Over the weekend, BF and I got to discussing real estate, and what would happen if, in the future, we both sold our current properties and bought something together. I live in the suburbs and BF lives right downtown, and we both agreed that we would be happier living close to downtown in our preferred neighbourhoods of Gastown or Chinatown.
For those who don’t know Vancouver, Gastown is a beautiful, established neighbourhood in the downtown area. It has historic brick buildings, cobblestone sidewalks, and lots of shops and restaurants. Just around the corner is Chinatown. It’s raw and gritty, but you can see how things are changing (businesses are moving in and condos are going up), and in 15-20 years I think it’ll just become a seamless an extension of Gastown.
Because we want to maintain our current lifestyle, obviously a house is out of the question. :) So we went online and started looking at condos within a $400-500k price range and reasonable monthly maintenance fees. There were a lot of options to choose from. But the ones I liked the best were the new construction homes. I liked the idea of being able to customize your space, and in the neighbourhood we really liked (Chinatown) there really aren’t any existing buildings to choose from. We even walked over to the showroom of our favoured condo development that we saw online – Framework – and took a look at the plans and the building model. Everything in the show home was so beautifully decorated and modern, I can see how people can get swayed by new builds. :)
Of course there are cons of buying into a condo development that hasn’t even been built yet. You have to pay tax on all new properties in BC, you have to wait and be patient for them to finish building (and there are always delays), and while you wait, the value of the property could go down. Not to mention, you won’t really get a good sense of what the building (and your unit) will feel like until you walk into it for the very first time.
After looking at the Framework development, we strolled through the neighbourhood, and I realized that it’s where I want to move next. Whether it’s renting an apartment there, or buying a condo there for next year, I’d really like Chinatown to be my next neighbourhood. Whenever that might be. :)
Have you ever considered buying a pre-construction condo?
Have you ever decided to buy/live in an up-and-coming neighbourhood?
Life has been busy! I’ve been working a lot of extra hours at my full-time job, planning the Canadian Personal Finance Conference, working on some freelance stuff, have done a bit of volunteering, and have been trying to declutter my place – which has been put on hold for the past week or so.
Over the last few hectic months, I’ve been thinking about my home and how functional it is for me. I love the neighbourhood I’m in, and my home is really cute. But I’m beginning to realize that my life is pulling me further into Vancouver, and I’m still stuck out here in the suburbs. Most company head offices (including my own) are located in the city, my boyfriend lives downtown, and all of the fun activities I like doing are in the city, or more easily accessible from Vancouver. The commutes are killing my productivity (2-3 hours round-trip), and if I could have that time back, I feel like I could be doing a lot more with my days.
My place has rental restrictions, so unless a family member moves in, I’m not allowed to rent it out. So the only thing I can do, aside from staying, is to sell my place and move closer into town.
It’s a tough decision to make, and I’m not quite there yet. I’ve been a home owner for 4 years, and while I don’t think I’m in a position to sell this year, I’m thinking hard about putting my place on the market to sell next year. That eliminates having to pay a hefty mortgage cancelation fee, and it gives me time to figure out what my next move is going to be.
So until that time comes, I’ll just keep on getting rid of my stuff. It’ll mean less packing once I do eventually decide to move. :)
Most of you know that when I bought my townhouse almost 4 years ago, I utilized the First Time Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP) to help with my down payment. For those unfamiliar with the HBP, it allows you to use up to $25,000 of your RRSPs towards the purchase of your first home – tax free!
This was a strategy I always knew I was going to use, so anything that was earmarked for my down payment, I threw into my RRSPs. Then, I would reinvest my tax refund back into my RRSPs for an even bigger gain. I also saved about $20,000 outside of my RRSPs, since the maximum you can take out is $25,000.
Related: How I saved for my down payment
You have up to 15 years to pay back the amount you’ve withdrawn, so for each year of your repayment period, you have to repay 1/15 of the total amount. So for example, I took out $25,000. My repayment every year is $1,666.67 ($25,000 / 15). Each year, you’ll get a Home Buyers’ Plan Statement of Account with your notice of assessment, which will include all the information you need – total HBP withdrawals, the amount you’ve repaid to date, your balance for the HBP, and the amount you have contributed to your RRSPs and designate as a repayment for the following years.
How to pay the HBP back
I use TurboTax every year to do my taxes, and it’s really straight-forward in how to pay it back.
Just enter in all of your information, and TurboTax will do the rest for you. Honestly, it really took all the stress away from paying back the HBP, because at first, it seemed really confusing. Most online tax software is set up to handle HBP repayments in a user-friendly way. :)
When you have to start repaying
Your first repayment starts the second year following the year you made the withdrawal.
You’re allowed to start making repayments earlier, but your years of repayment (15) will remain the same. Any repayments you make before your first repayment is required will reduce the amount you have to pay for the first year. That is, unless your early repayments are more than the minimum required payments for the first year, then the difference will reduce your HBP balance (and the remaining repayment amounts) over the 15 year repayment period.
Paying more or less than the minimum payment
If you want to pay more than the 1/15 required in any given year, you’ll still have to make your payments the next year, it’s just that the HBP in later years will be reduced.
However, if you want to pay LESS than the minimum required payment, the government will treat the amount you withdrew from your RRSP as income for that year. You’ll be taxed on it, and it won’t be pretty.
Important! You can’t withdraw any money from your RRSP that was contributed within the last 90 days. Consider the timing if you plan on utilizing the HBP for your first home.
What I love about the Home Buyers’ Plan is that you can use it for whatever you want. I used the entire amount for the down payment on my home, but you could use it for renovations, closing costs, or buying essentials for your home. It’s flexible, and that’s what makes it a good tool for first time home buyers.
Did you use, or are you considering using, the Home Buyers’ Plan for your first home?
Note: this post is sponsored by TurboTax Canada, but was written and edited by me.