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Need to Fund Home Accessibility Renos? Here’s Help

Did you know that if you’re a senior or have a disability, you can get a tax credit for renovations to make your home accessible? As seen in REW.ca

ist2_9976811-happy-senior-woman-holding-a-bowl-full-of-vegetablesThe BC seniors home renovation tax credit assists individuals who are 65 years of age or older with the cost of certain permanent home renovations to improve accessibility or help the senior be more functional or mobile at home.

This program was introduced on April 1, 2012, therefore the renovation expenses must happen on or after this date. Any expenses incurred under an agreement entered prior to this date do not qualify.

When the BC government released its budget last month, it announced an amendment to the senior’s home renovation tax credit, extending the program to individuals that may be eligible to claim the disability tax credit and to the family members living with those individuals. (Learn about the eligibility to claim the disability tax credit here.)

In order to claim the credit for the year if on the last day of the tax year, the individual must be a resident of BC and a senior or a family member living with a senior.

The renovation must be completed to the applicant’s principal residence while the credit can be shared between eligible residents of the home to a maximum amount of the credit. The maximum amount of the credit is $1,000 per tax year and is calculated as 10 per cent of the qualified renovation expense to a maximum of $10,000 in expenses. This credit is a refundable tax credit, which means that if the credit is higher than the taxes the applicant owes, they will receive the difference as a refund.

The renovations or alterations that qualify must assist the senior with an impairment by improving access to the property; improving mobility and function within the property; or reduce the risk of harm within the property.

The following are some examples of renovations or alterations that qualify:

  • Res-Custom-Home-Solutions-1Lowering existing counters/cabinets or installing adjustable ones
  • Pull-out shelves under counter to enable work from a seated position
  • Doorways that are widened for passage, and swing-clear hinges on doors to widen doorways
  • Door locks that are easier to operate
  • Installing non-slip flooring or to allow the use of walkers
  • Turning bathtubs into walk-ins or showers into wheel-in
  • Grab bars and related reinforcements around the toilet, shower and tub
  • Hand rails in hallways
  • Light fixtures throughout the home and exterior entrances
  • Motion-activated lighting
  • Light switches and electrical outlets placed in accessible locations
  • Taps such as hands-free, relocation to front or side for easier access
  • Hand-held showers on adjustable rods or high-low mounting brackets
  • Lever handles on doors and taps, instead of knobs
  • Alterations of sinks to allow use from a seated position (and insulation of any hot-water pipes)
  • Increasing the height of the toilets
  • General renovation costs necessary to enable access for seniors to first floor or secondary suites
  • Wheelchair ramps, stair/wheelchair lifts and elevators

The following are some examples of renovations or alterations that don’t qualify:

  • All appliances, including those with front-located controls, side-swing ovens, etc.
  • Installation of regular flooring
  • General maintenance including plumbing and electrical repairs
  • Installation of heating or air-conditioning systems
  • Home medical monitoring equipment
  • Home security or any anti-burglary equipment
  • Roof repairs
  • Installation of windows
  • Any services to such as home care services, housekeeping services, outdoor maintenance and gardening services and security or medical monitoring services
  • Aesthetic enhancements such as landscaping or redecorating
  • Fire extinguishers, smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors
  • Home entertainment electronics
  • Insulation replacement
  • Vehicles adapted for people with mobility limitations
  • Walkers and wheelchairs

img_2111How to Claim the Credit

The credit can be claimed when the applicant files their personal income tax return for 2012 and future years. Schedule BC(S12) must be completed on the tax return and put the amount that was spent on the eligible renovations beside box 6048 and form BC(479).

It is important to retain documentation to support the claim, including receipts from suppliers and contractors. If work has been performed by a family member, receipts for labour and materials must have a GST number.

If a receipt was received at the end of the calendar year and payed it in the following calendar year, the credit is to be claimed for the taxation year based on when the invoiced was received.

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Maternity or paternity leave & your mortgage

Often the impending arrival of a new addition gives one pause to re-evaluate their current environment. We often decide that bigger cars and bigger living quarters are in order and ideally try to take care of these things prior to the big day, or very soon thereafter.

a8f108fd-f92f-459b-952b-fe9cdf7f9148.format_jpeg.inline_yesThere are a few key points around mortgages and new additions.

  1. The monthly payment on a leased or financed car can have a limiting effect on mortgage qualifications. Housing first, vehicles second.
  2. Being on maternity or paternity leave while shopping for a home is not a showstopper. The key is a job letter that clearly defines a return to work date, i.e., you have a full-time income position to return to.
  3. Being on maternity or paternity leave, or even having a new car payment in your life will not affect your ability to renew your mortgage with your current lender, although it can make moving to a new lender more difficult.

Before adding a car payment, or before listing you current residence for sale, give me a call.

After all, it’s not about the mortgage.It’s about developing a short and long term strategy that are customized for each individual client. My strategies include the best financing and mortgage with the most favorable terms and rates to suite your needs.


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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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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.


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Your cellphone account can impact whether you’ll be approved for a mortgage.

Equifax and TransUnion are the two main credit reporting agencies in Canada. They collect all the data on your loans, lines of credit and credit cards to create your credit report and calculate your credit score. This information is then used by lenders—including mortgage lenders—to determine whether you’re a good credit risk.

Recently, both credit reporting agencies started including cellphone accounts in their credit reports. This means if you make a cellphone payment after the due date, it appears on your credit report and reflects negatively on your borrowing profile. Even worse, if you allow your cellphone account to go delinquent and it’s sent to a collection agency, not only does this appear on your report, it can also reduce your credit score. Mortgage lenders use this information to make underwriting decisions. Therefore, having a negative record with your cellphone provider can actually impact your likelihood of being approved for a loan and increase the interest rate you’ll pay.

If you’ve recently walked away from a cellphone contract, it’s a good idea to get the company to put in writing that the contract has been fulfilled and is now closed. This can help prevent any damage to your credit rating. We are always pleased to help if you want more information on how to preserve or improve your credit rating.


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What is the difference between a Consumer Proposal & Bankruptcy?

There is much confusion today regarding the difference between a consumer proposal and a bankruptcy.

They both fall under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and allow you to extinguish unsecured debts but there are some very important differences as illustrated below:

Consumer Proposal:

A consumer proposal is an offer you can make to your creditors to pay off the debt as an interest free payment over a period of up to 5 years. Very often your creditors will accept less than what you own depending on your financial circumstances. Usually you will need to offer more than what the creditors would have otherwise received had you filed for bankruptcy. When you file a consumer proposal with a trustee in bankruptcy your assets are fully protected from the creditors, interest stops on your unsecured debts and creditors calls stop.

Consumer proposals can eliminate the debts such as credit cards, personal loans & lines of credit, over drafts, Tax & HST, student loans more than 7 years old, medical service plan and mortgage shortfalls.

Bankruptcy:

When you file for bankruptcy your assets are not protected from the creditors and may be seized by a trustee in bankruptcy in order to pay off your debts.  Also, a portion of your income may be taken each month by the trustee in order to pay your creditors.

Unlike consumer proposal where the agreed monthly payments are fixed, in a bankruptcy your income is monitored and payments to your creditors are increased as your income increased. Also, if you win or inherit money during the bankruptcy period or receive a tax refund then the trustee will take this to pay your creditors. These monies would be protected in a consumer proposal.

In summary, a consumer proposal allows consumers to make an offer to their creditors to pay back what they owe through a fixed, interest free, monthly payment while protecting their assets.

Article courtesy from Peter Temple, Debt Consultant from 4 Pillars Consulting


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The questions most commonly asked when buying a house!

What’s the best rate 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.

What’s the maximum mortgage amount for which I can qualify?

To determine the amount for which you will qualify, there are two calculations you will need to complete. 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 be no more than 39% of your gross monthly income. For example, if your gross monthly income is $4,000, you should not be spending more than $1,560 in monthly housing expenses. Second, you will need to calculate your Total Debt Service (TDS) ratio. 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 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. 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. And in order to avoid paying mortgage default insurance, you need to have at least a 20% down payment.

What happens if I don’t have the full down payment amount?

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.

What will a lender look at when qualifying me for a mortgage?

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

  1. Income
  2. Debts
  3. Employment History
  4. Credit history
  5. Value of the Property you wish to purchase.

Should I go with a fixed or variable rate mortgage?

The answer to this question depends on your personal risk tolerance. If, 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, however, your financial situation can handle the fluctuations of a variable rate mortgage, this may save you some money over 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 650 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 70% 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 lender is slower at reporting monthly transactions, this can have a significant impact on how other lenders view your file.
  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.

How much will I have to pay for closing costs?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended that you put aside 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
  • Cost to register property in land title office, etc.

How much will my mortgage payments be?

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

To get more details about these and other questions you might have, give us a call at 778.893.0525 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.