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Being a first-time buyer comes with lots of perks.

What a first-time home buyer in Alberta should know

Capitalize on first-time buyer incentives to make your dream home a reality

From its vast fields to its mountain ranges, Alberta offers a combination of urban and rural living with its varied landscape and cities. And with thousands of people flocking to the prairie province for cheaper housing and more jobs, it’s no surprise that many are putting down roots in the Sunshine Province.

And if you're a first-time home buyer in Alberta, it's important to familiarize yourself with the local real estate market and the various rules and regulations that apply to home buying in the province. 

Understanding the different programs and incentives available to you is a crucial step to help you with your home purchase, but to also help you save during this big life decision. 

Incentives for first-time buyers in Alberta

There are several programs that have been created by both the provincial and federal governments that provide opportunities for first-time home buyers to make the most of their purchase in Alberta.

The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) 

The FTHBI is a shared equity mortgage program offered by the Government of Canada. The program is designed to help first-time home buyers reduce their monthly mortgage payments by providing them with 5% or 10% of their home price as an interest-free loan towards the purchase of their home. To be eligible for the FTHBI, you must be a first-time home buyer, have a household income under $120,000, and the purchase price of your home must not exceed $500,000.

Public Essential and Key (PEAK) Program

The Alberta PEAK program is a down payment assistance program for first-time home buyers in the province. It provides eligible homebuyers with a grant of up to 5% of the purchase price of their home to help cover their down payment and closing costs. The grant is provided in the form of a repayable loan and is interest-free for the first five years. After that, the loan must be repaid over the remaining term of the mortgage.

To be considered for the Alberta PEAK program you must:

  • Be a first-time home buyer
  • Have a household income under $80,000 (if you have no dependent children living at home) or $90,000 if you do have dependent children living at home
  • Must have at least $1000 available for your down payment 

You must also be able to meet the minimum requirements for a mortgage including a minimum credit score, proof of income, and a stable employment history. To date, this program has helped 111 homeowners–and while the program currently isn’t offering any available homes, you can find more information on their website. 

The First Place Program in Edmonton

Through the City of Edmonton's First Place Program, first-time home buyers are provided a five-year deferral on land costs on town homes that are being redeveloped on vacant school sites by certain builders. However, those who tap into this program have to pay back five-years worth of land costs after five years have passed.

To qualify for this Alberta first-time home buyer  incentive, you need to:

  • Have a combined household income of $117,000
  • Get pre-approved by a mortgage lender
  • Have at least 5% of the down payment
  • Be a first-time homebuyer in Alberta
  • Live in the property, for the first five years as the primary resident
  • Be a Canadian citizen or have permanent resident status

The Attainable Homes Calgary (AHC) program

If you're a first-time home buyer in Alberta struggling to come up with a down payment, the AHC program could be the solution you've been looking for.

Conducted in partnership between the City of Calgary and The Calgary Foundation, this program provides down payment assistance in the form of a grant, for participants in Calgary who only have $2,000 for a down payment. The grant provided is interest-free and, as long as you’re the primary resident of the household, doesn’t need to be repaid. 

However, In exchange for the grant, the AHC program takes a portion of your home's appreciation: 100% of the home’s appreciation in the first year, to 25% after five years. 

The best part is, you don’t have to stay for a minimum amount of years when buying your home through this program–however, if and when you decide to sell, you’ll need to pay for:  

  • The down payment loan 
  • A home appraisal
  • Whatever portion of the home’s price appreciation belongs to the AHC 

To be considered eligible for this first-time home buyer incentive, you need to have:

  • A down payment of $2,000
  • A household income of $103,000 for families, or a household income of $93,000 for couples without children, or a household income of $83,000 for individuals 
  • Assets worth $50,000 or less
  • Completed the program’s home education session

It also helps to get a pre-approval ahead of time, as you’ll need an approved mortgage to secure the home. 

Other things to think about 

Aside from these existing programs, there are several important things to keep in mind to have a smooth first-time home buying experience. 

Budgeting

Before you start looking for a home, it's important to have a clear understanding of what you can afford. This includes not just the purchase price of the home, but also the additional costs associated with home ownership, such as property taxes, insurance, and maintenance. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a housing expense that is no more than 30% of your gross monthly income.

Saving for a down payment

In Alberta, the minimum down payment required for a home purchase is 5% of the first $500,000 of the purchase price, and 10% for any amount over $500,000. A larger down payment will not only reduce the amount you need to borrow, but it will also lower your monthly mortgage payments. And if you have a down payment of 20% or more of the home price, you’ll also avoid having to get mortgage insurance on top of  your monthly payments. 

Property taxes

Property taxes are assessed and collected by the municipality in which the property is located in the province of Alberta. The amount of property tax you'll need to pay will depend on the assessed value of your home and the tax rate set by your municipality. It's important to understand how property taxes will impact your monthly budget, and to factor this into your overall home buying plan.

Understanding the mortgage process

It's important to understand the mortgage process, including what type of mortgage is best for your needs, documents you'll need to provide, and how to prepare to pass the mortgage stress test. Working with a mortgage specialist can help simplify the process and ensure that you get the best mortgage rate possible.

Being a first-time buyer comes with lots of perks

With the right preparation and a clear understanding of the process, you can become a proud homeowner in Alberta. There are several incentive programs available for first-time buyers in Alberta. Be sure to do your research to understand where you can leverage your buying power as a first-time home owner. Once you’ve budgeted and feel ready with your down payment, one of Pine’s mortgage agents would be happy to speak with you to begin your mortgage approval process. 

What a first-time home buyer in Alberta should know

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