Keeping you informed: COVID-19
Refinancing Your Mortgage
Spring is a great time for cleaning out your home and your finances. A part of this for many people includes refinancing your mortgage. There are a variety of reasons to refinance, which can range from wanting to leverage large increases in property value or get equity out of the home for renovations. In some cases, it could be due to life events such as divorce, a new relationship, kids going off to college or simply consolidating debt.
Before you refinance, it is important to understand that if you do this during your term you will be breaking your mortgage agreement and there are penalties that come with that. If at all possible, it is best to wait until the end of the mortgage term before refinancing.
There are a few points to consider before refinancing:
- You can tap into 80 percent of the value of your home
- You cannot qualify for default insurance which can limit your lender choice
- You would have to re-qualify under the current rates and rules
Talking to your mortgage broker about refinancing can provide you access to even greater rates and mortgage products to best suit your needs and what you are trying to accomplish through your refinancing strategy.
Regardless of why you are looking to refinance, it can come with a host of great benefits when done properly!
1. Getting a lower interest rate: Depending on where you are in your mortgage term, you could refinance to get a better rate – especially when done through a mortgage broker. A mortgage broker has access to hundreds of lenders and is able to find you the best rate versus traditional banks which only have access to their own rate.
2. Consolidating your debt: When it comes to debt, there are many different types from credit cards to lines of credit to school loans to mortgages. However, many types of consumer debt have much higher interest rates than those you would pay on a mortgage. Refinancing can free up cash to help you pay out these debts. While it may increase your mortgage, your overall payments could be far lower and would be a single payment versus multiple sources. Keep in mind, you need at least 20 percent equity in your home to qualify.
3. Change your term or get a different mortgage: The beauty of life is that it is ever-changing and sometimes you need to pay off your mortgage faster or change your mortgage type. Maybe you came into some extra money and want to put it towards your mortgage or maybe you are wary of the market and want to lock in at a fixed-rate for security.
4. Tap into your home equity: One of the biggest reasons to buy in the first place is to build up equity in your home. Consider your home equity as the difference between your property’s market value and the balance of your mortgage. If you need funds, you can refinance your mortgage to access up to 80% of your home’s appraised value in cash!
Always remember – it is best to refinance when your mortgage term is up to avoid penalties. Talking to a mortgage broker can help clear up any concerns and they can walk you through the process depending on your needs.
What You Need to Know Before you Buy
Spring is one of the busiest seasons for retail activity as the good weather gives people lots of time for decluttering, showing the home, garage sales, packing and moving into your new space! Buying a home is an extremely exciting and fulfilling adventure, but before you get started let’s go through some of the most important things you need to know before you buy a home.
First things first, are you ready to own a home? This is likely the largest financial decision you will ever make and there are a few questions you can ask yourself to ensure you are ready:
- Are you financially stable?
- Do you have the financial management skills and discipline to handle a purchase of this magnitude?
- Are you ready to devote the time to regular home maintenance?
- Are you aware of all the costs and responsibilities that come with being a homeowner?
If you answered ‘yes’ to the above questions, congrats! You’re on the right track. Let’s look at some of the most important things to know:
Securing Your Down Payment
A down payment is the largest, upfront cost that comes with purchasing a home. The minimum on any mortgage in Canada is 5 percent but putting down more whenever possible will lower the amount being borrowed.
Note: If you are putting down less than 20 percent, default insurance will be mandatory to protect the investment.
If you have a nest egg of savings that you can apply towards the down payment, then you are ready to move on! If not, RRSPs can be a great resource towards a down payment for a first-time home buyer (up to $35,000). Another option is a gift from a family member, which requires a Gift Letter stating that the money does not have to be repaid and a snapshot showing that the gifted funds have been transferred.
If these are not options for you, then you can still work on ensuring you have a good credit score and determining your budget while saving for a down payment in the meantime.
Getting Your Credit in Order
Ensuring your finances and credit is in order will make it easier to qualify for a mortgage and can be done while you’re saving for your down payment. Ensuring good credit simply involves paying your bills on time (rent, utilities, car payments) and ensuring your credit cards are paid monthly as well as keeping the balance below 75 per cent of the available limit. If you’re new to the world of credit, consider the 2-2-2 rule. Lenders want to see two forms of resolving credit (ie: credit cards) with limits no less than $2,000 and a clean payment history for two years. Another important note is to avoid making any credit mistakes or other major purchases (such as a new car) until after you have mortgage approval and have closed the deal on your new home.
Don’t Use Your Maximum Budget
Temptation will always be to start looking at the very top of your budget, but it is important to remember that there will be fees, such as mandatory closing costs, which can range from 1 to 4% of the purchase price. Factoring these into your maximum budget can help you narrow down a home that is entirely affordable and ensure future financial stability and security.
A mortgage pre-approval determines the actual home price you can afford and is different from the pre-qualification in that it requires submission and verification of your financial history. A pre-approval can determine the maximum you can afford to spend, the monthly mortgage payment associated with your purchase price range and the mortgage rate for your first term. Getting pre-approved also guarantees the rate offered to you will be locked in from 90 to 120 days which helps if interest rates rise while you are still shopping.
Upcoming Stress Test Change
Today, Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, announced changes to the benchmark rate used to determine the minimum qualifying rate for insured mortgages, also known as the “stress test.” These changes will come into effect on April 6, 2020. The new benchmark rate will be the weekly median 5-year fixed insured mortgage rate from mortgage insurance applications, plus a two percent (2%) buffer.
Additionally today, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced that it is considering implementing the same benchmark rate of the weekly median five-year fixed insured mortgage rate from mortgage insurance applications, plus a two percent (2%) buffer for uninsured mortgages, which will align minimum qualification limits for the insured and uninsured mortgage market.
MPC has been recommending uncoupling the stress test rates from the Bank of Canada posted 5 year fixed rate since its introduction to the insured 5 year terms in 2016. Setting the floating rate on the insured contract rate will make the test more dynamic and responsive to market and bond rates. We thank the government for acknowledging this issue and making these changes. We do, however, still consider a two percent (2%) buffer to be an onerous test level given the economic realities globally.
MPC’s 5th Parliament Hill day takes place tomorrow in Ottawa, with over 50 meetings scheduled with MPs, Senators, and senior policy officials. Our member volunteers will thank the government for making this first, much-needed adjustment to mortgage qualification in Canada, and continue to ask for additional support measures for those most impacted by the introduction of these tests; aspiring middle-class Canadians and would-be first-time buyers. Included in our asks will be the reintroduction of an insurable 30-year amortization for first-time buyers, and increases in the income maximum multipliers under the newly introduced First Time Home Buyers Incentive Plan.
We will continue to keep you informed of any new developments.
Reverse Mortgage Myths
Reverse mortgages have come a long way. They have evolved from a needs-based product to a solution that many financial professionals recommend as an important component of a comprehensive retirement plan.
Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions regarding reverse mortgages. Below, the myths are separated from the facts. Watch this video:
Myth: The bank owns the home.
Fact: You always maintain title ownership and control of your home, and you have the freedom to decide when and if you’d like to move or sell.
Myth: You will owe more than your home is worth.
Fact: Clients can qualify for up to 55% of the appraised value of the home, 33% on average. Due to HomeEquity Bank’s conservative lending practices, you can be confident that there will be equity left in the home when the loan is repaid. In fact, over 99% of HomeEquity Bank’s clients have equity remaining in the home when the loan is repaid.
Myth: A reverse mortgage is a solution of last resort.
Fact: Many financial professionals recommend a reverse mortgage because it’s a great way to provide financial flexibility. Since it’s tax-free money, it allows retirement savings to last longer.
Myth: You cannot get a reverse mortgage if you have an existing mortgage.
Fact: Many of HomeEquity Bank’s clients use a reverse mortgage to pay off their existing mortgage and other debts, freeing up cash flow for you to use as you wish. How great would it feel to be free of regular mortgage payments?