How to set a budget...

How to set a budget...


In this article, we will explore the first stage “Set a budget” in detail. You always want to set your preliminary budget before meeting with a mortgage broker or real estate agent.

For the sake of clarity, we’ve grouped the activities into three areas.

Financing Property Risk Protection
  • Decide how much of your savings you will put toward the purchase.
  • Use our "What can I buy?" calculator to find out your estimated home budget.
  • Figure out your requirements for a home.
  • Make a list of amenities you need in your neighbourhood.
  • Set your financing priorities.
  • Find a suitable mortgage broker and real estate agent.
Rendering: Fraser Commons at Marine Drive

Rendering: Fraser Commons at Marine Drive

Decide how much of your savings you will put toward the purchase.

A mortgage lender will require that you put some of your savings toward a down payment. The larger your down payment, the less you need to borrow. Most home buyers put in the minimum down payment allowed by the lender so that they have savings left to pay for closing costs, furniture, movers, and minor repairs.

Generally, lenders will match 4 dollars for every dollar you put in (e.g, $80k mortgage with a $20k down payment). If you pay for mortgage default insurance to protect the lender, then they can lend you up to max $95k to match your $5k contribution but default insurance can be expensive. It can cost as much as $4,000 for every $100,000 you borrow.

Surprisingly, not all first time home buyers are dipping into their savings. According to Mortgage Professionals Canada, 92% of first time home buyers draw on personal savings for their down payment and many get help from their parents. 43% are gifted money from their parents and 19% borrow from their parents.

down payment source.jpg

Use this table to calculate your total cash you are comfortable putting toward buying a home (including the closing costs). If more than one person is buying a home the home, add the contributions from the additional people as “co-borrower(s)”.

Down payment source Borrower Co-borrower(s)

Savings / Chequing Account

Retirements Savings Plan (RSP)

Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA)

Gift from parents

Loan from parents

Loan from employer



Use "What Can I Afford" to find out your estimated home buying budget.

"What Can I Afford"  is our advanced mortgage calculator that estimates your maximum home buying budget, including closing costs and mortgage default insurance.

Click here to use "What Can I Afford"

What Can I Buy, will tell you the estimated maximum purchase price you should qualify for. It isn’t recommending that you spend that much on a home, but it is providing a fair estimate of your upper price limit.

Define Your Home Requirements.

When defining your requirements, you should be thinking about what you need from your home rather than how you want the need met, or what would be a bonus feature.

Separating what from how, can be confusing at first but it’s pretty simple and very important because you don’t want to pay for features you don’t need. Requirements are usually features that are structural and difficult to add in a renovation. For example, in the table below we’ve listed the requirements and the wish list items. The requirements should be listed in order of importance and the order we’ve listed below is simply an example. You should figure out your own priorities and re-order the lists.

Requirements (in order of importance) Wish List (in order of importance)
  1. 2 Bedrooms
  2. 1 Bathroom
  3. 1 covered parking spot
  4. In-suite laundry
  5. Storage locker
  6. 500 sq ft living space
  7. Concrete construction
  8. Open Concept Kitchen
  9. Natural gas stove
  1. 2nd bathroom
  2. Pantry/storage space
  3. South facing living room and balcony
  4. Hardwood floors
  5. Granite countertops
  6. 2nd parking spot
  7. Prefer existing rather than pre-sale
  8. En-suite bathroom
Deal Breakers (options you want to exclude)
  • Dog-friendly building

You want to limit your requirements to the core needs. If you have too many requirements, then your real estate agent will find fewer properties that match. When this happens, you may be presented with the most expensive properties, because they are the only ones that meet all your requirements. If you haven’t prioritized your requirements for the real estate agent, they will use their own judgement to prioritize them and they may not value the same things that you do!

Deal breakers are items that you absolutely don’t want. In the example above , they’ve chosen to live in a building that does not allow dogs because of allergies.

Make a list of amenities you need in your neighbourhood.

This is similar to the home requirements, but focused on factors that are intrinsic to the area where you will be living.

Requirements (in order of importance) Wish List (in order of importance)
  1. Walking distance (750 m) from transit
  2. Within the catchment area for Trafalgar Elementary School
  3. Walking distance (750 m) from convenience store
  4. Not facing directly onto main traffic artery
  1. Walking distance (750 m) from grocery store
  2. Walking distance (750 m) from retail shops
  3. Walking distance (750 m) from park
  4. Walkability score of 80 or higher
  5. Nearby bike route
Deal Breakers (options you want to exclude)
  • Within 1km of a hospital or fire station

Set your financing priorities.

Most people focus entirely on the interest rate but this overlooks fees, insurance premiums, loan size, and other ways that a mortgage can add value to your home purchase. Don’t be blinded by the lowest rate. Rate is only 20% of the full financing picture. At mortgage sandbox, we’ve developed a quick questionnaire to help you tell your mortgage broker what’s most important to you, and we’ve also created a CostCompare calculator to help you compare the financing costs of offers from two different lenders.

When looking at financing priorities, we always assume that you want a competitive low rate for whatever mortgage type works best for you.

Find a suitable mortgage broker and real estate agent.

The Basics

At a bare minimum you want a competent mortgage broker convenient to where you are living today and real estate agent who knows the neighbourhood where you’re shopping and both should speaks your preferred language. At Mortgage Sandbox, we believe you can get more than that.

Custom Matched Professionals

We believe that Canadians want to work with and give business to people who share and understand their interests and values. Home buying can take up to 5 months from beginning to end and it is the largest and most complex financial transaction a Canadian with complete. You should embark on this journey with professionals that you get along with and trust.

Find a Match is our proprietary app that gathers information about you and matches you with local professionals that can best anticipate your needs and can help you get settled into your new neighbourhood.

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