4 ways you can still afford your 1st home

Starting to fret you'll never be able to buy a home? According to real estate expert Ken Beaton, there are still ways to enter the housing market without jeopardizing either your financial future or your lifestyle.

You can still get into the housing market despite high rates and new mortgage rules, real estate expert says

Your first home could also be your first income property, according to real estate expert Ken Beaton. (Ilia Fabbri)

Starting to fret you'll never be able to buy a home?

With rising mortgage rates and new rules making it tougher to qualify for a home loan, nobody will blame you.

Understand the impact of the financial choices we make in life — the good ones and the bad ones.- Ken Beaton, ARCA Real Estate Investments

On top of that, salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation, and more and more of us are working as freelancers or contract employees — a red flag for traditional lenders. And we love to spend our disposable cash instead of socking it away. 

According to real estate expert Ken Beaton, however, there are still ways to enter the housing market without jeopardizing either your financial future or your lifestyle.

Here are four of Beaton's tips for first-time real estate buyers.

Dump luxury items, eliminate credit card debt

Before you can clean up in real estate, you'll have to clean up your debt, Beaton said. For most of us, that means better discipline with our high-interest credit cards.
Young people should make reducing high-interest credit card debt their first priority, Beatson advises. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

"It's the credit card debt that will sink people. And it's the credit card debt that gets people into a world of hurt."

Credit cards are far more likely to bring people to the financial brink than is home ownership, Beaton said. He believes the government could better help Canadians spend within their means by focusing on plastic instead of making it so difficult to afford a home. 
 
Going into long-term debt to purchase one of the most bulletproof investments out there is far smarter than charging big-ticket items such as boats and RVs, Beaton said.

There's nothing wrong with the toys if you can afford them — but they won't get you any closer to your dream of home ownership. 

"Understand the impact of the financial choices we make in life — the good ones and the bad ones," Beaton advised.

Move to the country

Never mind the clean air, the safer streets and the slower pace: moving away from the big city could benefit your wallet, too, said Beaton, who's based in Almonte, Ont.

Property values tend to be lower in the outskirts, but buyers get more bang for their buck. Also, some rural municipalities offer incentive programs to attract first-time homebuyers.

"They will give you the five per cent down payment for your first purchase," Beaton said. "Not many realtors know and understand this."

Beaton has one tip before you pack your bags: be sure to pick a community with easy access to commuter buses or rail.

Bank of Mom and Dad

Real estate investor Ken Beaton says there are creative ways to finance your first home. (Ken Beaton/Facebook)
Most of us know that we can tap into our RRSPs to help with a down payment — we just have to pay it back. But if that's not an option, you can always visit the Bank of Mom and Dad, Beaton said.

That's right, your parents can lend you the money from their own RRSPs. It's safe, can securely earn them interest, and will help you out in the process, Beaton said.

"Unlike a conventional mortgage from the bank, [parents] are allowed to lend 90 or 95 per cent of the value of that property," he said.

This is different from a family member "gifting"' you the money to help with your down payment: that's when the loan is truly a gift, and isn't being repaid with interest, Beaton said. He warns a loan masquerading as a gift is deemed mortgage fraud, and can get you, mom and dad into hot water with the Canada Revenue Agency.

First-time homebuyer, part-time landlord

Buying a home that's a bit bigger than you need might be more expensive up front, but could literally pay for itself in the long run, Beaton said.

"Buy a single-family house, like a raised bungalow, and suite out the basement. Turn it into a one- or two-bedroom apartment in the basement and it will pay 80 to 100 per cent of the mortgage," he advised.

"Yes, you don't have the entire house to yourself initially, but it is a perfect stepping stone to get into the game and build some wealth for yourself."

Just do your homework and make sure the neighbourhood you're looking to purchase in is open to legal basement suites. Some neighbourhoods and newer subdivisions frown upon the practice, so you could just end up with more house that you bargained for, Beaton said.