10 Simple Steps to Buying a Home in Winnipeg

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So, you’ve decided that you’d like to purchase a home in Winnipeg. What comes next?

Although finding your dream home is exciting, it can also be complicated and overwhelming. Follow these 10 steps to simplify your journey towards home ownership.

1. Save for your down payment and other upfront costs

If you are thinking of becoming a homeowner, you will need to start saving up for this very important purchase.

  • Down Payment. A minimum down payment of 5% of the price of the home is required.
    Are you a first time home buyer? If so, you have a few options to fund your down payment:
    • One program is the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive. This program lends you 5% of the value of the home you are purchasing (10% if you’re building a home) towards your down payment.
    • Alternatively, first time home buyers can withdraw up to $35,000 from their RRSP to put towards their down payment. 
  • Mortgage Default Insurance. If your down payment is less than 20%, you will need mortgage default insurance. The financial institution will arrange this insurance for you. You can pay it up-front or add it to your mortgage. Mortgage loan insurance will cost between 2.8% and 4.0% of your total mortgage, depending on the size of your down payment.
  • Closing Costs. Expect to pay approximately 1.5% - 2% of the home’s purchase price in closing costs, which include legal fees and land transfer fees. These must be paid when you take possession of the house.
  • Home Inspection. It is prudent to complete a home inspection before putting an offer in on a home. A home inspection can cost $275 - $500+, depending on the size of the home.
  • Appraisal Costs: The financial institution may require an independent appraisal of the home. If an appraisal is necessary, the cost is typically around $300.
  • Moving costs. Don’t forget about moving costs as they can add up quickly if you’re hiring professional movers.

    If you don’t currently have enough saved, creating an account specifically for your future home purchase and setting up a regular pre-authorized transfer every month can help with the saving process. 

2. Know your Price Range

Know your price range and stick to it. A good rule is to only go see homes that are well within your price range and avoid getting attached to any single home. Otherwise you risk over-paying and stretched your finances too thin.

With Cambrian’s Home Affordability Calculator, it takes just two minutes to learn how much home you can afford. Using this calculator will not affect your credit rating.

It is also important to create a monthly budget to ensure you are comfortable covering all your ongoing costs. Ensure you estimate:

  • Mortgage payments – Using our mortgage payment calculator will help you estimate what your mortgage payment will be.
  • Monthly utilities – Make sure you include heating, hydro, water, internet, phone and cable costs in your estimate.
  • Property taxes – Make sure to research the property taxes in the area. Also note that property taxes vary by home.
  • Home and contents insurance – Talk to your insurance provider or go online to get a quote.
  • Condo fees (if you’re interested in purchasing a condo) – monthly condo fees vary by condo and are typically included in the real estate listings.
  • Home maintenance – Things break and need to be replaced in a home and you’ll want to have money put way to pay for it. Plan to put away at least $5,000 a year towards ongoing home maintenance. You would also need to evaluate when larger expenses may be required such as replacing the roof, windows or furnace and how much those would cost.
  • Home renovations – If you’re wanting to buy a fixer-upper, you’ll need to consider the cost of home renovations. You may need to add an additional amount to your mortgage, which will increase your mortgage payment.
  • Estimated living expenses – In addition to regular living expenses, make sure you budget for contributions to your savings and any loan or credit card payments you may have.

3. Get Pre-approved

Getting pre-approved means that a financial institution has reviewed your financial situation and have determined the maximum amount of mortgage you would qualify for. Your Cambrian mortgage specialist will provide you with a written letter detailing the details of the pre-approved mortgage (rate, amount, payment, etc) and how long we will hold your mortgage rate for you while you go find the home you want to buy. When you find a home within your pre-approved amount, you can make an offer immediately. When your offer is accepted, we will formally approve a mortgage for you based on the details of the home you are purchasing.

A pre-approved mortgage establishes you as a serious buyer, and provides you with peace of mind of knowing you can make an offer to purchase with confidence. You may even qualify for special deals or have your mortgage rate held for a period of time when getting a pre-approved mortgage.

At Cambrian Credit Union, for a limited time, get pre-approved for a mortgage and we’ll take 10 points off our posted 3, 4 or 5-year fixed rate mortgage. That equals to thousands of dollars of savings. And, even better: we’ll hold that rate for you 120 days, giving you time to find the house of your dreams.

It takes as little as 15 minutes to complete our online mortgage application

Prefer to speak with a Cambrian lending specialist at one of our Winnipeg branches? We offer appointments by phone, Zoom or in-person, and you can book your appointment online. 

4. Define what is Important to you

Winnipeg Realtor Blair Sonnichsen recommends that home buyers start by looking inwards. “Ask yourself a few questions: ‘What do I like to do?’, ‘What is my lifestyle?’, and ‘What amenities do I want to be close to?’”.

Once you know the lifestyle you want, determine how much it is going to cost to get a home that allows you to live how you want, and then choose a neighbourhood that meets your needs. “Buyers should be shopping by lifestyle, price, and location – in that order,” Sonnichsen says.

Blair’s Suggested Priorities

  1. Lifestyle
  2. Price
  3. Location
Choose the Type of Home
Are you looking to purchase a single-family detached home, a side-by-side or a condominium? Knowing what type of home you are open to is important, as there are different considerations with each. Learn how purchasing a condo differs from purchasing a house. 

Age of the Neighbourhood & Home
It can be exciting to move into a freshly built home in a new subdivision. A new home is move-in ready, and you won’t need to worry about home improvements and renovations. For many, it’s a great fit, but there are some important things to keep in mind.

In newer communities, amenities such as schools, recreation facilities, libraries and public transportation may not be in place yet. This means, if you have children, they will have to be transported out of your neighbourhood to go to school.

On the contrary, a more mature community will have many amenities in place and close by, but there are other challenges to consider. An older home might need upgrades or repairs, which will add costs over and above the purchase price. You also need to be prepared to either do this work yourself, or work with professionals to do so.

“Many first time buyers look for the perfect home, rather than making the home perfect,” Sonnichsen says. Instead of buying new, consider a purchase plus improvements mortgage, which will allow you to buy a fixer-upper and turn it into the home of your dreams.

Pick your Top Neighbourhoods
When buying your home, you are probably planning on living there for a while, so it is important to understand what is available around you. Buying a home without looking into schools, shopping centres, recreational facilities and public transportation is a mistake many first time home buyers make. This mistake can be costly – both financially and in terms of the impact it has on your lifestyle.

Before long, the neighbourhood you choose will be your community so make note of your lifestyle, prioritize what you’re looking for in a community and explore local neighbourhoods you are interested in. To help with this Cambrian has compiled a bit of history, and information about the neighbourhoods of Winnipeg & Selkirk.

Explore the Winnipeg neighbourhoods where we live and work.


5. Find a Real Estate Agent

If you choose to work with a real estate agent, they will be your partner when searching for your first home, so it is important to work with someone who understands your goals and knows the market.  

When searching for your realtor, Sonnichsen suggests looking for the following characteristics: capable, competent and caring.

Capable

You know what your time frame is, and so when interviewing a realtor, ask them if they are capable of working with you in the time frame you are wanting to work in.

Competent

Look for a realtor who is competent and knowledgeable about the area you’re looking in as well as the type of home you’re wanting to buy. A good realtor will have in-depth knowledge about the market, the neighbourhoods you’re looking in, and will be able to help you write an offer that is in line with the value of the home.

Caring

Lastly, look for a realtor who is caring and focuses on helping you to choose a property as opposed to selling you one. You’ll be living in your home for many years so it’s important to buy one that meets your needs!

When buying a home, the realtor’s commission comes out of the selling price of the home. Generally the total commission paid is about 4 – 5% of the total price, with half going to the buying agent and half going to the selling agent.

6. Understand Winnipeg’s Housing Market

Comparable Properties

In order to ensure you get a good deal on your home, you will want to do a bit of research into how homes are priced and understand the price range of comparable properties per square foot.

How do you know what properties are comparable? Look for properties:

  1. In a similar neighbourhood,
  2. of a similar age,
  3. with similar indoor and outdoor square footage,
  4. and with similar features.
In terms of neighbourhood, a home in Seven Oaks is going to be priced very differently from a home in a more central location, such as downtown. The cost per square foot is generally going to be more expensive in a downtown condominium than it would be in the suburbs, for instance.

Features also drastically affect the price of a home. “For example, a home backing onto water is something the majority of Winnipeg homes will not have, therefore it will be more expensive than a home without this feature,” Sonnichsen says.

Features to look for include the condition of major repair items such as the roof and furnace, which should be inspected by a professional prior to purchasing the home. Other features that affect the value of the home include driveway and/or garage layout, outdoor amenities like a pool or shed, any special views such as park view or river view.

You can choose to do this research yourself or rely on the expertise of a realtor.

If a buyer has not done their research, they may not understand the influence these amenities have on the price of a home, meaning they may under-bid or over-bid.

Status of the Market

Right now the Winnipeg housing market is hot – or a sellers’ market. Since competition is high, making the terms of the offer right for both you and the seller can make the difference between securing your dream home and coming up short. We recommend:

  • Getting pre-approved for a mortgage
  • Requesting a possession date that meets the needs of the seller
  • Keeping your offer as simple as possible (without taking on too much risk)
  • Being willing to compromise as you are able
Read more tips on how to find your home in Winnipeg’s hot housing market

7. Make an Offer

When you’ve found a home you’d like to make your own, it is time to make an offer. In a hot market, buyers should be ready to compromise in the offer, but keep in mind that there are some things you shouldn’t compromise on.

“When purchasing a home it is important not to remove protective clauses that are there to protect you, the property and your financial institution,” Sonnichsen says.

Not requiring a home inspection as a condition to purchase (if one has not been done prior to making an offer) or property disclosure statements, as well as compromising on mortgage funding time frames are things that should be avoided.

While you want to make an offer appealing to the seller, there are many ways to do so without compromising your protection, such as not asking for appliances and having your home inspection done prior to making an offer.

And most importantly, stick to your price range and work with your realtor to make an offer that you can comfortably afford.

Anticipating a bidding war? Read 7 Tips to Win a Bidding War on a Home (Without Overpaying).

8. Protect your Investment with a Home Inspection

Hiring a home inspector to do a thorough review of the home, from foundation to roof, and report on what they have discovered, can be very beneficial in the long run.

Jeremy Winton, a home inspector in the Winnipeg market says that a home inspection is “the best way to protect your investment and make you aware of the full condition of the house”.

“When you get to view a potential home, you only get 15 – 20 minutes and you’ll only be looking at superficial items to make sure it looks nice, and if you don’t have experience, you won’t know what to actually look for.”

Foundation issues are a common problem in Winnipeg because of the large range of temperatures and amount of ground water this region has. When your home inspector is inspecting the home, they will be looking for cracks in the foundation and signs of water infiltration.

While looking at a home, carefully examine the windows, furnace and roof, as well as the foundation. Replacing or repairing these items adds up quickly, so it is important to keep the condition of the home in mind when viewing it. Consider whether replacing a dated roof or purchasing new windows is a project you would be willing to take on and if so, make sure it is a cost that you can afford.

Given the current hot real estate market, consider having a home inspection done prior to making an offer on a home, instead of making it a condition of your offer.

Learn how to choose a home inspector and what they should look for in Winnipeg homes.

9. Secure your Mortgage

At the financing stage you are going to have an important decision to make: choosing the right mortgage for your financial situation, either variable rate or fixed rate.

Keep in mind that not all mortgages are the same and the terms and flexibility of the mortgage are equally important to the rate. For example, some mortgage brokers offer deeply discounted mortgage rates that come with very limited options to repay the mortgage more quickly or pay it out prior to maturity. Often you will be required to pay a broker fee when getting a mortgage through a broker, which can cost 1% - 3% of the total cost of your mortgage. Alternatively, some brokers are paid directly through a fee from the financial institution. Because of this, it may be in the broker’s best interest to get you a mortgage at a specific institution, which may not align with your own interests.

With a Cambrian mortgage, our focus is on saving you time and money. We save you money with our everyday low mortgage rates and by making it easy to pay off your mortgage more quickly. Want to be mortgage-free sooner? You can choose to pay up to an additional 20% of your original mortgage balance every year, without penalty. Make one lump sum payment or make additional payments throughout the year. Check out our low mortgage rates

We also offer a 120-day rate guarantee from the date you get pre-approved, quick mortgage approval, and personal advice from mortgage experts in Winnipeg and Selkirk.

You can talk to a mortgage specialist at any Cambrian branch to discuss financing and determine the mortgage option that is best for you. We offer appointments by phone, Zoom or in person, and you can book your appointment online

10. Move in!

Congratulations – you’re a homeowner! Your next big decision: which local pizza joint to order from on moving day.

Happy house hunting!

Read more tips on how to find your home in Winnipeg's hot housing market

Have more questions about purchasing a home? Check out Cambrian’s home buying and mortgage resources to learn more. 

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