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Is the Rate the Most Important Factor in a Mortgage?

With ultra-low interest rates all over the news, it’s no wonder that’s what people focus on. But they shouldn’t. As seen in the REW.ca.

It is interesting that, time after time, when you ask someone “What is the most important thing about a mortgage?” they respond by saying “the rate”. This was exactly the answer we got at a networking event last week when we asked that question.

DiscountThe reason why people focus on “the rate” is because that is the only thing you hear on the news. Last week, it was all over the news that both BMO and TD announced that they have dropped their five-year rate. Then the talk around the watercooler is “What is the rate on your mortgage?” or “I just got 2.74 per cent for five years”. There are other lenders that mortgage experts work with that have being offering lower rates than that for weeks.

But it’s not about “the rate” – or it shouldn’t be. While the rate is an important component of a mortgage, it is not the main thing you should focus on. You should be focusing on what is the best mortgage for your individual needs that provides a great rate but most importantly the best terms and conditions.

By understanding mortgage terms and what they mean in dollars and cents, you can save the most money and choose the term that is best suited to your specific needs.

So What Should You Consider When Looking for a Mortgage?

  • Pre-payment penalties.

All closed mortgages have the pre-payment clause that says that is you pay off your mortgage before the end of the term, you would have to pay a penalty calculated based on the greater of the IRD (interest rate differential) or the three-month interest penalty. However, there are some lenders that they are offering lower rates and in addition to the above penalties they are also including a 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent penalty (depending on the lender), which ever one is greater. In addition, since there is no magic formula to determine the penalty, each bank has its own calculation formula. Most banks determine the rate you pay based on the posted rate minus the discount you receive. However, at the time to calculate the pre-payment penalty they use the posted rate.

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  • Pre-payment options.

The pre-payments without penalty clause is one of the conditions that can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage. This clause allows you to make payments on the principal of your loan, or increase the amount of your periodic payments (monthly, bi-monthly, etc.) without a penalty. Each lender has different programs for pre-payments, they usually vary from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. For example, you can pay any amount within the approved percentage of the original value of your mortgage, or increase your periodic payments once a year, without paying a penalty. Many people don’t take advantage of this clause because it is generally difficult to save the extra money to make additional lump sum payments, but they can certainly increase their payments up to 20 per cent. By doing this it will help you reduce your amortization period and pay more money toward principal than interest.

  • How your mortgage is registered – collateral or conventional mortgage.

o   With a conventional mortgage, the amount you are borrowing (property value minus down payment) is the amount that’s registered. But with a collateral mortgage, the amount that’s registered is 100-125 per cent of the property value, and the lender has both a promissory note and a lien registered against the property for the total registered amount. The advantage of a collateral mortgage is easy access to credit. Since the mortgage is already registered for a larger amount than you need to buy the house, you can access additional funds in the future without any extra steps or legal fees. However, there are also several downsides of collateral mortgages especially if you are putting less than 20 per cent down payment. The reason being is that with the current mortgage rules you are not able to refinance your mortgage unless you have more than 20 per cent of equity in your home. Therefore, unless your home dramatically increases in value in the next five years you will not be refinancing anytime soon.

o   Free transfers or switches to a new lender when your term is up aren’t usually available. Most other lenders don’t like the fine print and restrictions of collateral mortgages and won’t accept them unless they’re a refinance, which costs you legal, discharge fees and possible appraisal fees.

o    You could end up paying a higher interest rate at renewal. If your collateral mortgage makes it difficult to switch lenders at renewal, you don’t have the ability to shop around for the best rate. That could end up costing you up to 1 per cent more on your mortgage rate.

QAsignpost-wide386Therefore, before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that it is clearly explain to you what are the terms and conditions of the mortgage you are getting. If you are not comfortable with the answers you are getting or if they are not taking the time to explain the details of the mortgage take a step back.

That is why it is important that you work with someone that you trust, feel comfortable with and know that they are looking out for your best interest. Mortgage experts have access to multiple lenders – including banks, credit unions and other lenders that only work with brokers – which will ensure that we find the best mortgage for your individual needs. After all, we work for you and not for the banks.

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Mortgage insurance rates are raising

If you are planning to buy a property with less than 10% down payment expect to pay a bit more. As seen in Metro Vancouver New Home Guide.

CMHC and Genworth have announced that starting June 1st, all homebuyers that are putting less than ten per cent will be paying a higher mortgage default insurance. This is commonly referred to as simple “mortgage insurance”.

The mortgage default insurance increases the opportunities for homeownership with a low down payment as saving for a 20 per cent down payment can be difficult in today’s housing market. There are two types of mortgage options; conventional mortgages which are loans with a minimum 20 per cent down payment and high ratio mortgages are loans with less than 20 per cent down payment.

bankAs per the Bank Act, mortgage insurance is required on all high-ratio mortgages. The insurance protects the mortgage lender only against a loss caused by non-payment of the mortgage by the borrower and it is not a protection for the homeowner. However, mortgage insurance enables borrowers to purchase a home with a minimum down payment of five per cent.

Mortgage default insurance is provided by insurers such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Genworth Financial Canada and Canada Guaranty. Each mortgage insurer has its own criteria for evaluating the borrower and the property and it decides whether or not a mortgage can be insured. The lender and not the borrower selects the mortgage insurer. It is possible that the mortgage application can be approved by the lender but might not be approved by the insurer.

The mortgage default insurance premium is a one-time charge and it is paid by the borrower to the lender. The premium can be paid in a single lump sum at the time of closing or it can be added to the mortgage amount and repaid over the amortization period (or the life of the mortgage). The cost of default insurance is calculated by multiplying the amount of the funds that are being borrowed by the default insurance premium, which typically varies between 0.5 per cent and 6.0 per cent. Premiums vary depending on the amortization period of the mortgage, the loan to value ratio, the size of the down payment and the product.

In May 2014, CMHC increased the mortgage default premium for all high-ratio mortgages regardless of the loan to value. However, this new increase will be the second increase for buyers that are putting less than 10 per cent down payment which is more than 56 per cent of CMHC insured borrowers. History has shown that once CMHC increased their premium, Genworth and Canada Guaranty follow suit.

The new rate for a loan to value up to 95 per cent will increase to 3.60 per cent from the current 3.15 per cent. This will mean an approximate increase of $450 of mortgage default insurance for every $100,000 of a mortgage. In addition, a non-traditional down payment (where you borrow the down payment with a loan, unsecured line of credit or a cash back program), the premium will increase to 3.85 per cent from 3.35 per cent. This increase will not impact any homeowners that are currently insured. This increase will have an impact for anyone that is buying a property.

What does this mean in dollar and cents?CMHC increase in premium

What does this mean to me?

  • If you are putting less than 10% down payment and your lender has submitted your application to the insurer before June 1st you will be paying the current premium rate. It doesn’t matter if your completion date (when your mortgage closes) is after June 1st.
  • If you have been pre-approved or pre-qualified and you don’t have an accepted offer and approved by the insurer you will have to pay the new premium.

If you are pre-approved, pre-qualified or are looking at purchasing a property, talk to a Mortgage Expert so they can explore your options based on your individual needs.


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How to Make Your Mortgage Tax Deductible and Increase Your Net Worth

If you have home equity, there’s a neat method to use it to make investments and write off the mortgage interest. As seen in Rew.ca.

For US homeowners, mortgage interest is automatically tax deductible, but for Canadians, the write-off is not so straightforward. However, there is a way for you to deduct your mortgage interest while increasing your wealth, an approach known as the “Smith Manoeuvre”.

In order to make your mortgage interest tax deductible, homeowners must be able to prove that the money is being reinvested and is not being used for personal expenses.

A properly structured mortgage-centric tax strategy has several key elements – the most important of which is a multi-component, mortgage or home equity line of credit (HELOC). You will need a readvanceable or line-of-credit mortgage that lets you continuously extract equity as you pay your mortgage down.

Every time you make a payment and reduce your principal, you then immediately extract that equity and add it to your investment account. Since you have been able to deduct your mortgage interest, at the end of the year you will generate a tax refund that you can use to make a lump-sum payment on your mortgage –which makes even more funds available for investment.

It’s best to have a single collateral charge with at least two components – usually a fixed-term mortgage and an open line of credit that can track and report interest independently. This is absolutely essential under Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules and guidelines. In addition, for the interest payment to be tax deductible on any money borrowed for investment purposes, it must have a reasonable expectation to be able to produce an income.

Second, the strategy must employ conservative leverage-investment techniques – which is why a financial advisor must be involved in order to comply with federal regulations. The financial advisor should be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who is experienced in leveraged investing and able to actively monitor a homeowner’s portfolio on an ongoing basis.

Homeowners who opt for a tax-deductible mortgage interest plan make their monthly or bi-monthly mortgage payments the same way they would when making any type of mortgage payment. The payments go towards reducing the principal amount of the mortgage, creating equity; which is subsequently available to be borrowed on the line of credit. From there, the equity available in the line of credit must then be transferred to an investment account, which can be done automatically by your Certified Financial Planner.

Essentially, the homeowner is borrowing from the paid portion of the mortgage for reinvestment purposes.

On average, a typical 25-year mortgage can become fully tax deductible in 22.5 years.

The Ideal Client

Ideal borrowers for an advanced mortgage and tax strategy are typically professionals or other high-income earners who have a conventional mortgage, and have at least 20 per cent of the cost of the home to put towards a down payment, or who have built up substantial equity.

As high-income earners, their total debt-servicing ratio will be quite low and they will have excellent credit (680+ Beacon scores). These borrowers are financially sophisticated homeowners that are keenly interested in establishing a secure financial future and comfortable retirement. They also have good investment knowledge.

The Risks

The financial benefits of tax-deductible mortgage interest are indisputable and justify the risks to the right borrower. That said, a problem can arise if a homeowner spends the funds as opposed to reinvesting them. As well, any tax refunds should be used to pay down the mortgage as quickly as possible – thus making as much of the interest payment as possible tax deductible.

The short-term financial risk is liquidity (sometimes referred to as cash flow risk). Cash flow risk addresses the possibility that interest rates will sharply drive up the cost of borrowing at the same time as markets falter, resulting in a negative client monthly cash flow for a brief period of time.

This short-term risk is typically only prevalent in the first two to four years because, after this period of time, the homeowner has stockpiled enough equity through annual tax refunds that other liquidity options exist and the risk is fully mitigated.

Liquidity risk varies widely based on the balance sheet strength of the homeowner. Highly qualified homeowners are easy to manage as these borrowers have no difficulty meeting the short-term cash flow demand should the need arise.

Combining this tax deductible mortgage with a sound investment strategy can significantly increase your net worth over the long term. Talk to a mortgage expert for a free analysis of how the Smith Manoeuvre can work for you.