Bond yields fall after Middle East turmoil

Earlier this month, we saw Fixed mortgage rates go up and the forecasts were calling for rates to continue to go up over the next 2 years.   It’s important to remember that all forecasts make certain assumptions and don’t allow for the unexpected… These forecasts may still be accurate but of course, no one was expecting the uprising in Egypt, now Libya and possibly other Middle East countries…

The Canada Bond yield has dropped around 22bps to 2.58% from a 10 month high of 2.80%.    This takes some of the pressure off to raise fixed rates… and we might even start to see some Fixed rate decreases if the Bond yields fall further…(or course, the Banks are famous for raising rates immediately but lowering them slowly and this was even identified by the most recent Bank of Canada quarterly review)

I can’t help but to reflect on Professor Moshe Milevsky’s article from a few weeks about how to deal with rising interest rates…. In this article he cautioned us about overreacting to warnings of huge rate hikes or calls to lock in your mortgage…    Wow, the timing of his article couldn’t be more perfect.   I recommend you take a moment and read what the Professor has to say.

TD and RBC CEO’s income $11million each for 2010…

Are the BIG SIX Bank CEO’s that good?

It’s that time of the year again… when Bank CEO salaries have to be reported… TD’s CEO Ed Clark earned $11.3million on profits of $4.6billion in 2010, RBC’s CEO Gord Nixon pocketed $11million. Congratulations….!   Staggering numbers considering that we are just coming out of (hopefully) the worst recession ever… click here for more on Bank salaries.

So what’s the problem?

There has been so much publicity about how strong our Canadian Banking system has been through this recession…. And yes, it’s true.. we have held it together very well.  But was it that our Bankers were that smart or just that far behind the times??

It has been said that Canada is always 5 years behind the U.S. Ever heard that saying?  Well, it’s true for many things, including Banking and Financial Services…   In 2006, we saw the introduction of 30, 35 and then 40 year amortization mortgages. We also saw $0 money down mortgages….. Interest only mortgages!! 107% loan to value financing!!!

These products were beginning to gain some popularity in Canada.. but then in October 2008, the U.S. mortgage crisis hit… and all the new products were pulled from the shelf.   Imagine if these products were introduced to Canada 5 years earlier…. Imagine how many of us would have been affected….  Don’t be fooled into believing that it was our Banking system that saved us…

Look, the plain truth is that we got lucky… we were a bit slow to embrace these products… and that’s really our infamous Canadian conservatism coming out… It’s got nothing to do with our Bankers being that much smarter… It’s got everything to do with you, the general public, the average Canadian, not taking to change quickly…. This is the real reason we didn’t suffer a worse fate.

How much did mortgage penalties contribute to Bank Profits?

Here’s a bit of math to play with…. Statistics tell us that on average, Canadians move or refinance their mortgage every three years…. The stats also tell us that approximately 75% of all mortgages are in a fixed rate term… I would venture to guess that probably 95% of those are in a 5 year fixed rate….  Okay, so now let’s look what the average penalty would cost you to break your mortgage…

And today, I have another example that I will share with you… it’s about a young couple that needed some help….  (I get these almost daily, by the way)….

A $250k mortgage with a 5.15% rate with 28 months til maturity…  The penalty quote to break the mortgage was $11k... I gave some advice and helped to get it down to $8k...    That penalty still works out to over 7 months interest. Can you say ka-ching!!   The Banks have made an absolute fortune on the backs of unsuspecting Canadians….

The Govt and the Banks should tighten credit card rules

Last November, the Banks pressured the Federal Govt to tighten mortgage lending, to make it harder to take a Variable Rate Mortgage… to make it harder to refinance your debts into a mortgage….  The results are bad for Canadians.. we now have to take a 5 year fixed rate mortgage in many cases… we now have to keep our higher interest credit card debt, loans, and other debt….  Canadians are being forced to keep these higher interest debts while Banks increase their profit margins…  Here’s a great article about Household Debt..

By the way, there are no rules for giving out a credit card…

Report shows Canadian borrowers are too complacent…don’t drink the koolaid.

That’s what a report in the latest Bank of Canada Review had to say…    This article in the National Post sums it up well…  “Simply put, borrowers are often complacent and end up paying more than they should.

This is exactly the reason I started this site…..To make you an informed borrower. Like the review said,  “consumers have different preferences and skills when shopping and bargaining for a mortgage and where lenders maximize profits based on observing these preferences and skills.”

So, how does the average Canadian borrower know if they are getting the absolute best rate or the right mortgage product?  Is there a better product with a different Bank, Financial institutions or other Lender?  How do you know if you aren’t speaking with an unbiased professional that doesn’t work for any one bank?  For me, there is only one sure way to know you are getting a highly competitive mortgage product…..You must deal with a Mortgage Broker.

Here’s another quote from the Bank of Canada Review…  Canadian lenders appear to be extremely slow to pass on changes in the Bank Rate to their customers.”  I’m sure this comes as no surprise to most of us.

Never forget that the Banks are a business… and they are here to make a profit… It’s imperative to seek unbiased, market neutral advice…..  A Bank Mortgage Specialist just can’t be neutral or unbiased….They can only offer one set of products…  I save the best for last….

A Mortgage Broker helps to ‘creates competition’ as the report said.

Hopefully, this site will keep you informed and awake…Don’t settle for the status quo….

The Big Six have all raised their rates now…

A look at locking into a Fixed rate

By now, you’ve heard that Fixed Mortgage rates have gone up by 0.55% since November…5 year fixed is currently sitting at around 4.04% vs 3.49%.  (these are best broker rates…the best retail bank rates are 4.39%)…. Let’s take a closer look at what this will cost you.

On a $200,000 mortgage with a 25 year amortization, your monthly payment goes up by $58.89 or about $3,500 over a 5 year period.    That’s quite a bit of money…. and this probably gets a lot of us thinking about locking into a 5 year fixed rate….But is this the right strategy for everyone?

For some of us, it will make sense to take a 5 year fixed rate… this is not a bad option for those on a tight budget, pension income, or just can’t sleep at night thinking about rates…  make sure you are locking in for the right reason…

A look at NOT locking into a Fixed rate

Current Variable is 2.25%….  A $200,000 mortgage with a 25 year amortization has lower monthly payments by $185.16.  Okay, I know what you’re thinking and you’re right… this rate will not remain the same for 5 years.. In fact, we know it’s probably going to go up.   So it’s difficult to calculate exactly how much you would save or lose by sticking with a Variable rate…  History shows us Bank Prime goes up and down around 2 to 3 times a year….Look at this chart of Historical Rates. The RBC is forecasting for Bank Prime to go up by 1.00% this year and another 1.50% next year!!  (not sure I agree with this forecast).     If you like flexibility, are willing to tolerate rate movements, and want to take a calculated risk of floating your rate, then Variable could be a great option for you.

Is Variable rate more stable than Fixed rate?

The media keeps telling us mortgage rates are going up.. they will skyrocket….So why are people still considering Variable Rate mortgages?   We looked a little deeper and found some interesting trends…

-From Oct 2008 (the month of the U.S. Mortgage crisis) to Oct 2009, the Bank of Canada only changed Bank Prime 4 times…This was the worst recession since the Great Depression of 30’s….and yet Bank Prime only changed a handful of times….

-the BOC raised rates in 1992 because they thought the economy was strong enough to handle… they quickly lowered them but it was a little late as the economy staggered for another few years… this pattern has repeated itself on more than one occasion…most recently, 2010…

-the BOC forecasted that interest rates would skyrocket in mid to late 2010… they were wrong…

-Variable rate has historically been 1% to 3% lower than fixed rates.

Conclusion….Variable rate moves less often than Fixed rates… And yes, it’s more stable if you measure stability by rate movements… But there will be movement.. and maybe that’s what makes Variable rate a choice for only 25% of Canadians…  Us Canadians are a conservative bunch, or so our rep goes….  And by the way… The Banks would LOVE to have everyone take a 5 year fixed rate.. these are the most profitable mortgage products for them…. Keep that in mind…

Bank of Canada action not always prudent or correct…

Have to share this article giving us some history on the accuracy of the Bank of Canada (BOC)  interest rate forecasts…   This should get you thinking a little the next time you hear the  BOC forecasts…. Take a look at this Historical Rates chart.. look at the Bank Prime section…   You will notice some trends of rates hikes followed by rate drops…

We aren’t saying BOC rates will fall anytime soon… it’s clear the rate will go up…. but there is no straight line increase if you look back in history… Increases are followed by decreases…

-1992.. the BOC erred and raised rates thinking the economy was strong but they quickly retreated and reversed those increases after realizing it was too much, too soon.

-1995…the Quebec referendum year… remember that?  I do.. I bought a house that year… and interest rates went up 1.00% overnight after fears of a Quebec ‘YES’ vote was more than possible… but then rates dropped like a rock and remained low for several years…

-2000….another recession… the dot.com, dot.bomb error of hi-tech stock greed…  rates had climbed in 1998 and 1999 but dropped in 2001 and remained low once again…

-2008…the U.S. mortgage crisis… the worst Global recession since the Great Depression of the ’30s…. we saw BOC drop the rate to a modern-day record low…Bank Prime was 2.25%…

-2010…the BOC kept it’s promise to raise rates and increased the rate by 0.75% over a 3 month span to 3.00%….

-2011…. ?????  the BOC is expected to raise rates by as much as 1.00% this year, and another 1.50% next year, according to the RBC Economist…. Did the BOC raise rates too quickly?  Can our economy absorb these increases?   Questions that won’t be answered for a while…

It doesn’t mean you have to sit and do nothing

But this doesn’t mean you have to stand by and be a spectator.   By keeping informed with historical trends and understanding your own personal situation, you can be in control…. Understand where you fit in… Is Fixed rate better for you now?  Does Variable Rate still make sense for you?   Can you handle the potential increases that are coming?    A good Mortgage Broker can help guide you to the right answer… Remember, it’s your mortgage, your payment…your decision.

Fixed rates are heading up

Fixed mortgage rates are going up.   Already, TD Canada Trust has announced they are hiking rates by 0.25%.  Their new ‘best advertised rate’ is 4.39%.   They are also increasing their 5 year posted rate by 0.25% to 5.44%.  This posted rate is important if you are buying with less 20% down.   All Banks must qualify borrowers with the posted 5 year fixed rate, or the prescribed rate.

The bond market has climbed steadily over the past few weeks… 5 year Canadian Bond yield is at 2.74% today.  That’s an 8 month high.   The last time the bond was this high, the best 5 year fixed rate was 4.29%.

If you’re thinking of buying or refinancing, contact your mortgage broker and get a rate held.   Most Lenders offer a 120 day rate hold…. You can still get a 5 year fixed rate mortgage for under 4.00%.

On the bright side, these rate increases are a direct result of positive economic data that’s been coming out of Canada.  So although we don’t want to pay higher rates, we don’t want to have a weak economy either.

Listen to the Professor about how to save money.

Professor Moshe Milevsky is regarded as one of Canada’s leading Financial Experts… He’s written several books on building and preserving your wealth.  He’s also done several studies on debt and mortgages.   (make sure to visit his site here)

One of my favorites, and one of his best case studies, called “Why these eggs belong in one basket”, was about a strange phenomenon that seemed unique to Canadians.   We seem to take the rule of diversification and apply it to our debts.   We would rather have a mortgage, a credit card, a car loan, a line of credit, etc…when we should really be looking at consolidating these debts into the lowest possible interest rate.

He concluded that a typical family with $95,000 in total debts, with $2,700 in the bank, is losing about $1,000 per year by diversifying their debts instead of consolidating.   Now apply that to your own situation…. maybe your debts total $300,000 or more, how much are you losing per year?  $3,000, $4,000 per year or more?

I have my own opinion on why, we Canadians, do this… it must have something to do with our being so conservative….  Our parents taught us to pay off our mortgage first… get rid of that mortgage…. This is good advice… but somehow we thought it was okay to buy that car with a loan or a lease.. after all, everyone finances their car, right?   And then there’s the Home Shows on TV… ah yes… We must have the latest in home decor…etc.. you get the picture…Symptoms of the ‘must have now’ generation (a subject for another day).

The Federal Govt thinks Personal Debt levels will go down if we change Mortgage Rules….  By making it harder to get a mortgage, we will slow personal spending habits… My advice is to listen to the Professor…  Take your debt, roll it into your mortgage, pay less interest and save money… It’s really that simple…

Should we encourage home ownership or renting?

I found this article about the effects of making it harder to buy a house….. Here’s one of the statements that got me thinking..  “Rather than buy a home for half a million, many are moving out of the community to rent, or living rent free with their parents and buying all this junk.” I wonder how true this is.   I must admit, I know several people that are living at home in their 30’s, 40’s and even longer…. They don’t seem motivated to buy a house.

Final message is that Debt Consolidation is not a dirty word.   It’s good money management.

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