I must admit, I love watching the HGTV show “Property Virgins“, and seeing the excitement of first time home buyers fulfil their dreams of home ownership is one of the best things about my job.

In British Columbia, real estate prices (compared with much of Canada) are high relative to average income, which increases barriers to first time home owners. In the Okanagan, local professionals like to call this the “sunshine tax” (although “four season paradise tax” would be more appropriate). Thankfully there are some very helpful programs that First Time Home Buyers can use to assist them with their first home purchase.

A. Property Transfer Tax Exemption for First Time Home Buyers

This program exempts First Time Home Buyers from paying BC Property Transfer Tax.

To Qualify for the PTT Exemption a First Time Home Buyer must:

  1. Be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident
  2. Have lived in BC for 12 consecutive months OR filed income tax returns for at least 2 of the last 6 years in BC
  3. Never have owed an interest in a principal residence anywhere in the world; and
  4. Never have previously received a First Time Home Buyers Exemption

If you qualify, on homes valued up to $475,000, a First Time Home Buyer will be exempt from paying Property Transfer Tax (a savings of $7,500 in PTT). The tax exemption diminishes on higher priced homes and is not available on any homes priced over $500,000.

You apply for the exemption at the time of conveyance, and often your lawyer will complete the PTT Return and Exemption application as part of the closing documentation.  There are severe penalties for a false declaration.

B. RRSP First Time Home Buyers Plan

This program allows First Time Home Buyers to “loan themselves” previously claimed RRSP contributions tax free to assist in the purchase of a home.

To Qualify for the RRSP First Time Home Buyers Plan:

  1. You must have entered into a binding agreement to build or buy a home
  2. You intend to occupy your home as a principal residence and be a resident of Canada
  3. You are a first time home buyer
  4. You must not have a “repayable Home Buyers Plan” balance on your tax return

This program will allow you to withdraw up to $25,000 from your RRSP to assist in your home purchase. This is withdrawn at your financial institution immediately prior to closing and you complete form T1036.

C. First Time Buyers New Home Bonus

This is a time limited rebate (introduced with the enhanced HST rebates) for First Time Home Buyers buying new homes (until March 31, 2013 only), to qualify:

  1. You must be eligible for an HST rebate on a new home purchased after April 1, 2012 and Completion must occur before Mar 31, 2013 (ie; transition tax does not apply)
  2. You (and the if a couple, both persons) must be a First Time Home Buyers and BC Residents
  3. The home must be the Buyers Primary Residence
  4. Your Family Income must be less than $150,000 for full rebate (note : the rebate phases out to $0 for income over $200,000)

After closing you will apply to the BC Government which will grant a rebate of 5% of the purchase price of the home (if under 200k) or $10,000 (whichever is greater). The rebate will be a cheque mailed directly out to claimants after the application has been approved.

The best place for First Time Home Buyers to start their new home search is by getting a clear idea of the process, check out my BUYERS PAGE.

Peter Borszcz is a Business and Real Estate Lawyer practising in Kelowna, British Columbia and a shareholder of Montgomery Miles & Stone Law Firm.