Do You Need a Mortgage for Pre Construction?

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Navigating the process of securing a mortgage for a pre-construction property requires a strategic and informed approach. This journey, distinct from traditional home buying, demands an in-depth understanding of various aspects, from the initial mortgage pre-approval to managing the intricacies of loan disbursement and rate locks. 

Experienced professionals, especially real estate lawyers, are crucial in guiding buyers through this complex and lengthy process, ensuring that their interests are protected every step of the way. Securing a pre-construction property with the right preparation and expert advice can be a smooth and successful endeavour.

The Mortgage Approval Process

When it comes to pre-construction homes, the mortgage approval process bears similarities to that of standard home purchases but also includes unique elements due to the nature of buying a home that has not yet been built. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps and considerations:

Did you know?

On average, it takes homeowners 20 to 25 years to pay off a mortgage in Canada.

Initial Pre-Approval

Like a traditional mortgage, the first step in securing a pre-construction mortgage is obtaining a pre-approval. This involves submitting financial information to a lender to determine how much you can afford. This step is crucial as it sets the framework for your budget and the project’s overall financing.

Specific Lender Requirements

Lenders might have special requirements for pre-construction projects due to the added risk. They may scrutinize the developer’s credibility, the project’s viability, and other factors more closely compared to a ready-to-move-in property.

Credit Check and Financial Scrutiny

As part of the approval process, lenders will thoroughly check your credit history and current financial status. This will include an assessment of your debt-to-income ratio, credit score, employment history, and other financial obligations.

Conditional Approval

If the lender is satisfied with your financial standing and the project’s details, they will issue a conditional approval. This approval is usually subject to certain conditions, such as the completion of the project to a certain stage or verification of additional documents.

Re-assessment Before Closing

It’s important to note that since pre-construction projects can take several years to complete, lenders may reassess your financial situation closer to the completion date. This ensures that your financial circumstances have not changed significantly, affecting your ability to repay the loan.

Rate Locks and Terms

Considering the extended timeline of pre-construction projects, interest rate fluctuations can be a concern. Some lenders offer rate locks for extended periods to protect buyers from potential rate increases during the construction period. Understanding the terms of these rate locks and any associated costs is crucial.

Did you know?

Most Canadian mortgages are shorter-term mortgages, with the initial term set at five years.

Final Approval and Disbursement

The mortgage will receive final approval once the project reaches a satisfactory stage for the lender and all conditions are met. The disbursement of funds might be structured in installments based on construction milestones or as a lump sum upon completion.

Deposit Structure

Initially, upon signing the purchase agreement, buyers are required to make an initial deposit. This amount varies but typically represents a percentage of the purchase price and serves as a commitment to the builder, securing the unit.

Following this, buyers encounter a staggered payment schedule. This means additional deposits are required at predetermined intervals, which could be tied to specific milestones in the construction process or set time frames, such as 30, 60, or 90 days after the initial deposit. The total amount of these deposits often adds up to a larger percentage of the purchase price compared to a standard down payment on a resale home.

It’s important to note that the total deposit amount can range significantly depending on the developer and the project. In some cases, it can be as high as 20% or more of the purchase price. This deposit structure is a key financial consideration for buyers, requiring substantial funds available throughout the construction period.

Furthermore, the deposits are typically held in trust and are protected, ensuring that they are refundable under certain conditions, such as if the project does not proceed. However, the terms of the refund and its conditions should be clearly understood and outlined in the purchase agreement.

Loan Disbursement

In the context of pre-construction home purchases, loan disbursement follows a unique process compared to traditional mortgages. Instead of receiving the entire loan amount at closing, disbursements for a pre-construction loan are typically linked to specific milestones in the construction process. As the project progresses and reaches predetermined stages, the lender releases portions of the loan to the builder. This method ensures that funds are used directly for construction purposes and helps mitigate the lender’s risk. The final disbursement usually occurs once the construction is complete and the property is ready for occupancy. Buyers need to understand these disbursement schedules, as they can impact the overall timeline and financial planning for the property purchase.

Rate Locks and Mortgage Commitment

When you opt for a pre-construction property, the time between your initial mortgage agreement and the actual completion of the property can span several years. During this period, interest rates can fluctuate significantly. To manage this uncertainty, many lenders offer rate locks for pre-construction mortgages.

A rate lock is an agreement between the lender and the borrower to freeze the interest rate for a certain period, ensuring that the borrower is not affected by rising interest rates. This can be particularly advantageous in an environment with a rising interest rate. However, rate locks for pre-construction loans often come with specific terms and conditions and sometimes additional fees due to the extended timeline involved.

The mortgage commitment is the lender’s promise to lend a specified amount under certain conditions. This commitment is crucial for pre-construction homes as it guarantees the future availability of funds, assuming no major changes in the borrower’s financial situation or the project’s status. This commitment provides a sense of security for both the buyer and the developer.

Buyers should carefully review the terms of the rate lock and mortgage commitment, including the duration, potential costs, and the conditions under which the commitment may be altered or voided. It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor or mortgage broker who can help navigate these aspects and choose the best options based on individual financial circumstances and market conditions.

The Role of a Lawyer

A specialized real estate lawyer can provide invaluable assistance by reviewing and explaining the complexities of the purchase agreement, ensuring that your interests are adequately protected. They will scrutinize the contract for any clauses that could potentially be unfavourable, such as those related to construction delays, changes in the final product, or financial penalties. Additionally, a lawyer can guide you through the legalities of the deposit structure, mortgage agreements, and any implications related to zoning or building codes. Their expertise is vital in navigating the unique aspects of pre-construction purchases, helping to safeguard your investment and avoid any legal pitfalls that may arise during the lengthy process from purchase to the eventual completion of the property.


Obtaining a mortgage for a pre-construction property involves a nuanced and detailed process, distinct from traditional home buying. It requires a comprehensive understanding of the mortgage approval process, the unique deposit structure, and the specificities of loan disbursement. Additionally, securing rate locks and understanding mortgage commitments are crucial to protect against interest rate fluctuations over the extended construction period. The guidance of experienced professionals, particularly real estate lawyers, is invaluable in navigating these complexities and ensuring that your interests are safeguarded throughout this lengthy and intricate process. This careful approach and expert advice are key to successfully financing and securing a pre-construction property.

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