6 money tips for first-time homebuyers
Desirae Odjick, financial expert

Desirae Odjick is on a mission to demystify and liven up financial info for millennials. She wants to help others save more money, spend on the stuff that matters, and still have a latte or two along the way. She's committed to helping make sure you know enough about your finances to make the right calls for you. She’s also committed to her expensive dog, her side hustle, and her retirement fund. Desirae found out about Sonnet while looking up home insurance for her first home.

There’s a ton of helpful articles out there about what you need to know as a first-time home buyer, and before we bought our house, I read them all. Trust me when I say I went into the process well informed, but even with all that information, there were some points that were more critical than others (and some that I wish had been talked about more).

Here are the six best tips (in my experience) to help you make the transition to homeownership much smoother, financially speaking.

Some closing costs are paid upfront

Everyone tells you about how much CMHC costs in total, but what they forget to emphasize is that in some provinces, you’ll pay the tax on your total CMHC premium upfront. Sure, it’s not as bad as paying for the whole thing, but it could mean shelling out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in what will likely already be a very spendy month.

Make sure you know which closing costs are due in full, and when, during the moving process. Watch out for things like lawyer’s fees, taxes due on CMHC, property taxes, and pre-paid utilities on the house you’re buying—and when in doubt, ask your realtor and your lawyer for a full breakdown of costs.

Don’t forget moving costs

One of the most surprising things was how much we spent on things to make the move happen. From packing tape to movers to take-out while the kitchen stuff was boxed up, the “miscellaneous” moving expenses totalled in the hundreds.

If you’re gearing up to move into your first home and you can swing it, save a few hundred dollars more than you think you’ll need to give yourself the flexibility to hire movers or treat yourself to take-out. You’ll be happy you did when eating dinner isn’t dependent on unpacking ten more boxes.

Plan your new monthly budget

Buying a house is a big change, and it means some parts of your budget will change too. Your renter’s budget needs a makeover, and doing it ahead of time will help make the transition to homeownership that much easier.

You’ll have new line items to consider, like...

  • Home insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Hydro
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Term life insurance (if you bought with a partner)
  • Home maintenance

To get ballpark numbers, you can ask your realtor for estimates for many of the categories, especially as they relate to a specific house. For home insurance, you can get an accurate quote online from Sonnet that’s personalized to you. There are also websites that will help you compare term life insurance if you need it.

Track your new-house spending

Once you’re settled into your new digs, you need to keep an eye on your spending to see if it matches up to that budget you mapped out. There are a lot of ways you can do this, including using a spreadsheet, or connecting your debit and credit cards to an app that will track your spending.

The important thing is that you can keep an eye on how much you’re really spending these days, and that you compare it to your planned budget. If you find you’re spending more than you anticipated in a few categories, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board and revamp your budget to accommodate the new numbers.

It might mean scaling down in other categories, or taking a less expensive vacation, but you’ll be happy you did it when you’re not carrying a balance on your credit card!

Save up a house maintenance fund

Once you’re in your new house, one thing you’ll need to do is start saving for inevitable home maintenance costs. Even if you bought a new house, things will eventually come up, and you’ll be happy to have the money available when they do.

And if you did buy a resale house, one of the best planning moves you can make is to ask your home inspector what major repairs you’re looking at in the next few years—and how much to budget for them. That’ll give you a great starting target for your house maintenance fund, and help you set a monthly savings target.

Switch your bills sooner rather than later

Did you know that you don’t have to wait until the day of your move to get your insurance, internet, hydro, and other big bills sorted out for your new house?

Once you know your closing date, you can start to handle moving those bills over to your new digs, or calling the vendors to get a new account set up.

For home insurance specifically, you’ll need to wait until 90 days before the closing date, depending on the insurance company. Once you’re in that window, you can buy home insurance online in as little as five minutes, from the comfort of your couch with Sonnet. Since this is your first home, you’re likely not switching home insurance, but most of the same advice applies for cancelling your renter’s insurance.

It’s one less thing to worry about after moving that couch into your new place—and trust me, you want to have insurance from the very second you take possession of that beautiful new home.

Desirae Odjick is a paid spokesperson for Sonnet.

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