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Ask the Expert: Should I prepare myself for higher interest rates?

Rates may be at historic lows however, with big banks raising fixed rates and reducing variable-rate discounts, you need to be ready to pay more. As seen in REW.ca

Q: I’m easily able to make payments on my mortgage at the moment as my rate is so low. I saw that the Bank of Canada didn’t cut its overnight rate last week, and that some banks are actually raising interest rates. Should I be prepared for higher interest rates, and if so, what is your advice?

A: Interest rates are still at historical lows, and we keep hearing for years that interest rates are going to rise. If anything, interest rates have dropped.

The Bank of Canada was considering dropping the overnight rate. However, on Wednesday’s announcement they have decided to maintain the overnight rate at 0.5 per cent. Since the Canadian dollar has already fallen sharply and a rate cut could have imprudently triggered a currency rout. There is a great deal of concern about household debt, and another rate cut would add to the risk by encouraging excessive borrowing.

So does this mean that we should stop thinking about rising interest rates? Not at all. It is important to be proactive and prepare yourself for higher interest rates.

The following are some tips that can help you.

  1. income-reportPay down your mortgage faster

To ensure that you don’t over-leverage yourself when interest rates do eventually increase, start by making larger or more frequent payments and make lump-sum prepayments when possible towards your mortgage. This will help you by lowering your principal so you will pay interest on a smaller amount in the future.

  • Consider making a lump-sum payment. Most lenders allow you to pay up to 10 to 20 per cent of your mortgage without a penalty annually. The prepayment amount is applied directly to the principal balance, which will help you save money.
  • Changing your payment frequency is a great way to pay off your mortgage faster. While most people might not have extra money to put a lump-sum payment every year, you can save money by paying the same amount per month and just simply splitting your mortgage payments throughout the month to semi-annual, bi-weekly or weekly payments.

Below is a chart showing how paying more often pays off.

table pay off mortgage faster

(Calculations based on a mortgage amount of $450,142 with a five-year fixed rate of 2.64% and a 25-year amortization.)
  1. Pay down other debt

pay-off-credit-cardsIf you are only making minimum payments on your credit card, it would be a good idea to start paying more. If you are unable to come up with the money to increase your payments, start a budget or see where you can tighten your existing one, cut spending and start paying down your credit card debt with the money you save.

If you are living beyond your means, it won’t get any easier later on. It is better to become proactive, instead of getting in a tighter situation later, especially when interest rates start rising. If you are looking at buying a home, calculate what the payments will be with a higher interest rate and see if you would be comfortable making those payments in the long run. If not, purchase a property of lesser value.

  1. Refinance

If your mortgage is coming up for renewal in the next two to three years, it is worth checking out if you are eligible to refinance now and take advantage of the lower interest rates. Also, if you have equity in your home, this is a great opportunity to pay off some debts and increase your monthly cash flow. Even if you have to pay a penalty for refinancing prior to the end of the term, it could help you save money in the long run. Talk to your mortgage expert to explore the options and see if it makes sense.

  1. Have a contingency fund

imagesQ8W8929HIf you are concerned about higher interest rates when your mortgage comes up for renewal, start working on it now. It’s a good idea to start a contingency fund that can be used to cover the increase in mortgage payments or use that fund to make a lump sum payment on your mortgage. If you are on a variable mortgage, figure out what would be your mortgage payments if you had a fixed rate and put that extra money aside. By making small changes in your daily spending you can save more money in the long run.

  1. Seek professional advice

Having a close relationship and working with your mortgage expert 83834073frequently can help offset some of the stress and confusion. Your mortgage expert can help educate you in areas you might not be familiar with and can help you be prepared for when interest rates do start increasing.

If you are worried if you will be able to afford your home when interest rates increase or if you want to find out how you can save money, give me a call at 778.893.0525 to speak about your options.

 

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How this Summer’s New Mortgage Rules Will Affect You

Three significant changes to the CMHC’s mortgage rules will affect qualifying interest rates, down payments and income verification. As seen in REW.ca

The mortgage industry has seen many changes on lending guidelines in the past five years that has made it tougher for prospective homebuyers to qualify. This summer, there are new mortgage rules heading our way.

The changes are intended to continue with the industry’s recent focus on risk management, as per the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) B-21 guidelines. OSFI is an independent agency of the Government of Canada that has a mandate to contribute to the safety and soundness of the Canadian financial system. It is responsible for supervising and regulating federally registered banks, insurers, trusts and mortgage companies, in addition to private pension plans subject to federal oversight.

Now the CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) is implementing three policy changes in accordance to OSFI’s B-21 guidelines. These changes will make it harder to get low-ratio insured variable-rate mortgages, mortgages for the self-employed and 100 per cent financing.

The changes are as follows:

  • Qualifying interest rate: The qualifying intcubeerest rate for all mortgages with variable and fixed terms of less than five years will increase from June 30. It will then be either the five-year Benchmark Qualifying Rate from the Bank of Canada (currently at 4.64 per cent) or the contractual mortgage interest rate, whichever is the greater. For fixed-rate mortgages, where the term is five years or more, the qualifying interest rate is the contract interest rate.

CMHC is allowing some flexibility to implement this change, which is to be implemented as early as possible after June 30 and no later than December 31, 2015.

What does this mean for you? Even if you are getting a lower interest rate on a term less than five years, in order to get approved for that rate you still have to qualify at the Benchmark Qualifying Rate (that is, you would be able pay the mortgage if it was at the qualifying rate). Previously, conventional mortgages could qualify at the lender discounted rate.

  • photo_incentives_190Cash back for down payments:  In order to encourage borrowers to save for homeownership, lenders’ cash back programs (where the lender will give the borrower up to 5 per cent of the value of the property in cash after the mortgage has been funded) will no longer be considered an eligible source of down payment unless borrowers can come up with a 5 per cent down payment on their own. This change will become into effect on June 30.
    This means that borrowers will need to get their down payment from traditional sources, such as savings, RRSPs (tax-exempt for first-time home buyers), gifts from immediate family, proceeds from the sale of another property, and so on.
  • Verification of income: Lenders will now be required to obtain “thiincomerd party verification” of income from all borrowers. This means lenders will be more stringent on income and employment verification. All lenders will have to call the employer for verification of tenure, position and income. Many lenders have already started asking for this information for quite some time. Some lenders are asking for bank statements for the past three months showing the deposit of your pay cheque into your bank account if the payroll is not prepared and paid by a third-party company such as ADP or Ceridian. This change will be effective on June 30.

CMHC stopped insuring “stated income” financing for self-employed individuals. Genworth and Canada Guaranty are still offering this program. At this point, we don’t know if there will be any changes.

This means that borrowers are going to have to provide quite a bit more documentation in order to verify income.

Why are All These Changes Happening?

The reason why there hchange-on-the-horizonave been so many mortgage rule changes, and more are on the way, is to ensure that all lenders follow policy and guidelines to include income verification and ratio qualification set up by OSFI. Previously, some lenders have been issuing mortgages without properly obtaining the proof of income. Insurers will be required to do their own due diligence and not only rely on what the lenders are telling them.

In addition, with historic low interest rates, the Government of Canada wants to minimize the risk once interest rates start going up and prevent what happened in the US with mortgage crisis.

While these changes are under way, many lenders have already made these changes on their lending guidelines and policies since last year in order to minimize their exposure and reduce risk. While Genworth and Canada Guaranty haven’t announced changes on the third-party verification, because many lenders have, this will be the new norm in the industry.

The good news is that there are still some lenders out there that haven’t adjusted their policies and will not do so until required to do so on June 30. For this and many other reasons, it is beneficial to use a mortgage expert who works with multiple lenders to find the best mortgage for your unique situation. We would be pleased to assist you, we can be reached at 778.893.0525.


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The Bank of Canada drops the key interest rate. How does this change will impact me?

It was a huge surprise to everyone when the Bank of Canada announced yesterday that it is cutting its key interest rate by 0.25% to 0.75% from 1.00%.  There hasn’t been a movement upwards on downwards in the key interest rate in over 4 years.

The big question is – What impact is this change going to have on me?

Cheaper mortgages for clients that have variable or adjustable mortgages:
Since variable and adjustable rate mortgages are determined by the prime interest rate and are linked to the overnight interest rate of the Bank of Canada. This will also be dependent on each individual lender if they reduce their own prime interest rate.  Current mortgage holders with fixed interest rates, will not see a change on your monthly payments. However, people that are taking a new fixed rate mortgage or renewing their old one right now could see the interest rates come down. The reason being that fixed mortgage rates are dependent on the bond market.  The bond market have already started to come down of the change in the interest rate by the Bank of Canada.

Unsecured and secured lines of credits:
Similar to the variable and adjustable mortgages, unsecured and secured lines of credit are normally linked to the bank’s prime interest rate which is linked to the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. Which means that if you are borrowing money from a line of credit your cost of borrowing will come down. Again, this will be dependent whether or not the bank cuts their prime interest rate.

There was a huge drop on the loonie:
With yesterday’s announcement on the drop of the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate it affected the Canadian dollar as it had a huge drop.  This means that if you are looking a shopping in the States or planning an international trip it is going to cost more.

Saving accounts:
By the Bank of Canada changing the overnight rate it will affect the interest you will get from having money in a traditional savings account. There won’t be a huge change but if you are not earning much interest before you will be earning even less.  Perhaps it might be worth it to explore other options.
Is your mortgage coming up for renewal, you are thinking of refinancing or looking at purchasing a new home? We will be pleased to help you explore your options based on your individual needs.  After all, it is not about the mortgage, it’s about a strategy that is going to help you save time and money in the long run especially when interest rates start going up!