While many people want to purchase a home, it’s become a greater challenge in today’s economic environment. Consumers are financially stretched by high inflation that’s lifted the price of food, fuel and just about everything else. On top of that, central banks have raised interest rates to help control inflation, leading to soaring mortgage rates. Never mind that real estate valuations – while largely off their peak – remain high, especially in large urban centres. What’s a prospective homebuyer to do?
How the HBP works
This plan lets you withdraw, on a tax-free basis, up to $35,000 from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to purchase your first home. Essentially, it’s an interest-free loan from your own RRSP to help you buy a home. You’re allowed to withdraw funds from more than one RRSP, to a cumulative total of $35,000, provided you’re the owner of each account. The institution(s) that issued your RRSP(s) won’t withhold tax on the money you withdraw. You should also note that certain RRSPs, such as locked-in or group RRSPs, may not qualify for the HBP.
How the FHSA works
This plan was introduced in the 2022 Federal Budget, and now that the legal and administrative details have been addressed, financial institutions are rolling it out. The FHSA is a registered account for Canadians aged 18+ who haven’t owned a home ever or, at a minimum, in the past four calendar years. It allows eligible Canadians to contribute up to $8,000 annually on a tax-deductible basis, to a lifetime limit of $40,000. If you contribute less than the maximum in a given year, the unused contribution room (up to $8,000) may be carried forward to the following year.
How do you decide?
While the HBP and FHSA may have their own features and distinct rules, both plans can help accelerate the home ownership process. An HBP is valuable if you don’t have much cash available, since you’re withdrawing from your established and funded RRSP. An FHSA is valuable if you can contribute a significant amount of cash, since it’ll lower your taxable income and withdrawals are tax free. The good news is, you don’t need to decide. If you wish (and have money readily available), you may use both the HBP and FHSA to assist with funding the purchase of a first home.
Consult with your Investment Advisor to decide how best to use the HBP and/or FHSA to help buy your home, based on your tax situation and overall financial circumstances.