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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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Frequently asked questions when buying a home

As seen in the Metro Vancouver New Home Guide.

What do lenders look at when qualifying me for a mortgage?

Most lenders look at the following factors when determining whether you qualify for a mortgage:

  • Income
  • Debts
  • Employment History
  • Credit history
  • Value and marketability of the property you wish to purchase.

How much can I qualify for when buying a home?

Conceptual image - percent growth

Conceptual image – percent growth

In order to determine the amount for which you will qualify, there are two calculations that are used. The first is your Gross Debt Service (GDS) ratio. GDS looks at your proposed new housing costs (mortgage payments, taxes, heating costs and strata/condo fees, if applicable). Generally speaking, this amount should not be more than 35% – 39% of your gross monthly income. For example, if your gross monthly income is $4,400, you should not be spending more than $1,716 in monthly housing expenses. Second, your Total Debt Service (TDS) ratio is calculated. The TDS ratio measures your total debt obligations (including housing costs, loans, car payments and credit card bills). Generally speaking, your TDS ratio should be no more than 42% – 44% of your gross monthly income. The GDS and TDS will depend on your credit. Keep in mind that these numbers are prescribed maximums and that you should strive for lower ratios for a more affordable lifestyle. Before falling in love with a potential new home, you may want to get pre-qualified by a Mortgage Expert. This will help you stay within your price range and spend your time looking at homes you can reasonably afford.

How much money do I need for a down payment?

The minimum down payment required is 5% of the purchase price of the home when you are an employee. When you are self-employed it will depend if you are qualifying based on what you are declaring on your income tax then it will be 5% and at least 10% down payment when you are self-employed and qualifying with an “estimated” gross income instead of the incoming showing on your income tax return. In order to avoid paying mortgage default insurance, you need to have at least a 20% down payment

If I86809937 don’t have the full down payment amount, what can I do?

There are programs available that enable you to use other forms of down payment, such as from your RRSPs, or a gift from a parent, child or siblings. Also, you can borrow the down payment from a line of credit, loan or credit cards. However, in order to qualify you still have to be within the TDS ratios as mentioned above.

What else do I have to pay to purchase a home?

You will have to pay for the closing costs. The lenders require you to have in your bank account at least 1.5% of the purchase price (in addition to the down payment) strictly to cover closing costs. You must have this amount but it doesn’t mean you are going to spend it. The following are some of the closing costs:

  • Legal costs
  • Property tax adjustments
  • Strata/ condo fee adjustments (if applicable)
  • Cost to register property in land title office, etc.

What would be my mortgage payments?

Monthly mortgage payments vary based on several factors, including: the size of your mortgage; whether you are paying mortgage default insurance; your mortgage amortization; your interest rate; and your frequency of making mortgage payments.

What is better a fixed or variable rate mortgage?Discount

The answer to this question depends on your personal risk tolerance. For instance, you are a first-time homebuyer and/or you have a set budget that you can comfortably spend on your mortgage, it’s smart to lock into a fixed mortgage with predictable payments over a specific period of time. If your financial situation can handle the fluctuations of a variable rate mortgage, this may save you some money over the long run.

What is the best interest rate that I can get?

Your credit score plays a big part in the interest rate for which you will qualify,as the riskier you appear as a borrower, the higher your rate will be. Rate is definitely not the most important aspect of a mortgage, however, as many rock-bottom rates often come from no frills mortgage products. In other words, even if you qualify for the lowest rate, you often have to give up other things such as pre-payments and portability privileges when opting for the lowest-rate product. Remember not to focus on the lowest interest rate but on finding the best mortgage with the most favorable terms and rate. While you might end up having a lower rate, it can end up costing you thousands of dollars of unnecessary costs in the long run.

What credit score do I need to qualify?

Generally speaking, you are a prime candidate for a mortgage if your credit score is 680 and above. The higher you score the better, as you will have more options and advantages. These days almost anyone can obtain a mortgage, but the key for those with lower credit scores their options will be more limited and interest rates could be higher. But don’t worry consult a Mortgage Expert to see how they can help you in obtaining a mortgage.

What happens if my credit score isn’t great?

There are several things you can do to boost your credit fairly quickly. Following are five steps you can use to help attain a speedy credit score boost:

  1. Pay down credit cards. The number one way to increase your credit score is to pay down your credit cards so they are below 50% of your limits.
  2. Limit the use of credit cards. Racking up a large amount and then paying it off in monthly installments can hurt your credit score. If there is a balance at the end of the month, this affects your score.
  3. Check credit limits. If your creditor is slower at reporting monthly transactions, this can have a significant impact on how other lenders view your application.
  4. Keep old cards. Older credit is better credit. If you stop using older credit cards, the issuers may stop updating your accounts. Use these cards periodically and then pay them off.
  5. Don’t let mistakes build up. Always dispute any mistakes or situations that may harm your score. If, for instance, a cell phone bill is incorrect and the company will not amend it, you can dispute this by making the credit bureau aware of the situation.

To get more details about these and other questions you might have, give us a call and we will be able to analyze your personal situation and provide you with more information so you can make an informed decision on buying your home.


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You can pay your mortgage faster with “The Java Factor”

As Mortgage & Leasing Experts, we always seek for “the best mortgage” for our clients; the mortgage that not only provides the best interest rate, but also the one with the best terms and conditions.

With a fixed interest rate, closed term mortgage, you can’t pay off your mortgage before the end of the term without having to pay a penalty.

The pre-payments without penalty clause is one of the conditions that can save you considerable amount of money in the long run.  This clause allows you to make payments of 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% to 25%, i.e., 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 payments.

We always tell our clients that the easiest way to take advantage of this benefit is what we call “The Java Factor”. This is something that is very easy to follow and can save you thousands of dollars on pay down your mortgage.

Usually everyone buy a cup of jo (coffee) or two during their work days. When we see the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks or any other establishment, we realize that maintaining this habit can be very costly.

Suppose that you spend at least $5 per day, 5 days a week in “coffee, donuts, chocolates, cigarettes etc.”, this would amount to approximately $108 per month; if you apply them to your monthly mortgage payments, the savings can be considerable.

Example:

In a $100,000 mortgage at a rate of 2.89% and 30 years amortization, you would reduce the total payment of your mortgage by 7 years 5 months with savings of $15,341 in interest. For this calculation, we considered that the interest rate did not change during the life of the mortgage.

This calculation would vary case by case but depending whether you have a pre-payment clause with your mortgage or not, it is important to emphasize that by making a small sacrifice you can have significant long-term savings.

So remember “The Java Factor” and go to work with a cup of coffee brewed at home.