Buying a home can get expensive. After all, a home is a large purchase, and if you want to avoid hassles and difficulties, you need to come up with a down payment of at least 20%. While some Canadian lenders have been accepting less, most homebuyers are better served by coming up with a large down payment.

But how do you come up with that down payment? With home prices still rising in many areas, coming up with 20% can seem insurmountable. That's a large chunk of capital. The answer to this difficulty might be the Home Buyers Plan.

What is the Home Buyers Plan?

The Home Buyers Plan is a government program that allows you to withdraw up to $25,000 in a calendar year from your RRSP towards the purchase of your first home without any tax being withheld. You can use the money to buy or build a qualifying home. You can also withdraw funds from your RRSP to help a related person with a disability purchase a home.

This money isn't “free,” though. You have to repay the amount you withdraw over 15 years. Also, realize that since you already received a tax refund for these funds when they were originally put into your RRSP, you will not receive another tax refund when you’re paying it back.

With a bit of preparation, the Home Buyers Plan can be a great way to save towards a house.  Many first time home buyers are likely looking for a way to save for a down payment and reduce any current debt they have. The fact that you can accomplish this and get a tax deduction on that money first (since you are contributing to your RRSP) only makes the deal sweeter.

Before I bought my first home, I put all of my available savings into my RRSP and used the tax rebate to pay down my line of credit. I saved a little over $14,000 over a couple years. This gave me about $4,500 in tax refunds for debt reduction. Then, I was able to withdrawal the $14,000 under the Home Buyers Plan for my down payment.

Now I must repay $934 each year for 15 years. Since I put more than that into RRSPs each year, I simply reduce the total amount available for my tax refund by an even $1,000 and count that as my repayment. If my RRSP and TFSA contributions are ever both maxed out and I still have money available for saving, then I’ll start repaying more than my current $1,000 a year.

What is a Qualifying Home?

In order to put this plan in action, you need to understand what constitutes a “qualifying home” under the Home Buyers Plan. Here is what you need to know about making sure that your house purchase meets the plan guidelines:

  • You and your spouse must not have owned a house in the 4 previous years.
  • You cannot use contributions made in the past 89 days.
  • The house must be your principle residence.

As you create your savings plan to buy a home, make sure that you follow the requirements. As long as you are careful about which contributions you use, and as long as you haven't owned a home anytime soon, you should be able to take advantage of the Home Buyers Plan.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your RRSP and your spouse's RRSP are considered separate. That means that you can each withdraw $25,000 in a calendar year to help buy a home. This means you can consider using the Home Buyers Plan as a great way, as a couple, to withdraw up to $50,000 to put towards a down payment on a qualifying home.

The Home Buyers Plan is a government program where you can withdraw $25,000 from your RRSP for the purchase of your first home without being taxed.