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How to Buy Land in Canada

When you buy land in Canada, the process is similar to buying any other type of real estate that has buildings on it already. There is a stack of paperwork for you to complete to ensure that all of the municipal, provincial and federal regulations are followed through the process, even if you go through a private sale instead of using a real estate agent. It is important to make sure that you perform the due diligence going into the purchase, including running a title search to make sure that there are no outstanding liens on the land. Also, such closing costs as a land transfer tax can come into the situation as well. Unless you are already an expert in real estate, we suggest that you enlist a real estate professional to help you through the process.

How to Get a Mortgage for Land in Canada

As with any mortgage, the loan application involves providing a lender with information regarding your income and your credit history as well as the down payment you have on hand. Depending on the type of lender and your own credit score, and your intentions for building on the land, you can get a mortgage for as little as 25 to 35 percent down. If you can get that low of down payment, your credit is good and you intend to build on the land. If you have to go through a private lender, your required down payment would be at least 45 percent and might go to 50 percent or even higher, depending on where the land is and what your credit score is.

Land Mortgages in Canada

The reason why land mortgages so frequently require a higher down payment than mortgages in improved land is that the value of the property is significantly smaller without buildings on the land, and that the risk associated with the loan is greater. Residential mortgages represent the least risk, because borrowers do not want to lose their homes (which happens if foreclosure comes to fruition). With land, though, there is nothing personal for the borrower to lose if he or she falls behind on the loan – and many times those borrowers also have residential mortgages to pay, and if bad financial news comes, that residential mortgage will take the highest priority if the borrower has to make hard choices about which note to pay.

Where to Get a Land Mortgage in Canada

Traditional lenders are generally the first place to start when it comes to looking for a land mortgage. After all, they usually offer the lowest interest rates. However, not everyone can qualify with a traditional lender, because the rules that those lenders have to follow with regard to income verification can make it difficult for many people who have the means to pay their mortgages to secure approval, particularly when the mortgage is for property other than a primary residence.

Private lenders can often stand in to provide crucial funding assistance for people who can afford mortgages but do not yet have the metrics in place that the traditional lenders tend to require. There are some instances when you can set up a “blanket” or “inter alia” mortgage, where you put up another property as additional security on this mortgage, but this is generally only available through private lenders. This sort of arrangement can give you access to funding that helps you accomplish your financial goals.

How to Buy or Get Financing for Vacant Land

As you might imagine, getting financing for vacant land is not always easy. It’s one thing to finance a house, or a multi-unit residential building, a factory or a vehicle. After all, if you default on one of those loans, the bank has something tangible that it can seize and sell to cut its losses. The bank can take over land, but it’s much tougher for the bank to recoup its losses.

The elevated risk for the lender means that you will face higher interest rates and fees as a part of the loan. If you’re going to be developing the land right away, expect to put a down payment of around 25% as part of moving toward a construction and development loan. If development is in the plans for further down the road, expect to put as much as 45 to 50% down, in addition to any applicable closing costs or fees – and that’s in an urban market. If you’re buying land in a rural area, the down payment will be even higher.

If you’re looking to purchase vacant land, the cheapest way is to pay cash. Taking out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is cost effective if you have to finance some of it. Dealing with a local credit union or bank that you have a strong relationship with is a good way to keep your costs down. If you can’t find a traditional lender to work with you, then Amansad Financial can secure financing with a private lender in the DLGN (Direct Lender Group Network), but you can expect higher interest rates and (in many cases) a higher down payment.

There are some other ways to finance the purchase. You can take what is known as a vendor take back, or seller finance, where the landowner provides the financing. This can work when the seller does not need the cash right away and if you provide a sizable down payment. You can also combine a private loan with a vendor take back. Another solution is to use another piece of property as a form of security for this loan.

Sometimes people purchase land without looking at some of the legal encumbrances tied to the property. Zoning laws influence what you can build on the property, and depending on where the land is, the cost of setting up utilities and services is prohibitive.

You’ll also want to have a soil test done to make sure that there are no environmental factors in the area. Consider the horror story of Hollace Wong, Norman Rothberg and Michael Kibride. These three investors sunk $2.2 million into land on the east side of downtown Toronto. They had performed a market analysis and found that the land was undervalued and would yield a huge profit if they simply flipped it to a developer, who would front the costs of getting the zoning changed from industrial to residential development. What they did not know, though, was that an auto wrecker had once used that site for its business, and their hazardous waste was still on the property. These environmental problems made their property toxic – not just literally but in the sales market as well. While they were pondering what to do next, the bottom fell out of the real estate market, and the investors took a huge loss – even after taking the seller to court.

You’ll also want to bring in professionals to handle the construction and development, rather than trying to handle that yourself, unless that’s your area of expertise. You’ll also want to see the land yourself. There’s a perspective that comes with seeing the land in person, rather than going sight unseen or even relying on Google Maps’ street view feature. That can help you decide whether to buy the land in the first place, or whether to purchase it and subdivide it. In some cases, you can buy a larger lot with a single home on it, tear down the house and replace it with two smaller properties, dividing the property to sell it to two different parties, and increasing your profits. You’ll want to find out, of course, from the city or province, whether subdividing is allowed there.

Things To Know Before Buying Raw Land

Whether you’re considering a land purchase for commercial development or a land purchase for residential purposes (your own house or for building a property for investment), it is a decision that can pay off big time. People who bought up land in rural or semi-rural areas on the cheap in the past, only to watch nearby cities grow closer and closer, have found that their investments have paid off many times over. Land in the outlying areas surrounding cities from Vancouver to Montreal, and many in between, has turned into financial bonanzas.

When you make a raw land purchase in an area zoned for agriculture, or you make a land purchase in a partially developed area, then you could face an uphill battle getting your land zoned for a more marketable purpose. It can take years to accomplish, though – so understanding the zoning of your land is crucial before you sign on the line. Provincial governments will only commit to land development plans that last five years, and when the right people ask for change, those plans can change in the blink of an eye. 

When you’re checking out land purchase, whether to subdivide or develop in a different way, consider the proximity to city infrastructures, such as existing services for water and sewer, because that land is more likely to gain approval for development later. Land that is easy to access and/or nearby major routes for transportation are better investment choices as well, because you won’t have to wait for commuter infrastructure to be put in place.

Commercial Land Development Financing

Land development financing is often much easier to secure than vacant land financing. If you have a plan for putting together a residential development, a golf course, a casino, a hotel, a factory, or even storage sites and self builds, that can go a long way toward helping you put together a financing proposal that will get you the funding you need. Lenders like to work with people who have thorough plans put together and can show them where their investment will pay off.

How to Get Land Financing in Canada

Amansad Financial has established a superior reputation throughout Canada for people who have the means and ability to pay for mortgages but cannot meet the lending requirements that most banks and credit unions set up, thanks to our network of private lenders. Since our founding, we have earned a reputation for outstanding customer service. We excellent turnaround time, efficient underwriting for our Direct Lender Group Network. If you either own land and need to take out a mortgage on it, or you want to buy a piece of land and need a mortgage to finance it, get in touch with us today! If financing has become a burden and it’s determined that you can’t secure bank type financing, contact Amansad Financial for private financing alternatives.

➤ Land Financing FAQ

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Daniel K. Akowuah | Mortgage Professional / DLG Underwriter
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