetime. It can also be a stressful experience if you don’t plan ahead by building a budget and saving prior to embarking upon homeownership.


Budgeting is a core ingredient that helps alleviate the stress associated with money issues that can sometimes arise if you purchase a home without knowing all of the associated costs – including down payment, closing expenses, ongoing maintenance, taxes and utilities.


The trouble is, many first-time homeowners fail to carefully think about their finances, plan a budget or set savings aside. And in this society of instant gratification, money problems can quickly escalate.


The key is to create a realistic budget based on your goals. Track your spending and make your dollars go further by sticking to your budget once it’s in place. Budgeting offers a step-by-step formula for figuring out how to best save your hard-earned money to invest in homeownership.


Start by listing your household income, then your household expenses, and review your spending habits. All of this can be done on a pad of paper or on a computer spreadsheet.


Keeping receipts for everything that you purchase will enable you to accurately keep track of where your money is going each month so that you can review and make necessary changes to your plan on an ongoing basis.


Examine all areas of your life from entertainment to the type of food you buy, where you buy your food and clothes, and how and where you travel. Also look at your spending personality and make necessary adjustments. Are you a saver, a splurger, a spontaneous shopper or a hoarder? Become smarter with your money and avoid impulse buying.


If you find you’re spending a lot of money in one area, such as entertainment for instance, set aside a reasonable amount each month and prepare to stop spending money in this area once your budget has been exhausted.


Budgeting provides you with the opportunity to re-evaluate your needs and wants. Do you really need the magazine subscriptions, the gym membership and all the other things you may spend money on each month? Although everyone needs some “me time” to wind down, could you not get that by taking a walk or reading a good book you borrowed from the library?


If you can set your budget solidly in place before you head out home or mortgage shopping, you will be far more prepared to purchase your first home.


Following are three top tips to help you prepare for the purchase of your first home:

  1. Set up a savings account. You can deposit a predetermined amount into this account each pay period that you will not touch unless it’s absolutely necessary. This will enable you to put money aside for a down payment and cover closing costs, as well as address ongoing homeownership expenses such as maintenance, taxes and utilities.


  1. Save up for big-ticket items. As you accumulate money in your savings account, you will be able to also save for specific purchases to help furnish your home – avoiding the buy now, pay later mentality, which can have a negative impact on your credit when you’re seeking mortgage financing.


Surround yourself with a team of professionals. When you’re getting ready to make your first home purchase, enlist the services of a licensed mortgage professional and a real estate agent. These experts are invaluable to you as you set out on the road to homeownership because they help first-time buyers through the home purchase and financing processes every day. They will be able to answer all of your questions and set your mind at ease. A mortgage professional has access to multiple lenders, and can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage so you know exactly what you can afford to spend on a home before you head out house hunting, while a real estate agent will be able to match your needs with a house you can afford. Both parties will negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get the best bang for your buck. And, best of all, these services are typically free. They will also be able to refer you to other reputable professionals you may need for your home purchase, including a real estate lawyer and home appraiser. 

1 May

Advice for credit challenged clients


Posted by: Peter Puzzo

In today’s economic climate of tighter credit requirements and increased unemployment rates taking their toll on some Canadians, there’s no doubt that many people may not fit into the traditional banks’ financing boxes as easily as they may have just a year ago.


Your best solution is to consult your mortgage professional to determine whether your situation can be quickly repaired or if you face a longer road to credit recovery. Either way, there are solutions to every problem.


Mortgage professionals who are experts in the credit repair niche can help credit challenged clients improve their situations via a number of routes. And if the situation is beyond the expertise of a mortgage professional, they can help you get in touch with other professionals, including credit counsellors and bankruptcy trustees.


If you have some equity built up in your home and still have a manageable credit score, for instance, you can often refinance your mortgage and use that money to pay off high-interest credit card debt. By clearing up this debt, you are freeing up more cash flow each month.


In the current lending environment, with interest rates at an all-time low, now is an ideal time for you to refinance your mortgage and possibly save thousands of dollars per year, enabling you to pay more money per month towards the principal on your mortgage as opposed to the interest – which, in turn, can help build equity quicker.


Following are five steps you can use to help attain a speedy credit score boost:


1) Pay down credit cards. The number one way to increase your credit score is to pay down your credit cards so you’re only using 30% of your limits. Revolving credit like credit cards seems to have a more significant impact on credit scores than car loans, lines of credit, and so on.


2) Limit the use of credit cards. Racking up a large amount and then paying it off in monthly instalments can hurt your credit score. If there is a balance at the end of the month, this affects your score – credit formulas don’t take into account the fact that you may have paid the balance off the next month.


3) Check credit limits. If your lender is slower at reporting monthly transactions, this can have a significant impact on how other lenders may view your file. Ensure everything’s up to date as old bills that have been paid can come back to haunt you.


Some financial institutions don’t even report your maximum limits. As such, the credit bureau is left to only use the balance that’s on hand. The problem is, if you consistently charge the same amount each month – say $1,000 to $1,500 – it may appear to the credit-scoring agencies that you’re regularly maxing out your cards.


The best bet is to pay your balances down or off before your statement periods close.


4) Keep old cards. Older credit is better credit. If you stop using older credit cards, the issuers may stop updating your accounts. As such, the cards can lose their weight in the credit formula and, therefore, may not be as valuable – even though you have had the cards for a long time. You should use these cards periodically and then pay them off.


5) Don’t let mistakes build up. You should always dispute any mistakes or situations that may harm your score. If, for instance, a cell phone bill is incorrect and the company will not amend it, you can dispute this by making the credit bureau aware of the situation.


If, however, you have repeatedly missed payments on your credit cards, you may not be in a situation where refinancing or quickly boosting your credit score will be possible. Depending on the severity of your situation – and the reasons behind the delinquencies, including job loss, divorce, illness, and so on – your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional can help you address the concerns through a variety of means and even refer you to other professionals to help get your credit situation in check.