Month: May 2017

CONSUMER DEBT VS MORTGAGE DEBT

General Anne-Marie Sieders 25 May

During a recent trip to our nation’s Capital with folks from Dominion Lending Centres and other mortgage groups, an Ottawa insider made an interesting comment: “We don’t care about consumer debt, because we don’t guarantee it.”

This comment was made in an effort to justify recent increased restrictions placed on borrowers taking out insured mortgages (i.e. backed by CMHC, Genworth, or Canada Guaranty – effectively the federal government) due to increasing concerns in Ottawa around the optics of “taxpayer backed” mortgages.

This use of such hot button language would be laughable if taxpayers understood a few key things about CMHC in particular:

1. It is incredibly profitable and has generated tens of billions of general revenue for the Federal Government over the years. (This is arguably one of the most profitable Crown Corporations ever created).
2. The actual numbers as to just what CMHC (taxpayers) are “on the hook” for. (see chart below).
3. The incontrovertible fact that the government will, should the need arise, bail out the privately-owned banks should they ever truly misstep and get into trouble – meaning all debt in Canada is truly government guaranteed when you get right down to it.

Consumer debt vs mortgage debt
Source: CMHC

What hit me as most stunning about such a laissez faire attitude towards consumer debt, setting aside the question of protecting consumers from themselves (got a pulse? No job? No established credit? No problem, here is a 14% car loan and a $20,000 credit card) was that the very people managing these “taxpayer guaranteed” mortgages cannot see the problem with a system in which the major banks approve the mortgage itself under strict guidelines and then the moment it is approved offer the newly leveraged client an additional $5,000 – $80,000 in unsecured credit “just in case” the new homeowners “need” new furniture, a new car, a vacation, etc.

How is that not a significantly relevant factor in the stability and security of the guaranteed mortgage product?

The real irony in this?

The Fed backs these mortgages through two sorts of lenders, and has arguably been creating policy to heavily restrict the competitive ability of one of the two channels. More tomorrow on just how misdirected the regulations being imposed are in their targeting of one supplier channel over another.

By: Dustan Woodhouse

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING IN A NEW DEVELOPMENT

General Anne-Marie Sieders 24 May

With plenty of activity in the real estate market and more new building slated over the next few years, here is my list of “Things to Consider When Buying in a New Development”.

Representation

Some buyers attend the display suite and consider a purchase directly with the developer sales person or the developers Realtor. Regardless of which kind of property you choose to purchase – new or existing – I always suggest you have a Realtor represent you. I have seen contracts where the buyer has not reviewed the details properly and they are not fully informed before they sign. The developer’s agent or Realtor is acting on behalf of their client – the seller. You should also have your own representation.

Interest Rates

If you are buying a home more than a year or more before completion, you may not know your actual fixed costs for the mortgage until well after you have signed your purchase agreement and paid your deposits. Depending on the lender and timeline, your costs may be unclear for several months. Even if you have a rate hold – things can change along the way with financing rules or the market. I always keep in touch with my clients and within a few months of completion we revisit the overall plan and make some decisions. Your down payment may need to change, the property value may shift or you may have experienced a life changing event (please don’t quit your job). Remember: Keep your mortgage broker in the loop.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

When you buy a newly built home pay special attention to the contract price. In Canada Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5% is payable on the purchase of a new home. In many cases the purchase price is set excluding GST so you need to add that tax amount to determine the total purchase price. If the home price is under $450,000 and will be your primary residence, you are eligible to receive a rebate equivalent to 36% of the GST. The rebate will be deducted and the new purchase price will be set Net of GST. There are many online calculators to determine this number and it should also be clear on the purchase agreement. Your mortgage broker will also calculate to confirm. For example a $400,000 purchase price excluding GST will result in an actual purchase price of $416,850. ($20,000 in GST minus the rebate of $3150). A purchase price of $500,000 excluding GST will result in an actual purchase price of $525,000 ($25,000 GST and no rebate).

Allowances and Discounts

In some cases you will have the option to upgrade the home with higher quality items such as flooring or a basement. These items can be included in the purchase price with no additional cost. The agreement will clearly outline the details and no cost will be associated for these items. However, if the contract states there was an allowance as a credit with a cost associated this will be considered a buyer credit and the amount on the contract will be deducted from the purchase price by the financial institution. There will be no financing on these items and the buyer will be responsible for the additional cost. This is common when buyers want to include furnishings such as in a display home. This can be a surprise to buyers as they are not fully clear on the purchase price and what is really included. It is important to review the contract closely with your own buying agent (Realtor) and if any financing questions arise – with your mortgage broker – to ensure you know your options.

Property Taxes

When a developer applies to the local city for a building permit the city will set the municipal taxes for the entire development. Once the developer is near completion and applies to the city for occupancy permits or submits the strata plan (for condo developments) it can still take some time for the city to determine the property tax for each home or condo unit. More and more lenders are using a percentage of the purchase price to determine the property taxes at the time of application unless confirmation of taxes can be provided by the city. In some cases this can be .5%-1.75% of the purchase price which can make a difference to qualify for financing. Your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker can review options with you to select the best overall financing solution for your purchase and avoid delays in securing an approval.

Strata fees – start low and grow

Since the strata plan on a new condo development isn’t in place when you make an offer to purchase a new home the strata fees on the purchase agreement will be set low. I recently had a client purchase a condo for $750K and the strata fees were under $170 per month. My clients understood this strata fee will increase to a higher level once the operating budget is set by the strata council and they should set their personal budget accordingly to expect an increase. For more details on the process and to understand the responsibilities of the developer, the strata corporation and the new buyer, click here.

Assignments

When a developer sells their houses or condo units well in advance of completion some original buyers may decide not to complete on the purchase and choose to assign the property to a new buyer. In this case there may be a lower or higher new purchase price. If there is a lower price the GST on the original price will apply. If the price is higher the GST on the original purchase price will apply. The property purchase transfer tax will apply to the new purchase price. The final property purchase transfer tax will be determined depending on the details of the transfer and the value of the property within limits for exemption is typically set by provincial government. For financing purposes, not all lenders will consider an assignment as the new purchase contract is between the original buyer and the new buyer and not with the developer. Some lenders will only consider the original price and the new buyer will have to pay the difference between the two amounts as the down payment to complete the purchase. Lenders who consider the new price will require a full appraisal to confirm the current value of the property. They will also need the original contract in addition to the new purchase contract and want to know details on the relationship between the seller and the buyer. There are many things to consider when you purchase a new home. Always consult your professional advisers, including your Realtor, Mortgage Broker, Financial Planner, Accountant and Lawyer to ensure the purchase helps to meet your lifestyle and financial goals.

By: Pauline Tonkin

TOP 5 THINGS MILLENNIALS SHOULD KNOW WHEN BUYING REAL ESTATE

General Anne-Marie Sieders 23 May

There are 9 million Millennials in Canada, representing more than 25 percent of the population. Born between 1980 and 1999, the eldest are in the early stages of their careers, forming households and buying their first homes. Buying a home is a daunting process for anyone, but especially so for the first-time home buyer. This is the largest and most important financial decision you will ever make and it should be done with the appropriate investment in time and energy. Making the effort to be financially literate will save you thousands of dollars and assure you make the right decisions for your longer-term financial security.

Don’t rush into the housing market–do your homework: learn the basics of savings, credit and budgeting.
Lifelong savings is a crucial ingredient to financial prosperity. You must spend less than you earn, ideally saving at least 10 percent of your gross income. Put your savings on automatic pilot, having at least 10 percent of every paycheck automatically deducted. Money you don’t see you won’t spend. Contributing to an RRSP, at least enough to gain any matching funds your employer will provide, is essential. The Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) is an ideal vehicle for saving for a down payment and now you can contribute as much as $10,000 a year.

You also need to establish a good credit record. Lenders want to see a record of your ability to pay your bills. As early as possible, get a credit card and put your name on cable, phone or other utility bills. Pay your bills and your rent in full and on time. Do not run up credit card lines of credit. The interest rates are exorbitant and the only one who benefits is your bank. Keep your credit card balances well below their credit limit.

Do a free credit check with Equifax every six months to learn your credit score and to see if there are any problems. Equifax tracks all of your credit history, which includes school loans, car loans, credit cards and computer loans. Equifax grades you based on your responsible usage and payments.

Budgeting is also essential and it is easier than ever with online apps. You need to know how you spend your money to discover where there is waste and opportunity for savings. The CMHC Household Budget Calculator helps you take a realistic look at your current monthly expenses.

Make a realistic projectory of your future household income and lifestyle and understand its implications for choosing the right property for you.
Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate Millennials are likely relatively new to the working world. Lenders want to see stability in employment and you generally need to show at least two years of steady income before you can be considered for a mortgage. This also applies if you have been working for a few years in one career and then decide to change careers to something completely different. Lenders want to see continuous employment in the same field. If you are self-employed, it is more challenging, and you need professional advice on taking the proper steps to qualify for a mortgage.

Assess the stability of your job and the likely trajectory of your income. Millennials will not follow in the footsteps of their parents, working for one employer for forty years. In today’s world, no one has guaranteed job security. Take a realistic view of your future. Will your household income be rising? Will there be one income or two? Are there children in your future? Will you remain in the same city? The answers to these questions help to determine how much space you need, the appropriate type of residence, its location and the best mortgage for you.

Financial planning is key and it is dependent on your goals and expectations.

This is not a Do-It-Yourself project: build a team of trusted professionals to guide you along.
You need expert advice. The first person you should talk to is an accredited mortgage professional. There is no out-of-pocket cost for their services. Indeed, they will save you money.

These people are trained financial planners and understand the ever-changing mortgage market. Take some time with them to understand the process before you jump in and find your head spinning with all the decisions you will ultimately have to make. They will give you a realistic idea of your borrowing potential. Before you fall in love with a house or condo, make sure you understand where you stand on the mortgage front. Mortgages are complex and one size does not fit all. You need an expert who will shop for the right mortgage for you. There are more than 200 mortgage lenders in Canada and they will compete for your business.

It is a very good idea to get a pre-approved mortgage amount before you start shopping. This is a more detailed process than just a rate hold (where a particular mortgage rate is guaranteed for a specified period of time). For a pre-approval, the lender will review all of your documentation except for the actual property.

There is far more to the correct mortgage decision than the interest rate you will pay. While getting the lowest rate is usually the first thing on every buyer’s mind, it shouldn’t be the most important. Six out of ten buyers break a five-year term mortgage by the third year, paying enormous penalties. These penalties vary between lenders. The fine print of your mortgage is key and that’s where an expert can save you money. How the penalty for breaking a mortgage is calculated is key and many monoline lenders have significantly more consumer-friendly calculations than the major banks.[2] A mortgage broker will help you find a mortgage with good prepayment privileges.

The next step is to engage a real estate agent. The seller pays the fee and a qualified realtor with good references will understand the housing market in your location. Make sure the property has lasting value. Once you find the right home, you will need a real estate lawyer, a home inspector, an insurance agent and possibly an appraiser. Make any offer contingent on a home inspection and remediation of significant deficiencies.

Down payments, closing costs, moving expenses and basic upgrades need to be understood to avoid nasty surprises.
Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate The size of your down payment is key and, obviously, the bigger the better. You need a minimum of 5 percent of the purchase price and anything less than 20 percent will require you to pay a hefty CMHC mortgage loan insurance premium, which is frequently added to the mortgage principal and amortized over the life of the mortgage as part of the regular monthly payment.

Your lender will want to know the source of your down payment. Many Millennials will depend on the largesse of their parents to top up their down payment.

The down payment, however, is only part of the upfront cost. You can expect to pay from 1.5-to-4 percent of the purchase price of your home in closing costs. These costs include legal fees, appraisals, property transfer tax, HST (where applicable) on new properties, home and title insurance, mortgage life insurance and prepaid property tax and utility adjustments. These amount to thousands of dollars.

Don’t forget moving costs and essential upgrades to the property such as draperies or blinds in the bedroom.

Test drive your monthly housing payments to learn how much you can truly afford.
Affordability is not about how much credit you can qualify for, but how much you can reasonably tolerate given your current and future income, stability, lifestyle and budget. Most Millennials underestimate what it costs to run a home, be it a condo or single-family residence.

The formal qualification guidelines used by lenders are two-fold: 1) your housing costs must be no more than 32 percent of your gross (pre-tax) household income; and, 2) your housing costs plus all other debt servicing must be no more than 40 percent of your gross income.

Lenders define housing costs as mortgage payments, property taxes, condo fees (if any) and heating costs.[3] But homes cost more than that. In your planning, you should also other utilities (such as cable, water and air conditioning), ongoing maintenance, home insurance and unexpected repairs. Taking all of these costs into consideration, the 32 percent and 40 percent guidelines might well put an unacceptable crimp in your lifestyle, keeping in mind that future children also add meaningfully to household expenses and two incomes can unexpectedly turn into one.

The best way to know what you can afford is to try it out. Say, for example, you qualify for a mortgage payment of $1400 a month and adding property taxes and condo fees might take your monthly housing expense to $1650. A far cry from the $500 you pay now to split a place with 3 roommates. Start making the full payment before you buy to your savings account and see how it feels. Do you have enough money left over to maintain a tolerable lifestyle without going further into debt?

Keep in mind that this is not a normal interest rate environment. Don’t over-extend because there is a good chance interest rates will be higher when your term is up. Do the math (or better yet have your broker do it for you) on what a doubling of interest rates five years from now would do to your monthly payment. A doubling of rates may be unlikely, but it makes sense to know the implication.

Do Your Calculations Look Discouraging?

If so, here are some things you can do to improve your situation:

Pay off some loans before you buy real estate.Top 5 Things Millennials Should Know When Buying Real Estate
Save for a larger down payment.
Take another look at your current household budget to see where you can spend less. The money you save can go towards a larger down payment.
Lower your home price — remember that your first home is not necessarily your dream home.
Footnotes:

[1] I would like to acknowledge and thank the many mortgage professionals of Dominion Lending Centres who made contributions to this report.

[2] People break mortgages because of job change, decision to upsize, change neighbourhoods, change in family status or refinancing. The last thing you want to discover is that discharging a $400,000 mortgage 3.5 years into a 5-year term is going to cost you $15,000.

[3] Lenders now also assess your qualification compliance if interest rates were to rise meaningfully, a likely scenario in this low interest rate environment.

DR. SHERRY COOPER
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
Sherry is an award-winning authority on finance and economics with over 30 years of bringing economic insights and clarity to Canadians.

HOW TO RENEW YOUR MORTGAGE IN 5 EASY STEPS

General Anne-Marie Sieders 19 May

By: Pam Pikkert

What is a mortgage renewal you ask?

Each mortgage has a set term which can vary from 1-10 years. Just before the end of your term you will receive an offer from your current lender and you have 3 options:

Sign and send back as is.
Check the market to make sure you are getting the best rate and renegotiate with your current lender
Move the mortgage to a new lender.
Option 1 is not a very good idea in my opinion. The onus is on you to make sure you are being offered the best rate. Banks are a business like any other and they are seeking to make the highest profits they are able as to keep their shareholders happy. There is nothing wrong with that. That does mean however that you as a savvy consumer should take a few minutes to ensure you are being offered the best possible rate you can get.

Think of it as the sticker price on a vehicle at a dealership. The rate you are being offered is a starting point for discussion, not the final price. Let’s look at an example:

Mortgage of $300,000 with an amortization of 25 years.
Your offer is for 3.19% for a 5 year fixed = $1449.14/month and you will owe $257,353.34 at the end of the term
Best rate is 2.59% for a 5 year fixed = $1357.38/month and you will owe $254,372.59 at the end of the term
You would pay $91.76 less each month or $5505.60 over all 60 months and still owe $2,980.75 less.

So you need to ask yourself if you are OK handing that money over to the mortgage provider or if you would prefer to keep it yourself and I am pretty sure I know what your answer will be.

So here are the steps I mentioned to save yourself all that money.

Receive the offer from the mortgage lender and actually look at ASAP so that you have enough time to make an informed decision.
Research via the internet and phone calls to find out what the best rate even is.
Phone your current lender and negotiate! OK, you are going to have to get downright assertive and that may be uncomfortable but when you compare your comfort to the thousands of dollars you could save, you will see that it’s worth it.
If said lender will not offer you the rate then move the mortgage. You will have to provide paperwork and complete the application but if you keep in mind the example from above then I repeat, it’s worth it.
Take a look at your budget and see if you can increase the payments to decrease the mortgage and save yourself even more as the overall interest costs decrease.
Keep in mind when that renewal notice arrives that you literally have the power to save yourself money and you are not obligated to accept the first offer which is presented to you and I truly hope you do not. If you need some more information, please do not hesitate to contact your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Mortgage Tips Anne-Marie Sieders 18 May

By: Jean-Guy Turcotte

Prepare, Prepare, PrepareEvery year since October 2008 it’s become more and more difficult to obtain a mortgage. The government claims to be casting a safety net over the Canadian housing industry via stiffer mortgage regulations. What do you need to know to help prepare yourself for a home purchase, refinance, debt consolidation, or even a simple renewal? Well the biggest item I cover on a daily basis is preparation.

It can take a client weeks or months to find the confidence to connect with a Mortgage Professional once they feel confident that they ready to obtain that next mortgage. Any Mortgage Professional worth their salt will be able to guide their clientele to prepare them properly for the mortgage.

Typically most people think they need to prepare themselves most for their first purchase, however preparing for each mortgage these days is more critical today than ever before. When Canadians finally make that call, they want a step by step process to solve their solutions in an easy manner, but are seldom prepared to proceed.

During my regular daily routine, I follow up with my clients with gentle reminders to send me the requested documentation list. Having done this for ten years, the process is quite similar for almost each individual even though the main list of documentation remains the same.

We all want to take short cuts to get to the finished product, but in the end, the banks and lenders have become governed so much so that the short cuts are almost non-existent therefore, preparing the proper document package is essential to an essential mortgage. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently in an interview I watched on Facebook, we need to stop taking and thinking about short cuts. There aren’t any to success.

What I’m getting at here is that when your Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Professional provides you with a mortgage document checklist, please don’t take it for granted, please follow each and every step carefully.

In general, the most common documents required are dependent on what you do for work. So if you are an employee, then the most recent paystub, and an updated employment letter along with the most recent two years of T-Slips (whether they are T4’s from employer’s, T5’s and pension slips), T1 Generals -the entire document (the documents your accountant prepares to submit to Canada Revenue Agency), Notice of Assessments (the form you receive back from CRA after your file is completed). Then there will be the verification of down payment via 90 days of bank statements, any mortgage statements, property tax assessments and the list can go one. The most common mistake is providing a mix and match of the above documents to try and piece together your income story. Depending on how your income is structured, we may be able to provide you with a near pre-qualification but lenders are being more adamant of having the documentation upfront, so that they are using their time, along with the mortgage insurer’s time. As a rule of thumb, the cleaner the file, the easier it is to underwrite and make a proper decision.

Common mistakes include, missing pages from tax documents, poorly written, unsigned, undated, missing info on employment letters (handwritten ones draw huge red flags), cut off pages from documents, out dated items(paystubs and employment letters over 30-60 days is pretty much null and void these days).

You may not know how to prepare yourself, but that’s also what we are for. We are essentially mortgage guidance counsellors to help prepare you for mortgage success, but if we are trying to obtain a mortgage via shortcuts, you’ll be upset with how the process goes.

We all used to have more leeway with mortgage documentation, but it’s clear the government is having banks and lenders scrutinize every mortgage more carefully now than ever before. And the banks and lenders have to oblige as they will be audited, if they don’t pass audits, then they lose out. And if they lose out, we lose competition. Yes this is the new normal, yes it’s tiring, no we don’t like it either, but it’s our new reality. And realistically, is gathering a few extra documents really that bad? Mortgages are not a given right and earned more so than ever before in our recent history.

Our job is to help you prepare for the mortgage, sometimes it will take one meeting, sometimes it’ll take weeks or months, even years depending on your own personal financial situation. But we can provide the recipe to help you prepare, but it’s up to you to do the cooking.