7 steps to buying your first home

21 March 2024 by National Bank
Keys illustration’s in the shape of a house for an article about buying your first home.

Would you like a house with a big yard and a pool or a condo with stunning views of the city? No matter what's on your wish list, it may be hard to know where to start. So, how do you buy your first home? Here is an overview of the steps you should take to achieve this goal with peace of mind.

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Getting ready to become a first-time homeowner

Ready to buy a home?
We’re here to help!

1. Assess your borrowing capacity

Start by estimating the amount of the mortgage loan you can qualify for to finance the purchase of your first home. In real estate terms, a mortgage loan is simply a loan secured by your home.

Knowing this amount in advance is the same as checking the menu online before you go to a restaurant. It's better to know if you will be able to afford to pay the bill before you choose the restaurant and eat your meal. It's nice to be able to control your budget.

To determine your borrowing capacity:

Consider calculating your mortgage payments (the payments you will make to repay your loan). Make sure you stay within your personal budget,  and remember to leave yourself some money to:

2. Determine your down payment

Once you have an idea of how much you can borrow, calculate your down payment. That's the portion of the price of the house that you will pay out of pocket. The rest will be financed by your mortgage loan.

Why make a down payment?

A down payment is mandatory. It helps reduce the amount of your loan and the interest on your payments. The minimum amount depends on the price of the property.

How much is the down payment?

The amount is calculated as a percentage of the sale price of the house. As a general rule, there are two options for a primary residence:

  • 5% of the purchase price of the house: in most cases, it’s the minimum down payment amount. For example, a house sold for $300,000 will require a minimum down payment of $15,000.
  • 20% of the purchase price: if your down payment is 20% or more of the purchase price of your home, you can obtain a conventional loan and avoid the mortgage insurance fees.
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Good to know: if your down payment is less than 20% of the purchase value, the financial institution granting you the mortgage must take out insurance with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), SagenTM or Canada GuarantyTM. As a result, you will have to pay a premium¹ in addition to your mortgage payment.

How do you get a down payment?

You can use the following for your down payment:

Here is a tip regarding the RRSP (because the link to home buying is not obvious): the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) allows you to withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP without any tax impact which you can then use as a down payment on your first home. If two of you are buying the home, you multiply it by two and you can use $70,000. Whatever you withdraw:

  • You must start repaying it starting the 2nd year after your withdrawal (for example, you must start repaying a withdrawal made in 2021 in 2023)
  • It must be repaid in full within 15 years.

Another tip regarding the RRSP

If you don’t have $35,000 in your RRSP (since money doesn’t grow on trees), you can consider taking out an RRSP loan to make use of the HBP². Caution: The money must always be in your RRSP for at least 90 days before you can withdraw it.

3. Request mortgage pre-approval

Before you start looking for a house, get pre-approved for a mortgage so you can confirm your borrowing capacity. You'll have a clear idea of the price range you can afford to help in your search and can even get an interest rate guarantee from the Bank for a certain amount of time, like 90 days.

Other benefits to this document:

  • Prove to sellers that you are credible buyer
  • Increase your negotiating power
  • Give you an advantage over other buyers (who are not pre-approved)

To get pre-approved, apply for pre-approval online, or request it from your advisor.

4. Plan for additional costs

There are other costs beyond the mortgage payments and the down payment that come with the purchase of your first home, such as legal fees. In general, experts believe you need between 2 and 3% of the value of the house to pay them.

Learn more about the fees to consider when buying a home.

5. Find your home

Identify your needs and preferences before you start looking for your home. Here are a few questions you should consider:

  • What area, neighborhood or town are you interested in?
  • What type of home would you like (single-family, condo, duplex)?
  • What features of a home are most important to you?
  • Are there short-term costs to consider (landscaping, renovations)?

You can do the research yourself or you can contact a real estate broker who can assist you.

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Good to know: because the seller pays the broker’s commission based on a percentage of the sale price, they could set the price accordingly.

6. Make your offer

The promise to purchase or offer to purchase, contains all the information necessary to close the sale. If you are using a real estate broker, they will take care of writing it. The contract will contain the following information:

  • Purchase price
  • Ownership transfer date
  • Items included in the transaction (or excluded)
  • The terms and conditions of the offer to purchase (e.g., inspection)

You may have to adjust your offer if the seller makes a counter-offer, which means reviewing the terms so both parties are happy.

Learn more about the offer to purchase.

7. Take out a mortgage loan

Your advisor will explain each of the steps of a mortgage loan and will support you throughout the process of buying a house.

Note that the mortgage loan application is different from the pre-approval application. Here, it’s time to start thinking of the financing that meets your needs. Among the elements to consider:

  • The type of interest rate on your loan: fixed rate or variable rate?
  • The term of your loan:  A period during which you will have to repay your mortgage in accordance with previously selected conditions
  • The amortization: The total number of years you have to repay your loan

The financing application

Then, you have to gather the documents and information needed to process your application. It is better to take your time and have everything ready before you start:

  • Offer to purchase
  • Proof employment and proof income
  • Proof of down payment and assets
  • An assessment of your loan insurance needs

This step can take several days because some documents have to come from third parties such as your employer. Then, you will need to:

  • Confirm the value of your property
  • Get approval for your financing (some conditions may apply)
  • Register the property ownership transfer

Signing the legal documents

You officially become the owner when you sign the documents with a notary or a lawyer. Don’t hesitate to ask your questions, they are there to help you.

The funds approved by your bank are given to the seller to pay for the property.

Follow up

You can count on your advisor to follow up on your file and assist with your current and future needs, such as:

  • Administrative changes (e.g.: frequency and date of mortgage payments)
  • Renewing your financing

Now you're equipped to start the process of buying your first home.

Would you like to discuss this with us? Contact your National Bank advisor or your wealth advisor at National Bank Financial. Don't have an advisor?

Make an appointment

Are you wondering whether or not you’re ready to buy a house?


I’ll explain in less time than it takes to build this furniture.


Why isn’t Dad doing this for us like he usually does?

At our age, I think it’s time to be a little more independent!

Before thinking about buying, make a list of your upcoming projects for the next five years.

Are you thinking of continuing your studies?

Going on a trip? Buying a car?

Starting a business?


The idea is to establish your priorities.

Becoming a homeowner is gratifying, but if you have other projects that are more important to you, it’s okay to keep renting a place!

Renting offers more flexibility.


If your income is stable, predictable and your savings are good, start by identifying your needs.


How many bedrooms do you want?

Do you need parking?

And would you rather have a house or a condo?

Is it a shelf or a table?


Get to know the market and learn about the prices!

This will allow you to see if the properties that fit your criteria also fit your budget.

To buy something, you also need a down payment.

That’s a minimum of 5% of the price of the property.

Think about putting aside another 2 to 3% of the property’s value for other expenses like the inspection, the notary or the welcome tax.

Before asking for a mortgage loan, you can consult an advisor or use an online calculator to show you your monthly payments.

That will help you to better evaluate your budget

The important thing is to ensure that you are ready, financially and mentally, to become a homeowner, and then…just follow the steps.






Wasn’t it supposed to be a chair?



Legal disclaimer

¹The insurance premium can be added to your total mortgage loan. File review fees and applicable taxes on the premium must be paid separately.

²To be eligible for the Home Buyers’ Plan, the selected home must be located in Canada, purchased or built before October 1 of the calendar year following the RRSP withdrawal and serve as the buyer’s principal residence within a year of being purchased or built. You and your spouse can each withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP. You have 15 years, as of the second calendar year after withdrawal, to repay your RRSP. Your annual repayment must be equal to 1/15 of the total amounts withdrawn.

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The contents of this website must not be interpreted, considered or used as if it were financial, legal, fiscal, or other advice. National Bank and its partners in contents will not be liable for any damages that you may incur from such use.

This article is provided by National Bank, its subsidiaries and group entities for information purposes only, and creates no legal or contractual obligation for National Bank, its subsidiaries and group entities. The details of this service offering and the conditions herein are subject to change.

The hyperlinks in this article may redirect to external websites not administered by National Bank. The Bank cannot be held liable for the content of external websites or any damages caused by their use.

Views expressed in this article are those of the person being interviewed. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of National Bank or its subsidiaries. For financial or business advice, please consult your National Bank advisor, financial planner or an industry professional (e.g., accountant, tax specialist or lawyer).

TMSagen is a trademark of Genworth Financial Canada, the mortgage insurance company.

TMCanada Guaranty is a trademark of Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company.

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Image maison neuve

Getting ready to become a first-time homeowner

Ready to buy a home?
We’re here to help!