28 Feb

FIXED VERSUS VARIABLE INTEREST RATES

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

Fixed Interest Rates

This is usually the more popular choice for clients when it comes to deciding on which type of interest rate they want. There are many reasons why, but the most unsurprising answer is always safety. With a fixed interest rate, you know exactly what you are paying every month and you know that the amount of interest being charged for the term of your mortgage will not increase and it will not decrease. Fixed interest rates can be taken on 1-year, 2-year, 3-year, 5-year, as well as 7 and 10-year terms. Please note, the term is not meant to be confused with amortization. When you have a 5-year term but a 25-year amortization- the term is when your mortgage is up for renewal, but it will still take you the 25 years to pay off the entire debt. The biggest knock on fixed interest rates when it comes to mortgages, especially 5-year terms, is the potential penalty. If you want to break your mortgage and pay it out, switch lenders, take advantage of a lower rate, or anything like this and your term is not over, there will be a penalty. With a 5-year term, a fixed rate penalty can be anywhere from $1,000- $20,000 or more. It all depends on the lender’s current rates, what yours currently is, the length of time remaining on your term, and the balance outstanding. The formula used is called an IRD (interest rate differential) and the penalty owed will either be the amount this formula produces or three month’s interest- whichever is greater. Fixed interest rates, especially 5-year terms can be the most favourable. They are safe, competitive interest rates that you will not need to worry about changing for the term of your mortgage. However, if you do not have your mortgage for the entire term, it could hurt you.

Variable Rate Interest

The Bank of Canada sets what they call a target overnight rate and that interest rate influences the prime rate a lender offers consumers. A variable rate is either the lender’s prime lending rate plus or minus another number. For example, let us say someone has a variable interest rate of prime minus 0.70. If their lender’s prime lending rate is 5.00% in this example, they have an effective interest rate of 4.30%. However, if for example, the prime rate changed to 6.00%, the same person’s interest rate would now be 5.30%. Written on a mortgage, these interest rates would look like P-0.7. Variable interest rates are usually only available on 5-year terms with some lenders offering the possibility of taking a 3-year variable interest rate. When it comes to penalties, variable interest rates are almost always calculated using 3-months interest, NOT the IRD formula used to calculate the penalty on a fixed term mortgage. This ends up being significantly less expensive as breaking a 5-year term mortgage at a fixed rate of 3.49% with a balance of $500,000 will cost approximately $15,000. That is if you use the current progression of interest rates and broke it at the beginning of year 3. A variable interest rate of Prime Minus 0.5% with prime rate at 3.45% will only cost $3,800. That is a difference of $11,200. You can expect to pay this kind of amount for the safety of a fixed rate mortgage over 5-years if you break it early.

Which one is best?

It completely depends on the person. Your loan’s term (length of time before it either expires or is up for renewal) can be anywhere from a year to 5 years or longer. A first-time home buyer typically has a mortgage term of 5 years. Within those 5 years, the prime rate could move up or down, but you won’t know how much or when until it happens. Recently, variable rates have been lower than fixed rates, however, they run the risk of changing. With fixed interest rates, you know exactly what your payments will be and what it will cost you every month regardless of a lender’s prime rate changing. If you go to the site www.tradingeconomics.com/canada/bank-lending-rate you can see the 10-year history of lender’s prime lending rate. Because lenders usually change their prime lending rate together to match one another (except for TD), this graph is a good representation. As you can see, from 2008 to 2018, the interest rate has dropped from 5.75% to 2.25% all the way back up to 3.45%.  Canada has had this prime lending rate since 1960, and in that time it has seen an all-time high of 22.75% (1981) and an all-time low of 2.25% (2010). Whether you want the risk of variable or the stability of a fixed rate is up to you, but allow this information to be the basis of your decision based on your own personal needs. If you have any questions, contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional near you.

23 Feb

6 REASONS TO GET A HOME INSPECTION BEFORE YOU BUY

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

In an active housing market sometimes buyers are urged by their realtors to make an offer with no conditions. As a mortgage agent, this always makes my heart skip a beat. I know from experience that financing can go sideways and you need to be sure it’s in place before removing conditions.
Another item that should not be forgotten is a house inspection. You may have a good eye for décor but house inspections are not for amateurs. We have all heard, “Never judge a book by its cover” so why would you make the most important purchase in your life without checking it out? This may be the best $300-$500 you ever spent.
Here’s why:

#1 – It provides an out for the home buyer.
Sometimes hidden structural issues like a cracked foundation or saggy beams can mean expensive repairs. If the price can’t be re-negotiated then you have a way to walk away from an expensive mistake.
A few years ago I had a client who I preapproved for a mortgage. He found the perfect house in south-east Calgary and made an offer which was accepted. He then ordered a house inspection while I arranged the mortgage. The inspector came back and told my client that there were 10 things he could see in the house that indicated that it had been used as a grow op. My client used this to break the contract and went on to buy another home without any problems.

#2 – Revealing illegal additions or improper renovations
If the DIY seller wired the house improperly or used sub-standard materials your home insurance could be null and void if you had something happen in the future. The home inspector for my first home noticed that the indoor-outdoor carpet in the master bedroom had been glued to the hardwood, something that resulted in a multi-day project we were not counting on.

#3 Safety and Structural issues
Inspectors go up into the attic, and down into the farthest reaches of the basement and can spot things like mold, holes in the chimney, improper wiring or improperly vented fans.

#4 – Aiding in the planning for future maintenance expenses
Unless the home is brand new you will need to replace a number of things; water heaters last 6-10 years, roofs about 20 years, furnaces about 25 years. The report will include an estimate of the remaining life for each of these expensive items which will give you time to save for their eventual replacement.

#5 Bargaining power
If you find something that will cost a considerable amount to replace or repair you can go back to the seller’s agent and ask for a reduction in the price. A leaky roof may cost $3000 to replace. Perhaps the seller would split the cost with you? It’s worth asking.

#6 Peace of Mind
Finally, for your own peace of mind. When you have spent all your hard earned cash on a home and will be paying it off for 20+ years, it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that the house won’t come tumbling down on you or that you paid too much.
While an inspection can cut into your budget at a time when you need all the cash you can get, you will find it is money well spent.

NOTE: If you live in an area where housing prices are rising quickly your appraisal may come in low as the property is appraised based on sales in the previous 90 days. Ask your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker and your realtor if this is the case for your area.

20 Feb

5 SIMPLE STEPS TO OWNING YOUR OWN HOME

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

Often, the route to owning your own home can seem like a trip to the moon and back.

Really though, it comes down to five key steps:

1 – Manage your credit wisely.
If there is one thing that will gum up the purchase of that perfect home, it’s an unwise purchase or extra credit obtained. Keep your credit spending to a minimum at all times, make every payment on time and most of all pay more than the minimum payment. Remember that if you just make the minimum payment on your credit cards, chances are you will still be making payments 100 years from now.

2- Assemble a down payment.
At first glance, the challenge of finding a down payment can seem insurmountable. In fact, you just need to consider all the sources for down payment funds. yes, you will have saved some but remember you can also, in some situations, use RRSP funds, grants ( BC Home Equity Partnership for example ) and non-traditional sources like insurance settlements, severance and of course, gifted funds from a family member. Don’t forget that you’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve had the funds on deposit for up to 90 days and also that you have an additional one and a half percent of the mortgage amount for closing costs.

3- Figure out how much you can afford.
It’s at this point that most people usually stop and scratch their heads. Some even try and tough it out, using the raft of online calculators to figure it out, but new mortgage rules can make even that a challenge.
If you talk to a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage specialist ( like me! ) though, they can help you figure it out and even go as far as getting you a “pre-approval” from a financial institution. This can give you the confidence you need to actually start looking around.

4- Figure out what you want.
You’ll want to make a list of things your new home has to have and what the neighbourhood has to have. Things you want to think about are the things that are important to you now; is there access to a dog park? Is there ensuite laundry? Divide the list into things you can’t live without and things you’d like to have. It’s way easier to look when you know what you want to look at.

5- Look with your head, buy with your heart.
The final step is, with the help of a realtor, look at properties that meet your requirements. Yes, the market is a little frenzied at the moment, but remember, if your perfect property is sold to someone else, the next perfect property will soon appear.

When you do finally buy, chances are, you’ll buy with your heart. My sister Noona moved to London some years back and after settling in, decided to buy. Her list was fairly lengthy, one of the key elements was being able to walk to work. In a market similar to what we face now, she found a property that met most of her requirements. In the end though, she bought with heart, mostly because of the view from the balcony.

The decision which home to buy is a tricky thing, it should be made with your head and heart. Deciding, while balancing what you think and feel, really is rocket science.

I know that this may seem to be an oversimplification but really, the thing that complicates the process is your own emotions – all of the stress that comes along with making a life change can make the process challenging.

15 Feb

IMPROVING YOUR CREDIT SCORE

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

Your credit score is a big factor when you apply for a mortgage.
It can dictate how low your interest rate will be, and the type of mortgage you qualify for.

Mortgage Professionals are experienced helping clients with a wide range of credit scores so we can find you a mortgage product even if your credit is far from perfect.

The good news about your credit score is that it can be improved:

  • Stop looking for more credit. If you’re frequently seeking credit that can affect your score as can the size of the balances you carry. Every time you apply for credit there is a hard credit check. It is particularly important that you not apply for a credit card in the six months leading up to your mortgage application. These credit checks may stay on your file for up to three years.
  • If your credit card is maxed out all the time, that’s going to hurt your credit score. Make some small monthly regular payments to reduce your balance and start using your debit card more. It’s important that you try to keep your balance under 30% or even 20% of your credit limit.
  • It’s also important to make your credit payments on time. People are often surprised that not paying their cell phone bill can hurt their credit score in the same way as not making their mortgage payment.
  • You should use your credit cards at least every few months. That’s so its use is reported to credit reporting agencies. As long as you pay the balance off quickly you won’t pay any interest.
  • You may wish to consider special credit cards used to rebuild credit. You simply make a deposit on the card and you get a credit limit for the value of that deposit. They are easy to get because the credit card company isn’t taking any risks.

Contact a Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Professional if you have any questions.

14 Feb

THE ROLE OF THE INSURER IN A MORTGAGE

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

Any time a down payment on a mortgage is less than 20%, it is required that the mortgage must be insured thru an Insurer. Why does this mortgage need to be insured, who provides this type of insurance, what does this insurance mean, who is the beneficiary, how much does this insurance cost? All these questions need to be addressed when your down payment is less than 20%.
To start, we need to know certain terms.

High Ratio Mortgage – Also known as insured mortgage is any mortgage where the down payment is less than 20%, also defined where the loan to value ratio is more than 80%.

Conventional Mortgage – Any mortgage where the down payment or equity is 20% or more and in other words the loan to value ratio is less than 80%.
There are three companies in Canada that provide this type of insurance, Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation, Canada Capital and Genworth.
The insurance is needed to provide flexibility to buyers in Canada to purchase a property with as little as 5% down payment at the same time the lender is the beneficiary as it protects them in case the borrower defaults on the loan.

The insurance premium is paid once as a lump sum at the time of the purchase of the property and can be added to the mortgage. Premium amount depends upon the down payment and the insurer and can be anywhere from 1.8% to 4.5% of the borrowed amount.
Since insured mortgages are less risk to the lenders, they in turn can offer lesser and more attractive interest rates and mortgage terms.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this insurance is NOT the same as Mortgage Life Insurance. In your life insurance, the beneficiary is the person who you select to be; usually a family member so in case anything happens to you then your family is protected, and your mortgage loan is paid off. But in High Ratio Mortgage Insurance the lender is protected in case the loan defaults. If you have any questions contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional near you.

7 Feb

6 HOME PURCHASE CLOSING COSTS

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

When you purchase your home, there are 6 additional costs to account for. They include:

  • Home Fire and Flood Insurance
  • Title Insurance
  • Legal Fees
  • Adjustments
  • Land Transfer Tax
  • GST

Here’s an overview of what you can expect.

Home and Fire Insurance. Mortgage lenders will require a certificate of fire insurance to be in place by the time you take possession of your home. The amount required is generally at least the amount of the mortgage or the replacement cost of the home. This cost can vary on the property size and extras being insured, as well as the insurance company and the municipality. Home insurance can vary anywhere from $400 per year for condos to $2,000 for large homes.

Title Insurance. This is a one-time fee of about $150 and it protects you from any issues, defects or fraud on your title. Your lawyer or notary helps you purchase this.

Legal Fees. Thirdly, you are required to pay legal fees. Your lawyer or notary will charge you anywhere from $700 to $1,000 to help with your purchase. There are also fees to register your title with the municipalities. All told, you’re looking at around $1,000 to 1,300, after tax.

Adjustments. An adjustment is a cost to you to pay the seller back for prepaying any property tax or condo fees on your behalf. Simply put, if you take possession in the middle of a month, the seller has already paid for the whole month and you must pay the seller back for what they’re not using.

Land transfer tax. Land transfer tax, or property transfer tax (PTT) as it’s known as in British Columbia, is a fee that is charged to you by the province. First-time home buyers are exempt from this fee if they are purchasing a property under $500,000. All home buyers are exempt if they are purchasing a new property under $750,000.

In British Columbia, the PTT is 1% on the first $200,000 of purchase and 2% thereafter. However, if the property being purchased is over $2,000,000, then it is 3% on any value over $2,000,000.

GST. GST is only paid on new construction purchases. GST is 5% on the purchase price. However, there is a partial GST rebate on properties under $450,000.

Please don’t hesitate to contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional for your home financing and mortgage needs.

5 Feb

WHICH LENDER IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

The following is a summary of the choices available for clients when looking at the four different types of lending groups. Which one is best will all depend on who you are as a borrower, what your current situation is now, and what your situation will look like in the future.

Big Banks

Currently, mortgage brokers have access to TD Canada Trust and Scotiabank. These are especially appealing to first-time home buyers as it offers a sense of comfort knowing your mortgage is being dealt with a nationally recognized financial institution. TD offers very fast review of documents with the ability for collateral charges, multiple branch locations, and competitive privileges such as pre-payment abilities. Scotiabank is also an advantageous option for homeowners as they have one of the most comprehensive and easy-to-use home equity lines of credit, referred to as their Scotia-Step. Being able to access a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and roll it into your mortgage offers simplicity and efficient methods of borrowing for homeowners. The drawback with both banks is that they are in fact chartered banks. When a client decides to use them for fixed-rate mortgages, specifically the 5-year terms, they can potentially be on the hook for penalties north of $10,000 due to breaking their mortgage early. Career changes, moving from different neighborhoods or cities, upgrading or downgrading home sizes, marital issues, these are all reason why someone may need to break their mortgage early and being in a long-term fixed rate mortgage with a chartered bank can be unpleasant.

Credit Unions

One of the biggest benefits of Credit Unions, such as Westminster Savings, or Coast Capital to name a few, is they are not federally regulated, they are provincially regulated. They are not required to adopt federal mortgage rule changes unless they want to. This can be an extreme benefit to those considering rental properties, those with unique income/employment situations, or complex transactions that chartered banks do not or cannot work with. Some of the negative attributes are, however, a reputation for slow review times of documents and mortgage applications, as well as portability. If you work for a company or in an industry that is known for relocation and re-assignment across provinces, you will pay a penalty to a Credit Union every time. This is something that is likely not to happen when working with Charted Banks or Monoline Lenders as they will have more flexibility in allowing you to port your mortgage to a new property in other provinces.

Monoline Lenders

Monoline Lenders are supported by mortgage brokers, and in turn, mortgage brokers are supported by Monoline Lenders. You cannot access mortgage products that a Monoline Lender offers without using a broker as they typically do not have physical branches or locations. They are funded by private investors dealing only with mortgage transactions, allowing their products to be more customized based on the investors’ risk tolerance. Extremely low-interest rates, very competitive privileges with pre-payment and portability, fast turnaround-times, and the best part, significantly lower penalties for breaking a mortgage. With a big bank, a $10,000 penalty for breaking mortgage early, may only cost you $3,000 with a Monoline Lender. This is highly advantageous to someone who wants the security of a long-term fixed rate but isn’t 100% certain they will be carrying out their mortgage at that property for the full five years. The disadvantage is the almost blind trust a client must have. These Monoline Lenders do not have much brand recognition with the public, they have limited direct access, and usually, do not have any physical locations to visit. This makes it hard for some people to feel comfortable using them as their mortgage provider.

Private Lenders

The benefit of a Private Lender is that anyone who has inconsistent income, unique properties, poor credit history or any type of severe risk in their application, can get an approval. When a Chartered Bank says no, a Credit Union says no, and a Monoline Lender says no, a Private Lender can say yes. The disadvantage- your interest rate is going to be significantly higher and the privileges such as prepayment and portability are going to be significantly less. As well, with most lenders, they will pay the mortgage brokers commission themselves. In this case, you the borrower will be paying a fee to the broker.

This information is extremely powerful to you as a home buyer and even as a current homeowner. As always, please contact a Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Professional if you wish to discuss any of these options further or how they may be of benefit to you!

1 Feb

BANK VS. CREDIT UNION – A WHO IS WHO IN BORROWING

General

Posted by: Brad Lockey

Banks and Credit unions are often grouped together into one category under “financial institutions”. While they may have several similarities in terms of financial service offerings, in the world of mortgages the banks and credit unions have little in common. As mortgage professionals, we work with both of them and are well versed in the differences between the two. To start with, we will first need to look at the definition of each institution.

A BANK

A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits, lends money and transfers funds. They are listed as public, licensed corporations and have declared earnings that are paid to stockholders. A key point: they are regulated by the federal government-Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

A CREDIT UNION

Credit unions also deposit, lend and transfer funds. However, after that, we run into some differences between the two. Credit Unions have an elected Board of Directors that consist of elected members from their community. They are local and community-based organizations and unlike the banks, they are not federally but Provincially regulated.

Now that we have to clear definitions, we are going to focus on just one of the differences between the two: Who they are regulated by. Credit Unions are not regulated by OSFI therefore, they are not always subject to the mortgage lending rules imposed by the federal government (at least not right away). Take for example the recent changes to the B-20 guidelines. Since Credit Unions are not classified as a Federally Regulated Institution, they currently do not need to comply with the implications listed in the new rule changes. What does this mean for the consumer? Let’s walk through an example.

Say you have a dual income family with a combined annual income of $85,000. The current value of their home is listed at $700,000 and they have a mortgage balance of $415,000. Lenders have agreed to refinance to a maximum amount of 80% LTV (loan to value). That gives us a total of $560,000 minus the existing mortgage and you have $145,000 available provided you qualify to borrow it.

Now let’s put the Bank and the Credit Union toe-to-toe:

Difference between Bank and Credit Union when Refinancing

That means you are able to qualify for $105,000 LESS with the bank when refinancing!

Take the same scenario listed above and let’s apply it to purchasing:

Difference between Bank and Credit Union when Purchasing a Home

Again, you have a reduced amount of $105,000 towards the purchase of your new home.

A few disadvantages to Credit Unions that you should be aware of:

  • You cannot port your mortgage out of province
  • With the introduction of the new B-20 guidelines, there has been an increased demand for Credit Unions. This increasing demand has led to higher rates and sometimes these are not the most competitive for the client. Working with a broker can ensure that you receive the best rate and product for your situation.
  • Credit Unions also have a typically lower debt qualification ratio for how much house you can afford and how much debt you can carry

With those considerations, there are limitations to what Credit Unions are able to offer you. As always, working with a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional is one of the best ways to ensure you are not only getting the sharpest rate, but also the best product for you and your unique situation. Give us a call today-we would love to talk to you about your options and how we can help you.