Home Buyers Boot Camp

With the real estate market being so aggressive right now, I thought it would be valuable to do a ‘buying bootcamp’ video series.

Whether you’re buying for the first time, haven’t bought in a while (maybe the market was more balanced) or are downsizing, I’d like to share my tips and tricks on buying a home in Toronto. 

Whether you’re looking to buy a freehold property or a condominium, many of the basic steps are the same.  (If you’re looking for a condo, you can also check out my 3 part YouTube series on buying a condo)

To paraphrase Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music (yes, I know I’m dating myself here) let’s start at the very beginning, which is a very good place to start. 

When you’re buying anything, especially a large purchase, you need to budget for the purchase.  The same holds true for buying likely your largest purchase, real estate.  

When you’re purchasing a property, you will need three things: 

  • a down payment 
  • a mortgage 
  • closing costs

You’ll need to provide your own money for the down payment and closing costs, and a mortgage lender sets up a mortgage for you.

How much Down Payment do you need when you buy a Toronto home?

Lets talk about the down payment first.  The down payment is paid in 2 parts. The first part is paid as a deposit to secure the property.  The balance of the deposit is paid on the day of closing.  

So how much deposit is required?

For a Toronto property that’s $500,000 or less the minimum down payment is 5%

For properties between $500,000 - $999,999 the minimum down payment is $5% of the first $500,000 and 10% of the difference between $500,000 and the purchase price.   

Anything over one million dollars requires a 20% down payment.  

Usually, the deposit required is 5% which is delivered either the day of purchase or within 24 hours of the purchase. 

Important dates to know about Deposits and Down Payments

  1. If your pulling money from investments, or getting a gift of funds, there are rules of how long the money needs to be in your account before you can use it for the down payment
  2. If you are drawing money from investments, like RRSP’s or if you bank at an on-line bank, accessing these funds quickly is sometimes a challenge, so you need to make sure the money is available when you need it
  3. If you are downsizing and all of the equity tied up is in your current home you will need time to arrange a line of credit or equity loan for the deposit and/or down payment

What is a Mortgage and how do you qualify?

So now we’ve discussed the down payment, you will need to arrange a mortgage.  There are (generally speaking) 3 types of lenders that arrange mortgages.   The first is a bank, the second are mortgage brokers and the third are private lenders.  

I usually leave the details to the lenders to explain because there are a ton of mortgage loans you can get – but here are some basics you should know.  

  • A bank mortgage professional works for the bank first and you second
  • A mortgage broker is independent and works for you first.  

You should not have to pay any fees to apply for a mortgage!

 You can get competitive advice and meet with both to see who can provide you the best options.

 In a competitive market, you’ll be asked to provide a pre-approval of your mortgage (they should guarantee your rates for a certain amount of time).   

To get a pre-approval you will need to provide your mortgage professional with written proof of:

  • Income
  • Debts
  • Credit score
  • They will ask for more information if you are self employed

Other important things to know about getting a Mortgage:

  1. Mortgages are subject to a Stress Test – you must prove you qualify at a higher interest rate than the rate you’ll pay.  Lenders want to know if rates go up, you can still pay your mortgage.
  2. If you are putting down less than 20% on a property your mortgage is called a ‘high ratio mortgage’.  Since this is riskier for the lender, they carry mortgage insurance on these.   That insurance is passed on to you, the consumer.  So the difference between your down payment & 20% is insured and that portion has a slightly higher rate – don’t worry it’s blended all together so you don’t pay 2 mortgages!  
  3.  Finally, there is more to a mortgage than interest rates.  The ability to pay off your mortgage faster, penalties for breaking the mortgage & lines of credit are also features offered by different lenders.  

Closing costs like Land Transfer Tax:

Lastly, there are some closing costs to budget for.  

 The largest of these is Land Transfer Tax; which is a one time tax paid on closing.  If you’re a first time buyer, you’ll get some credits toward this (max. of around $4,000).  

 If you’re buying in Ontario, but outside the city of Toronto, budget around 1.3% of the purchase price.  If you’re buying a Toronto Property you’ll pay double as there is a Toronto surcharge.  (The good news is your property tax rates are lower in Toronto than outside!) 

So now you know some finance basics, you’re pre-approved; lined up your down payment and closing costs, you’re ready to view some properties! 

Other helpful links:

Simon LeFave, The Mortgage Centre

Land Transfer Tax Calculator - Automatically applies first time buyer credits

More information on Down Payments

CMHC Mortgage Rate Calculator and information on Mortgage Insurance

CMHC Home Buying Advice

CMHC First Time Home Buyers Incentives

CMHC Housing information for Newcomers

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It's a short walk to schools, parks, public transit, Centennial GO station, Markville Mall, and the vibrant shopping district along Highway 7.  You can even walk to grocery stores! This is great for commuters – an almost unheard of walking proximity to everything you need that’s rarely found outside the city core. Don't miss this opportunity to make this fantastic home in one of Markham's prime locations yours!


A disturbing trend I've come across recently is the fraud in the rental space.   As an agent who handles a fair share of rentals; these issues have shown up over several ways this year.   I'll tell you about 3 instances I've had and the red flags that appeared with each! 

When I'm representing a landlord and an application comes in, I spend a lot of time going through an applicants documentation and getting references and looking through their background.  Here's what I do:

  • Call their employer by finding the employer's website and calling through their office to confirm employment.  I don't just call the supervisor on the application
  • Look carefully at the documents to see if they are real; company letterhead & credit reports can be faked or bought
  • Check social media & linked in
  • Call past landlords
  • Make sure there is a building at the address they're currently renting
  • Check that the landlords name and property owners names match.   If it's an apartment building call through the property management company if it's an apartment rather than calling the number provided.
  • Look at the credit report for signs of altering

With those things in mind, let's look at 3 things that have happened to me this year!

1.  Student rental Scam - fake rental and landlord

First of all, you should never have to pay to submit a rental application, or be asked for a deposit before you get a chance to see the place.   These scams are generally ads on sites like Kijijii and Facebook for rentals that look too good to be true.  They also steal MLS listings for homes and advertise them at lower rates.  I came across one recently through a family friend desperate for some student housing.  It was a big scam; and when I called them out they 'protested too much'.    Here's how to spot these scammers:

  • They demand payment to submit a rental application
  • They demand a deposit before you see the unit
  • Makes excuses why they are not available to speak to on the phone 
  • Will only communicate through messenger, text or email
  • The advertised price is way lower than other rentals
  • Their Facebook profile was just created
  • Their Facebook name does not match their user name ID (see the URL) 

2. Fake Rental Applications   

There are some very good forged documents out there.  I had some people submit an application on a lease I was advertising and here's what I found during the checks, among the other checks I did as above :

  • Inconsistencies in addresses on the application
  • Employment letter does not look real - no header or footer with information on the company letterhead

3. Forged Tenacy Papers

I had a call from a gal who had a great story, good employment, good credit, moving to Toronto from outside the city for work, can't come in to look for a place so needed virtual showings.  Could I help her find a place.  Sounds great right?  

Now I don't usually check tenants out before I help them (and I'd helped out a client with an out of town move this year already in a similar situation)  But with everything going on right now, I felt it couldn't hurt to see what her references would say.   So she sent in her application & 

then came the paperwork - the address of her job didn't match up with her story.  The company had never heard of her or her supervisor.  There was even no property listed at the home she had put for her address!  Other red flags for scammers include what she did:

  • get overly upset when called out 
  • provide complicated excuses for 'mistakes' on application forms
  • call the fact checker a liar, unprofessional, etc.

So be careful out there folks! 


A big thank you to the communities of Guildwood, West Rouge & Port Union for the terrific support last Saturday for my Community Shredding Event.  About 30 families participated - and their generous food donations filled our Jeep to the brim!   The food donations were taken straight to Feed Scarborough - the Scarborough Food Security initiative and will be distributed to local satellite food banks in the area.   Judging from the huge line up outside the Manse Rd. food bank Saturday, it's much needed. 

Chartwell Guildwood was my partner for this event and provided the venue and great snacks.  Thank you Kelly & Dianne for your wonderful support.  As always, Papersavers was gracious, friendly, professional and helpful!  

One interesting sideline - My husband, myself, Dianne and Alex from papersavers all grew up within the same area!   Such a big city/small world!