Real Estate


Real estate and mortgages can be daunting, especially as Canadians work to find more ways to make informed decisions about their financial future. Canadians must understand the complexities of mortgages and the real estate market (BMO Financial Group, 2023).

This provides comprehensive and valuable information on real estate and mortgages in Canada. We discuss various mortgage types, interest rates, down payments, and home-buying processes. Our goal is a reliable and credible foundation for further learning and exploration.

Basics of mortgages in Canada

A mortgage is a legal contract between a borrower and a lender. The lender provides a loan to help the borrower purchase a property. The property is collateral, and the borrower agrees to repay the loan with interest over a specified period (United States Government, 2022).

Types of mortgages in Canada

There are various types of mortgages available in Canada, including (Mortgage et al., 2023):
Mortgage typeDescription
Fixed-rateThese mortgages have a fixed interest rate for the entire loan term, providing stability and predictability in monthly payments
Variable rateThe interest rate on these mortgages can change over time based on a specific benchmark or reference rate, such as the Canadian prime rate
HybridThese mortgages offer an initial fixed interest rate period followed by a variable rate period
There are various types of mortgages available in Canada, including (Mortgage et al., 2023):

Mortgage terms and amortization periods

Mortgage terms are the length of time a borrower agrees to the conditions of a mortgage, including its interest rate. In Canada, mortgage terms typically range from 6 months to 10 years (Mortgage et al., 2023). At the end of the term, the borrower can renew the mortgage with the same lender. Alternatively, they can also shop around for a new lender.

An amortization period is the total time to pay off a mortgage. Canada's most common amortization period is 25 years, with others ranging from 5 to 30 years.

Mortgage pre-approval process in Canada

A mortgage pre-approval is an essential step in the home-buying process. It helps you understand how much you can spend on your new home. It also demonstrates your financial credibility to sellers.

Importance of mortgage pre-approval

  1. It clearly shows how much you can afford, allowing you to focus on homes within your budget.

  2. It demonstrates your financial position to sellers, making you a more attractive buyer.

  3. It locks in an interest rate for a specific period, protecting you from potential rate increases while you search for a home.

Steps to get pre-approved for a mortgage

  • Check your credit: Review your credit report for errors. Ensure your credit score aligns with your lender’s requirements.
  • Gather documents: Compile all necessary documents to verify your employment and financial situation (WOWA et al., 2022).
  • Meet with a broker or lender: Discuss your financial situation and submit your mortgage application and the required documents (Richards Mortgage Group, 2023).
  • Prepare your deposit (if required) and down payment: Nearly all mortgages require a down payment of at least 5%. The preferred down payment is 20%, allowing you to negotiate the best mortgage interest rate and terms while avoiding costly insurance requirements (outlined below).

Documents required for pre-approval

  • Photo identification (e.g., Canadian driver's license, passport, Permanent Residency card, health card).
  • Proof of employment and income, such as a job letter, pay stubs, T4 tax forms, or T1 General Tax Return.
  • Bank statements showing your net worth and liabilities. Some mortgage brokers will ask you to prepare a Personal Financial Statement (PFS) outlining all your assets, liabilities, and monthly expenses.
  • Credit report. Your mortgage broker will likely pull your Equifax® and TransUnion® reports.
The pre-approval amount is the maximum you qualify for. However, a pre-approval does not guarantee that you will get a mortgage for that amount (Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, 2022).

Understanding mortgage rates in Canada

Mortgage rates are crucial in determining the cost of borrowing for home buyers. Understanding the factors affecting mortgage rates, how to compare them, and the impact of the Bank of Canada's key interest rate on mortgages is essential.

Factors affecting mortgage rates

Mortgage rates in Canada are influenced by various factors, including (Xu & Zheng, 2023):
  • Economics: Unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence.
  • Government bond yields: Fixed mortgage rates are primarily driven by Canadian bond yields.
  • BOC’s key interest rate: The central bank's overnight interest rate sets the tone for banks' prime rates. The prime rate is significant to variable rate holders.

Comparing mortgage rates

To compare mortgage rates in Canada, consider the following tips:
  • Use comparison tools: Websites like nesto allow you to compare mortgage rates from multiple lenders.
  • Consult with a broker: Mortgage brokers can help you find the best mortgage rates based on your financial situation and preferences.
  • Negotiate with lenders: Do not hesitate to negotiate to secure a better mortgage rate.

Comparing mortgage rates

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate influences mortgage rates in the following ways (Bank of Canada, 2023; Macklem, 2023):
  • Banks' lending rates typically increase when the Bank of Canada raises its key interest rate. This increase makes borrowing more expensive.
  • Higher interest rates discourage borrowing, including mortgages, car loans, lines of credit, and business loans.
  • Decreased borrowing generally leads to lower demand for housing and goods and services, ultimately impacting mortgage rates.

Mortgage insurance in Canada

Mortgage insurance plays a crucial role in the Canadian housing market. Homebuyers who cannot afford a 20% down payment are subject to specific insurance mandates.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

The CMHC is a Canadian Crown Corporation that serves as the national housing agency of Canada (Canada et al. Corporation (CMHC), 2018). Its primary goal is to make mortgage loans more affordable for Canadians. This is being achieved through housing development strategies and mortgage insurance initiatives.

Types of mortgage insurance

There are two primary types of mortgage insurance in Canada:
  • Mortgage default insurance: An insurance that protects lenders in case a borrower defaults on their mortgage payments. It is mandatory in Canada when a homebuyer's down payment is less than 20% of the property's purchase price.
  • Mortgage protection insurance: An optional insurance that protects borrowers by helping them make mortgage payments or pay off the remaining mortgage balance in case of job loss, injury, disability, critical illness, or death.

When is mortgage insurance required?

In Canada, mortgage default insurance is required when a homebuyer's down payment is less than 20% of the property's purchase price. The insurance makes it less risky for lenders to grant mortgages to Canadians with smaller down payments. The approach ultimately makes the housing market more accessible.

Mortgage default insurance providers in Canada include Sagen (formerly Genworth Canada), Canada Guaranty, and the CMHC.

Mortgage protection insurance is not mandatory in Canada. However, it is recommended for homebuyers who want to protect their financial well-being in unforeseen circumstances.

First-time home buyer incentives and programs in Canada

Canada offers various incentives and programs to support first-time homebuyers. We discuss the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI), the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP), land transfer tax rebates, and provincial and territorial incentives.

First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI)

The FTHBI is a shared-equity program administered by the Government of Canada that lends eligible homebuyers either 5% or 10% of a home's purchase price to reduce their mortgage costs. This program aims to make homeownership more affordable by lowering monthly mortgage payments without adding to the financial burdens of first-time homebuyers (Canada et al. Corporation (CMHC), 2022).

Home Buyers' Plan (HBP)

The HBP program allows Canadians to withdraw up to $35,000 from their Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) to buy or build a home for themselves or a relative with a disability. The funds withdrawn under the HBP are tax-free, provided they are repaid within 15 years (The Toronto-Dominion Bank, 2023).

Land transfer tax rebates

First-time homebuyers in Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and the City of Toronto may be eligible for land transfer tax rebates. These rebates help reduce the cost of homeownership by providing a partial or full refund of the land transfer tax, depending on the province or municipality.

Provincial and territorial incentives

Various provinces and territories in Canada offer additional incentives and programs for first-time homebuyers. These programs may include non-refundable tax credits, down payment assistance, and housing development strategies to make mortgage loans more affordable.

Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA) in Canada

The Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA) is a registered savings plan designed to help prospective first-time homebuyers in Canada save for their first home (Canadian Revenue Agency, 2023). This brand-new account allows eligible Canadians to contribute up to $40,000 on a tax-free basis towards purchasing a first home.
To be eligible for the FHSA, you must be a Canadian resident, at least 18 years old, and a first-time homebuyer. The FHSA combines features from both Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). Like RRSPs, contributions to an FHSA are generally tax-deductible and similar to TFSAs, any qualifying withdrawal to purchase a qualifying property is not taxable, including any income or gain.

The FHSA is available at various financial institutions that offer TFSAs and RRSPs, such as banks, credit unions, life insurance companies, and Canadian trust companies.

Tips for choosing the right mortgage lender in Canada

Selecting the right mortgage lender is a crucial step in home buying. It can significantly impact your overall mortgage experience and financial well-being. We provide a short table comparing banks, credit unions, and mortgage brokers, a list of questions to ask potential lenders, and tips for evaluating lender reputations.

Comparing banks, credit unions, and mortgage brokers

Lender typeDescription
BanksLarge financial institutions offering a wide range of mortgage products and services
Credit unionsMember-owned financial cooperatives that often provide competitive mortgage rates and personalized service
Mortgage brokersIndependent professionals who work with multiple lenders to find the best mortgage rates and terms for your needs

Questions to ask potential lenders

  1. What are the lender's fees?

  2. What is the lender's prepayment policy?

  3. How long does the mortgage approval process take?

  4. Can the lender provide references from past clients?

  5. Does the lender provide any additional services or support?

Evaluating lender reputations

  • Research online reviews and testimonials. Past clients’ comments can help you gauge a lender's reputation and overall satisfaction.
  • Consult with friends, family, or colleagues who have recently obtained a mortgage to gather recommendations and insights.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer protection agencies for any complaints or issues related to the lender.

Home buying process in Canada

The home buying process in Canada involves several key steps, including selecting a real estate agent, searching for properties, making an offer, negotiating, and closing the deal.

Selecting a real estate agent

A real estate agent is a professional who represents your interests in a home-buying transaction and helps you avoid common mistakes. To find a real estate agent that meets your needs, consider the following:
  • Research local realtors and choose an agent familiar with your buying area.
  • Interview several candidates to find a match (Bico, 2022).
  • Look for agents with a strong reputation and positive client testimonials.

Searching for properties

When searching for properties, consider the following resources:
  • Online real estate websites like, Zillow Canada, and
  • Local real estate listings in newspapers and magazines.
  • Recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues.

There are an endless number of real estate listing platforms available to Canadians. A simple Google search of “buy a home in [insert your location here]” will provide you with a full range of results.

Making an offer and negotiating

Once you find a property you are interested in, you can make an offer to the seller. Your offer should include (Canada et al. Corporation (CMHC), 2018):
  • Your legal name, the seller's name, and the property's address.
  • The amount you are offering to pay (the purchase price) and your deposit amount.
  • Any extra items you want to be included in the purchase (e.g., window coverings).
  • The date you want to take possession ("closing day").
  • A request for a current land survey.
  • Any other conditions that must be met before the contract is finalized (e.g., a satisfactory home inspection).

Negotiating is a crucial part of the home-buying process. Be prepared to negotiate and strategize to achieve the best outcomes possible.

Making an offer and negotiating

Closing the deal involves finalizing the mortgage, preparing for closing day, and taking possession of your new home. Ensure that all conditions in the offer have been met and that you have all necessary documents and funds ready for closing day. If you are purchasing your first home, this may be one of the most exciting days of your life.

Legal aspects of buying real estate in Canada

When buying real estate in Canada, it is essential to understand the legal aspects of the process. This includes understanding real estate contracts, the role of real estate lawyers in transactions, property taxes, and other closing costs. Additionally, recent changes to Canadian law regarding property ownership by foreigners should be considered.

Real estate contract essentials

A real estate contract must include the following essential terms to be enforceable (Whyte, 2014):
  • Parties: The names of the buyer and seller.
  • Property: A clear description of the property being sold.
  • Price: The agreed-upon purchase price.
  • Completion date: The date when the transaction will be finalized.
  • Financing: Details of any financing arrangements, such as a mortgage.
  • Home inspection: Any requirements for a home inspection.
  • Fixtures and appliances: A list of fixtures and appliances included in the sale.
  • Closing costs: Any costs associated with the transaction, such as legal fees and taxes.

Role of real estate lawyers in transactions

Real estate lawyers play a crucial role in home buying. They ensure that all legal aspects are covered and that the transaction goes smoothly (RE/MAX, 2022). Their responsibilities include:
  • Reviewing the Agreement of Purchase and all other legal documents.
  • Ensuring there are no claims or liens against the property.
  • Arranging for Title Insurance.
  • Facilitating the transfer of ownership and recording the transaction.

Property taxes and other closing costs

Property taxes are a recurring expense that homeowners must pay to their local government. These taxes are based on the property's assessed value and typically range between 0.5% and 2.5% (nesto Inc., 2023).

Closing costs are one-time fees that buyers must pay when purchasing a property in Canada. These costs include legal and administrative fees, ranging from 1.5% to 4% of the home's purchase price.

Recent changes to Canadian law regarding property ownership by foreigners

As of January 1, 2023, Canada has implemented a two-year ban on foreign buyers purchasing residential properties as investments. This ban aims to cool Canada's housing market by freeing up supply for local buyers. However, there are exceptions for home purchases by immigrants and permanent residents of Canada who are not citizens, as well as for buyers with Canadian spouses or partners.

Frequently Asked Questions About Canadian Real Estate

  • What are the different types of mortgages in Canada?

    There are three main types of mortgages: fixed-rate, variable-rate, and hybrid mortgages.

  • Do I need a real estate agent to buy property in Canada?

    While not mandatory, a real estate agent can represent your best interests, help you avoid common mistakes, and guide you through the home-buying process.

  • What are the essential terms of a real estate contract?

    A real estate contract must include parties, property description, price, completion date, financing details, home inspection requirements, fixtures and appliances, and closing costs.

  • What is the role of real estate lawyers in transactions?

    Real estate lawyers ensure that all legal aspects are covered, review the Agreement of Purchase, ensure no claims or liens against the property, arrange for Title Insurance, and facilitate the transfer of ownership.

  • Are there any restrictions on foreign buyers purchasing residential properties in Canada?

    As of January 1, 2023, Canada has implemented a two-year ban on foreign buyers purchasing residential properties as investments. However, there are exceptions for home purchases by immigrants and permanent residents of Canada who are not citizens, as well as for buyers with Canadian spouses or partners.


Understanding Canada's various aspects of real estate and mortgages is crucial for making smart money decisions. We have covered important topics such as:

  • Types of mortgages: Fixed rate, variable rate, and hybrid mortgages
  • Mortgage rates: Factors affecting mortgage rates, comparing rates, and the impact of the Bank of Canada's key interest rate.
  • Home buying process: Selecting a real estate agent, searching for properties, making an offer, negotiating, and closing the deal.
  • Legal aspects of buying real estate in Canada: Real estate contract essentials, the role of real estate lawyers, property taxes, and other closing costs.

Using this knowledge, you can confidently navigate Canada's mortgage and real estate process, leading to a successful home-buying experience. Remember to consult with professionals, such as real estate agents and lawyers, to ensure you have the necessary support and guidance throughout your journey.