Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Will Home Ownership be a Pipedream for Gen Z?

There may be no better feeling than closing on your first home.  Over the last 10 years, first time homebuyers have seen the market change dramatically, whether it’s mortgage rule changes that impact qualifying, or rising house prices that took some first timers out of the market altogether. Combine that with stagnant incomes, and it’s not surprising that young people feel that the dream may never happen for them.

But is it still a dream for the younger generation? Last year – 2019 – was the last for millennial graduates. We are now in the Gen Z world.  Gen Z refers those born after 1996, so they’re now 23 and younger. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, so they’re now between 23 and 38.
This group grew up with an iPhone in their hand and an iPad on their laps, and clearly have learned to process information differently than generations before them. But what hasn’t changed is their desire for home ownership.

In fact, Gen Z is poised to overtake millennials in their desire for homeownership. A survey  conducted by real-estate company Zillow found that in 15 years Gen-Z homeownership will be bigger than the share of millennials who currently own their homes.

Another survey from shows that 81% of the Canada’s Gen Z’ers think they’ll purchase a home in the next 20 years. Ten percent of the 18-24 age group say they already own their own home, while 35% (one in three) believe they’ll purchase a home within the next five years.

Interestingly, millennials are more likely to believe that homeownership is NOT in their future. The difference? It hasn’t been quantified yet, but anecdotally, Gen Z ‘ers don’t like the high cost of renting, and would rather make personal financial sacrifices to save for the large down payment needed.

For these future homeowners, education and information is key. And the best person to help guide the process is a mortgage broker.  The following information is not only for Gen Z, but for everyone looking for their first home.

There are six steps to the mortgage application process.

Step 1 – The Application/Pre-Approval

  • It’s important to get all the following information. This allows your mortgage agent to determine the amount you qualify for and the best mortgage strategy/product for you. Current address. If you are less than three years at your current residence, you must provide your previous address as well. In addition, you will need to provide
  •  Birthdate
  • Contact number
  • Do you own or rent your current home?
  • If rented, is the rent paid monthly?  If not, specify term of rent
  • If owned, is there a mortgage? If so, with whom, the value of your home, and mortgage payments
  • Approximate value of assets -- identifiable assets like RRSPs, savings, investments, vehicles, other properties, etc.
  • Approximate value of liabilities -- identifiable liabilities like car payments, line of credit, student loans, credit cards, etc.
  • Any alimony or support payments
  • Employer (if less than three years, previous employer as well)
  • Title
  • Tenure
  • Salary and other compensation
  • Self- Employment information that includes historical taxable income, historical gross business income

Step 2 – Qualifying

Your information is sent to a lender for a rate hold, pre-approval or approval.  All info is sent electronically and directly to a lender. A response can come within 24-72 hours.

Step 3 – Verification

Verification will be done on items such as your income, with a job letter and recent pay slip, and proof of down payment. Some lenders require tax returns and Notice of Assessments. Your mortgage agent will list out all the information needed and lead you through a straightforward verification process.

Step 4 – Purchase

Once you’ve found your new home, your Realtor will draw up a Purchase and Sale Agreement, which he or she will also send to your mortgage agent on your behalf. When writing your offer, it’s strongly recommended that a “subject to financing” clause be written in, even if you have a pre-approval. 

Step 5 – Approval

During this stage the lender will review all documents and will call your employer to verify employment. You will also receive a Letter of Commitment with the rate, term, payment amount or frequency, amortization, and more. Your mortgage agent will review the commitment letter in detail with you before you sign.

Step 6 – Funding/Closing

The only thing left to do is to register the transaction legally. This will require a lawyer or a notary, depending on where you live. The lender will forward all the documentation directly to your lawyer, and the lawyer will contact you to arrange a meeting.

During this meeting your lawyer will confirm the details of your transaction and will request a bank draft or certified cheque to cover the amounts outstanding before the closing date, which includes the down payment, the lawyers fee, property transfer tax and any other disbursements not yet paid for, less any deposits already paid.

The lawyer then receives the funds from your lender, disburses them and registers the title in your name – then you get the keys.

Digital Experience 

Gen Z’ers were born to process a massive amount of information 24/7, but info overload can negatively affect anyone. There’s a lot of mixed messages, and sometimes outright misinformation on the ‘Net. Despite the I-Generation “always on” environment, the human touch is still welcome.
Buying your first house is a journey, but don’t take it alone. Contact a mortgage professional to combine your digital experience with the human touch.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

An Alphabet Soup of Economic Predictions

Which is Canada Most Likely to Experience?

Alphabet Soup of Economic Predictions
You’ve likely heard of analysts using letters of the alphabet to describe the potential paths for Canada’s economic recovery.

Will that graph of the country’s GDP look like a V or more like a U? Perhaps even a W, but hopefully not an L.

Below we take a brief look at what each of the recovery shapes mean, which is most likely, and how that might affect the country’s housing markets.

Let’s take a look at the letters that have been employed to describe the “shape” of where Canada’s economy has been and where it’s headed:  

V-Shaped: The most optimistic of the scenarios, this forecasts the steep decline in Canada’s GDP bouncing back quickly and returning to pre-COVID levels in short order.

U-Shaped: Similar to the “V” recovery, but this scenario anticipates a longer period of low or no growth. However, it also describes an eventual quick return to pre-COVID growth levels. 

“Nike Swoosh” Shaped: This is a variation of the “U-shaped” recovery, but describes a more gradual and prolonged period of economic recovery.  

W-Shaped: Like the V-shaped scenario, except the W forecasts a second steep decline in economic performance—possibly due to a second wave of the virus—followed by a second quick recovery to more normal levels.

L-Shaped: This is the most dreaded of them all, describing a persistent recession that doesn’t see the economy returning to pre-COVID levels potentially for many years.

Which Recovery Path is Most Likely?

There’s much disagreement over which model is likely to play out.

Some expect the economy to face continued headwinds for at least the next year, with some ups and some downs, perhaps along the lines of a W-recovery.

“Our economic forecast envisions the economy continuing to operate well below full capacity into 2021,” economists with RBC Economics wrote in a research note. “The road to recovery will be slow, and it could be quite bumpy.”

Others remain optimistic that the V-recovery is still taking shape.  

“The good news is that the incoming data continue to suggest a recovery that is about as v-shaped as we could reasonably have hoped for,” noted Neil Shearing, Group Chief Economist at Capital Economics. “The bad news is that sustaining the pace of recovery will get increasingly difficult from here.”

In a separate research note, economists at Capital Economics added, “In terms of fundamentals, it now seems clear that household income has not fallen by anywhere near as much as we expected in the second quarter, despite the slump in employment.”

Then there are others who don’t think any letter—in the English language or otherwise—can accurately describe the path that lays ahead.

“I don’t think a letter is going to neatly capture what we’re going to be looking at,” Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO, told the Financial Post. 

What’s the Impact on Canada’s Housing Market?

The fallout for the real estate and mortgage markets has been a big unknown since the start of the crisis, largely because both supply and demand fell in unison.

“The fact both sides of the demand-supply equation fell in virtually equal proportions…revealed an important characteristic of COVID-19,” RBC economist Robert Hogue wrote. “To date, it hasn’t created market imbalances.”

While home sales plummeted in April by 57% as the effects of the lockdowns took hold, the decline in home prices has so far been limited in many markets.

And with sales already rebounding in May by nearly 57% and new listings seeing a 69% increase, there are signs some markets may be back to posting year-over-year price increases in short order.

As of May, MLS benchmark prices were up year-over-year in the Greater Toronto Area (+9.4%), Greater Vancouver (+2.9%), Montreal (+11%), Ottawa (+15.7%) and Halifax (+9.3%), according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Still, as economic fundamentals remain below potential for the foreseeable future and as government assistance programs, such as CERB and the mortgage payment deferrals, come offline this fall, many expect modest price declines.

“We believe downward price pressure will build in most markets in the coming months,” wrote Robert Hogue of RBC Economics. “Nationwide, we expect benchmark prices to fall 7% by the middle of 2021, though believe a widespread collapse in property values is unlikely.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Mortgage Insurers Making Headlines

CMHC Makes Policy Changes – Genworth & Canada Guaranty Stay Put

It came as a surprise to many mortgage industry insiders when the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced its plan to further tighten their lending guidelines on July 1, 2020. Thankfully for many potential homeowners, Canada’s two private insurers, Genworth and Canada Guaranty, have decided not to follow suit.

Citing a need to mitigate its exposure (and taxpayer’s) to what the Crown Corporation’s CEO Evan Siddall’s predicts will be a drop in house values by as little as 9% and as much as 18% due to COVID-19, and a potential surge in household debt from 176% to 200% through 2021, they implemented changes that would cut purchasing power by up to 11%.

Under CMHC’s new guidelines, which is set to go into effect on July 1, 2020, the following will apply:

  • Maximum Gross Debt Service (GDS) ratios, or the max percentage of home ownership debt payments ie principal, interest, taxes, condo fees and heat when compared to gross income, will be lowered to 35% (from 39%)
  •  Maximum Total Debt Service (TDS) ratios, or the max percentage of total personal debt payments relative to gross income, will be lowered to 42% (from 44%)
  • The minimum credit score needed to qualify will rise to 680 (from 600) for at least one household borrower
  • Many non-traditional sources of down payment that “increase indebtedness” will not be permitted. 

However, borrowers will still be able to access their RRSPs through the Home Buyers Plan or a home equity line of credit on another property they own.

According to Mortgage Professionals Canada, 61% of first-time home buyers buy with less than 20% down. And 20% of down payment funds come from borrowed sources. This move by CMHC could cut purchasing power by up to 11%.  For example, a family earning $100,000 with 5% down, with no other debt, would qualify for a $320,000 mortgage (approx.) Under the new CMHC guidelines that mortgage amount gets reduced to approx. $280,000.  

Siddall said in a statement, “COVID-19 has exposed long-standing vulnerabilities on our financial markets, and we must act now to protect the economic futures of Canadians. These actions will protect home buyers, reduce government and taxpayer risk, and support stability of housing markets while curtailing excessive demand and unsustainable house price growth.”

Critics of the move wondered out loud at the timing of these changes, when provinces have begun easing lockdown restrictions to kickstart the economy, they felt it was counterproductive to efforts focused on regaining confidence in the housing sector.  
Paul Taylor, CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada was quoted as saying, “…I think the timing for the introduction of these restrictions is poor, especially since the Federal government itself is pouring billions of dollars into the economy to keep it afloat.”

Canada’s Private Insurers Hold Firm

In Canada, federally regulated lending institutions such as banks, non-bank lenders, credit unions and trust companies, are required to insure high ratio mortgages – those with less than 20% down –against default. There are three insurers in Canada -- CMHC is a federal Crown Corporation and Genworth and Canada Guaranty are private sector suppliers of mortgage insurance. 

After reviewing their policies and CMHC’s decision, the two private insurers have decided to NOT follow CMHC’s lead. Both insurers made statements defending their current underwriting polices and are confident in their ability to manage risk. This is positive for borrowers.

As the economy starts its slow climb to recovery, we have seen positive signs across the country as sales start to increase. 

When it comes to real estate, consumer confidence is key. As we continue to ease restrictions, continue to practice safe protocols, and consumers start to feel comfortable again, we may see both homebuyers and those critical home sellers become more active.

It’s hard to say what the true impact to the market might have been if all three insurers had decided to tighten their rules. It’s clear that having a competitive market for mortgage insurance greatly benefits homebuyers. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Where would you prefer to live?

As we move into Spring, and as provinces across the country begin easing restrictions, The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is hopeful that home sales will start to tick up. The housing and mortgage markets have adapted to COVID-19 and have put safety measures into place with virtual house tours and electronic document signing.

According to available data from, Canadians are spending more time looking at properties on the site. During the week of March 9, visits dropped by 30%; however, since April 12 traffic has crept back up by 14%, and consumer inquiries through the site rose by 25% -- similar to levels during the same period last year.

Consumer confidence is also on the rise. The Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index ticked up slightly to 38.73 in its second-straight gain after more than two months in free fall.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) reported that construction of multi-unit housing projects remained strong in some provinces last month despite COVID-19.  The agency saw growth in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in April.

Deputy Chief Economist for CIBC World Markets believes the hit to the real estate market isn’t as “significant as perceived”. In an interview with Real Estate News Exchange, Tal said, “For the real estate market, if this recovery is going to be relatively long, it means that interest rates will remain relatively low,” said Tal. “That’s positive.”

REMAX has just released its latest report, “Best Places to Live 2020: Canada Livability Report,” and has found “glimmers of hope” for the months ahead.

Liveability, according to the report, is about quality of life at a local level -- ‘A neighbourhood’s dynamism, or lack thereof, involves a delicate convergence between independent small businesses, public institutions, arts and culture, green spaces and housing, to name a few. Here’s what the report found.

Ninety-one per cent of Canadians have at least one important liveability factor when considering a neighbourhood they live in now or would like to live in, in the future. Affordability topped the list at  61%, followed by:

  • Walkability (37%)
  • Proximity to work (34%)
  • Low density neighbourhoods (30%)
  • Proximity to transit (30%)
  • Access to green spaces/dog parks (30%)

For city lovers, liveability criteria such as proximity to transit, access to green spaces and parks, proximity to good schools and neighbourhood vibrancy (access to art and culture) tops the list for families with or without children.  Various neighbourhoods such as Old Town Toronto and Beltline in Calgary best suit their overall needs.

Retirees prefer areas with access to green spaces and walking paths, proximity to health care or pharmacies, and quietness -- Mill Woods Park in Edmonton and Melville Cove in Halifax are among the top preferred neighbourhoods.

For affordability, Winnipeg and Edmonton are top regions. In Ontario, it’s regions like Ottawa, Windsor and Durham.

Edmonton is ranked at the top for most liveable city. Other cities that ranked high are:

  • Ottawa, with neighbourhoods such as Centretown and Lower Town.
  • In Victoria, the most up-and-coming neighbourhoods including Colwood and Langford. 
  • Winnipeg neighbourhoods Bridgwater Forest, Charleswood, and Devonshire Park. 


  • Most respondents say they like their quality of life and liveability in the neighbourhood they currently live in (90%):

                * 62 % say they like it a lot

  • Eight in 10 (82%) would make at least one sacrifice to live in the neighbourhood that meets their liveability “must-haves”:

                * 30 % would sacrifice dog parks
                * 29 % would sacrifice arts and culture
                * 26 % would sacrifice property size
                * 26 % would sacrifice proximity to parking options (carpool lots, parking garages)

  • Seven in 10 (72% ) would search the internet (i.e. Google search) to look for information about new neighbourhoods they are interested in moving to:

                * 39% would ask a real estate agent
                * 38 % would go by word of mouth
                * 15 % would rely on news and market trends reported in the media

Despite reports of slowing economic conditions there are promising signs that that the housing market will make a comeback, although it may take a while for a full recovery.

In the meantime, with many still home bound, there’s no harm in looking at the real estate listings to see what’s available in a neighbourhodd that fits your liveability criteria.

For a deeper dive into the report, read it here.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Mortgage Interest Rates in the COVID-19 Economy

Mortgages and interest rates are still talked-about topics in the current economic climate.

Here’s a recap. In January 2020, just prior to the pandemic surfacing in Canada, a five-year fixed rate was trending at approximately 2.89% to 3.09%. Fixed mortgage rates are loosely based on bond yields, which were trading at 1.5%.

The Bank of Canada’s (BoC) overnight rate, or key lending rate was 1.75% and the prime lending rate was 3.95%. Variable mortgage rates and lines of credit are based on the prime rate. At the time, mortgage lenders were offering discounted prime rates for new deals – some as high as 1%.

By March 2020, 5-year bond yields fell as low as 35 basis points and fixed-rate mortgage rates also fell to as low as 2.39%, but then went up to about 2.84 to 2.99%%, but are now starting to trend downwards again.

Also, in March, The BoC, cut its overnight rate three times - - it now sits as .25%. Most lenders also lowered their prime lending rates to 2.45%; however, the deep discounts have disappeared. Variable-rates are sitting at approximately Prime minus 20 basis points, or 2.25%.

It's commonly thought that five-year fixed mortgage rates are connected to five-year bond yields and that cuts to the BoC’s overnight rate will result in lower fixed rates. The two are not actually connected. Similarly, variable-rate mortgages were thought to be connected to the BoC’s overnight rate, and historically this has been the case, but it’s not written in stone.

In the current economic environment, the “traditional” rules are out the window, simply because what the economy is going through is unprecedented and everyone is moving cautiously.

Despite low bond yields and cuts to the prime rate, lenders are considering other factors – the rise in unemployment for one. One of the main indicators pointing to a continued healthy economy is jobs. Without jobs, household budgets get tighter, consumer purchases slow down, manufacturers scramble to reduce inventory, which could lead to lay-offs, and bankruptcies rise. Job loss is also a leading cause of mortgage default.

Statistics Canada reported that the country lost one million jobs in March, but that’s only a glimpse since the data is based on surveys in the week that started March 15. For perspective, economists suggest Canada's unemployment rate right now is likely around 20%, from an “average” of 5%. As you can see, the economic situation has been volatile and conditions can change daily.

Because the outlook is uncertain, and future mortgage defaults may be higher, lenders built risk premiums into their rates and we saw mortgage rates increase, despite the signs that borrowing costs were reduced.

The Government is keeping the economy afloat by injecting billions of dollars of financial support into the economy and, by default, instilling a small degree of confidence in Canadians. However, it’s likely that Canada will be in a recession – as some economist say it is now, and will take many months to recover.

The housing market is a vital component to the success of the Canadian economy. In many respects, the industry can help to stabilize a faltering economy.  Having said that, not everyone is out of work and consumers are still buying and selling houses.

There is an end game here and eventually the economy will start humming along. Jobs will return slowly, and low interest rates will likely be around for a while as we start the hard road to recovery.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Government, Monetary Policy and Fiscal Policy Reactions to COVID-19

By Mark Kerzner, President TMG The Mortgage Group

There was a second emergency reduction in the Overnight rate of 50 basis points on Friday, March 13 – to ensure market liquidity, and in response to the unprecedented economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus.  Many are anticipating yet another 50-basis points reduction that would bring the overnight rate to 0.25% in the near future.

Rates ultimately received by the end consumer are determined based on discounts or premiums from BANK Prime rates

One of the big questions following the latest emergency Overnight rate reduction by the Bank of Canada last Friday was whether or not Banks would follow suit with their PRIME rates and if so by what amount.

Yesterday afternoon it was confirmed that Prime lending rates are dropping but the price that new consumers will pay for variable based lending products may in fact be staying flat or potentially going up.  Discounts from bank PRIME of up to 1% appear to be vanishing. For existing variable rate and line of credit clients, your rates should be decreasing.

Just to reiterate, existing discounts for variable in-force mortgages are not changing.  Current discounts would related to new, renewing and refinancing mortgage clients who are choosing variable rate products.

After the Global Financial Crisis over a decade ago, variable rate discounts went from P-85 to P+100 almost overnight. One difference is that the ARM was a much more popular product a decade ago as the spread between it and fixed rate was much more pronounced. Today, the vast majority of consumers have been taking fixed mortgages, and are likely going to continue to do so.

Some have been asking questions about how is it now, that with the reduction in PRIME rates, are we seeing increases in mortgage lending rates.  As bond yields fluctuate (in part due to the oscillating markets) and liquidity premiums starting to dramatically increase, the cost of funds and the desired margins earned by lenders increases.

The Government and Regulators are using other fiscal policy stimulants to work to protect the economy as well.

To stabilize funding, the Government of Canada, through CMHC, announced yesterday they were buying $50 billion of insured mortgage pools.

OSFI mandates the rate of the Domestic Stability Buffer – a rate of capital that is set aside to safeguard against shocks in the system. Over the past few years that amount has continually increased.

It was less than a year ago in April 2019, that the Big 6 banks were required to hold risk weighted capital of 2.25% against the backdrop of increasing indebtedness of Canadian households and increasing ‘vulnerabilities’ faced by those lending institutions.

Lowering the capital requirements to 1% increases the ability for banks to lend approximately $300B in freed up capital. This is largely anticipated to support small business loans, helping those firms meet immediate business and payroll obligations.

In the mortgage world one announcement that received attention on March 13th was OSFI suspending consultation on the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages. This means the previously announced changes to the Stress Test were now not coming into force. I can assume that OSFI and the Minister of Finance never likely imagined rates dropping this low and having people qualify at 4% (or lower) when they likely consider 4% to be a more normalized rate to begin with (and not a buffer rate).

For those with mortgages, it’s now very important to speak with a licensed mortgage broker to assess options you may have available to refinance, early renew, extend term, choosing longer term fixed rate products, etc.

For those of you in financial distress who are existing mortgage consumers you have a variety of options available to you. A mortgage professional can help you navigate that landscape with your current lender and potentially with your mortgage insurer as well.  Options may include, payment deferral, loan re-amortization, capitalization of outstanding interest arrears and other eligible expenses and special payment arrangements.

This situation is unprecedented and is requiring swift and significant action.

The Bank of Canada and the Federal and Provincial Governments are setting up defence mechanisms during this unprecedented global pandemic. Ensuring the financial system operates, protecting deposits, ensuring liquidity, and providing a means of support for business continuity are at the forefront.

A mortgage professional has always been best suited to guide you through your personal situation and to provide you with options worthy of consideration. That has never been truer than Today.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Recent changes may be good news for homebuyers

We’ve had back-to-back changes recently in the mortgage world – one direct, one indirect. The benchmark rate used to qualify will change downwards starting April 6, 2020, and the Bank of Canada (BoC) just cut its key lending rate from 1.75% to 1.25%.

Two years ago, the stress test was introduced as a safeguard against rising interest rates, to make sure homebuyers would still be able to make their mortgage payments if their rate increased. To qualify for a mortgage, buyers need to qualify at the greater of 2% higher than the contract rate or the Bank of Canada’s average 5-year rate, which today is 5.19%.

Earlier this month, Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, announced changes to the benchmark rate used to determine the qualifying rate for insured mortgages – mortgages with less than 20% down payment. This change will come into effect on April 6, 2020.

There has been mixed response from the financial community about this change. For some, the new qualifying rate will make it more affordable; for others, it won’t make much of a difference, especially in hot-market areas, where prices are rising quickly.

Then, on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, the BoC cut its key lending rate by 50 basis points, from 1.75% to 1.25%, which had an almost immediate effect on lines of credit and variable-rate mortgages -- banks dropped their prime rate from 3.95% to 3.45%.

This means that borrowing costs for mortgages, auto loans and other lines of credit are set to head lower. Consider a $400,000 mortgage on a 2.95% variable rate. The mortgage rate would shift to 2.45%, and mean about $100 per month in savings.

Why is this happening?
The interest rate drop comes on the heels of the US Federal Reserve’s decision to lower its rate by .50 points due to the global economic challenge posed by the uncertainty of the coronavirus that will likely affect domestic spending. The BoC’s rate cut of the same percentage took many by surprise – it was expected that rate would drop a quarter of a percentage.

There were also other yellow alerts prior to the coronavirus – a drop in global equity markets and in oil prices, created uncertainty in the financial markets. It wasn’t a stretch to think that the same drop in confidence would hit consumers as well. The BoC does not want to jeopardize domestic growth.

With regard to the stress test, there has been pushback from some economists and housing experts who say that the new stress test will just further fuel the housing market.

Here’s what we know about the stress test
  • Currently, the stress test for insured mortgages is 5.19% (the minimum rate at which homebuyers must qualify, no matter the actual contract rate.)
  • The new stress test, if it was in place today, would be approximately 4.89%.
  • The Big Banks will no longer determine the stress test rate. This is good news. Banks have been hesitant to cut their-five-year posted rates (which the stress test is based on). This has made it more challenging for borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.
  • Borrower’s will have slightly more purchasing power

Here’s what we don’t know
  • How it will affect the average buyer. This will depend on a variety of factors, including the location of the property being purchased. In smaller markets, the new benchmark could help affordability for some buyers – in larger markets such as Vancouver or Toronto, it may have little effect.
  • If it will affect home prices. More consumers qualifying for a mortgage may increase demand and put upward pressure on prices – there is still a shortage of properties available for sale.
  • The new benchmark calculation, as stated, is more flexible. If interest rates continue to fall, then, in many cases, buying power would also increase.

As always, time will tell how all this will play out and there is talk that the BoC will cut the rate at least once more this year.
What does this mean for fixed versus variable-rate mortgages?
Fixed rates are priced on the bond market, which have fallen quite dramatically since January, so it’s likely that fixed rates will continue to move lower.  Now, with the BoC rate cut, and the banks following suit by dropping their prime rate, variable-rate mortgages will also drop.
Many factors go into deciding whether to choose a fixed or variable mortgage, and it’s a topic to discuss with your mortgage professional.
For now, these changes could be good news for homebuyers.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Know Your Words – Mortgage Words, that is

Buying a home is a big investment. With so much at stake, it’s important learn what you can about the homebuying process as well as understanding the “language” of mortgage lending.

A recent survey conducted by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, and the Bank of Canada in 2019 suggested that homeowners don’t have a good understanding of the terminology used in mortgage lending. A large percentage -- 74% of homeowners or soon-to-be homebuyers -- did not fully understand what a mortgage term or amortization period were.

So, to help you better understand what you’re getting into, here is a partial list of terms to increase your mortgage knowledge.

  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): A type of mortgage in which the interest rate applied on the outstanding balance varies throughout the life of the loan. The interest rate resets based on the lender’s Prime rate plus or minus a variance. With most ARM mortgages, different from VRM mortgages (variable rate mortgages) the mortgage payment adjusts automatically with each change in interest rate.
  • Adjustment Date: A date used by the borrower and lender to move payment dates to a schedule that suits the borrower. Between the funding date and the adjustment date, the borrower typically pays interest only vs. principal and interest.
  • Amortization Period: The number of years over which you have to repay a loan. The most common period is 25 years for a first-time homebuyer.
  • Benchmark Rate:  A qualifying rate set by the Bank of Canada and can be adjusted at any time.  All insured and insurable mortgages must meet the standard affordability tests (Gross Debt Service and Total Debt Service) “as if” the interest rate is the Benchmark Rate. Also referred to as a “stress test”.  Designed to ensure that borrowers and the housing market can sustain higher interest rates.
  • Bridge Financing: (Also referred to as Interim Financing) A loan against a property being sold allowing the owner to use their equity to purchase a new property and take possession of the new property before the Closing Date of the sale.  There must be a firm sale of the property being sold.
  • Closed Mortgage: A mortgage whose term cannot be altered until maturity, unless the lender agrees and the borrower agrees to pay a fee called a pre-payment penalty.
  • Collateral Charges: Unlike a standard mortgage, a collateral charge is often re-advanceable, meaning the lender can lend you more money after closing without you needing to refinance and pay a lawyer. A collateral charge may not be transferable -- it cannot be assigned (switched) to a new lender like a regular mortgage.
  • Deposit: Money placed under the care of a third party (real estate representative, lawyer or notary) by the purchaser when he makes an Offer to Purchase. The money is paid to the vendor upon closing the sale or returned if the conditions are not satisfied. This is typically held in trust.
  • Downpayment: The part of the home purchase money that is not paid out of the mortgage loan.
  • Equity: The total value of the owner’s interest in a property, calculated as the value of the home less the total outstanding obligations.
  • Fixed Rate Mortgage: A mortgage for which the rate of interest is fixed for a specific period of time (See term).
  • Gross Debt Service Ratio (GDS): The percentage of the borrower’s gross monthly income that is used for monthly housing payments (principal, interest, taxes, heating costs, and half of any condominium fees).
  • HELOC: A home equity line of credit (pronounced hee-lock) is a loan in which the lender agrees to lend a maximum amount within an agreed period (called a term), where the collateral is the borrower's equity in his/her house. These are often re-advanceable.
  • Insurable Mortgage: This type of mortgage can now be considered the new “insured mortgage”. These are still eligible for default insurance but may be portfolio-insured at the lender’s expense or high-ratio insured at the client’s expense.
  • Insured Mortgage: A mortgage transaction where the default insurance premium is paid by the client, as is typical in a high-ratio mortgage. 
  • Interest Rate Differential (IRD): A compensation charge that may apply if you pay off your mortgage prior to the maturity date, or pay the mortgage principal down beyond the amount of your prepayment privileges, usually in a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • Loan-to-Value: The amount of the mortgage loan compared to the value of the property.
  • Monoline Lender: Monoline lenders focus on just mortgages as opposed to banks and credit unions which offer a variety of services. 
  • Mortgage Default Insurance: If you have a high-ratio mortgage (more than 80% of the lending value of the property) your lender will probably require that you purchase mortgage loan insurance, which is available from CMHC, Genworth Canada or Canada Guaranty.
  • Mortgage Life Insurance: Provides coverage for your family should you die before your mortgage is paid off. This insurance can be purchased through your mortgage professional.
  • Open Mortgage: Allows the borrower to pay any amount of the principal, including the entire balance, off at any time without penalty. You may pay a higher interest rate for the flexibility of an Open Mortgage, but perhaps warranted if a sale is anticipated or in the case of buying property to fix up and sell.
  • Portable Mortgage: A mortgage with an option that allows a buyer to transfer a current mortgage to a new property. (Subject to full borrower and property approval)
  • Qualifying Rates: The rate used to qualify a borrower for a mortgage. Lenders use these rates to calculate your debt-service ratio, which is the ratio between your debt and income. This serves as a gauge of your ultimate ability to repay the obligation over the life of the mortgage.
  • Stress test and Stress Test Rate: Similar to Benchmark Rate and used for uninsurable mortgages. The Stress Test rate is the higher of the contract rate plus a government defined increment, currently at 200 basis points, or the current Benchmark Rate. All uninsurable mortgages must meet the standard affordability tests (Gross Debt Service and Total Debt Service) “as if” the interest rate is the Stress Test rate. Designed to ensure that borrowers and the housing market can sustain higher interest rates.
  • Term: The length of time that mortgage conditions, including the interest rate you pay, are in effect. At the end of the term, the borrower (you) can pay off the mortgage or renew for another term. Mortgage terms can range from six months to ten years; the most common is 5 years.
  • Un-insurable Mortgage: These mortgages are not eligible for default insurance and apply to refinances, rental properties, stated income clients, and on purchases greater than $1M.
  • Variable Rate Mortgage (VRM): A type of mortgage in which the interest rate applied on the outstanding balance varies throughout the life of the loan.  The interest rate resets based on the lender’s Prime rate plus or minus a variance.  With most VRM mortgages, different from ARM mortgages (Adjustable Rate Mortgage), the mortgage payment does not adjust automatically change with each change in interest rate.  The lender typically reminds you that you may adjust the payment by contacting them. 

Of course there are more, but these seem to be the ones that homebuyers often ask about. If you need clarification or have question, contact your mortgage professional.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Reduce your holiday debt

Happy New Year! As we enter this new decade, do you have some spending regret?  You promised to stick to a budget; you promised to scale down and have an old-school, back-to-basics, holiday. But some items were just too hard to resist.

Well, you’re not alone. Holiday spending has been ticking up over the past few years, according to a report from PWC Canada. While the 2019 numbers aren’t out yet, PWC predicted that holiday spending would be up 1.9% to an average of CA$1,593. Why? Canadians’ confidence in the economy and their own personal finances is up. And while a quarter of Canadians planned to spend more than they did in 2018, it’s younger shoppers who are leading the charge, with 42% of Gen Z and 35% of millennials bringing more joy to their world.

Every holiday season, many consumers reach their debt limit. And January is when there is a rise in bankruptcy filings and consumer proposals.

What can you do?

Here are a few tips to help get rid of that extra debt quickly.

Create a budget
Know where you’re at financially and start wherever you are. If you’re unsure of where to start, try a budgeting app. Once you know what you earn and what you spend each month -- it helps to see those numbers written out and itemized -- any monies left over can be used to pay off debt.  See what bills have high-interest rates, and pay those off first.

Change spending habits in the short-term
Put away the credit cards. Pay at least the minimum amount owed to avoid extra fees, but if you can, pay extra to get that debt down faster. Look at your other expenses and see where you can trim.  You can review your grocery budget; cancel subscriptions and/or put memberships on hold.

Find, or negotiate, a lower interest rate
Credit card interest rates can be notoriously high. Sometimes, if your payments have been current, creditors may be willing to reduce the rate if you simply ask. Your card company wants to keep your business, after all, and now is when competitors unleash their most attractive balance-transfer campaigns.

Get a game plan to pay off multiple cards/debts
If you’re still stuck with high-interest cards, list them in order of rates, highest to lowest. A reasonable approach is to attack the highest-interest cards first (making sure you pay the minimum on the other cards) and work your way down.

Consolidate debt
This doesn’t actually reduce debt but it can make monthly payments easier and if the loan has a lower interest rate than a credit card, then you’ll save dollars in the long run.  If you own a home, consider speaking with a mortgage professional for a way to consolidate debt.

Refinance Your Mortgage
Mortgage rates are lower than consolidation loans and the increase can be amortized over the life of the mortgage. If you think refinancing may work for you, contact your mortgage professional and review all your current debts.

Use your holiday bonus
If you got one, consider using it toward paying off debt rather than spending it on a vacation or other luxury purchases. I know, you worked hard to get it, but you’ll be less stressed in the long run.

Life insurance loan  
If you’ve been paying into a life insurance policy that has built up a cash value, check to see how much is available to you. You won’t be cancelling your policy but companies may let you borrow the cash that’s been accumulated.

Don’t despair, there is usually a  solution for everything.