31 Aug

Building a New Home? Completion vs. Draw Mortgages


Posted by: Mike Hattim

If you are considering building a new home, then you need to be educated on the difference between draw and completion mortgages. When you meet with a builder, there is tons of terminology and information you should be aware of so you are properly covered.

Completion mortgage means that the builder does not expect any funds until you take possession of your new home. Before the building process begins, you will have to go to your mortgage professional to get your application verified for the build to start. The benefits of this option are that you don’t have to put down any payments before you take possession, you can add upgrades to the mortgage, and the lender doesn’t require all final information from you until 30 days before you take possession. During this build process you will want to take extra care of your finances to ensure nothing changes, which could put your initial approval in jeopardy. Any changes that could possibly change your financial position and your credit should be discussed with your mortgage professional. This can include things like switching jobs, buying a car, and taking out any new loan.

A draw mortgage is preferred by home builders because it allows them to receive portions of funds during predetermined stages of the build process. To obtain a draw mortgage, the beginning process is the same and you will have to go to your lender to be verified for the build to begin. The benefits of this option are that the builder is able to manage their cash flow, inspectors are sent to verify stages of development are met, and funds sent to the builder are handled through a lawyer. There are some extra costs associated with this option though. Inspections will incur a cost upon each stage met and interest payments may be incurred as well. You also do not have the option to add upgrades throughout the build process with a draw mortgage as the first advance sets the loan in stone.

27 Aug



Posted by: Mike Hattim

A “Gifted” Down Payment is very common for first time buyers. Essentially, a buyer’s family member (usually very nice, warm and loving parents) will offer up money to go towards the down payment. Often this is done because their son or daughter doesn’t quite have enough funds saved up for the full 5% down payment. Or, because they want to make sure their child has enough money to make up 20% for a down payment to avoid CMHC premiums.

All that is required for documentation is a signed Gift Letter from the parents, which simply states that the money does not have to be re-paid, and a snapshot of the son or daughter’s bank account showing that the gifted funds have actually been transferred.

A gifted down payment is viewed as an acceptable form of down payment by almost all lenders. Talk to your Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Professional to make sure that your lender accepts “gifts” as an acceptable down payment.

26 Aug



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Not long ago, someone contacted us wishing to refinance their mortgage. They presently held a mortgage from one of the big banks. When this homeowner originally obtained her mortgage, the bank offered her a discounted rate of 2.99%. It matured in July of 2016, however, when they contacted us at Dominion Lending Centres, they wanted to refinance to improve their cash flow because of recent major renovations. The mortgage was over $600,000.

At first thought, an Interest Rate Differential (IRD) penalty might seem to be so small because of the effective rate of 2.99%, that only a 3 month penalty would apply to break their existing mortgage. Wrong. Because the rate for the original mortgage was discounted from 4.64%, 4.64% was used when calculating the IRD penalty. So, instead of paying $5,157 dollars, the client was told they had to pay over $23,000 in order to break their mortgage with the bank.

A mortgage broker-channel lender, and there are many, uses the contract, or effective rate, when they calculate the IRD penalty on fixed rate mortgages, unlike the banks. Because they use the actual contract rate, the penalty would have been the lower one in the example above. An amortization scenario would determine if breaking the existing mortgage would be worth it by seeing the crossover point in time for making up the difference in savings. In the case above, it was not worth breaking, and the client had to wait until their mortgage matured.

The banks have, in recent years, implemented a new way of registering mortgages to assist in these situations. They often now register the loan as a collateral charge loan rather than a mortgage. This allows the bank to refinance the home loan on a house without a penalty if the client needs extra cash in the future. The disadvantage to this is that in order to break the loan agreement, even at maturity, the client either has to pay a lawyer or title insurance company to help break the loan agreement, costing approximately $600-$1000. Aware of this, at renewal, the bank can price the renewal rate accordingly, as they are aware that the client must pay this fee in order to leave the bank.

When purchasing a home or renewing or refinancing, it pays to ask details about pre-payment privileges and the costs associated with discharging your mortgage before the maturity date, as well as how the loan is going to be registered, ie. as a regular mortgage or a collateral charge loan.

24 Aug

The 10 Don’ts of Mortgage Closing


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Okay, so here we are… we have worked together to secure financing for your mortgage. You are getting a great rate, favourable terms that meet your mortgage goals, the lender is satisfied with all the supporting documents, we are broker complete, and the only thing left to do is wait for the day the lawyers advance the funds for the mortgage.

Here is a list of things you should NEVER do in the time between your financing complete date (when everything is setup and looks good) and your closing date (the day the lender actually advances funds).


So without delay, here are the 10 Don’ts of Mortgage Closing… inspired by real life situations.

1. Don’t quit your job.

This might sound obvious, but if you quit your job we will have to report this change in employment status to the lender. From there you will be required to support your mortgage application with your new employment details. Even if you have taken on a new job that pays twice as much in the same industry, there still might be a probationary period and the lender might not feel comfortable with proceeding.

If you are thinking of making changes to your employment status… contact me first, it might be alright to proceed, but then again it might just be best to wait until your mortgage closes! Let’s talk it out.

2. Don’t do anything that would reduce your income.

Kind of like point one, don’t change your status at your existing employer. Getting a raise is fine, but dropping from Full Time to Part Time status is not a good idea. The reduced income will change your debt service ratios on your application and you might not qualify.

3. Don’t apply for new credit.

I realize that you are excited to get your new house, especially if this is your first house, however now is not the time to go shopping on credit or take out new credit cards. So if you find yourself at the Brick, shopping for new furniture and they want you to finance your purchase right now… don’t. By applying for new credit and taking out new credit, you can jeopardize your mortgage.

4. Don’t get rid of existing credit.

Okay, in the same way that it’s not a good idea to take on new credit, it’s best not to close any existing credit either. The lender has agreed to lend you the money for a mortgage based on your current financial situation and this includes the strength of your credit profile. Mortgage lenders and insurers have a minimum credit profile required to lend you money. If you close active accounts, you could fall into an unacceptable credit situation.

5. Don’t co-sign for a loan or mortgage for someone else.

You may have the best intentions in the world, but if you co-sign for any type of debt for someone else, you are 100% responsible for the full payments incurred on that loan. This extra debt is added to your expenses and may throw your ratios out of line.

6. Don’t stop paying your bills.

Although this is still good advice for people purchasing homes, it is more often an issue in a refinance situation. If we are just waiting on the proceeds of a refinance in order to consolidate some of your debts, you must continue making your payments as scheduled. If you choose not to make your payments, it will reflect on your credit bureau and it could impact your ability to get your mortgage. Best advice is to continue making all your payments until the refinance has gone through and your balances have been brought to zero.

7. Don’t spend your closing costs.

Typically the lender wants to see you with 1.5% saved up to cover closing costs… this money is used to cover the expense of closing your mortgage, like paying your lawyer for their services. You might think that because you shouldn’t take out new credit to buy furniture, you can use this money instead. Bad idea. If you don’t pay the lawyer… you aren’t getting your house, and the furniture will have to be delivered curb side. And it’s cold in Canada!

8. Don’t change your real estate purchase contract.

Often times when you are purchasing a property there will be things that show up after the fact on an inspection and you might want to make changes to the contract. Although not a huge deal, it can make a difference for financing. So if financing is complete, it is best practice to check with me before you go and make any changes to the purchase contract.

9. Don’t list your property for sale.

If we have set up a refinance for your property and your goal is to eventually sell it… wait until the funds have been advanced before listing it. Why would a lender want to lend you money on a mortgage when you are clearly going to sell right away (even if we arranged a short term)?

10. Don’t accept unsolicited mortgage advice from unlicensed or unqualified individuals.

Although this point is least likely to impact the approval of your mortgage status, it is frustrating when people, who don’t have the first clue about your unique situation, give you unsolicited advice about what you should do with your mortgage, making you second guess yourself.

Now, if you have any questions at all, I am more than happy to discuss them with you. I am a mortgage professional and I help my Dominion Lending Centres clients finance property every day. I know the unique in’s and out’s, do’s and don’ts of mortgages. Placing a lot of value on unsolicited mortgage advice from a non-licensed person doesn’t make a lot of sense and might lead you to make some of the mistakes as listed in the 9 previous points!


Now… what about after your mortgage has funded?

You are now free to do whatever you like! Go ahead… quit your job, go to part time status, apply for new credit to buy a couch and 78″ TV, close your credit cards, co-sign for a mortgage, sell your place, or soak in as much unsolicited advice as you want! It’s up to you!

But just make sure your mortgage has funded first.

Also it is good to note, if you do quit your job, make sure you have enough cash on hand to continue making your mortgage payments! The funny thing about mortgages is, if you don’t make your payments, the lender will take your property and sell it to someone else and you will be left on that curbside couch.

Obviously, if you have any questions, please get in touch with us here at Dominion Lending Centres!

21 Aug

Beware of early discharge penalties


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Have you ever needed to get out of your mortgage before the maturity date? It can be a confusing and surprising experience. Don’t forget that your mortgage is a legal contract, therefore, like most contracts it is expected that it would cost you something to break it.

The lending institution will have two options to determine how much you will pay, but first they will consider the type of mortgage term you have. Is it a variable rate or a fixed rate? If it’s a variable rate, you most likely will pay three months interest max, but if your term is fixed, you will pay either the Interest Rate Differential (IRD) or three months interest, whichever is greater.

Three Months Interest Penalty

Determining how much three months interest will cost you is usually pretty simple; take the remaining mortgage balance, multiply by the interest rate, divide by 365 to get the daily amount, then multiply by 90 (for three months) and you got it. Of course, you must verify your figures with your financial institution, but you get the picture.

Interest Rate Differential

IRD is more complex. In simple terms, the financial institution wants you to pay them back for the loss in revenue that they may experience when you pay out the mortgage early. So if you have two years left on your mortgage, and they can’t loan out the same funds for at least the interest rate you are paying they will want to be compensated for their loss.

For example; if your current rate is 5% but they can currently can only loan out those same dollars at 3%, they will want you to pay them the 2% loss.

With me so far? Here it comes…

Say your rate of 5% was a discounted rate at the time received, most are, and the posted rate at the time was actually 7%, the financial institution may actually charge you the difference between the 7% and the current 3%, or something even more complicated. Could be a difference of thousands of dollars!

Most banks and financial institutions have different ways of calculating their early discharge penalties, therefore, it is imperative that you find out how they will calculate this penalty upfront before you initially sign for your mortgage, especially if you think you might need to get out early.

A mortgage specialist will take a financial planning approach to sourcing your mortgage options and will help you throughout your decision making progress, making sure that you not only consider your current situation but make sure you look at future scenarios as well.

The good news is that we have access to lenders who will calculate your penalty using your discounted interest rate against the current discounted rate when calculating the penalty.

If you are considering paying out your mortgage early, it is vital that you contact your mortgage specialist or financial institution to obtain a written calculation on how this penalty will be calculated before finalizing your plans. Knowing the costs prior to making the final decision on a house sale/purchase or early discharge can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of stress!

Better to know up front, than being surprised later!

20 Aug

The devil is in the detail


Posted by: Mike Hattim

I have something shocking to tell you. Mortgage brokers are human. Gasp!! But wait, so are lawyers, lenders, legal assistants and everyone else who is involved with your mortgage transaction. Why do I choose to draw attention to this and ruin your day you ask? It is so you will have a checklist of the things to confirm after the mortgage transaction closes so you are not gobsmacked down the road by a nasty surprise.

1. Property taxes– Even if you are certain that you indicated your preference to the mortgage specialist and the lawyer and anyone else who would listen, you really should take a minute to confirm just who is paying them. If you have changed from the Tax Installment Payment Plan (TIPPS) to having the lender collect them on your behalf, then you may be facing a tax shortfall at the end of the year which will now require you to double on the tax portion of the payment to make up the difference.

2. Payment Frequency – There is a misconception that choosing the biweekly or weekly frequency will pay your mortgage down faster and this is very untrue. If your goal is to pay your mortgage down quickly, you must choose the accelerated option for either to get the benefit.

Let’s go over the numbers real quick. Based on a $300,000 mortgage with a 25 year am and a rate of 2.49%.

Monthly $1970.74 – 25 years to repay

Biweekly $619.23 – 25 years

Biweekly accelerated $671.20 – 22.4 years

Weekly $309.54 – 25 years

Weekly accelerated $335.60 – 22.4 years

As you can see, the accelerated payments are higher, which means more money goes directly to the balance of the mortgage. The benefit of the weekly or biweekly non-accelerated is mainly that it would line up with your pay schedule for the payments.

3. Mailing Address – If you live in one of the smaller areas and your mailing address is different than your home address, you should make sure your lender knows so you will receive your annual statement and other communication.

4. Phone number – Again, make sure the lender has your new number if you have moved to a new community.

5. Online Mortgage Systems – Most lenders now have an online system where you can opt to make extra payments or just check your balance. Something kind of nice about managing your mortgage on a Saturday in your pj’s while sipping your coffee.

All of the above can be handled in one phone call. That’s right – one! Call your lender a week or two after your mortgage closes to allow their system to register your new mortgage. Some lenders send a nice welcome letter after funding which will outline all of the above in which case all you have to do is take a minute to review. Of course, here at Dominion Lending Centres, we can help you with your mortgage, by getting organized for all these details surrounding your mortgage. Give us a call!

19 Aug

Rental Property Financing


Posted by: Mike Hattim

For those looking to purchase rental properties, the minimum down payment has historically been at 20% for some time, and so it remains. In years gone by, this down payment money had to be proven to have originated from the buyers own resources, it could not be gifted.

In the case of an owner occupied purchase, the down payment can be (and often is) gifted from a directly related family member.

The big news from one of our key lenders at the start of July was an announcement that they would now allow gifted down payment (only from a related family member) to be applied to rental property purchases as well.

The credit score is a key focus with applicants scoring 740 and higher being eligible for 80% financing on investment properties with no mortgage insurance premium, no fees, and no higher than market rates.

For those with a credit score below 740, the down payment must be increased to 25% in order to avoid the mortgage insurance premium, although if the client opts to pay the mortgage insurance premium, then 80% financing is possible.

The 740 credit score relates only to the down payment amount, even for clients with a score under 740 the gifted option remains available.

This is a program designed to enable the smaller investor to pool resources with other family members and get into the Real Estate market. It opens the door of opportunity for many who have otherwise been locked out of buying additional properties.

18 Aug

Why banks want you to sign the renewal agreement that they mail you


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Most banks boast a higher than 90% renewal rate on their mortgages (some even higher than 95%). Since it costs them a lot more money to acquire a new client vs. keeping an existing one, banks love the savings of a simple renewal. So you would think that they would offer you the best rate up front on your renewal as it’ll save them money in the long run? Well…not necessarily.

With renewal rates being as high as they are, there is not much incentive for banks to give their clients the best rates up front. They know that most people will stay as they know it’s easier to just sign a form as opposed to applying for a mortgage at another bank. Hence the dreaded renewal letter that gets mailed out automatically prior to your renewal date.

The banks would love nothing more than for you to just pick the term, sign the document, and send it back to them. It costs them relatively little to process it and they don’t have to follow up with you after that (other than sending you a new copy of the agreement).

Since the renewal documents are printed automatically (and yes they may include a “preferred rate” which makes it even more tempting to sign) they don’t factor in any rate specials that may occur after they’re printed.

Recently a client’s mortgage was coming up for renewal and they received the automatic renewal letter. Just calling the 1-800 number saved them an extra .10%, which on a $500,000 mortgage was an extra $500 per year in interest. Not bad for a 5 min phone call.

There are also some important questions to answer:

-are you planning on selling your home anytime over the next 5 years?

-do you need to access any equity from your home for renovations, children’s education, etc.

-what are your long term goals with the property?

These are important questions to ask as they help us suggest the right product for you.

So it’s important to treat your renewal as if you’re obtaining a new mortgage and spend some time researching your options. When I worked at the bank I was always shocked at the number of people that just signed the form and sent it back.

That’s why (in addition to the financial institution where your mortgage is now) you need to contact me so I can give you an unbiased view of which mortgage product is right for you, as I have access to hundreds of different financial institutions.

18 Aug

Purchase Plus Improvements


Posted by: Mike Hattim

With 80% loan-to-value being the maximum you are now able to refinance your property, property for values increasing at a slower rate, and 25 years being the maximum amortization on high ratio deals, it’s not as easy as it once was to simply refinance and pull some money out of a home when it’s time for some upgrades.

In addition to the above, it seems that many of the new homes being developed lack a decent sized yard for the average family to live in and enjoy. Many of my clients are facing the dilemma of buying a new home with all the bells and whistles, but a lackluster yard or, purchase an older home with a yard that their kids and pets can enjoy, but face the reality of having to upgrade or renovate the home they purchase.

The Purchase Plus Improvements mortgage is a great option for many people in this situation. They get credit for the increased home value right off the bat, they get their money at a great interest rate, and they get to complete the upgrades right away and live in the home they really want!

Here’s how the program works:

* The amount allowed for improvements is typically 10% -20% of the purchase price, or up to $40,000 maximum. The money is to be used for “improvements” or “upgrades”, not necessary repairs like leaks or structure issues. It also must be for something that adds value to the home, not a chattel like appliances.

* You need to get quotes for the cost of the improvements that you wish to complete. Add the amount of the quote(s) to the purchase price, and this becomes the “value” of the home that the lender considers. The down payment is now based on this new higher value as well.

* The mortgage is funded based on the contractual price, but the money to be used for improvements is held at the solicitor’s office until the work is complete.

* The work can be done by yourself or a company/contractor, but sweat labor is not something that can be reimbursed for. If you do the work yourself, only the cost of the materials is released. If a contractor or company does the work, simply provide the invoice and they will be reimbursed directly for the full amount.

* An inspection report from an appraiser is required when all is done so the lender can confirm that the said work was completed and is of good quality.

* If the final costs end up being less than expected, the left over money is applied back against the mortgage.

This program is available at the best rates, both fixed and variable, and may help to make it easier for you to decide which home is best for your family.

Think this program might work for you or someone you know? Give me a call!

17 Aug

Who does your bank really work for?


Posted by: Mike Hattim

It may seem an odd question with a very obvious answer but you would be surprised how few people consider this question when approaching their bank for mortgage advice. When you deal with a bank employee or a mobile mortgage representative (also a bank employee), you need to know that their primary responsibility is to look out for the bank’s best interest. Banks are morally and legally obligated to provide the best return for their shareholders. This can present an issue, especially if you are seeking “unbiased” mortgage advice. As one of our clients recently found out, dealing with a bank isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.

In 2009, when the clients approached their bank’s “Mortgage Specialist” to explore their refinancing option, the Specialist had them approved for what they considered to be a good rate with good terms. The clients happily signed their mortgage documents and went on their way happy with their new terms. If that was the end of the story I wouldn’t be writing this blog, however, that was not the case.

This year the clients decided to sell their home and move up to a larger house that could accommodate their growing family. After consulting a realtor, they phoned their bank to find out what options were available to them. The rate and terms offered by the bank were not competitive with current market offerings so the clients asked what the cost to buy out their mortgage would be. After using the bank’s online calculator, they figured their prepayment penalty would be in the $5300 range. Needless to say, the clients were completely floored when the bank representative told them their penalty would be in the neighbourhood of $22,000.

After several moments of shock, the clients asked the representative how this could be. The answer they received was that their “Specialist” had provided them with a “Discounted” rate on their last refinance and because of that they were penalized an additional 1.85% in their penalty calculation which accounted for the additional $16,000+. In the end, the additional penalty did not leave the client with enough equity in their home to sell and purchase a new property.

So that “great rate” that the clients received from their “Specialist” resulted in a considerable amount of hardship down the road. So the next time you go to your bank for mortgage advice, it would be prudent to consider who your banker works for…and then come see me!