IMPROVING YOUR CREDIT SCORE

General Anne-Marie Sieders 15 Feb

Your credit score is a big factor when you apply for a mortgage. It can dictate how good your interest rate will be and the type of mortgage you qualify for.

Mortgage Professionals are experienced helping clients with a wide range of credit scores so we can find you a mortgage product even if your credit is far from perfect.

The good news about your credit score is that it can be improved:

Stop looking for more credit. If you’re frequently seeking credit that can affect your score as can the size of the balances you carry. Every time you apply for credit there is a hard credit check. It is particularly important that you not apply for a credit card in the six months leading up to your mortgage application. These credit checks may stay on your file for up to three years.
If your credit card is maxed out all the time, that’s going to hurt your credit score. Make some small monthly regular payments to reduce your balance and start using your debit card more. It’s important that you try to keep your balance under 30% or even 20% of your credit limit.
It’s also important to make your credit payments on time. People are often surprised that not paying their cell phone bill can hurt their credit score in the same way as not making their mortgage payment.
You should use your credit cards at least every few months. That’s so its use is reported to credit reporting agencies. As long as you pay the balance off quickly you won’t pay any interest.
You may wish to consider special credit cards used to rebuild credit. You simply make a deposit on the card and you get a credit limit for the value of that deposit. They are easy to get because the credit card company isn’t taking any risks.
Contact a Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Professional if you have any questions.

Tracy Valko
Dominion Lending Centres – Accredited Mortgage Professional
Tracy is part of DLC Forest City Funding based in London, ON.

What is CMHC?

General Anne-Marie Sieders 6 Feb

WHAT IS THE CANADIAN MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION (CMHC)?
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is a corporation that most are semi-familiar with, but do not know what CMHC actually does.

CMHC is Canada’s authority on housing. They contribute to the stability of the housing market and the financial system. They also provide support for Canadians in housing need and offer objective housing research and advice to Canadian Governments, Consumers and the Housing Industry.

CMHC offers a variety of different services, all pertaining to Canadian Housing. These services include:

1. Policy and Research
One of CMHC’s cornerstone services is the provision of market analysis information, housing-related data and information, and key housing sector data and information. They are one of Canada’s leading sources of reliable and objective housing market analysis and information. Their research and activities support informed business decisions, policy development for governing bodies and housing program design and delivery.

2. Affordable Housing Measures
CMHC (on behalf of the Government of Canada) also is the primary funder for affordable housing endeavors across Canada. Each year, CMHC invests approximately 2 billion on behalf of the Canadian government to help provide safe, affordable, stable housing opportunities for each province and territory. CMHC oversees approximately 80% of the existing social portfolio administered by provinces and territories, and manages the remaining 20% independently to fund federally housing units such as housing cooperatives. They also work under the IAH (Investment in Affordable Housing) Act, which allows for cost-matching the federal investment to allow for new construction, renovation, homeowner assistance, rent supplements, shelter allowances, and more.

3. Consumer Assistance
The final key services that CMHC offers to Canadians is providing relevant, timely information that can be accessed and used by the public. On their website you can access detailed information on topics such as the:

CMHC green building and renovation practices
Homeowners How-To Guides
Housing Related Research
Homeowner grants and opportunities
4. Mortgage Loan Insurance
In addition to the above, CMHC is also the #1 provider of Mortgage Loan Insurance to Canadians. Mortgage loan insurance is typically required by lenders when homebuyers make a down payment of less than 20% of the purchase price. Mortgage loan insurance helps protect lenders against mortgage default, and enables consumers to purchase homes with a minimum down payment starting at 5%* – with interest rates comparable to those with a 20% down payment. In addition to CMHC, there are also 2 other primary mortgage loan insurance providers, Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty.

CMHC strives to promote mortgage literacy and provide home buyers with in depth knowledge and tools to help them prepare to purchase a home.

Essentially, CMHC is the Canadian Government’s organization that seeks to inform and educate Canadians on the housing and mortgage industry. It reports to the Parliament of Canada through a Minister, governed by the Board of Directors. CMHC makes recommendations based on it’s data and surveys to advise and assist the government of Canada in making decisions that directly impact the mortgage and housing industry. For instance, the date and information provided by CMHC provided information that led to:

February 2016:
Minimum down payment rules changed to:

Up to $500K – 5%
Up to $1MM – 5% for the first $500K and 10% up to $1MM
$1MM and greater requires 20% down (no mortgage insurance available)
Exemption for BC Property Transfer Tax on NEW BUILDS regardless if one was a 1st time home buyer with a purchase price of 750K or less.
July 2016
Still fresh in our minds, the introduction of the foreign tax stating that an ADDITIONAL 15% Property Transfer Tax is applied for all non-residents or corporations that are not incorporated in Canada purchasing property in British Columbia.

October 17, 2016: STRESS TESTING
INSURED mortgages with less than 20% down Have to qualify at Bank of Canada 5 year posted rate.

January 1, 2018: B-20 GUIDELINE CHANGES
The new guidelines will require that all conventional mortgages (those with a down payment higher than 20%) will have to undergo stress testing. Stress testing means that the borrower would have to qualify at the greater of the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada or the contractual mortgage rate +2%

While CMHC does not implement or guide the mortgage/housing changes, they play an integral part in them. They provide the cornerstone of data that the provincial and federal governments use to determine updates, rules, and changes to help to regulate the industry. So, well we may not always like what the data indicates and implicates, it does serve to regulate and make the process of owning a home easier for Canadians. If you have any questions, feel free to contact your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional.

Geoff Lee
GEOFF LEE
Dominion Lending Centres – Accredited Mortgage Professional
Geoff is part of DLC GLM Mortgage Group based in Vancouver, BC.

Mortgage Lenders

General Anne-Marie Sieders 18 Nov

I’VE NEVER HEARD OF THAT LENDER BEFORE

One of the benefits of working with an independent mortgage professional; compared to getting your mortgage through a single institution, is choice. And as there are even more mortgage rules coming into place January 1st 2018, now more than ever, having access to a wide variety of mortgage products is going to ensure you get the mortgage that best suits your needs.

Working with an independent mortgage professional will give you access to varying products from many different lenders, some of these lender you may have never even heard of, but that’s okay. Sure, RBC, BMO, and CIBC, are more household names compared to say, MCAP, RMG, or Merix Financial, but as each lender has a different appetite for risk (there is always a risk when lending money) how do you know which lender is going to have the products that are going to be the best fit for you?

Typically the conversation develops into something like this: “I’ve never heard of this lender before, are they safe, I mean… I have no idea who they are”? And although that is a valid question, there is a simple answer. Yes. Yes they are safe. All the lenders we work with are reputable and governed by the same regulator as the big banks. Ultimately, you have their money, they don’t have yours!
But let’s answer a few of the common questions often asked about these lenders accessed only through an independent mortgage professional.

Why haven’t I heard of any of these lenders?
Instead of spending all their money on huge marketing campaigns (like the Canadian big banks) which drives up the cost of their product, broker channel lenders rely on competitive products and independent mortgage professionals to secure new clients.

What happens if my lender gets purchased by another lender?
This actually happens quite a bit, however, it’s business as usual for you. Even if your mortgage contract gets sold, the terms of your mortgage stay intact and nothing changes for you.

What happens if my lender goes bankrupt or is no longer lending at the end of my term?
This would be the same as if the lender was purchased by another lender. The only difference is, at the end of your term, we would have to find another lender to place your next term. And as this is already good practice, it’s business as usual. Again, you have their money, they don’t have yours. The contract would stay in force.

Why don’t these lenders have physical locations?
Much like why you haven’t heard of these lenders, they save the money on advertising and infrastructure, and instead focus on creating unique products to give their clients more choice. These lenders rely on independent mortgage professionals for awareness and compete on product not public awareness.

Do they really have better products?
Yes. Well, I guess we have to define what is meant by better products. If by better products you mean a variety of products that suit different individuals differently, then yes. Across the board, each lender has a different appetite for a different kind of risk. For example, while one lender might not include child tax income as part of your regular income, another might. While one lender might look favourably on a certain condo development, another might not. Each lender sees things a little differently. Knowing the products and preferences at each lender is what we do!

When it comes to mortgage qualification, some broker channel lenders are more flexible than others (or the banks) and offer different programs that cater to self-employed, people who are retired, own multiple properties, or rely on disability income. While as it relates to the features of the mortgage, different lenders offer many different features.

Some mortgages can be paid off at an accelerated pace with little to no penalty, some accommodate different payment structure, some products are set at lower rate, but sacrifice flexibility.

At the end of the day, the goal should be to qualify for a mortgage that has the features that suit your individual needs. Regardless of which lender that is. If you would like to talk about your financial situation, and see which lender best suits your needs, please don’t hesitate to contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage specialist.

Michael Hallett
MICHAEL HALLETT
Dominion Lending Centres – Accredited Mortgage Professional
Michael is part of DLC Producers West Financial based in Coquitlam, BC.

NEW MORTGAGE CHANGES DECODED

General Anne-Marie Sieders 24 Oct

This week, OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) announced that effective January 1, 2018 the new Residential Mortgage Underwriting Practices and Procedures (Guidelines B-20) will be applied to all Federally Regulated Lenders. Note that this currently does not apply to Provincially Regulated Lenders (Credit Unions) but it is possible they will abide by and follow these guidelines when they are placed in to effect on January 1, 2018.

The changes to the guidelines are focused on
• the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages
• expectations around loan-to-value (LTV) frameworks and limits
• restrictions to transactions designed to work around those LTV limits.

What the above means in layman’s terms is the following:

OSFI STRESS TESTING WILL APPLY TO ALL CONVENTIONAL MORTGAGES

The new guidelines will require that all conventional mortgages (those with a down payment higher than 20%) will have to undergo stress testing. Stress testing means that the borrower would have to qualify at the greater of the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada (currently at 4.89%) or the contractual mortgage rate +2% (5 year fixed at 3.19% +2%=5.19% qualifying rate).

These changes effectively mean that an uninsured mortgage is now qualified with stricter guidelines than an insured mortgage with less than 20% down payment. The implications of this can be felt by both those purchasing a home and by those who are refinancing their mortgage. Let’s look at what the effect will be for both scenarios:

PURCHASING A NEW HOME
When purchasing a new home with these new guidelines, borrowing power is also restricted. Using the scenario of a dual income family making a combined annual income of $85,000 the borrowing amount would be:

Current Lending Guidelines

Qualifying at a rate of 3.34% with a 25-year amortization and the combined income of $85,000 annually, the couple would be able to purchase a home at $560,000

New lending Guidelines

Qualifying at a rate of 5.34% (contract mortgage rate +2%) with a 25-year amortization and the combined annual income of $85,000 you would be able to purchase a home of $455,000.

OUTCOME: This gives a reduced borrowing amount of $105,000…Again a much lower amount and lessens the borrowing power significantly.

REFINANCING A MORTGAGE

A dual-income family with a combined annual income of $85,000.00. The current value of their home is $700,000. They have a remaining mortgage balance of $415,000 and lenders will refinance to a maximum of 80% LTV.
The maximum amount available is: $560,000 minus the existing mortgage gives you $145, 0000 available in the equity of the home, provided you qualify to borrow it.

Current Lending Requirements
Qualifying at a rate of 3.34 with a 25-year amortization, and a combined annual income of $85,000 you are able to borrow $560,000. If you reduce your existing mortgage of $415,000 this means you could qualify to access the full $145,000 available in the equity of your home.

New Lending Requirements
Qualifying at a rate of 5.34% (contract mortgage rate +2%) with a 25-year amortization, combined with the annual income of $85,000 and you would be able to borrow $455,000. If you reduce your existing mortgage of $415,000 this means that of the $145,000 available in the equity of your home you would only qualify to access $40,000 of it.

OUTCOME: That gives us a reduced borrowing power of $105,000. A significant decrease and one that greatly effects the refinancing of a mortgage.

CHANGES AND RESTRICTIONS TO LOAN TO VALUE FRAMEWORKS (NO MORTGAGE BUNDLING)

Mortgage Bundling is when primary mortgage providers team up with an alternative lender to provide a second loan. Doing this allowed for borrowers to circumvent LTV (loan to value) limits.
Under the new guidelines bundled mortgages will no longer be allowed with federally regulated financial institutions. Bundled mortgages will still be an option, but they will be restricted to brokers finding private lenders to bundle behind the first mortgage with the alternate lender. With the broker now finding the private lender will come increased rates and lender fees.
As an example, we will compare the following:
A dual income family that makes a combined annual income of $85,000 wants to purchase a new home for $560,000. The lender is requiring a LTV of 80% (20% down payment of $112,000.00). The borrowers (our dual income family) only have 10% down payment of $56,000.. This means they will require alternate lending of 10% ($56,000) to meet the LTV of 20%.

Current Lending Guidelines
The alternate lender provides a second mortgage of $56,000 at approximately 4-6% and a lender fee of up to 1.25%.

New Lending Guidelines
A private lender must be used for the second mortgage of $56,000. This lender is going to charge fees up to 12% plus a lenders fee of up to 6%

OUTCOME: The interest rates and lender fees are significantly higher under the new guidelines, making it more expensive for this dual income family.

These changes are significant and they will have different implications for different people. Whether you are refinancing, purchasing or currently have a bundled mortgage, these changes could potentially impact you. We advise that if you do have any questions, concerns or want to know more that you contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage specialist. They can advise on the best course of action for your unique situation and can help guide you through this next round of mortgage changes.

Geoff Lee
GEOFF LEE
Dominion Lending Centres – Accredited Mortgage Professional
Geoff is part of DLC GLM Mortgage Group based in Vancouver, BC.

5 REASONS THE BANK MAY TURN YOU DOWN FOR A MORTGAGE

General Anne-Marie Sieders 3 Aug

Mortgage rules have become stricter over the past few years. Assuming you have a down payment, good credit and a good job, what could prevent you from obtaining financing for a home purchase?
Below are five less obvious reasons a bank may turn you down:

It’s not you, it’s the building
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but even if you’re the perfect candidate for a loan, you can still be rejected by a lender if the building you’re considering flunks a bank’s requirements. There are myriad reasons a building can be rejected, but one possible reason could be the building construction or condition.
In downtown Calgary we have some condos that were built in the 1970’s using a technique called Post Tension. It has been discovered that the steel rods in the walls can corrode over time and the buildings could collapse. Some lenders are okay with an engineer’s report but others won’t consider lending in this type of building. A few years ago a condo was found to have water seeping down between the inner and outer walls from the roof. This resulted in a $70,000 special assessment for each condo owner. Before the problem and the cost were assessed most lenders refused to lend on this property.
If a condominium building does not have a large enough a reserve fund for repairs a lender may want to avoid lending in that building as well.

Your credit doesn’t make the cut
If you have a credit score of 680+ this probably won’t be a problem for you but for first time home buyers with limited credit this can be a major stumbling block to home ownership. Check your credit score before you start your home search.
Not having enough credit can also be a problem. If you have a Visa card with a $300 limit, that won’t cut it. A minimum of 2 credit lines with limits of $2,000 is needed; one revolving credit line such as a credit card and an installment loan such as a car loan or a furniture store loan.
A long forgotten student loan or utility bill from your university days can also cause problems if its showing as a collection.
You’re lacking a paper trail
You have to be able to show where your money comes from. A cash gift of the down payment for your new property without a paper trail isn’t going to fly with the bank. If it is a gift, we need to see the account that the money came from, a gift letter from a family member, and the account the money was deposited into.

Your job
Being self-employed or a consultant comes with its own set of obstacles. But the solution here, too, is about documentation. And be prepared to offer up more documentation than someone with a more permanent income stream. Two years of Notices of Assessment from the CRA will show your average income over a two-year period. This could be a problem if your business had a slow start and then really picked up in year two. The two-year average would be a lot lower than your present income.
Another stumbling block may be how you are paid. Many people in the trucking industry get paid by the mile or the load. Once again a two year NOA average should help.
In Alberta, many people are paid northern allowances, overtime and a series of pay incentives not seen in other industries. This can be a problem if you do not have a two-year history.
When you apply for a mortgage you need to stay at your position at least until after your home purchase is complete. Making a job change with a 90 day probation means you will need to be past your probation before the mortgage closes. If you make a career change , you may need to be in your new industry for a least a year before a lender will consider giving you a loan.
The property’s appraisal value is too low
This often happens in a fast moving market. The appraisers base their value on previously sold homes on the market in the last 90 days. If prices have gone up quickly your home value may not be in line with the appraisers value. If the home you want to purchase is going for $500,000 and the appraised value is $480,000, you have to come up with $20,000 PLUS the 5% down payment in order to make the deal work.
Finally, with all the potential problems that can arise, it’s best to contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker before you start the home search to make sure that you have your ducks in a row.

By: DAVID COOKE
Dominion Lending Centres – Accredited Mortgage Professional
David is part of DLC Westcor based in Calgary, AB.

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.