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Canadians saving up to buy their first home are optimistic about a new incentive introduced in the federal budget, according to a poll commissioned by Bank of Montreal.

In March, the Liberals introduced a first-time homebuyer incentive that allows residents who have the minimum down payment for an insured mortgage to apply for a shared equity mortgage with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The program became available on Monday.

The BMO poll found that first-time homebuyers were enthusiastic about the new incentive, with 86% of respondents saying it would help them achieve their home ownership goals.

To be eligible for the incentive, first-time buyers must have an annual household income of less than $120,000. The plan applies to mortgages of no more than $480,000, and covers 5% of the mortgage for existing homes and 10% for new homes.

Almost half (45%) of respondents to BMO’s poll said they were looking to purchase a home in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal. To qualify for the incentive in one of those markets, they would need to have a down payment large enough to leave the mortgage on the home at no more than $480,000. (July’s composite MLS home price index for Greater Vancouver, for example, was almost $1 million.)

Saving could be a problem for some: 26% of respondents said it would be a “major challenge” to save enough for a 5% down payment on a home, and 39% said it would be a “minor challenge.”

Fourteen per cent of respondents were already in a position to make a down payment, while 55% believed they would be ready in the next two years.

The poll also found that 40% of respondents were willing to make sacrifices in other areas of their lives to buy a more expensive home. Only 13% said they planned to have a monthly mortgage payment that exceeds 30% of their income.

First-time buyers in Alberta were the most optimistic about thinking now is a good time to buy (50%), followed by British Columbia and the Prairies (tied at 42%). Less than 40% of prospective buyers in Quebec — and only one-third in Ontario — thought now is the time to buy.

About the poll: The BMO poll was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey of 805 adult Canadians between Aug. 15 and Aug. 19, 2019. Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population. The survey results were weighted using census information to be representative in terms of gender and region.