Toronto Real Estate Services | Royal LePage Signature Realty

Is it time to buy a house? 8 signs you’re ready

While renting provides the liberty to relocate with ease and minimal commitment, the dream of owning a home persists for many. Acquiring a home is a significant milestone that not only offers a sense of stability but also contributes to financial growth. Through consistent mortgage payments, homeowners accumulate equity in their property, serving as a robust financial asset over time.


Nonetheless, current economic conditions, marked by rapidly increasing mortgage rates and inflated home prices, represent a substantial hurdle for aspiring homeowners. 2022 saw a significant rise in mortgage rates, doubling in some cases, alongside a spike in property prices. Although interest rates have stabilized and the real estate market has shown significant signs of cooling, the escalated rates impose higher monthly mortgage payments which can pose a formidable challenge or even prevent home acquisition.

Regardless of the conditions of any real estate market, we cannot emphasize enough the need to thoroughly research for competitive mortgage rates. Homebuyers often concentrate on the purchase price of the property, overlooking other critical elements that shape monthly expenses. A judicious approach, including a closer evaluation of mortgage rates and terms, can lead to more manageable payments and a smoother path to homeownership.

8 signs you’re ready to buy a house

Do you often find yourself considering whether to keep renting or finally take the plunge and buy a your first property? Here are eight signs that you’re ready to make the switch from renter to homeowner.

1) Your rent is rising

According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), rental rates have been on a steady climb across the region, with Toronto’s average rent for One Bedrooms jumping from $1,848 in Q4 2020 to $2,573 by Q4 2023. This uptrend in rental costs can strain monthly budgets and hinder the ability to save for other financial aspirations. The shift from renting to owning becomes an enticing prospect when one aims to invest in their future through home equity. The desire for homeownership often comes when renters achieve financial stability and yearn for the pride and autonomy homeownership offers.

2) Your credit score is solid

Many potential homeowners find themselves hindered by less-than-ideal credit, an issue that largely stems from a history of late payments or carrying too much debt, which negatively impacts credit scores. A robust credit rating signals readiness for a home purchase. Lower credit scores often require higher down payments and come with steeper interest rates. Achieving a favourable credit score can lead to advantageous interest rates and favourable loan conditions.

Even with credit challenges, the dream of owning a home is achievable. He advocates that seeking support from nonprofit credit counselling agencies, which often provide credit improvement programs, can be transformative for those facing obstacles on their path to homeownership.

For those intending to improve their credit prior to purchasing a home, a prudent step is acquiring a free credit report and scrutinizing it for accuracy and areas of concern. Concentrating on rectifying the factors negatively affecting one’s credit score, coupled with reducing overall debt, can significantly bolster one’s financial position and readiness to purchase a home.

3) Your debt is manageable

Mortgage providers also assess the debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which is an essential gauge of financial health. To calculate your DTI, tally all monthly debt payments and divide by your gross monthly income. A higher DTI suggests increased lending risk. While certain mortgage programs may accept a DTI as high as 50 percent, a ratio below 43 percent is typically preferred by most lenders, but 33 percent and lower is most ideal. A more favourable DTI not only has the potential to sway lender decisions but also provides you with flexibility in your budget for savings, such as for an emergency fund to cover home repairs and unforeseen costs.

We advise keeping credit card balances within 30 percent of the credit limits, as this can substantially improve one’s credit score. If your credit utilization ratio exceeds this benchmark, prioritize lowering it before seeking a mortgage by reducing debts and continuing to keep older credit cards active, since maintaining long-standing accounts can be beneficial for credit history.

4) You can afford a down payment

Moving forward with the home buying process, it’s essential to understand that meeting the minimum down payment is just the beginning.

For a home valued at $600,000 in Canada, a 5% down payment equals $25,000 for the initial half-million plus an additional 10%—which is $10,000—on the remaining amount. This brings the total minimum down payment to $35,000.

Beyond this, less than 20% down requires mortgage loan insurance, potentially adding significant costs—between 0.6% and 4.50% of the mortgage value. On the $600,000 example, insurance could cost between $3,600 and $27,000. Aiming for a 20% down payment not only waives the insurance requirement but also signals financial readiness and stability, reducing the overall loan amount and subsequent interest payments. For the $600,000 home, a 20% down payment equates to $120,000—an upfront investment that could lead to substantial long-term savings.

In Toronto, it is normal for homes to value $1,000,000 or more. For all homes purchased for $1,000,000 or more, buyers require a 20% down payment. For a home valued at $1,200,000, the current average sale price in the 416, a down payment equals $240,000.

5) You have enough set aside for maintenance

In the cushioned world of renting, unanticipated repairs and the inevitable decline brought on by time are concerns that fall firmly on the shoulders of the landlord—from the sudden failure of a water heater to the finicky nature of an aging HVAC unit, along with the ongoing expenses of property taxes and general upkeep. As a homeowner, however, these financial burdens transition to your ledger, necessitating a substantial monetary reserve for such unforeseen expenses.

It is best not to pour all available funds into the down payment of your home. A depleted savings account leaves no room for emergency repairs. A more prudent approach is to allocate less towards your down payment, retaining a financial buffer for property enhancements and crucial maintenance work.

It’s also advised to distinguish your maintenance savings from your general emergency fund. Homeowners should anticipate maintenance costs that may hover around, at least, the $3,000 mark every year, but also be prepared for more significant, albeit less frequent, expenses such as roof replacements or HVAC overhauls. Minor repairs, such as fixing leaky pipes or updating aging appliances, can also incrementally dent your budget.

The most recommended methods for calculating your household maintenance budget are the 1% Rule, Square Footage Rule and the Individual Approach.

When considering the costs of homeownership, the “1% rule” serves as a conventional benchmark, suggesting that you should allocate 1% of your home’s purchase price each year for maintenance. For a home valued at $500,000, this translates to a maintenance budget of $5,000 annually. However, some financial experts argue that this figure might be too conservative and suggest reserving 3% to 5% of the home’s value to ensure all maintenance needs are fully met. If adopted, this approach implies setting aside $15,000 to $25,000 per year for the upkeep of a $500,000 property, ensuring its longevity and functionality.

The “square footage rule,” which suggests saving $1 for every square foot of your home for maintenance and repair, is yet another strategy proposed. This rule posits that the expense of maintaining a larger home is naturally higher. However, this method can be overly simplistic as it does not consider various other factors that significantly influence maintenance costs. For instance, newer homes may not require appliance replacements for years, regardless of their size. Additionally, factors like the property’s location can impact labor costs substantially, which constitutes a substantial part of repair expenses, especially for tasks not suited for DIY. This highlights that while square footage is a significant consideration, it’s just one of numerous factors that determine the true cost of home maintenance.

The “individual approach” is a more precise method to estimate maintenance expenses involves conducting a detailed assessment of your home’s specific features. Consider the lifespan and current condition of essential elements such as the roof, exterior cladding, foundation, HVAC systems, and the electrical and plumbing infrastructures. Investigate and record the cost to replace or repair these items over a projected timeline. Do the same for household appliances like water heaters and air conditioning units. Tallying up these figures, along with ongoing maintenance costs, provides you with a foundational sum for routine upkeep and allows you to foresee and financially prepare for significant expenditures within your home’s budgeting framework.

Additionally, insuring your home is non-negotiable, with yearly homeowner insurance premiums starting around $1,300, which can increase if your home is situated in a zone prone to natural disasters or other risks.

6) You have gone through a major life change

Most individuals make the leap from renting to owning a home following significant life milestones, such as marriage. In addition to a growing family or securing a new job, these events frequently serve as the impetus for purchasing a home.

We strongly recommend against making substantial life changes, such as job transitions or taking on new credit, especially when in the process of closing on a new home. Lenders scrutinize financial stability very closely, and significant changes can lead to complications, or even the refusal of the mortgage application. It is crucial to maintain a steady financial course to ensure the successful acquisition of a home.

7) Your lifestyle is stable

When you’re gearing up to purchase a home, it’s important to consider the upfront costs, which may not be quickly recuperated—this suggests that if you’re planning to move soon, it might not be the best time to buy. Stability in your career is crucial for homeownership. Having a reliable job equates to a consistent income, reducing the risk of mortgage default.

Moreover, it’s advisable to purchase a house that’s within your financial comfort zone, aiming to keep housing expenses—including the mortgage and other related costs—to a minimum. The ideal scenario is to live well within one’s means in order to safeguard against financial strains. This is particularly pertinent during economically uncertain times, such as a predicted recession, where maintaining a secure job can prove to be challenging.

8) You know what you want

Assessing your desired living environment and the kind of home that meets your needs is a crucial step before embarking on your house-hunting journey. Various residential options exist, such as single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums, and duplexes, all with distinct considerations. For instance, opting for a condominium might eliminate yard maintenance but often introduces additional fees like those for the homeowners association, which are payable along with your mortgage.

Consider your priorities carefully. Is proximity to top-notch schools paramount, or is a short commute to your job your top concern? Evaluate if you have preferences about living in a multi-level dwelling, the possibility of neighbours residing on an upper or lower floor, or having access to a suite of amenities. For those who are new to a city or have recently relocated for work, renting may be beneficial in the short term. This provides an opportunity to acquaint yourself with the community and make an informed decision, ensuring long-term satisfaction with both your chosen home and its neighbourhood.

What are your next steps?

Ready to step away from the rental market to buy a home? It’s wise to get a mortgage pre-approval first. Pre-approval clarifies your purchasing power and the best loan option. Having a full understanding of what you’re able to buy and the finances needed to close sets clear and realistic expectations.

As you navigate the home-buying process, stay focused on your broader financial landscape. A mortgage shouldn’t come at the expense of managing personal debt, such as student loans or credit cards, nor hinder your retirement savings.

In the hunt for your ideal home, we’ll leverage our local market insights to find homes that fit both your desires and your budget. Once you’re ready to make a move, our negotiation skills become invaluable in making a solid offer and providing support right up until and even after you receive the keys.

Royal LePage Signature Realty, Brokerage*
495 Wellington Street West, Suite #100
Toronto ON M5V 1G1
*Independently Owned & Operated
Royal LePage Signature Realty, Brokerage*
495 Wellington Street West, Suite #100
Toronto ON M5V 1G1
*Independently Owned & Operated