29 Mar



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 mortgages mean 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.

As always, if you would like to discuss draw and completion mortgages in preparation for your new build contact us at Dominion Lending Centres! We are happy to help you figure out your financial future.

25 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Buying your first home is often the largest financial commitment you will have made and just coming up with the down payment is a difficult task for many! Then there are the legal fees, property transfer fees, disbursements and all those other costs that can really add up, creating a huge dent in your finances!

To help offset these costs for first time home buyers, the Federal Government created the First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit (HBTC) to assist home buyers with the costs associated with purchasing their home.

Who is Eligible?

The HBTC applies to first time homebuyers who intend to occupy the home as their principal residence no later than one year after acquisition. To be considered, a first time home buyer, neither the individual nor the individual’s spouse or common law partner will have owned  another home in the year of the home purchase or in the four preceding calendar years.

Special rules apply for the purchase of homes that are more accessible or better suited to the personal needs and care of an individual who is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. In these cases, the HBTC can be claimed even if the first time homebuyer criteria is not met.

How Much is the Tax Credit?

The $5,000 non-refundable tax credit provides up to $750 of federal tax relief. It is based on a down payment of $5,000 and is calculated by multiplying the lowest personal income tax rate (15%) x $5,000 = $750.

The individual’s spouse or common law partner may claim any unused portion of an individuals HBTC. When two or more eligible individuals jointly purchase the home, the credit may be shared but cannot exceed $750.

If only one individual is eligible to claim the tax credit, the percentage of that individuals ownership of the home can be used. ie. 50% of $750= $375

Also note, it is up to the applicant to ensure that they can provide documentation for the purchase transaction and that they meet the applicable eligibility requirements, should the CRA require proof.

For more information, you can visit the Department of Finance Canada website.

Here at Dominion Lending Centres, we are always happy to provide advice and help you with the financing of your first home!

23 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

With mortgage interest rates at historical lows, it is a wonderful time for first time home buyers to take the leap into the market. But there are some considerations and preparations to be made before starting the process.

A higher level of bank scrutiny has come into play now that the governance of CMHC has been shifted to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). The banks have been jumping through hoops to meet stricter lending policies and so must potential mortgage borrowers.

Mortgage rule changes that came into effect in July 2012 shortened the maximum allowable amortization on mortgages from 30-years down to 25-years. This has made it more difficult for buyers to meet debt-servicing requirements of lenders due to the higher monthly payments of the shorter repayment structure.

These two components of the lending landscape have put First Time Buyers in the hot seat. Most young people are newer to both the employment game and the credit world and have had limited time to build up their own savings for the down payment.

Canadian mortgage insurers (CMHC and Genworth) have minimum credit requirements of two years’ history on at least two credit accounts with a good repayment record. While potential borrowers may think it responsible not to overextend themselves with credit, they can be negatively affected by “under extending”. Paying on time on at least two accounts, such as a credit card or loan, demonstrates credit responsibility because these types of accounts report to the credit bureaus, a third party, and demonstrate a borrower’s credit responsibility.

Avoiding credit means there is no third party record of how credit is handled, leaving financial institutions lacking the tools to assess how a potential borrower will handle repayment of such a large loan. While it’s not advisable for young people to apply for credit everywhere, it is a good idea to establish two different credit accounts as soon as possible to create a strong credit history.

Because many first time home buyers are young people with limited employment history, there is a very good chance they have not saved up the minimum 5% down payment yet. Direct relatives, such as parents, can “gift” the down payment to their adult child to help them buy the home. There must be no requirement for re-payment and they should have no vested interest in the property being bought.

Keep in mind though that if the first time home buyer has limited credit and their down payment is being gifted, they are really not bringing much to the equation as far as their own personal risk, so many lenders are requiring co-applicants to bring some strength to the deal. If there is the potential for a purchase in the near future, it may be a good idea for the parents to put the gifted funds into their child’s personal bank account. As long as the money is in their name for at least 90-days, those funds are now considered their own and no longer gifted.

We here at Dominion Lending Centres are always available to help you – contact us today!

21 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

New credit reporting and what it says about you and your spending habits may make all the difference between you buying a home now or later.

When home buyers contact me to apply for a mortgage, I always review their credit report with them along with the rest of their application, before they start looking at homes with a Realtor. If there are any issues with the credit history we can determine the reason, the next course of action and how it will impact financing a purchase.

There is a lot of valuable information in a credit report which provides an overview for lenders about your ability to borrow money. Consistent late payments, collections and bankruptcy have the biggest impact on lowering your score. Running a high balance or over your limit on your credit cards will also drive your credit score down. Scores range from 300-900 and a difference in score by as little as 50 points says a lot to a lender about you as the borrower. For example, a score of 550-599 represents 21% of delinquencies while a score of 600-649 only 11%. Delinquency rates are defined as those who have late payments beyond 90 days. If your score falls from one bracket to the lower bracket with late payments or collections, the difference can affect the interest rate you can receive or, worse yet, if you can qualify for the mortgage amount you need.

The most recent software update for the credit bureau reporting system has added some features which could have a significant impact on reporting. The new reports, which were released in early 2015, show three credit scores and one overall score.

The first score ranks based on open credit and balance to limit ratio. So if you have lots of open credit and your balances are low or reasonable the score is higher. High balances or over limit on all credit cards will drop your score.

The second score ranks based on late payments and collections over $250. If your late payments are beyond 90 days, your score will drop dramatically.

The third score ranks based on the number of third party collections in the last 3 years and the oldest revolving credit. So if you have outstanding parking tickets or an unpaid gym membership that you forgot about — they will come back to haunt you.

These individual scores were created to show specific behaviour by a borrower and if the credit score is trending up or down. This can give the lender an indication of a chronic issues with a potential borrower or if they are consistent with their credit usage.

With mortgage payments, lines of credit, auto loans, credit cards and even cell phone bills now reporting on the credit report,  consumers have to be diligent with spending and paying bills on time.

I recommend to all my clients to keep your credit report clean — after all, it is your identity.

Establish at least two trade lines of a minimum of $2,000. One credit card and one personal line of credit for example.

Maintain lower balances (< 65%) on all lines of credit or credit cards.

Make payments a few days before they are due to ensure you are always on time

If you get a parking ticket, fight it and lose – pay the bill and don’t let it go to collection.

Look at your credit report annually and certainly 3-6 months before making any major purchase such as a car or home. To view your own credit report visit www.equifax.ca.

18 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

In Winnipeg, MB, Jackson and Hailey have been living in a rental home for more than three years. They liked this rental home so much; they asked the landlord if they could buy this house. The landlord agreed to sell the property for $300,000 to Jackson and Hailey. On August 1, 2015, the landlord as “seller” and the tenants as “buyer” signed the agreement (Offer to Purchase). They deposited $5,000 with the agreement and the possession date was August 31, 2015. If Jackson and Hailey put 5% down, then they need $15,000 as a down payment PLUS 1.5% for the closing costs of the house – 1.5% of $300,000 would be $4,500. To buy this home, Jackson and Hailey need $15,000 + $4,500. Altogether, they need $19,500.

In the month of July 2015, the couple (the tenants – Jackson and Hailey) added a patio at the rental home and painted the whole house inside. The tenants spent $5,897.32 from their pocket for this renovation and patio project. On July 28, 2015, the landlord (the seller) gave them a cheque for $5,897.32.

They deposited this cheque in their savings account and were under the impression that they could use this $5,897.32 towards their 5% down or closing costs. No, they can’t use this amount since the landlord paid it for the work they did in that same home. Under the guidelines, the seller is not allowed to pay any money to the buyer for the sale of this property. Now Jackson and Hailey are short $5,897.32 to buy this home.

Jackson and Hailey should have gotten some advice from a mortgage professional at Dominion Lending Centres before they signed an agreement to buy this home.

The proper planning of a mortgage is pertinent before anybody signs any agreements – it helps the client and the real estate agent.

17 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Interest rates are only one of many features that should be looked at when you are applying for a mortgage. But all things being equal, the interest rate may be more important than you think.

I was reviewing mortgage options with a client and the only thing they were interested in was the mortgage rate. There was no concern about all the other conditions that could end up being quite costly and since I could only offer him what he considered a small reduction, the client said “the bank’s rate was only a little higher and I feel more comfortable leaving everything I have with my bank for such a small difference.” What was the difference? I will get to that in a minute.

The mortgage renewal form you get in the mail is another cautionary note. I have had clients send me a copy of their renewal form. So far, in every case the renewal rate was higher than what I was currently able to get them. The last one I saw was .25% higher than what I could offer.


So what does this fraction of a percentage mean for you? Let’s look at a $500,000 mortgage at 2.64% compared to 2.84%. That is only .2% or, to look at it a different way, it is about $50 a month or $600 a year savings by taking the 2.64% mortgage.

Here are a few options to increase net worth.

  1. You take the 2.64% rate and you invest the $600 a year into a growth mutual fund that averages 10%. Even though over the years, as your mortgage goes down, the savings may not be as great, you make up the difference and keep investing that $600 a year for the next 30 years. That is a small difference, but in 30 years it has added up to over $100,000 in your tax free savings account.
  2. You take out the 2.84% and say I like my bank and I am comfortable with the bank making the extra money and increasing their bottom line off my mortgage.
  3. With interest rates being so low, you could look at increasing your cash flow by stretching out your amortization and lowering your payment. Then you take the extra cash flow and invest it with your financial adviser in your tax free savings account.
  4. If you have extra equity in your home and have not contributed to your Tax Free Savings Account, consider refinancing and topping up your TFSA. As of 2016, the accumulative amount you can contribute is $51,000 per person 19 years or old in BC. So that would be $102,000 per couple. Invest that $102,000 and get an 8% return, you end up with $698,544 tax free money after 25 years and you paid back the mortgage and interest payments. If rates stayed the same throughout the 25 years at 2.69%, the whole $139,906 would be paid back. So you make a tax free profit of $558,638 by freeing up some capital to invest. Your total cost is $37,906 in interest.

There are many details to a mortgage and the rate is just one of them. Any of us here at Dominion Lending Centres would be happy to review your future mortgage needs to make sure you are maximizing your mortgage to your benefit.

15 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

1. How the penalties are calculated if I break my mortgage early? Specifically, ask what rate they use to calculate the “interest rate differential”. Typically, if the lender has “posted rates” they use these to calculate the penalty. If this is the case, the penalty can be 3, 4 or even 5 times higher than a mortgage lender that does not have posted rates and uses them in their early payout penalty calculation. This one question can save you thousands of dollars!

2. Is this a “collateral” mortgage? Some lenders have recently started putting all of their mortgages into what is called a “collateral” charge. In the right situation, given significant equity in the home, this product can be very useful and advantageous. The disadvantage to this product however, is that you cannot “switch” it to another lender at maturity. You have to actually discharge this type of mortgage and re-register a new one with a new lender which will cost on average $1000 for legal fees and appraisal costs. Beware of lenders who do this, especially if your mortgage is high ratio because it is only useful if you have more than 20% equity.

3. Can I “blend and extend” my mortgage if I buy another house? Most variable rate mortgages cannot be “blended” however, typically the penalty to break a variable is 3 months interest. Some lenders have changed their policies (very quietly) – instead of allowing you to add new money to a mortgage in the event of a new purchase, they require you to pay the full penalty. Some clients have been caught off guard by sneaky lenders who don’t tell them this until only a few days before close, at which time it’s too late to switch lenders.

4. What happens to my life insurance if I switch lenders at the end of my term? This is a very commonly overlooked detail by those who take the insurance offered by their bank or lender. The challenge is that if you want to “switch” your mortgage to another lender at the end of your term, you have to re-apply for insurance. The downside to this is that you’ll be five years older, and if you have developed any health issues, you may not qualify for the insurance at all. Getting insurance that mortgage brokers offer stays in place for the whole time you have your mortgage, no matter who your mortgage lender is.

5. What happens at the end of the term (typically five years)? Will they offer you the best rate they offer their new clients, or will you have to negotiate for best rates at that time. Most banks know that clients likely won’t make the effort to negotiate the best rates. Working with an independent specialist will provide you with the most competitive rates, not only when you buy your home, but when it comes up for renewal. A qualified professional will make sure you have the best options available each time your mortgage comes due.

14 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Here is where you are currently sitting. You have successfully found your dream home. Negotiated like a true champion and kept your calm through the back and forth with the seller. Provided the endless supply of paperwork required by your lender to meet the financing condition. Set up all the things required for the big day, like scheduling the myriad of people to move your furniture, get your Internet set up and making sure your home is warm and toasty. Then you get a call from your mortgage specialist to the effect of “Houston, we have a problem.” Today we are going to look at the most common ways people unwittingly kill their mortgage approval and leave themselves in the lurch.

First thing to note is this, your financing approval is based on the information the lender was provided at the time of the application. Any, and I do mean any, changes to your financial picture are grounds for the cancellation of the approval. It’s actually in the commitment you have signed.

1. Employment – Not all employment is considered equal by the lender and insurers like CMHC. Self Employed, commissioned, part time, overtime, and bonus are all examples of income types where we must have a two year average to satisfy everyone involved, proving that you will have enough income to support the mortgage.

For example, Bob accepts a position with a new company after his financing condition is met. He has negotiated well and knows that the income will exceed what he made previously. The problem is that now Bob will be paid a base plus a bonus component where he was previously salaried. Until there is a 2 year history, the bonus income cannot be used and the mortgage approval is cancelled.

The other consideration is that most new employment comes with a probationary period which can be up to 1 year. Lenders will not use probationary employment which will likely lead to a cancellation as well.

A really important thing to note here is that lenders are calling at the time of approval and again just before funding to verify the employment information provided.

2. Debt – Again, the approval is based on the debt load you had on the day of the mortgage application. Any changes can cause a cancellation. The following are the most common:

* New vehicle – Often comes with a large monthly obligation

* Do not pay for 12 months – We know you are eager to fill your new home with furniture and that you don’t have to pay for 12 months, but this is a new debt obligation and the lenders have to include a payment for it

* Increase to credit card balances – this can change your affordability ratios too much

3. Down payment source – And yet again I reiterate that the approval is based on the initial information you have provided. You will be asked at the lawyer’s office to verify the source of the down payment and if it is different than what the lender has approved, then you may be in trouble. For example, there are lenders who will allow you to use a line of credit for the down payment. Not all of them do and even if yours is one of them then the lender is still obligated to inform the mortgage insurer and their investors of the change to the source. This leaves you at risk at the last minute of your mortgage being declined.

4. Credit – Even if you do not increase your debt load, you also need to make sure you keep your credit as strong as it was when you were approved. Make all payments on time. This includes cell phones. And be careful about allowing anyone to pull your credit. Too many inquires can be an indication of money troubles as you search for new credit facilities. You could see a substantial drop to your credit score which can…?? You know the answer, kill your mortgage approval.

There you have it. You are now fully aware that your mortgage approval is a delicate thing which requires proper care and keeping during that period between approval and funding. Make sure you take good care of yours. Have a great day everyone.

10 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

When you are new to Canada and establishing credit, deciding on the best way to create a good credit history can be difficult.

You need a good credit rating in Canada if you are planning to rent or buy a home, buy a car or borrow money. By taking some important first steps to get your financial matters in order, you can establish a solid foundation for future credit worthiness.

The first steps when you are new to Canada and establishing credit are:

  • Open a chequing and savings account with a local bank or credit union
  • Get a cell phone through one of the local providers. Your payments on that account will report to the credit bureau.
  • Apply for a secured credit card. Even if you start off with a limit of $500 you can always increase it at a later date. Pay some of your regular monthly bills (such as your cell phone or cable bill) through this credit card so you can start to show consistent repayment behaviour.
  • Aim to establish a minimum of $2,000 credit limit with two credit cards or a loan and credit card. Lenders and the credit bureau consider two years of active credit use as a good foundation for credit worthiness.

I recommend you check your own credit report on an annual basis or within six months of making any major purchase. Visit www.Equifax.ca for more information.

For more information on establishing credit and managing your money visit www.mymoneycoach.ca.

Buyer Beware

There are many options available to people needing credit and some of them will get you into financial trouble if you are not careful. There are companies offering alternatives to credit cards. They often advertise online, by phone or flyers through the mail. They offer to provide loans that will help borrowers establish good credit. These programs all sound good until you look closely at the numbers. For more details, contact your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional.

8 Mar



Posted by: Mike Hattim

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that a greater number of women are now taking the reigns when it comes to home purchases. There’s a growing trend among single women – and, more precisely, professional single women – who are becoming independent homeowners. While many of them may be putting off marriage, they’re not waiting around for Mr Right before taking the plunge into homeownership.

It’s believed that around 20% of homebuyers in North America are single women based on a 2011 report released by the US National Association of Realtors. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies also released a report that said single women are buying in record numbers.

There’s no equivalent data for Canada, but an abundance of anecdotal information has led to the creation of shows like HGTV’s Buy Herself, which follows single women making their first real estate purchases.

Women are looking for ways to become financially independent, and investing in real estate and building equity for themselves are ways to invest in their future – building financial security.

Women are taking advantage of historically low interest rates and recognizing homeownership is often more affordable than renting.

Seeking expert advice

One of the amazing things about women looking to invest in real estate is that they’re getting more advice before they make the decision to enter the market. They’re seeking out mortgage experts and real estate agents, and building a plan for the perfect entry into the market. They’re making lists of areas in which they’re interested in purchasing, itemizing amenities they would need in their ideal neighbourhoods, ensuring they have all the facts around closing costs and fees associated with making the purchase, and securing a mortgage.

Buying a home is likely one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make in your lifetime, and can feel overwhelming. That’s why working with a professional mortgage agent, real estate agent, home inspector and so on is essential. You’ll be working with these professionals closely – possibly for months – so interactions should feel comfortable, and they should be knowledgeable and responsive even to the smallest question.

The more prepared you are, the smoother the experience will be so do a little research on your own over the Internet to get a good idea of what types of properties and areas are of interest to you. Make a list of questions to ask your mortgage agent or realtor – and keep it on hand so you can add to it as more questions arise.

Interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in history and they have nowhere to go but up. Industry professionals believe that as rates begin to rise, they’ll continue to rise for some time. There has never been a better time for women to make the decision to get into the real estate market to find the perfect place to call home and we here at Dominion Lending Centres can help!