18 Oct

BANK OR MORTGAGE BROKER?

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Mortgages are like vehicles. A bank is similar to the brand, Ford or Toyota for example. How long you have a mortgage before it’s time to renew is like the model, a Fusion or Camry. The rate is similar to the car’s paint color, and the mortgage benefits such as prepayment privileges and portability are like the car’s benefits; 4-wheel drive, hatchback, four doors instead of two, etc.

A bank is like a sales person at a Ford or Toyota dealership. He or she is an expert, they know everything about every car on their lot; engine size, warranty, all available colours, and their fuel ratings. He or she can match any car to your needs and lifestyle, as long as it’s sold at their lot.

But what if they don’t have the most fuel efficient car? What if you don’t like the design or you need four doors and a trunk and all they have is two doors and a hatchback? Are you still going to buy from that dealership just because you went there first? No, you’re going down the street to check out the Chevrolet, maybe even BMW, Mazda, or the new Chrysler dealership. That sales person doesn’t want you to go buy from another lot down the street, but you are buying to satisfy your needs, not the dealership’s needs of selling their own cars.

Now imagine a dealership that sold every single make and model of vehicle. Imagine you could choose one of their sales people, and have them work only for you. They know just as much or even more about every make and model, they do all the research for you and tell you what you need to look for, they ask you the important questions; they have your best interest. That is a mortgage broker, your own personal expert.

Now, you may not need a personal expert to buy a car. But what about mortgages? Is a 0.10% lower interest rate a lot? Or will a 20% prepayment privilege instead of 10% be more advantageous? Can you switch lenders and move your mortgage? $15,000 or $5,000 penalty? How is it calculated? Fixed or variable? Is a collateral charge good or bad? 2-year term or 5-year? Big bank or monoline lender? How about credit unions? The list goes on.

So, a bank or mortgage broker? Put it this way; would you buy from the first dealership you visit or hire an expert? If you have any questions, contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional near you.

By Ryan Oake

17 Oct

LEGALIZED MARIJUANA AND THE CANADIAN HOUSING MARKET

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

October 17th will be an important day in Canada’s social history. It’s the day when we are going to have legalized marijuana across the country. We will be the second major country in the world to do this. How does this affect mortgage brokers like myself? When someone comes to me to obtain financing for a home purchase and the sellers have disclosed that they smoked pot in the house or grew a few plants , how will this affect their home purchase?

A few years ago, someone disclosed that their home had been a grow-op six years previously and their home insurance company cancelled their policy citing safety issues. I could see this happening with both lenders and mortgage default insurers like CMHC, Genworth and Canada Guaranty. A recent article by a member of the Canadian Real Estate Association suggested that both lenders and insurers might ask for a complete home inspection. It was suggested that sellers who have grown a few plants might want to get a head of a problem and have an inspection before they list the property. If there are any issues of mold or electrical systems that are not up to code, they can remedy this and have a quick sale.

I contacted both CMHC and Genworth Canada to find out if any policy changes are in the works. CMHC told me that there’s nothing planned beyond what is already on the books. If there’s been a grow operation it needs to be inspected and remediation done before they will insure. Genworth says that nothing has been announced as of yet. Any changes will result in an official announcement to all brokers.
Mortgage brokers may want to call their realtor referral partners and discuss this with them to see if local real estate authorities have any changes planned. If nothing else it will be good to touch base with your realtors to find out how the market is in your area.

If you are thinking about smoking pot in your home or want to grow a few plants , contact your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional first to find out if this could affect your house value or sale in the future.

By David Cooke

15 Oct

RISING INTEREST RATES AND THE IMPACT ON REAL ESTATE VALUES

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Rising Interest Rates and the Impact on Real Estate Values. Is there a direct connection? In a post entitled Interest Rates and Property Values. What’s the Connection?, I suggested that there was. An example was given which suggested that mortgage lenders would be directly impacted by a rise in rates, as their underwriting parameters, most notably debt service coverage requirements, are directly impacted. An inability for a buyer to secure the required financing amount, in an environment of increasing interest rates will, I argue, impact their willingness to offer as high a purchase price. Arguably a lower debt level will necessitate a greater amount of equity. This directly diminishes an investors cash-on-cash return. The inevitable result will be a softening of values, since buyers will want to offer less.

Are there Other Factors?
The above noted rationale, for establishing the link between interest rates and values, does however ignore other factors which may impact market sentiment.

A recent study by Manulife Asset Management raises some interesting observations. In their March 2018 report entitled Canadian Commercial Real Estate Outlook, Manulife’s study observed that in fact there was no consistent relationship between real estate values and interest rates. One of their important findings was that although interest rates have been rising since November 2016, largely as a result of economic growth and higher inflationary pressure, capitalization rates actually declined. Why? Well apart from the sentiments of an individual buyer and lender, which is what I referenced in my earlier post, Canadian investors enjoyed improving real estate fundamentals. Yields were seen to be attractive in comparison to other investments, and there was a rise in foreign investment. All contributed to a support for commercial real estate fundamentals and stable or enhanced values.

Capitalization Rate Refresher
You may recall that capitalization rates are comprised of a nominal “risk-free” rate (often associated with a Government of Canada benchmark bond yield), plus a risk premium attributed to a specific property type or asset. If, as it appears, overall capitalization rates have declined, could it be that the “risk-free” rate is falling as well? I will encourage you to take a look at the Manulife report and come to your own conclusions. From a lender’s perspective, I do not doubt that rising rates have a bearing on what a buyer will pay for a property. I suspect real estate appraisers will be like-minded. The Manulife study does however caution us that there are macro-factors at play as well, and a strong economy is supportive of longer term stability, and indeed growth, in the Canadian Commercial real estate market.

By Allan Jensen

12 Oct

THE DOWNSIZING DILEMMA

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

With almost 50% of homeowners ready to retire and wishing to stay in their home and 30% of those people with most of their money tied up in home equity, the downsizing dilemma is real. Can they afford to stay in their home or is downsizing the better option.

In the past, retired couples or a widow would keep their clear title home and use pension and investment income to live. They would only sell the family home and move into a retirement home when health issues forced the move or upon death of both people. Times have changed.

People are living longer and want to stay in their home. The cost of living has risen and, due to higher home values, the amount of equity in that home is greater than ever. Many home owners are being stretched with their budget and their retirement income is insufficient to maintain their lifestyle.

We have found that many retired people are unable to meet their budget each month and are using a line of credit and/or credit cards. This becomes a vicious cycle and the cost of interest pushes them to the wall and they reach their maximum limits. Then they are forced to sell their home or reduce their lifestyle to manage. Often family members are unaware till it becomes a serious matter. Planning ahead is essential to avoid this situation and lower stress levels for all family members including the aging parent.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, Scott Hannah of the Credit Counselling Society talks about the risks.

Some homeowners now recognize the need to look to their home as a source of income from home equity financing.

There are a growing number of programs designed specifically for homeowners over the age of 55. Each comes with different requirements, advantages and benefits. It is important for retiring or retired people to talk with their family and then in a group with their independent Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker and financial planner.

For some family members, the next step is for the aging parent to downsize to a new home. For some, it is to stay in the family home and set up an equity plan to maintain a safe place and comfortable lifestyle. Consideration must be made for current income, current budget and future needs.

By Pauline Tonkin

10 Oct

FIXED-RATE MORTGAGE: WHAT LENDERS YOU SHOULD DO IT WITH AND WHY

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

25-year amortization or 30 years? Insured or Uninsured? With an A Lender or B Lender? These are just a few of the questions people have to decide on when they are pursuing a mortgage. But the biggest question of all: Fixed Rate or Variable Rate?

With the instability of the market, and the Bank of Canada’s continuous rate hikes, many people now are flocking towards a fixed rate mortgage over a variable rate. What this means is that they are choosing to essentially “lock in” at a rate for the term of their mortgage (5 years, 10 years, 1 year…you name it). Now there are benefits to this…but there are also disadvantages too.

For example, did you know that 60% of people will break their mortgage by 36 months into a 5 year term? Whether it’s due to career changes, deciding to have kids, wanting to refinance, or another reason entirely, 60% of mortgage holders will break it.

And just like any other contract out there, if you break it, there is a penalty associated with it. However, there is a way to avoid paying more than is necessary. This applies directly to a fixed rate mortgage and we can help you decide what lenders you should go with.

If you have a FIXED RATE MORTGAGE:
There are two ways your penalty will be calculated.

Method #1. If you are funded by one of the Big 6 Banks (ex. Scotia, TD, etc.) or some Credit Unions, your penalty will be based on the bank of Canada Posted Rate (Posted Rate Method) To give you an example:

With this method, the Bank of Canada 5 year posted rate is used to calculate the penalty. Under this method, let’s assume that they were given a 2% discount at their bank thus giving us these numbers:

Bank of Canada Posted Rate for 5-year term: 5.59%
Bank Discount given: 2% (estimated amount given*)
Contract Rate: 3.59%

Exiting at the 2-year mark leaves 3 years left. For a 3-year term, the lenders posted rate. 3 year posted rate=3.69% less your discount of 2% gives you 1.44%. From there, the interest rate differential is calculated.

Contract Rate: 3.59%
LESS 3-year term rate MINUS discount given: 1.69%
IRD Difference = 1.9%
MULTIPLE that by 3 years (term remaining)
5.07% of your mortgage balance remaining. = 5.7%

For that mortgage $300,000 mortgage, that gives a penalty of $17,100. YIKES!

Now let’s look at the other method (one used by most monoline lenders)

Method #2:
This method uses the lender published rates, which are much more in tune with what you will see on lender websites (and are * generally * much more reasonable). Here is the breakdown using this method:

Rate when you initially signed: 3.24%
Published Rate: 3.34%
Time left on contract: 3 years

To calculate the IRD on the remaining term left in the mortgage, the broker would do as follows:

Rate when you initially signed: 3.24%
LESS Published Rate: 3.54%
=0.30% IRD
MULTIPLY that by 3 years (term remaining)
0.90% of your mortgage balance

That would mean that you would have a penalty of $2,700 on a $300,000 mortgage.

That’s a HUGE difference in numbers, just by choosing to go with a different lender! Knowing what you know about fixed rate mortgages now, let a Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Broker help you make the RIGHT choice for your lender. We are here to help and guide you through the mortgage process from pre-approval onward!

By Geoff Lee

9 Oct

CASH BACK AND DECORATING ALLOWANCES ON NEW BUILD OR PRE-SALE PURCHASES

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

As the market shifts, developers will increase their incentives to buyers with cash back and decorating allowances on new build or pre-sale purchases. It is very important to review those options with your real estate agent representative and vital to consult with your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker. Although these offers may seem attractive, they can impact your financing and could cost you thousands of dollars.

Before you write a contract on a new build or pre-sale, ensure you have set up your team including a real estate agent and mortgage broker. Always consult with them to ensure you have sound advice. Do not rely solely on the developer’s sales representative.

What happens when you sign a contract on a pre-sale?

When you visit the sales centre for the pre-sale and decide to write a contract you have a rescission period where you can back out of the purchase. The contract you sign is drafted by the sales centre and once you remove any conditions, you are locked into the purchase. Therefore it is essential you have your real estate agent with you at the time of signing or at a minimum, they review the contract. It is in your best interest you fully understand the terms, the disclosure statement, what you are buying, schedule to build, GST, deposit schedule and any incentives.

Once you remove any conditions, the deposit is paid to the developer and a schedule set for all other deposits till the building is complete. Those total deposits are typically 20% of the purchase price. That is money you will not receive back if for any reason you are unable to proceed with the purchase. Some contracts allow assignment to another buyer, but those must be approved by the developer and may come with restrictions. Your realtor can guide you on these matters.

How Will Cash Back or Decorating Allowances Impact Your Purchase?

When the market slows, developers will use incentives such as cash back and decorating allowances on new build or pre-sale purchases as a strategy to increase sales. Regardless if this is a cash back or a rebate for decorating, it will have an impact on the purchase price for the lender on the financing. This is a common misconception among buyers and even realtors who do not understand the process from a financing perspective.

For example: A purchase price plus GST is $800,000. The developer is offering a $20,000 decorating allowance. The lender will automatically deduct the $20,000 from the purchase price. Your new purchase price will be $780,000 for financing purposes. This does not change the actual purchase price. You still have to pay the developer $800,000 for the home. The lender will lend on the $780,000 only. Therefore you must pay in cash at the time of funding the $20,000 difference.

The developer has sold you the idea you are receiving decorating upgrades of $20,000. You are receiving the value of that allowance BUT make no mistake you are paying for it.

If the incentive is a cash back amount in the above example, you will receive the cash back from the developer at the time of completion. However, the lender will still only offer financing on the lower value minus the cash back amount.

By Pauline Tonkin

5 Oct

WHAT SHOULD COME FIRST, THE HOUSE OR THE CAR?

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

So you just got a shiny new car, and now you want a shiny new home to go with it. Will that new car payment affect your mortgage pre- approval? The short answer… absolutely it will.
Recently, I have encountered many people looking to pre-approve for a home purchase that do not qualify. While it may be in part because of the mortgage “Stress Test” rules, a good portion is due to large debt obligations such as car loans. I have witnessed applicants that have brand new car loans/leases with huge payments and not one gave thought as to whether it would affect their ability to qualify for a mortgage.
Unless you have already done your home work with your mortgage broker by getting a mortgage pre-approval that factors the new car payment into it and your budget, you may be in for disappointment.
However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other. Here are some tips to get set for mortgage approval success.

1. Get pre-approved. Seek the guidance of your mortgage broker to know exactly what you qualify for before you start the house hunting process. Knowing what your maximum purchase price is, helps you and your realtor.
2. Be realistic with what you can afford. Start by looking at what you pay in rent now. That’s a good starting place to figure out what you can pay on a mortgage. However, you also must consider what you can get approved for.
3. Remember to save and budget for more than the mortgage payment. When you own a home, your monthly payment consists of more than just the mortgage payment. You will also pay property taxes, home owner insurance, and utilities on top of your other monthly debt obligations. Having emergency savings can help alleviate the stress of taking on the financial responsibility of a owning a home.
4. Clean up your credit. Paying off credit balances can not only help improve your credit score, it can also increase your buying power.
5. Avoid making big financial changes. This is the big one. Most lenders want to see that you’re a stable applicant. Doing things like buying a new car before you buy a new house does not establish you as stable. Similarly, opening new credit cards, or making a drastic change to your employment can also be detrimental to getting approved for a mortgage.

When in doubt always seek the advice of your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional.

By Lynn Nequest

4 Oct

MORTGAGE INSURANCE 101

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

For a first-time home buyer, the types of insurance surrounding a mortgage can be confusing, so it’s important to know what insurance covers what.

There are 3 main types of insurance to know about when buying a home.

Mortgage Default Insurance – If you put less than 20% down on a home you are buying, Government rules are you must pay for Mortgage Default Insurance which covers the lender should you default on your mortgage payments.

There are three mortgage default insurers in Canada – Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corp. (CMHC), Genworth or Canada Guaranty) The purchase of this insurance solely benefits the bank/lender.

Mortgage Insurance and/or Life Insurance

You’ve just made the biggest purchase of your life: a new home for you and your family.
• What’s the best way to protect your investment if you die?

Insurance is the answer. But what kind: mortgage insurance or life insurance?

Please note: Mortgage/Life Insurance is not mandatory to qualify for a mortgage.

You have made the biggest purchase of your life… how do you protect yourself and your family? Many people say they have life insurance through their work, but is it enough?
• The question you should be asking is – do you currently have enough life insurance in place right now, equal to your mortgage amount?

Top Benefits of purchasing Mortgage/Life Insurance

1. Peace of Mind – creates a sense of security that your loved ones will be taken care of if you pass on.
2. Mortgage Can be Paid Off – whereby any other policies that are held will be able to assist with other needs.
3. Family can Stay in their Home – if there is the unfortunate life event that is the death of the Mortgage/Life Insurance policy holder, the mortgage can be paid off which will allow the family to stay in their home and not become displaced, causing additional anguish.
4. The Younger you are, the Less Expensive – Which means that insurance is extremely affordable for a young, and likely, first time home buyer.
5. Good Health = Coverage for Unexpected Illness Later on – After illness strikes, it is more difficult to acquire life insurance.

Mortgage/Life Insurance is an option that anyone with a mortgage should consider. Ask me about a referral for reputable and credible insurance.

While we’re discussing insurance, there are other types of insurance you need to consider as well…
• Fire insurance – most lenders will want to see that you have fire insurance in place, prior to funding your mortgage to “protect” their investment.

Additional insurance options:
• Disability insurance
• Personal content insurance

Mortgages are complicated… BUT they don’t have to be! You need to protect your investment by engaging an expert.

Contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional to discuss a mortgage that works for you (not the bank)!

By Kelly Hudson

3 Oct

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A MORTGAGE BROKER

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Are you on the hunt for a mortgage broker? Or you need a mortgage broker but just don’t know it yet! Either way, this article is for you!

First up, where do you find a Mortgage Broker?

The easiest (and one of the best places to start) is with referrals from a realtor, family, friends, or co-workers. But this is just the start! There are thousands of independent mortgage brokers out there for you to partner with. So, what should you look for? That’s part 2.

What to look for in a Mortgage Broker?

When you are looking for a mortgage broker AND looking to buy a home that can lead to a very stressful time in your life. To make it easy, here are a few things that a broker should be doing for you:

1. Rates Don’t Tell the Whole Story. Getting a mortgage, refinancing your home or consolidating debts should not be seen as a quick and effortless task. There are brokers that make borrowing all about the rate; and that is just not the case. Be wary about Brokers who guarantee you a mortgage without asking for any documentation. Over the years personal lending has changed and continues to. With stricter than ever documentation requirements, lending policies and tougher credit checks, it’s important to be working with a broker who is educated. It is also important to work with a broker who asks to see the FULL picture. That means a little more work on your end to get all the proper documentation, but it can make a world of difference when it comes to selecting the right mortgage product for you.

2. Experience Really Matters. Maybe you have bad credit—or a larger car loan—or maybe you are self-employed. Whatever your unique situation is, you want to work with a broker who knows how to help you navigate through it to get you the best mortgage product. Yes, someone who is new to the world of home and personal finance may be smart, fully versed in policy and products and able to offer a great rate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are prepared to handle your situation. Try to find someone who has worked on a wide variety of deals in a wide variety of situations. A few questions to ask:
Have they had to work through someone’s debt in order to make a deal viable?
Do they know what to do when a deal doesn’t go as planned? Are they experienced in handling your unique situation? (ex. Working with someone who is self-employed, etc.)

3. Think Big Picture. There are many different pieces to your personal finance picture. From credit cards to student loans, they all fit together to create a picture that is unique to you and only you. With that in mind, a good mortgage broker should take time to find out about your goals—both long term and short term. They should ask you if:

This is a starter home or long-term home?
Are you planning on expanding your family (ex. having kids soon)?
Do you have kids who are heading off to university and may have tuition payments to make soon?
Do you have a parent who may need long-term care in the future?
All of these things can directly impact your finances, and in turn give direction to the mortgage broker on what you will need in a mortgage product. Asking these questions and others gives the mortgage broker a broad financial picture which gives them the perspective and knowledge to make an informed recommendation.

4. More than a Number. It’s no secret—mortgage brokers often will have sales/volume goals that they want to meet to take advantage of incentives. However, a good broker will set you up with the right product, rate, term and conditions that work for YOU…not them. They should be able to see past their own targets and goals and work with you to not only reach your goals but surpass them.

A satisfied, happy customer can turn into a life-long customer (and they bring friends and family with them too!) This is what a good mortgage broker should be able to see and portray to you. You should never feel rushed or like you are “just another number”. If your mortgage broker is focused on only one product or simply puts you into a 5-year rate without asking about your goals, it may be time to ask some questions.. You should never be given a mortgage without full explanation, details, and understanding of why that product is right for you.

5. Save Time—don’t shop. Over the past few years the idea that you can “shop” your mortgage around to different brokers to get a better rate has been made quite popular. The reality? 95% of the time every broker will end up offering the same rate for the same product. That’s not to say that there are not special rate offers out there—but they do typically have a specific requirement such as quick closings, shorter amortizations, higher down payments, limited repayment options, and smaller lenders. These are sometimes used, but for the vast majority of the population do not fit their needs. A general rule of thumb is that if a mortgage offer appears too good to be true, then it is.

A Final Note

With all that said, we find that borrowers who:

take the time to seek out an experienced broker
give an in-depth picture of their financial goals to their broker
look for a broker who has a background in handling cases similar to theirs
keep themselves financially in a good situation through debt repayment and budgeting
avoid “shopping” for rates
Are the ones who breeze through the mortgage process. It’s important to look at your mortgage as not just a singular deal all on its own; it’s a part of a much larger picture. A mortgage should allow for you to live your life comfortably but realistically—making sure that other needs and obligations (vacations, healthcare, emergency savings, education, etc) are all considered and balanced with their mortgage/loan requirements. Finding a broker who understands what BALANCE looks like is the key to making the home-buying process as simple as possible. If you have any questions, contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker near you.

By Geoff Lee

2 Oct

THE PROS AND CONS OF CO-SIGNING FOR A MORTGAGE

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

If you keep up on the news you know that qualifying for a mortgage is getting tougher and tougher. Someone who would have sailed through the application process 10 years ago could find themselves declined for a mortgage today.
Often I find applicants can afford the monthly payments but they can’t prove that their income is stable. If they waited another 6 months to a year, they could but they would miss out on a great opportunity to buy a home now. Buyers who have recently switched jobs, receive overtime or get a portion of their income from tips are the people who need co-signers to make the deal work. A strong co-signer can be more persuasive to a lender than offering to put more money down.

I also have found that people with “thin” credit are being asked for co-signers. These are applicants who have one credit card but no car loans or other credit facilities showing on their credit bureau report. Often they are recent university graduates who recently started work.
Rick Bossom, an accredited mortgage professional with Bayfield Mortgage Professionals in Courtenay, British Columbia, says that it’s an alternative to lenders just turning the deal down in cases where the borrowers are just on the edge of qualifying.

“They’re close but they just need a little bit more and that’s why the co-signing thing would come up. It’s not like they’re really, really bad, they’re just not quite there.”

What does a co-signer do? Their job is to continue payments in the event that the main applicant(s) default on the mortgage. In essence, they are saying that if you skip out on the payments, they will take up the slack.
As a result, lenders want to have co-signers on the application just as if they would be living in the home and making the mortgage payments. If they have mortgage payments of their own, they have to show that they can financially afford to pay both mortgages and any other monthly obligations that they may have like car payments.

One thing that surprises primary applicants as well as their co-signers is the amount of information required from the co-signers. They will have to provide an employment letter, recent pay stub, a credit bureau report at a minimum. If they are self-employed company income documents will also be required.
It’s always best for the primary applicant to have a conversation with the co-signer or co-signers to inform them of this in advance. The co-signers should also be aware that this will tie up their credit for the term of the mortgage. If they are planning on buying a vacation home or making a large purchase, they may be declined based on their financial obligation to your mortgage.

However, there is one feature that banks don’t tell you about but your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional will tell you. There’s the ability to remove the co-signer from the mortgage after 12 months of successful on time mortgage payments. Co-signers don’t have to stay on the mortgage for the whole term.

Make sure that you mention that you are interested in taking your co-signer off the mortgage in a year and your mortgage broker can pick a lender who will allow this. It’s really nice to be able to remove your co-signer and thank them for their help without tying up their credit capacity for 5 years.

By David Cooke