Weekend Reading – Guide for home buyers edition

Weekend Reading – Guide for home buyers edition

Well hello!

Welcome to a new Weekend Reading post: a guide for home buyers edition.

Before we get into this week’s theme, here are some of my latest posts:

As bad as the markets are or have been this year, the worst hasn’t happened, yet.

Here are the worst investing years on record and what you can learn from that.

Regardless of what the markets are doing – I’m focused on some saving and investing goals here.

In a previous Weekend Reading edition, here are some housing market predictions for 2022

Weekend Reading – Guide for home buyers edition

Kudos to the team at MoneySense for putting together this comprehensive first-time home buyers guide.

To initiate Weekend Reading, some thoughts/commentary on this guide and my personal reflections with some lessons learned for others.

Part 1 – the costs of home ownership / saving for a home

I think the writers did a great job in this section.

First though, I would argue the costs of home ownership are far more than most people realize.

So, as a first-time home buyer, don’t underestimate the general maintenance costs at just 1% or so of your home or condo value – they could be more from time to time! That 1% rule is a good rule of thumb. So, if your home is worth $750,000, I would budget at least $7,500 per year in maintenance costs. It is worth $1.5 M? Lucky you, since you’ll need to budget $15,000 per year in those costs. A reminder those maintenance costs are beyond utilities, ignore major improvements, and routine property taxes.

Something to consider younger folks!

Also, when it comes to saving for a home or buying a home at all, I think the punchline to any rent vs. buy debate is far more emotional than math.

My personal experience has been: home ownership is a want not a need.

Yes, you need shelter, but you don’t need to own a home.

Homeownership is a math decision, for sure, but if you look hard enough in the mirror, I think it’s more about a lifestyle decision.

Also in this section from the authors, while very true there is the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) (a program that allows you to withdraw from your Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)), and the new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (a new federal government incentive announced in this year’s budget), I believe we already have enough ways to save for a home – including a missing point for many.

First though, the HBP – we don’t really need it.

With TFSA contribution room, per established adult Canadian, now standing $81,500 per person, that’s a lot of money to save and invest tax-free by your early 30s. Instead of creating various gimmicky, complex programs, I just wish the government would increase the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) contribution limit – simple and very effective. 

Now, you might be saying, what about 20-somethings?

Well, yes, your TFSA contribution room will not be as juicy since you can only begin accumulating/contributing from the year you turn age 18, even if you didn’t file a tax return yet. Still, even for most 20-somethings, you can save and invest tens of thousands of dollars inside your TFSA – far more than your HBP limit without fear of robbing your tax-deferred money from your future-self.

Check out this handy TFSA calculator here.

More importantly, to my missing point above, most money you save and invest for a home should be in secure assets – not heavy into stocks or alternative asset classes. So, there is only a modest “tax-free” benefit to be had beyond a savings account or use of GICs. Still, the TFSA remains a great vehicle to save.

What about this: The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive?

I mean, why on earth is our government so darn interested in sharing “in both the upside and downside of the property value” with Canadian homeowners? Certainly, some questionable priorities here over education and healthcare – but that’s just me.

Finally, from my personal lessons learned, a home is just part of your financial plan. Make sure you learn to manage debt before debt manages you…

Part 2 – understanding your mortgage

I think the writers did a great job in this section as well, but I struggle with any TDS or GDS metrics for a simple but important reason.

Yes, when you apply for a mortgage, your lender will look at your gross debt service (GDS) ratio and total debt service (TDS) ratio in order to determine how much mortgage a person with your debt and income level can reasonably carry. 

But these ratios only look at gross dollars or gross household income. Last time I checked, I pay taxes – lots of them. So, using any TDS or GDS ratio that does not look at estimated, after-tax dollars you can actually use misses the entire point. These rations create an unreasonable, ill-informed metric.

Bad ratios aside, I have always been a fan of the mortgage stress test – you do need to save people from themselves.

(Recall: under mortgage stress test rules, lenders apply a benchmark rate of 5.25% or the rate equivalent to 2% more than the rate you’re being offered—whichever is higher.)

Part 3 – finding the best home and mortgage provider

I’ll close off this commentary of the MoneySense article by reinforcing this: “going to your bank means your only option is one lender but going to a broker allows you to access multiple lenders,” including multiple banks and credit unions.

I can’t stress enough that if you want the best rates and terms and conditions on your mortgage – best to shop around and get a reputable mortgage broker to do the heavy lifting for you.

More Weekend Reading….

A good article here, how some 30-somethings perceive the housing market (subscribers only).

From the article:

“You just buy a place, and you make money off of it.”


Growing tired of housing inequality in Canada? You can consider the FIRE-like-lifestyle of living in Mito, Japan, for just $11,000 CDN per year. That is incredibly cheap.

I really enjoyed this article by Adam Collins: why perfectionism ruins portfolios.

Smart summary, including the final bullet I’ve embraced for many years now:

  • “Missing out on investment fads is a feature, not flaw, of diversification.
  • Instead of chasing short-term dopamine highs, build a portfolio around a short list of evidence-based rules.
  • Exercise the discipline to follow those rules. Successful investors reduce fees and stick to something imperfect rather than endlessly pursue perfection.”

Well done and kudos to GenY Money in her mid-year review.

I echo what Dave wrote here and this has also been my plan all along, assuming my employer will have me in a few years??

“All I can say in the end is that based on my experience if you can afford to do so going part time is the perfect road to a phased retirement and a healthier life.”

Does the 4% rule work with higher inflation? At 3.5% or 4.5% or even 5.5% inflation??

Read on to learn about the results!

On how much is enough…

How much is your enough

On some laws of wealth…

The Laws of Wealth


I’ll be back next week to hopefully answer some reader questions in a new post. Thanks for those reader questions!

Have a great weekend!


My name is Mark Seed - the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, I'm looking to start semi-retirement soon, sooner than most. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Join the newsletter read by thousands each day, always FREE.

14 Responses to "Weekend Reading – Guide for home buyers edition"

  1. Great article on the housing, Mark. What a timely topic to bring up when the stock market is going through a hellish time.
    Real estate has always been a stable investment over long term regardless of economic times. In good and bad times, flippers, homeowners, builders go through the cycle and, in most cases, come out ahead of their investment. Personally, I have always considered home ownership as a “must ” investment both to suit your lifestyle and investment. No matter where you own a home, in majority of cases, your home is worth substantially more than your original investment. In markets like Toronto and Vancouver, all homeowners are laughing their way to the bank!!!!!

    Have a good weekend and a joyous upcoming Canada Day.


    1. Ya, I like real estate too for some portfolio diversification which is part of the reason why we wanted to own our condo…

      Over time RE can be a decent inflation hedge too.

      Folks in Toronto and Vancouver have won the real estate lottery!

      Back at you, have a great Canada Day long weekend soon!

  2. My own favourite read this past week has got to be “An open letter to young investors” by John Heinzl at Globeinvestor. My wife and I are both dinks, so nobody to pass it on to, and at 72 I’m not exactly young.

    Wise advice though for those who are young and heed it’s wise advice. Think of it as a gift of information.

  3. A small quibble about putting 1% aside for house maintenance – the 1% should based on the value of the house itself (replacement cost – your insurance company can help establish this) and not the house plus the actual dirt it sits on – the dirt will require little if any maintenance over time.
    That said, looking at my records for the last 37 years of house ownership I came nowhere near a 1% maintenance cost – more like a .25% cost – admittedly my numbers maybe a a bit skewed in that I provided the labour for almost all the maintenance – it certainly helps to be reasonably handy (or know someone who is and can be convinced to help with a BBQ cookout and a case of beer 🙂 )
    Youtube is definitely your friend if for no other reason than you’ll be familiar with what the project entails. eg. simple plumbing tasks.

  4. Deane Hennigar (RBull) · Edit

    Lots of good content above Mark.

    Agree with you on lifestyle (choice) comment re housing. Also on costs usually underestimated. We probably run annually 1/% but every 3 years or so that bumps to 2-4% with some big improvement, repair etc. Its a lot.

    Also agree on the 30 somethings perceptions of easy $$ by buying house. I read a survey recently that many younger people plan to rely on selling house for retirement $$$. I never expected or planned for either.

    Ha on the enough graphic!!

    “All I can say in the end is that based on my experience if you can afford to do so going part time is the perfect road to a phased retirement and a healthier life.”

    Absolutely agree, I had a very long phased semi retirement leading to full stop. Age 46 ending on 55th birthday. (8+ years ago) All good.

    Hope everyone has a good weekend and a great upcoming Canada Day.

    1. We probably run annually 1/% but every 3 years or so that bumps to 2-4% with some big improvement, repair etc. Its a lot.

      “All I can say in the end is that based on my experience if you can afford to do so going part time is the perfect road to a phased retirement and a healthier life.”

      You are a great role model for many Deane!

      Same back: have a good weekend and a great upcoming Canada Day!

      1. Deane Hennigar (RBull) · Edit

        Thanks Mark. You are kind.

        I couldn’t edit my mistake above but should read ~1/2% annually on our home maintenance expenses.

        Take care. Time for my workout now, and then enjoy outside! Might get the boat down to the water.

  5. I’ve always lived in a house That was owned either by my parents or myself.
    Inherited the family house at 16 when my parents died.
    Sold it in ’77 when i bought another house and I am still here even after having to re-purchase it following a divorce in ’90.
    Personally would go stir crazy in an apartment but maybe because I an used to a house for the last 70 some years.
    Always putting in time and money to maintain it but that is what a house is. Plus no noisy neighbors on the other side of the wall or above the ceiling or below the floor. Just a few noisy evenings through the year when the neighbour throws a party.
    Eventually the house will be sold either because I croak or I am too old and decerped to maintain it. Until then I’ll enjoy it.
    So while lodging is necessary a house is not for everyone. There is work to it.
    It is not just the financial aspect that counts


    1. Yes, houses are work…”always putting in time and money to maintain it but that is what a house is.”

      This is why this is a lifestyle choice, not just a financial one.

      Thanks for the detailed comment!


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