Moving to Alberta: The Checklist to Buying a Home in Alberta
There’s no doubt about it: Alberta is a great place to live. Whether you’re thinking about moving to one of its vibrant cities like Edmonton or Calgary, or whether you prefer the quiet, rural life in one of its smaller towns, there’s a little something for everyone.
But what do you need to know before making this big move?
We’ve put together this list of some of the most important things to consider if you are planning on moving to Alberta. Follow our advice and your move will go as smoothly as possible.
What Kind of Home Is Right For You?
When you get to Alberta, what kind of home do you think you want to live in? There are certainly lots of options, but some of the things you should be thinking about are:
Should I rent or buy a home?
It’s important to know if renting or buying a home is the right way to go. Many people dream of eventually owning a home, but is it the best move for you right now? Those who are quite familiar with Alberta and who are financially ready to make the purchase may want to jump right in. If you’re new to the area, though, you may want to rent for a year or two as you decide which area will best suit your needs.
What style of home do I want to live in?
Do I want to buy a brand-new or a resale home?
When it comes to resale versus brand new, it can be a tough decision for many families. Resale homes can be more affordable, but they can also come with costly problems. If you get a brand-new home, you can design it the way you want and it will be protected by a new home warranty, but you may have to wait several months for it to be finished.
How do I find the right builder?
If you’ve decided that you want to build a home, you need to compare your builder options. Some offer a range of products, while others have a specialty that fits your needs. It’s smart to look at a few different builders and get multiple quotes before you make your decision.
Checklist: Home Builder Comparison Checklist
Find The Right Community
Once you’ve thought about what type of home you’ll want to live in, you’ll also want to think about where you want that home to be. What type of community is right for you?
First, think about whether you want the hustle and bustle of an urban area or the peace and quiet of a more rural area. Alberta’s biggest cities are Calgary and Edmonton, and on the outskirts of these cities, you’ll find plenty of nice, suburban communities. Rural areas are typically found in Central or Northern Alberta.
Can’t decide which is better? A lot of people find their happy medium with “bedroom communities” like Spruce Grove or Fort Saskatchewan. These cities are close enough to a major city like Edmonton that you could easily commute for work or travel for a fun night out, but they’re far enough away where they have a quieter atmosphere. You can also enjoy the benefits of bigger yards and more affordable homes.
You’ll also want to scope out the neighbourhood and see what types of amenities are available. For instance, some communities have desirable features like parks and playgrounds, walking trails in natural areas, and tobogganing hills. Others may seem plain in comparison, but maybe that suites your needs perfectly. Additionally, look at the nearby grocery stores, shops, restaurants, and professional service providers. You’ll be most happy with your location choice if the area has everything you need for daily living.
If the Edmonton area (or one of the nearby bedroom communities) is at the top of your list, why not take a look at some of the communities Sterling has to offer? We build in a variety of local communities that have plenty to offer all types of buyers. Our Area Managers can help you find a home that meets your needs if you’re not familiar with the area.
Free Resource: Excellent Edmonton Communities to Explore
Save Up For A Down Payment
Think you’re ready to buy your home? It all starts with coming up with enough money for your down payment. In most cases, the minimum payment you’ll need in Alberta is 5% of the value of the home. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though.
If the value of the home is over $500,000, you’ll need to have 10 percent of the amount over the initial $500,000. In other words, if the home costs $650,000, you’ll need to have at least $40,000 for your down payment: 5 percent of $500,000 ($25,000), plus 10 percent of $150,000, which is the amount in excess of that $500,000 ($15,000).
Additionally, if you don’t plan to live in the home (for example, if you purchase a rental property), you’ll need at least 20 percent for the down payment.
Remember, though, this is only the minimum amount you need to purchase your home. With a 5% down payment, you’ll only have 5% equity in the home. Your mortgage payment will be higher because you have to pay mortgage insurance. If you can afford to put 20% (or more!) down on your home, you’ll be able to save a lot on your monthly payment.
Saving up this much money can be a big hurdle for many first-time homebuyers who don’t have the advantage of having equity in a home already. Fortunately, there are programs to help you with your down payment, such as the Home Buyers’ Plan or the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive. These programs allow you to borrow money for your down payment. Of course you have to pay it back, but you’ll finally be building up some equity.
Qualify For A Mortgage
Not everyone realizes that the monthly mortgage payment is a combination of many different things. You’re paying back part of the principal balance and the interest on your loan.
Initially, you’re be paying a higher proportion towards the interest. It’s also likely you will pay a prorated amount for your annual property taxes and homeowners’ insurance policy. And like we mentioned before, if you put down less than 20% for a down payment, you need to take mortgage insurance into consideration, which means higher monthly mortgage payments.
With a higher down payment, you may be able to pay less each month or you may be able to pay your mortgage off more quickly.
Before you purchase your home, you’ll have to be pre-approved for the mortgage. This will tell you whether or not the bank is willing to loan you money and how much they think you can afford. To apply for pre-approval – or to apply for a regular mortgage – you’ll need the following items:
- Photo ID
- Your social insurance number
- A summary of assets you own, such as balances in saving and checking accounts, RRSPs, investments, vehicles and other properties you own.
- A similar list of liabilities, such as debts.
- Proof of employment, such as pay stubs, T1, T4 etc.
- 3 months of bank statements
- RRSP statements
- A gift letter if your down payment is borrowed
- Source of funds if your down payment comes from somewhere else, such as a line of credit.
It may feel complicated, but as long as you complete all of the steps and submit the required information, you should be fine.
Additional Costs To Prepare For
Other costs will come up as you go about purchasing your home. If you’re not prepared, you could be in for a nasty surprise! In general, plan on having an additional 2% of the cost of your home for the following fees:
- Adjustment costs: If buying a resale home, you might need to reimburse the previous owners for utility payments or property taxes they paid after the closing date of the sale.
- Legal fees
- Title insurance
- Property insurance
- Moving expenses
- New utility hookups (can vary depending on the provider.)
- Property appraisal
- Property survey
- Home inspection fee
You may not need to pay everything on this list, and you may have other costs that crop up. As long as you’ve set aside extra money, you should be safe.
Alberta is one of the best upcoming markets in Canada, and now is a great time to get in early while the province is still growing. You have a good chance of seeing great returns on your property. By getting to know the best areas in and around Edmonton and Calgary you can find the best spot for you, whether you’re a first-time buyer, a retiree, or someone looking to find the perfect investment property.
If you’re still unsure, give one of our Area Managers a call. They know the local real estate markets better than anyone and are happy to help you get started in your search for the right home.