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Understanding mortgage default insurance.

As seen in New Home Guide Metro Vancouver

Mortgage default insurance is commonly referred to as mortgage insurance. It is often mistaken with homeowner/ property insurance or mortgage life insurance. Homeowner/ property insurance protects the individual’s home and possessions in the home against damages including loss, theft, fire or other unforeseen disasters. Mortgage life insurance is designed to repay any outstanding mortgage debt in the event the homeowner death or long-term disability.

home & calclatorThe mortgage default insurance increases the opportunities for homeownership with a low down payment as saving for a 20% 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% down payment and high ratio mortgages are loans with less than 20% down payment. 

In Canada, mortgage insurance is required by the Government of Canada 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, the mortgage insurance enables borrowers to purchase a home with a minimum down payment of 5%. 

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. 

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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% and 6.0%. Premiums vary depending on the amortization period of the mortgage, the loan to value ratio, the size of the down payment and the product.

Example of a premium calculation for a home purchase:

Property value:                                 $400,000

Down payment:                                5% or $20,000

Mortgage basic loan amount:       $400,000 – $20,000 = $380,000

Amortization period:                       25 years

Loan to value ratio:                          95%

Premium amount:                            $380,000 x 3.60%

Default insurance cost:                  $13,680

Total mortgage amount:                $393,680

* The cost of default insurance is subject to change if the purchase price or appraised value, the amount of down payment or the amortization changes. The final premium and the cost of the mortgage default insurance will be disclosed in the mortgage commitment document from the lender.

It is important to note that for insured mortgage loans the maximum purchase price or as-improved property value must be below $1,000,000. The borrowers can port the mortgage loan insurance from an existing home to a new home and may be able to save money by reducing or eliminating the premium on the financing of the new home.

Since there are different products available from individual lenders and are subject to lender’s guidelines, it is important to give me a call so I can analyze your situation, present several options and help you decide which product works best for you.

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How much does rate matter?

Often times, borrowers are fixated on their mortgage rate because it’s the one aspect of their home financing they know to ask about. But, it’s important to look beyond mere rates into the bigger picture surrounding what’s significant when it comes to your specific mortgage needs.

If we dollarize the difference between 2.99% and 3.04%, for instance, it works out to an additional $2.66 in your monthly payment per $100,000 of your mortgage. Over the course of a five-year term, this culminates into just $159.60 per $100,000.

While “no-frills” mortgage products typically offer a lower – or more discounted – interest rate (like the 2.99% used in the example above), when compared with many other available products, the lower rate is really their only perk.

The biggest problem with looking at rate alone is that you may end up paying thousands of dollars in early payout penalties if you opt for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage, for instance, and then decide to move before the five years is up.

No-frills mortgage products won’t let you take your mortgage with you if you purchase another property before your mortgage term is up – eg., portability is not an option with this product. Portability is an important option that could save you money over the long term if the home of your dreams is within your reach before your mortgage term is up and rates have risen, which they have a tendency to do over a five-year period.

This type of product is only plausible for those who have minimal plans to take advantage of benefits that will help pay off your mortgage faster – such as prepayment privileges including lump-sum payments.

Essentially, this product is only ideal for: first-time homebuyers who want fixed payments and have limited opportunities to make lump-sum payments during the first five years of their mortgage; and property investors who need a low fixed rate and aren’t concerned with making lump-sum payments.

It’s understandable why these products may seem appealing. After all, not everyone feels they have the extra cash to put down a huge lump-sum payment. And who needs a portable mortgage if you’re not planning on moving any time soon?

But it’s important to remember that a lot can change over the course of five years – or whatever term you choose for your mortgage. You could get transferred, find a bigger house, have babies, change careers, etc. Five years is a long time to be anchored to something.

Many people won’t sign a cell phone contract for longer than three years that they can’t get out of, so why would they then sign a mortgage for five years that they can’t get out of?

The thing is, you can still obtain great mortgage savings without giving up the perks of traditional mortgages. For starters, many lenders are willing to offer significant discounts if you opt for a 30-day “quick close.

And there are many other ways to earn your own discounts. For instance, by switching to weekly or bi-weekly mortgage payments, or by obtaining a variable-rate mortgage but increasing your payments to match those of the going five-year fixed rate, you’ll be ahead of the typical discount of a no-frills product before you know it – and you won’t have to give up on options.

Banks don’t give anything away for free – they’re there to make money. That’s why it’s essential to discuss the full details surrounding the small print behind the low rates. It’s also important to take into account your longer-term goals and ensure your mortgage meets your unique needs now and into the future.