31 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

As a mortgage professional, I do everything I can to maintain a high credit score. For example, I pay off my credit card in full, or at least the monthly minimum, on time every month. I don’t overuse credit and I stay under 75% of my credit limit.

However. . .

I recently switched from fee to no fee banking. Then I applied for a new credit card and – horror of horrors – I was told there was a problem. What?! Me?!

I immediately ordered a copy of my TransUnion credit file, (that was the credit company they used) and there it was. Apparently, I was using my old married name while living at a different address – horror of horrors once again (actually not that horrible, and I’ve so moved on). The thing is, I haven’t changed my address in 14 years and I’ve been using my maiden name even longer.

So, I checked all the trade-lines thoroughly and everything was in order. It could have been much worse.

I’m contacting TransUnion to get this cleared up, and I’ll probably put an alert on my file now.

Good save!

The moral of this story is simple: check your credit file at least once a year at either Equifax.ca or Transunion.ca. You can get a free report, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper.

Happy credit checking.

28 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Looking to increase your homes property value? Here are five of the best renovations you can do to your home to increase property value. These five renovations can sometimes have a return on investment 5-6x what they cost.

# 5 Flooring

Flooring is one of the most important aspects of your house. You will see an immediate rise in property valuation with the installation of hardwood floors. Existing hardwood floors that you can refinish are ideal as they are less costly to restore and in higher demand than new flooring materials. For the bathroom, tile will always be in demand and retain value exceptionally well.

# 4 Fixtures

Kitchens often look tired and dated, in large part due to old fixtures. Replacing or updating cabinet hardware, light fixtures, countertops and faucets will result in an immediate increase in your home’s value. This small, but effective upgrade will also revitalize the entire home. Pot lights are in high demand in open concept style homes.

# 3 Bathroom 

The bathroom is the second most important room in the home in terms of valuation. If you can add a three-piece bathroom to a home with only one full bathroom, you will see a dramatic rise in the market value of your home. While you should never compromise bedroom space for a bathroom, try sneaking one in dead space in the home. Scott managed to fit in a 3-piece bathroom under a staircase – the width of the room measured just 44 inches. As an added tip, use glass for the shower to make the bathroom feel more spacious.

#2 Kitchen

Kitchens are the single most important room in the home relating to valuation. The kitchen can make a significant difference in the value of your home. As such, it is crucial that you invest in having a modern, fresh and desirable kitchen. Modern cabinetry, under cabinet lighting and new appliances will all significantly increase the value of your home on the market. To save on cost without compromising construction and desirability, look at options like Ikea cabinets as opposed to custom cabinetry.

#1 An Income Suite

No surprise, but the single biggest way to increase the value of your home is to build an income suite within the property. Whether this is converting your basement into a rental, or another floor in the home, an income property will increase your home’s worth. The main reason for this is that it covers a portion, or sometimes all of your mortgage payments, and results in your home being cash flow positive – which creates real wealth that can supplement your income.

Speak with any Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional about how Genworth Canada can help qualified home buyers make their new home just right for them, with tailored improvements, immediately after taking possession of the purchased property.

27 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) issued its quarterly housing market assessment and outlook yesterday, suggesting that, for the first time ever, there are “problematic conditions” in housing markets at the national level in Canada (see table below for details). As well, CMHC expects national housing starts and MLS sales to decline slightly in 2017 before stabilizing in 2018, which is pretty much the consensus view. What I find strange about the hype surrounding this report is that there is nothing new here. Moreover, the details seem encompass lagged data, before the sales decline and price slowdown in Vancouver–a slowdown that began before the August implementation of a 15% tax on non-resident buyers in Vancouver.

The tightening measures announced by the Department of Finance on October 3 are the most recent in a long list of initiatives over the past eight years designed to cool  housing markets, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto and surrounding regions. Today’s report is apparently justification for the most recent policy moves, rather than anything new. In other words, the report is looking in the rear view mirror.

At least in part, the government has itself to blame for the boom in housing. I am struck by a recent report by Derek Holt at Scotiabank that reminds us of all the measures the government took to spur housing prior to the financial crisis. Most notably–allowing RRSP withdrawals for home purchases in 1992, introducing 40-year amortization periods and 0% downpayments in 2006, the zero downpayment insured investor mortgage (for non-owner-occupied housing purchases) with a high amortized premium in 2007, and offering first-time home buyers tax credits in 2008 and 2009. Clearly, the surge in household debt relative to income was at least in part generated by these politically popular actions, which fueled the already strong demand generated by the decline in interest rates to ever-lower levels.

Since October 2008, the government has been scrambling to overturn these measures and more. In a series of steps, maximum amortization periods have been reduced from 40 to 25 years, minimum downpayments increased from 0% to 5%, and stress tests to qualify for a mortgage have been tightened. Refinancing ceilings have also been reduced over time from 95% to 80% loan-to-value and, for buyers of non-owner occupied housing, a 20% minimum downpayment has been imposed. All this happened before the most recent initiatives which tighten mortgage conditions significantly further as well as impose disincentives for foreign purchases.

The growth in the demand for housing will no doubt slow in response. What has yet to be tackled is a reduction in government impediments to an increase in the supply of affordable housing that is particularly lacking in Greater Vancouver and Toronto.

CMHC Sees Problematic Housing Conditions in Canada

26 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

With the recent changes to the mortgage rules in Canada, we take a moment to look back at the evolution of the mortgage, and to highlight these new changes and what they mean.



During this time, lending and mortgages were much more laid back! There was 100% financing available, 40 year amortizations, cash back mortgages 95% refinancing, 5% down payment required for rental properties, and qualifications for FIXED terms under 5 years and VARIABLE mortgages at discounted contract rate. There was also NO LIMIT for your GROSS DEBT SERVICING (GDS) if your credit was strong enough. Relaxed lending guidelines when debt servicing secured and unsecured lines of credits and heating costs for non subject and subject properties.

JULY 2008

We saw the elimination of 100% financing, the decrease of amortizations from 40-35 years and the introduction of minimum required credit scores all took place during this time period. It was also the time in which the Total Debt Servicing (TDS) could only be maxed to 45%

APRIL 2010

This time period saw Variable Rate Mortgages having to be qualified at the 5-year Bank of Canada’s posted rate along with 1-4 year Fixed Term Mortgages qualified at the same. There was also the introduction of a minimum of 20% down vs. 5% on investment properties and an introduction of new guidelines on looking at rental income, property taxes and heat.

MARCH 2011

The 35-year Amortization dropped to 30 years for conventional mortgages, refinancing dropped to 85% from 90% and the elimination of mortgage insurance on secured lines of credit

JULY 2012

30 year amortizations dropped again to 25 years for High Ratio Mortgages (less than 20% down). Refinancing also dropped down this time to 80% from 85%. Tougher guidelines within stated income mortgage products making financing for the Business for Self more challenging and the disappearance of true equity lending. Perhaps the three biggest changes of this time were:

* Ban mortgage insurance on any million dollar homes

* 20% min requirement for down payment

* Elimination of cash back mortgages

* Federal guidelines Min; requirement of 5% down

* Introduction to FLEX DOWN mortgage products


Increase in default insurance premiums.


Minimum down payment rules changed to:

  • Up to $500K – 5%
  • Up to $1MM – 5% for the first $500K and 10% up to $1MM
  • $1MM and greater requires 20% down (no mortgage insurance available)

Exemption for BC Property Transfer Tax on NEW BUILDS regardless if one was a 1st time home buyer with a purchase price of $750K or less.

JULY 2016

Still fresh in our minds, the introduction of the foreign tax stating that an ADDITIONAL 15% Property Transfer Tax is applied for all non residents or corporations that are not incorporated in Canada purchasing property in British Columbia.



INSURED mortgages with less than 20% down Have to qualify at Bank of Canada 5 year posted rate.


In addition, Portfolio Insured mortgages (monoline lenders) greater than 20% have new conditions with regulations requiring qualification at the Bank of Canada 5 year posted rate, maximum amortization of 25 years, max purchase price of $1 Million and must be owner occupied.


Homeowners will experience the following:

1. QUALIFY FOR LESS-25% less

• Options for mortgages will decrease as certain lender’s guidelines will no longer meet the federal criteria

• No more rental or investment properties to be insured


• Can only be claimed 1x per year.

• Measure taken against the recent flipping of assignments to avoid property transfer tax from investors in the last 2 years

Stay up-to-date on all the changes in the mortgage rules by visiting the Dominion Lending Centres “new rules” page by clicking HERE. As always, we’re here to help with all your mortgage questions and needs.

24 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Most of us know that changing your mortgage payment from monthly, or semi monthly, to an accelerated bi-weekly payment instantly reduces your standard 25 year amortization by 2.58 years with today’s rates. (If you didn’t know that, you’re likely not working with the mortgage professionals at Dominion Lending Centres).

Sometimes, however, an accelerated bi-weekly payment option might not be available to you. Either the lender does not offer it as an option with that particular product, or they may not allow you to set it up if the accelerated payment knocks your qualifying ratios out of line. Although these situations are rare, they do come up from time to time. Here’s a workaround for those that might find themselves in this situation.

Open up a separate chequing account from which ONLY your mortgage payment will be withdrawn.

Then, from the account where your paychecks are deposited, set up an automatic transfer from this account, to your new chequing account. The automatic transer will be every two weeks and for half of the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. This is the amount that your accelerated bi-weekly payment would equal out to.

Throughout the year you will continue to automatically transfer exactly half of your monthly payment into your new chequing account, every two weeks. Then, those two months each year where you receive your paycheck three times in one month, you will also transfer half of your mortgage payment into the new account three times this month. When your monthly payment is withdrawn by your lender, there will be a half monthly payment remaining in your new account. This will happen twice throughout the year, leaving you with one full monthly payment remaining in your new chequing account. This is the accelerated effect.

Once per year, take this remaining balance in your account and apply it as a lump sum towards your mortgage, which most mortgages allow you to do. This lump sum goes directly towards your principal balance, interest free, thus reducing your amortization the same as anaccelerated bi-weekly payment would have.

It may not seem like much, but imagine no mortgage payments for the next two and a half years. Feels good, doesn’t it?!

21 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

That’s right!

Sure the new mortgage rules from our Federal Government on October 17th can be a bit confusing, here are five tips to help you with your mortgage while at the same time, reducing your stress.

1. Review your Credit File:

Good credit is your ticket to informed borrowing and purchasing, great rates and, most important, approval.

Don’t be vulnerable. Understand how a good credit score happens, and how best to manage credit so that you can use it to your advantage.

Make sure all your information is true, complete and up-to-date. If there are discrepancies deal with them before you start the buying process.

2. Review your Debts:

Understand the difference between secured and unsecured debt:

Secured debt is money owed for the purchase of an asset, such as a car, boat, motorcycle or property. The asset is collateral, and if you don’t repay the loan as specified by the terms, your creditors can confiscate it.

Unsecured debt is largely due to credit cards. These typically have a higher interest rate, so you should always try to pay them off first.

Anyone can have credit difficulties if they don’t understand how and when to use it. On the other hand, credit can be a great advantage if you know how it works.

Make payments on time, and in the case of a credit cards clear the balance every month.

Establish and implement a debt repayment strategy.

3. Down Payment:

You may also need a down payment saving strategy. This will help you avoid extra fees, such as mortgage insurance premiums, and ensure that you stay within the guidelines of the percentage of debt allowed against your income.

So, save, save, SAVE!

4. Help from Mom, Dad or other Fans:

Though you may not be so sure, they actually do love you.

Suppose you have great credit, a down payment and a good job. You want to start your family, but are a little short of being approved for a loan. That could be the time to reach out to Mom, Dad or others. I usually suggest taking on debt singlehandedly, but there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help now and then.

5. Patience:

Patience is key. To paraphrase an old adage: Patience and practice makes for a perfect outcome. So, practice patience, and make your purchase a perfect performance.

BONUS #6 – Contact your local mortgage professional at Dominion Lending Centres so we can help you navigate these new mortgage rules!

20 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Lately we’ve seen projections that rates will begin to increase through the next 15 months. Some banks have projections that show the 5 year bond will increase from the current .65% to 1.7% that 1.05% increase will equate to these numbers.

The 5 year mortgage rate on average is set by most lenders at the bond rate and adding what some call their comfort margin of 1.8%. So by today’s standards that rate would be 2.45% which pretty close to what we see on average somewhere between 2.39% and 2.49%. Take the projected increase in the bond to 1.7% and add the 1.8% then we are now at 3.5% so almost a full percent higher. Doesn’t sound like much does it, let’s look at the numbers to see what difference per month it makes in your payment.

With a household purchase price of $500,000 at today’s rate of 2.45% on a 25 year amortization with a $350 a month car payment and no other debt you would need to be making $85,000 a year. Your monthly payment would be $2,195 per month plus taxes. Take the same scenario projected to happen a year from now and rates at 3.45% your payment now is $2,450 plus taxes and your income now needs to be $95,000 a year. I don’t know many people in today’s economy getting a $10,000 raise. (NOTE: these numbers do include CMHC fees and have been calculated using the Filogix program, they also take into consideration average credit scores).

If you’re waiting another year to buy you may be surprised that the rates have increased to the point that you no longer qualify for the house of your dreams. Talk to a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional today about your different down payment options you may be able to get into that new home before the rates increase and lock in for a five year term at today’s excellent rates.

13 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

I recently met a couple that took out a reverse mortgage to purchase a house in Hamilton, ON. Their daughter was attending McMaster University, and was just starting her post-graduate degree.

After spending close to $25,000 over 4-years in rent, her parents decided to get into the landlord business!

Here’s how the numbers worked out:

  • Clients 58 & 60 years old
  • $3M home in Oakville, ON
  • Approved for $600K reverse mortgage
  • McMaster Rental Property – $2375 monthly rental income (daughter lives rent free), or $28,500 rental income per year
  • CHIP Reverse Mortgage Interest – $28,500 (4.75%)

Now at first glance, it looks like these freshman landlords will simply break-even as interest expense is equal to rental income.

But there are a few considerations:

  • Daughter is living rent-free – parents are saving $5700/year in rent
  • CHIP Reverse Mortgage Interest is tax deductible against total taxable income
  • $3M Oakville home – if it increases in value long-term, by only 1% per annum, this will cover the interest expense & more
  • The flexibility of deciding how much or how little interest payments to make on their reverse mortgage puts these clients in an enviable cash-flow position.

House rentals are not for everyone as they tend to be a “hands on” investment. But for the right client, rental properties can be a lucrative opportunity as part of a diversified investment portfolio.

To learn more about how this CHIP Reverse Mortgage can work for you, contact the mortgage professionals at Dominion Lending Centres.

12 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

By now you will have likely heard that the Federal Finance Minister has made drastic changes to mortgage lending rules making it tougher to qualify for a mortgage. For Canadians with less than a 20% down payment, their purchasing power has been dramatically reduced. So what can you do if you want to purchase a home in the next few years? Below are five main points you will want to consider if home ownership is one of your financial goals.

First, however, let’s clarify the role of debt servicing in the mortgage approval process. There are two types of debt servicing ratios that lenders look at. The first is Gross Debt Servicing (GDS) and it accounts for the costs associated with housing – mortgage principal and interest payment, property taxes and heat. The second ratio is Total Debt Servicing (TDS) which includes all costs in the GDS plus all other outstanding debt. These ratios need to be below 39% for GDS and 44% for TDS. So let’s look at what you can do to qualify within these ratios.

1. Pay down unsecured debt. Balances on unsecured debt such as credit cards and unsecured lines of credit affect your TDS ratio. Even if the GDS is in line, if your TDS is high, your maximum mortgage amount will be limited. All unsecured debt must be calculated at a 3% payment per month regardless of the actual payment required. For example, a $10,000 credit card balance equates to a $300 per month payment for debt servicing. High balances combined with other types of debt (i.e. car payments) will affect the maximum mortgage amount so pay them down.

2. Hold Off On That New Car. We all love that new car smell and dealerships make it very easy to purchase a new car. However, that car payment may make the difference between qualifying for a mortgage or not. If home ownership is a goal for you, then you need to understand how that car payment will affect your debt servicing ratios. Like unsecured debt, that car payment is calculated in your TDS.

3. Manage Your Credit As If It Is Your Most Valuable Possession. Now more than ever, good credit will be a key to home ownership. As the landscape of the mortgage world continues to change, credit will become a main focus of lenders when considering mortgage applications. Always make your payments on time, keep balances below 70% of your limit and maintain at least two types of credit with a two year history.

4. Save, Save, Save. Start saving now for that down payment. As mortgage guidelines tighten, the larger down payment you have saved, the more options available to you. Gifted down payments from immediate family can also be considered as part of your down payment.

5. Start Claiming Income On Your Tax Returns. This sounds contrary to what most people would think as we all strive to pay less taxes. However, over the last several years lenders have required proof of income based on your tax returns. The higher the income on the tax returns, the more income that can be used to qualify you for a mortgage. Income such as self-employed income, tips, overtime, etc. require a two year average in order to be used. If you want to purchase a home in the next few years, you may want to start claiming all income earned to maximize the mortgage amount you qualify for. Guidelines around self-employed income have been tightening up for a few years so there is no guarantee the programs available now will be available in the future.

As the government continues to tighten mortgage lending rules, it is more important than ever to ensure you work with a mortgage professional you trust who can help guide you towards home ownership. Contact your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker and start reviewing your situation now to work towards your homeownership goal.

11 Oct



Posted by: Mike Hattim

Often times it’s the simple math that will betray you when selling a property. In your head you do quick calculations, you take what you think your property will sell for and then subtract what you owe on your mortgage, and the rest is your profit! Well… not so fast, there are several costs that have to be taken into consideration when selling a home. It’s especially important to get these costs right when you are selling one property, and using the proceeds from that sale as a downpayment for another property.

So here is a fairly comprehensive list of costs you may incur when selling your home.


Although it may seem odd that you have to pay money to sell your home, that’s the reality, and selling a property isn’t cheap. If you use the services of a professional REALTOR®, the total commission cost is going to be anywhere between 4-6% of the purchase price, divided between the listing agent (the REALTOR® who represents you) and the buyer’s agent (the REALTOR® representing the buyer). It’s also good to note that GST is added to real estate commissions.

If you are looking for a way to get around paying real estate commissions, you might consider selling your house privately. To list your property with a FSBO company (for sale by owner), you are going to be anywhere between $400-$1,500 just for setup and a bit of marketing. From there, you may still have to negotiate a commission if potential buyers are working with a buyer’s agent.


If you have a mortgage on your property, there will be a cost to discharge it, the question is how much?

If you are breaking your mortgage in the middle of your term, you will be responsible to pay a penalty. On a closed mortgage, that penalty will be either 3 months interest or an Interest Rate Differential penalty, known as an IRD. Each mortgage contract is written up differently lender by lender, so it’s impossible to simply explain the math here and have you calculate your penalty on your own. In order to figure out your IRD ahead of time, you can either contact your lender directly, or you can contact me and I can help you through the process.

The IRD penalty is the wildcard in the whole process, because depending on how the lender calculates the penalty, penalties can range from $3,000 to $30,000. It is very important to know what you are dealing with here.

If you are currently in a variable rate mortgage, your penalty will be equal to 3 months interest. Even if you are in an open mortgage, or have a home equity line of credit secured to your property, there might not be a penalty to discharge, but there will most certainly be some kind of lender fee, usually between $250-$500.


In order to discharge the title of your property, and to verify that the buyer is going to receive a clear title of your property, you are going to incur legal fees to sell your property. In a straightforward discharge, expect to pay between $500-$1000, less than when you purchased the property, but an expense none the less.


Although this might not come as a surprise, when you are selling your property, you are responsible for paying all the property taxes and utilities up to the day you no longer have possession. If you close in the middle of the month, you will be responsible for half the months taxes and utilities. If you are on equalized payments, and you have run a deficit with the utility company, expect to bring that bill current before your lawyer can discharge the mortgage!


If you’re selling your primary residence, you are in the clear. In Canada we don’t pay tax on the appreciation of our primary residences, however, if you are selling an income property, you will be responsible to pay taxes on half the gains at your marginal income tax rate.


If you are looking to sell your house quickly, you will want to make sure that it is in tip top shape, don’t underestimate the growing costs of fixing your property up before trying to sell it. It has been said that sellers should consider spending up to .5%-1% of the asking price on getting the property ready, making sure the small things are looked after will give people the feeling like the property was looked after . Low-cost, minor improvements like

  • Patch drywall and nail holes, repaint.
  • Fix or replace damaged flooring.
  • Repair plumbing leaks.
  • Replace burnt out light bulbs.
  • Replace outdated light fixtures.
  • Clean out and reseal gutters.
  • Keep up with the yard and garden.


Don’t forget that once you do sell your house, it’s gonna cost you money (and time) to move. Depending on how much stuff you have, you are looking at some gas money and pizza for friends, or a few hundred to a few thousand for movers.

There you have it, by understanding these costs hopefully you will have a better idea of how much money you will actually have in your jeans after selling your house! Of course if you’re looking for a new mortgage for a new house – give the mortgage professionals at Dominion Lending Centres a call!