Disclosure: This site (and I) have not been compensated for publishing this post. The opinions expressed are those of Mr. Cooper.
Buying a home is a major financial decision. If done right, it can be the single best investment of your lifetime. But the desire to purchase a home and actually buying one are two different things. Many of us would like to be homeowners, but what stops us is the down payment. Thankfully, the government will give you a little help. The RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan assists first-time homebuyers afford a home sooner.
Let’s take a look at what the Home Buyers’ Plan is and if it makes sense to pay it down sooner.
What is the Home Buyers’ Plan?
The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) is plan made by the government to make it easier for first-time homebuyers. Under the HBP, you can withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP to use for your down payment. (That’s $70,000 combined when you’re buying with another first-time homebuyer.)
The RRSP helps save up your down payment sooner because of the tax refund that you receive. Let’s go through an example to illustrate this. Let’s say your tax rate is 30% and you made a $10,000 RRSP contribution. In this instance you’d be eligible for a tax refund of $3,000 (30% X $10,000 = $3,000). That’s the equivalent of a 30% no risk return on your money. Not bad!
Also by borrowing under the HBP, you may be able to avoid paying CMHC fees thanks to your heftier down payment.
The HBP is a great program as long as you follow the rules. When you withdraw money from the HBP, you’re required to pay it back over 15 years starting in the second years since you borrowed the money. Any money you don’t pay back is included as taxable income and you lose the RRSP room forever. Ouch!
Some financial gurus are against using the HBP. They claim that you’re borrowing from your future self. While that may be true, if you’re buying in a city with high home prices like Toronto or Vancouver, the HBP may be the helping hand you need to get into the real estate market sooner rather than later. In these markets, it’s tough to turn down the guaranteed return you get with the HBP. Provided you use the HBP is a smart way and repay the money you borrow according the repayment schedule, it can be a wonderful program.
Should you Pay Down the Home Buyers’ Plan Sooner?
If you get a cash windfall, should you pay off the HBP sooner? It some cases it can make a lot of sense. As previously stated, you need to pay back any money borrowed from your RRSP from the HBP within 15 years. Using the example above, if you borrowed $10,000, you’d have to pay back $666.67 annually ($10,000 / 15 years = $666.67). But if you have the money, why not increase it to $750 annually? When you do this, you’d pay it back in only 13.33 years, almost 2 years sooner. After the HBP is fully repaid, any further money you contribute to your RRSP goes towards saving for retirement. This lets you take full advantage of the power of compound interest.
About the Author
Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Finance Journalist, Money Coach and Speaker, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and MoneySense. Connect with Sean on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.