16 Aug

Ten things to know about the prime lending rate. Consumer’s Home Digest August 2017

General

Posted by: Anne Martin

Welcome to the August issue of my monthly newsletter !

This month’s edition offers ten things to know about the Prime lending rate and your mortgage, as well providing insight on exactly how to determine if your mortgage is truly portable.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback regarding anything outlined below.

Thanks again for your continued support and referrals!


Ten Things to Know About Prime & Your Mortgage

  1. Fixed-rate mortgage holders are not affected by Bank of Canada rate changes during their current term. Only those in either adjustable-rate or variable-rate mortgages need read on.
  2. On July 12 lenders increased variable-rate borrowing costs by 0.25% to match the Bank of Canada increase of the same amount on the same day.
  3. There are three more scheduled Bank of Canada meetings this year, and there remains doubt about any further increases this year. Few expect anything more than a 0.25% further increase.
  4. This was the first increase to Prime in nearly seven years, and it follows two 0.25% reductions in 2015.
  5. A 0.25% rate increase equals a payment increase of $13 per month per $100,000 of outstanding mortgage balance for those in an adjustable-rate mortgage. That means a $300,000 mortgage balance will see payments rise by $39 per month.
  6. Not all payments increase. Several lenders differentiate from an adjustable-rate product by offering what is called a ‘variable-rate’ mortgage and their clients will not have any payment change at all. Instead, the life of the mortgage is extended slightly. A letter in the mail from your lender should be arriving to confirm which camp you are in.
  7. There is no penalty or fee to convert to a fixed rate. Whether in an adjustable-rate mortgage or a variable-rate mortgage, you have the option of locking into a fixed-rate at any time without cost. The length of the term offered varies according to policy and remaining time to maturity, with some lenders allowing conversion to a three-year fixed from day one, but most ensuring they have you under contract for the full original term.
  8. Locking in can be very costly. The prepayment penalties differ significantly between variable- and fixed-rate products. Be careful about locking in. Aside from immediately increasing your payment even further, you stand to increase your potential prepayment penalty by up to 900%. Few think they will trigger a penalty, yet more than half of borrowers actually do.
  9. No surprises. Mortgage lenders failed to give us the full 0.25% decreases in 2015, instead only reducing rates by 0.15% both times. Counting on our short memories and lack of uproar, lenders chose to increase by the full 0.25% on July 12, rather than doing what would have been fair and only increasing 0.15%
  10. Future increases will depend largely on consistent economic good news. This is what drives interest-rate increases.

Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter as we weigh the likelihood of another 0.25% increase at the September Bank of Canada meeting.

Is My Mortgage Portable?

The question: ‘Is my mortgage portable?’

The answer most often given: ‘Yes.’

This answer is increasingly wrong.

In reality, you may qualify to move 80% or less of the current balance.

The proper question: ‘Do I need to re-qualify for my current mortgage to move to a new home?’

The proper answer: ‘Yes, your mortgage is portable, but only if you re-qualify under today’s new and more stringent guidelines.’

Who is the very best person to answer the portability question? Your mortgage broker.

They will answer this question accurately. And it can only be answered accurately with a complete and updated application, along with all supporting documents to confirm the maximum mortgage amount under current guidelines.

Calling the 1-800 number on your mortgage statement, or asking the teller while depositing cheques is far less likely to get you an accurate answer. Instead that tends to be the origin of the one word answer.

Call your mortgage broker as soon as you start thinking about moving.

Too many clients learn this lesson the hard way. They sell their existing property before speaking with their Mortgage Broker, and in some cases they also enter binding purchase agreements under the mistaken assumption they can just ‘port their mortgage.’

What is the problem?

Key Point – The Federal Government has created a dynamic in which there are two different qualifying rates used for approvals. One is for the initial purchase or refinance, and the other is for when it comes time to move to a new home.

So the qualifying rate used yesterday to get you into a five-year fixed rate mortgage on your current home is not the one being used to qualify you to move that same mortgage to a new home down the street, even just one day later.

Key Point – One day into your new five-year fixed mortgage you are now subject to a ‘stress test’. In a nutshell, the stress test effectively reduces your maximum mortgage amount by 20%. Meaning that you can only port 80% of the current balance to another property… just one day later.

So, what’s the fix?

The best fix – The government could add a simple sentence to their lending guidelines along the lines of ‘If a borrower qualified for their mortgage at the five-year contract rate at inception, then the borrower shall be allowed to re-qualify at the original contract rate when moving their mortgage to a new home.’

Currently this fix does not exist.

The current fix – You pay a penalty to break the current five-year fixed mortgage you have and then apply for a new five-year fixed mortgage. Which is as ridiculous as it sounds.

The penalty amount? Approximately 4.5% of balance, i.e., $14,000 on a $300,000 mortgage balance. Yes, you read that correctly.

This is entirely unreasonable. It is not a fix at all. If you bought with 5% down, and then a few months later were transferred to another province and had no choice but to move, this represents your entire down payment vanishing due to a simple oversight by the federal regulators

Did you know… Homeowner Tips
Paint Brush Tips:
The majority of wealthier Canadians mortgage their homes by choice. 67% of high net worth Canadians (those with $500,000 or more in investable assets) with a mortgage have the cash to pay off their home – in full – but don’t, according to a survey for Investors Group. Their reasons for holding on to their mortgage vary, including tax planning and income-generating rental properties. In Canada, mortgage interest on rental properties is tax deductible. When it comes to painting, many people will buy the big package of brushes for $7. But the bristles on these brushes may be coarse or could fall out. In addition, they can end up looking ratty after a while and the paint won’t spread evenly. The key is to buy a good quality brush and clean it properly as specified on the label. And if you have a big job and find yourself having to paint in intervals, you can wrap your wet brushes in kitchen wrap. Place the oil-based brushes in the freezer and the latex-based in the fridge. When the job has been completed, you can then clean them and put them away. In many cases a good brush will last for dozens of paint jobs.

 

 

11 Jul

NDLC Newsletter for July 2017. Are rate hikes looming?

General

Posted by: Anne Martin

Welcome to the July issue of my monthly newsletter !

Summer vacation at last! Two months of fun in the sun lie ahead! This month’s edition takes a look at the recent interest rate-hike warnings in the media, and a closer look at the housing market.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback regarding anything outlined below.

Thanks again for your continued support and referrals!

 

Rate Hikes: Still As Much A Matter Of ‘If’ As ‘When’

One month of headlines suggest interest rates are dropping to new lows, another says no changes anytime soon, and recently many headlines seem to be suggesting an increase soon. This stream of mixed messages contradicting one another has been steady since rates dropped to 50-year record lows in 2009.

Many were adamant in 2009, and each year since, that rates could go no lower, and yet they have. Sure there have been a few shortlived blips upward along the way, in defiance of all who are calling for a return to normal… whatever normal may now be.

The key driver of interest rate movement is the economy in general. Not a thin slice of it such as real estate. What drives interest rates down? Economic bad news. What will drive rates up? Economic good news.

Economic good news seems in short supply since 2008.

Interest rates are a very large economic lever, far too large to be used simply to cool the arguably overheated real estate markets of two particular cities. Cooling of real estate is not addressed via interest rate hikes, markets are cooled and have been cooled as of late through lending policy changes.

Many commentators forget that only a few short years ago there existed 40-year amortizations with 100% financing not just for owner-occupied but for investment properties, and variable-rate mortgage qualifications that were much easier than today.

The reality is that borrowers in 2007 – at nearly double the current interest rates – qualified for larger, and arguably riskier, mortgages than borrowers today do.

And always do the math, yes math is no fun, but here is a shortcut:

A 0.25% rate increase equals a $13 per month increase in payments per $100,000 of mortgage balance.

And keep in mind that the majority of Canadians are in fixed rate mortgages, and the majority of them have renewal dates a year or two away. And for those mortgage holders an increase from todays rates of 0.25% – 0.50% would in fact only be equal to their current rate.

A 0.25% increase in the Bank of Canada rate would impact less than 10% of households across Canada, perhaps less than 5% of households. And that impact would be on average ~$39 per month.

Could you handle a $39 increase in your mortgage payment? Odds are you have actually already increased the minimum payment on your own as so many Canadians do. In that case you are already ahead of any increase.

Is the economy truly strong enough for an increase? We shall see come July 12 what the Bank of Canada thinks.

Are the small percentage of variable rate mortgage holders in Canada not already making higher payments ready for a 0.25% increase – overwhelmingly yes, they absolutely are.

The big beneficiaries of these uncertain times or trepidation around even a slight interest rate increase will be those in fixed rates approaching renewal dates over the next 12 months, and those enjoying the ride in their variable rate mortgages.

Be sure to start the renewal conversation with your broker six months out from the mortgage renewal date. Your current lender may suggest that rates are about to move and suggest locking into something early as the right move, but always consult with your independent mortgage broker first to determine if the move being suggested is right for you – or simply just right for the lender.

What is right for you matters to us.


 

Canadians have options when it comes to housing

By Dr. Sherry Cooper

Despite the variation in real estate markets across Canada, homebuyers face the same fundamental question whether they are first time buyers in Toronto, families purchasing a fixer-upper in Atlantic Canada, or down-sizing boomers in the West, says Dominion Lending Centres chief economist Sherry Cooper: What are you willing to do to achieve your goal.

“For the first-time homebuyer, it’s a trade-off between living close to your workplace and having to pay more for your home versus living farther away and facing a meaningful commute to get more for your money,” she says.

Baby boomers with their retirement nest egg tied up in their single-family homes, face very similar circumstances. For boomers, staying in the city usually means downsizing to a condo, which is more expensive per square foot and can take a serious bite out of that nest egg.

Moving out of the city often means giving up family, friendship, and services.

In between, there’s the move-up market – people with growing families who are looking for their second home. They have equity, so they can afford a larger down payment and typically, they are close to their peak earning years. The challenge they face, particularly in regions where the market is strong, is a shortage of suitable homes. Investors and developers are frequently bidding for the same properties. People thinking of moving up may want to consider another option: Buying a larger condo in the suburbs or in smaller communities. There is a demand for more choice in this market segment, she says, that has led to developers start building two and three-bedroom units in the suburbs thatinclude amenities like indoor and outdoor play areas.

The lifestyle issues, Cooper says, are best solved by family discussion. First, sit down and talk. Then, talk to a mortgage broker, a real estate agent and possibly an accountant.

“For a first-time home-buyer in particular, you really do need to know how much you can afford. It may be less than what you can borrow. You don’t want to go right to the edge because there’s just too much risk,” she says. “You want to have enough of a cushion that you could take care of an emergency, or in the event of one of you losing a job. You have to have some precautionary savings.”

For all demographic groups Cooper advises locking into a fixed-rate mortgage. “I would go for a five-year fixed if I were buying right now. Because rates are low and the chances are that in the future, they will be higher.”

Mortgages are complex, and she cautions against simply taking the best deal a bank has to offer. For example, the first-time buyer may want the option of paying down the principal more quickly.

“That’s the whole story of why mortgage brokers make so much sense, because they can shop the loan for you and can find something that is much more customized to what your personal needs are.”

For first-time buyers and boomers, renting is also an option that shouldn’t be ignored, she says. Boomers can then get the full amount of equity from their home while first-time buyers can continue to save for their down payment. Similarly, those in the move-up market may want to consider using the equity in their home to finance a home renovation rather than buying a new residence.

21 Jun

Consumers Home Digest – Mortgage Newsletter June 2017

General

Posted by: Anne Martin

 

Welcome to the June issue of my monthly newsletter which is designed to help keep you in the know regarding Real Estate and Mortgage related matters!

Summer is here!  This month’s newsletter talks about Pre-Approvals & Credit Score Compatibility.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback regarding anything outlined below.

Thanks again for your continued support and referrals!

Summer is here!  This month’s newsletter talks about Pre-Approvals & Credit Score Compatibility.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback regarding anything outlined below.

Thanks again for your continued support and referrals!


A Mortgage Pre-Approval is not what you might expect it to be

Although going through the pre-approval process is more important than ever, the actual term ‘pre-approval’ is often misleading. It really addresses just a few variables that may arise once in the middle of an actual offer.

The pressure in many markets has never been greater to write a condition-free offer, yet due to recent changes to lending guidelines by the federal government, the importance of a clause in the contract along the lines of ‘subject to receiving and approving satisfactory financing’ has also never been greater. (There are variations to be discussed with your Realtor around the specific wording of such clauses.)

Often clients are reluctant to write the initial offer on a property without feeling like they are 100 per cent pre-approved. An understandable desire. Many clients falsely believe they have a 100 per cent guarantee of financing, and this is not at all what a pre-approval is.

A lender must review all related documents, not just the clients personal documents, but also those from the appraiser and the realtor as the property itself must meet certain standards and guidelines.

The pre-approval process should be considered a pre-screening process. It does involve review and analysis of the clients current credit report, it should also include a list for the client of all documents that will be required in the event that an offer is written and accepted. Ideally your Mortgage Broker will review all required documents in advance, but few lenders will review documents until there is an accepted offer in place.

Clients should come away from the initial process with a clear understanding of the maximum mortgage amount they qualify for along with the various related costs involved in their specific real estate transaction. Equally as important; a completed application allows the Mortgage Broker to lock in rates for up to 120 days.

Why won’t a lender fully review and underwrite a pre-approval?

  • Lenders do not have the staff resources to review ‘maybe’ applications – they have a hard enough time keeping up with ‘live’ transactions.
  • The job you have today may well not be the job you have by the time you write your offer. (ideally you do not want to change jobs while house-shopping)
  • If more than four weeks pass then most of the documents are out of date by lender standards, and a fresh batch needs to be ordered and reviewed with the accepted offer.
  • The conversion rate of pre-approvals to ‘live trasnactions’ is less than 10 per cent, and this alone prevents lenders from allocating recources to reviewing pre-approvals.

It is this last point in particular that makes it so difficult to get an underwriter to completely review a pre-approval application as a special exception. Nine out of ten times that underwriter is spending their time on something that will never actually happen.

The bottom line is that a clients best bet for confidence before writing an offer is the educated and experienced opinion of the front-line individual with whom they are directly speaking, their Mortgage Broker. Although this individual will not be the same person that underwrites and formally approves the live transaction when the time comes they likley have hundreds of files worth of experience behind them. That experience is valuable.

It is due to the disconnect between intake of application and actual lender underwriting a live file that having a ‘subject to receiving and approving satisfactory financing’ clause in the purchase sale agreement is so very important.

Without a doubt the most significant factor in recent years which has undermined clients preapprovals is the relentless pace of government changes in lending guidelines and policies. Change implemented not only by the Government also by the lenders themselves. It is very easy to have a pre-approval for a certain mortgage amount rendered meaningless just a few days later through changes to internal underwriting guidelines. Often these changes arrive with no warning and existing pre-approvals are not grandfathered.

So, while it is absolutely worthwhile going through the pre-approval process before writing offers, and in particular before listing your current property for sale it is most important to stay in constant contact with your Mortgage Broker during the shopping process.

Be aware that aside from the key advantage of catching small issues early and securing rates a pre-approval is NOT a 100 per cent guarantee of financing.

Credit Score Compatibility: The Connection Between Financial Wealth and Romantic Health

In a study from 2015, researchers found a connection between the likelihood of a breakup in a relationship and the credit scores of each person.

Essentially, this study suggested that two people with excellent credit scores are far more likely to stay together long-term than a couple where one or both parties have abysmal scores. Because finances are such a significant aspect of relationships, the couple’s credit score compatibility is a reliable indicator of potential strains down the road.

Much marital discord is found in household in finances. According to a different study from 2012, “financial disagreements are stronger predictors of divorce relative to other common marital disagreements.”

Money is a significant dynamic in people’s social and romantic lives.

This begs the question, should you request a credit report for your significant other? (ideally before they become too significant) A pre-screening for fiscal health prior to the co-mingling of assets may well be prudent, but few of us would feel polite asking…at least the first time around.

Did you know… Homeowner Tips
Summer Vacation Note:
There are eight preset dates per year on which the Bank of Canada makes decisions which affect variable rate and short term fixed rate mortgages. The last increase to the Prime rate by the Bank of Canada was in September of 2010. No increase is expected anytime soon.

Longer term, i.e. the five year term, fixed rates are influenced by the bond market, and this is arguably less predictable and more volatile.

 

  1. Book that vacation sooner rather than later. Camping sites seem to book up faster than ever each year.
  2. Many homeowners insurance policies require that someone physically check in on the home a minimum of once per week during your absence. Ideally there is an alarm monitoring record of somebody attending the property, if not then at the very least keep a record of an email exchange confirming that your property was viewed at a certain time and date. A burst hot water tank or even a leaking pipe left unattended for days or weeks on end can result in a denied insurance claim.
  3. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. Make the most of the Summer of 2017!