Mortgage wars end?…only for the BIG SIX Banks…

March 29th, 2012 is going to be remembered as the day when the BIG SIX Banks ended their Mortgage War.   Well, at least for now.  Rates are up around 0.50% at Retail Branches of the BIG SIX  Banks.  (don’t worry, Mortgage Broker rates haven’t gone up that much and are lower than any of the so-called discounted or special rates advertised by the BIG SIX Banks.)

In what was an unprecedented, public fight for your mortgage, the BIG SIX Banks pulled down their pants and showed how low they can really go with their rates.   We saw BMO come out with their 2.99% NO FRILLS mortgage… ( a product we wouldn’t recommend to anyone due to it’s restrictions, limitations and penalty calculations).    Unfortunately, too many borrowers don’t look beyond the rate and have signed on for this product..   They will have to deal with the consequences in the years to come.

RBC fired back with a pretty good rate of 2.99% for 4 years… It didn’t have the restrictions or limitations but it still had that unfair penalty calculation.   RBC also took some public shots at the BMO product, through the media and their own website.   It was great to see some real competition take place among our BIG BANKS.    There is always a winner in this war.   You the borrower.

TD, Scotiabank, National Bank and CIBC all followed with a similar 4 year fixed rate at 2.99%.   But they still had that same penalty calculation formula I absolutely don’t like.

Canadian lenders appear to be extremely slow to pass on changes in the Bank Rate to their customers.”  Anyone remember that quote?  That’s a direct quote from the Bank of Canada review entitled ‘Competition in the Canadian Mortgage Market’.

Here’s another one from the same report “borrowers who use a mortgage broker pay less, on average, than borrowers who negotiate with lenders directly”.

The good news about all this rate war stuff is that we saw even better mortgage products being offered through the Mortgage Broker channel.  Remember these quotes the next time you are shopping for a mortgage.

The Star reports BMO suggests it’s time to lock into fixed rates…. well, maybe..

I had a discussion with The Toronto Star’s Susan Pigg about Fixed and Variable rates.  Click here to read my comments in this article.

In short, BMO Captial Markets says it’s time to lock into a Fixed rate…. Well maybe, but I would caution anyone that had a BMO variable rate mortgage to think twice about locking into BMO’s well publicized 2.99% 5 year NO FRILLS mortgage.   This product has limitations and restrictions that make it impossible to get out of the mortgage without selling your home.   There are better options out there…  you can get a great rate without sacrificing your options and privileges.

You also have to factor in the infamous BIG SIX BANK penalty calculation.  We’ve written about this before.  This could cost you dearly should you wish to refinance or have to pay the mortgage out before maturity.   We have seen numerous cases of Bank prepayment penalties adding up to 12, 14, 18 and 20 months worth on interest.  That’s right, 20 months worth of interest.   Don’t get held hostage by your mortgage provider.

If you have a Variable Rate mortgage that is price at Prime less 0.50% or lower, I would stick with it…  If you are higher than this or if you mortgage is coming up for renewal, then you should consider a Fixed Rate mortgage…  And the only reason to consider Fixed rates is because they are priced so close to what a Variable rate could be had for today…  Best Variable is around Prime less 0.25%… that’s 2.75%.  Best 5 yr Fixed  with ALL FRILLS is around 3.19%…

But before you make any decision, please speak with an unbiased advisor, like a mortgage broker…. Find out which product is right for you…  Everyone is different and we all have different needs.  There are so many unadvertised specials these days….  Your Mortgage Broker can access these products and  also help explain the differences in penalty calculations and why this should be looked at more closely, even it you don’t think penalties apply to you…

 

OSFI’s latest proposals will affect every mortgage and line of credit..

Earlier this week we saw a draft guidelines proposed by Brock Kruger from  The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.  Yes, more tightening of mortgage and secured real estate lending……  To put this in plain language, the proposal will affect almost everyone… it will change how mortgages and secured lines of credit are offered….. in shorty, I think this plan is trying put out a fire that doesn’t exist.  There is no need for the changes.

Draft B-20 just goes too far…..   they target mortgages but also Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC).    Most of the media coverage on this has been somewhat neutral.. but finally we have seen one reporter question these proposed changes.  This article by Peter Foster in the National Post was great…   He questions why we need any more changes when our mortgage and banking system is the envy of the world….  There is no emergency, no arrears problem, nothing to indicate our mortgage lending policies are overly generous.

It should be noted that non-bank lenders will not be affected by this… leaving them as a potential winner if these guidelines become policy…

Here’s a link to the entire 18 page draft.

SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED CHANGES:

Cash back mortgages could disappear.. currently, one could get a mortgage for 95% of the purchase price at Bank posted rates and then get a 5% cashback.  The cashback can be used as the down payment.  ( I don’t see many reasons for applicants to buy with no money down so this isn’t a big issue for me)

-homes would have to be appraised at renewal timethis is just crazy… can you imagine if your property value dropped and the bank asked you to pay down your mortgage at renewal time or even worse, call in your mortgage?  What’ s OSFI trying to do.. force everyone to take a 10 yer fixed rate mortgage?   They have already made Variable Rate mortgages harder to qualify for…. what’s the matter, they don’t want us to pay less interest?  

HELOC’s would have to be amortized meaning NO MORE INTEREST ONLY PAYMENTS...  this one will affect more households and business owners than the OSFI probably realizes… businesses use their homes to finance businesses… that’s been going on for decades… but they aren’t borrowing with no assets.. remember, they are putting up their homes as collateral.. if we start to make it even more difficult for self-employed to obtain financing, this will affect the economy almost immediately.  But how about the 2nd or 3rd time buyer in their 30’s or 40’s that wants to tap into their equity for investments… ?  Are we going to eliminate all interest only payment facilities?  

-HELOC’s maximum would be reduced from 80% to 65% loan to value of your house…. and let’s not forget that just a few years ago we could have obtained up to 90% loan to value through CMHC insured products. Again, just another crazy idea and very radical change in just a few years… where is OSFI taking us?

mortgages would require tighter debt servicing guidelines including fewer exception approvals by your lender…

Mr. Kruger, your intentions may be honorable, but you are not being practical or realistic.   Why have you introduced these proposals?   To reduce access to credit?   To make it more difficult for Canadians to tap into their home equity?   To make it tougher to buy a house?     Whatever you think these changes might do, I can tell you, as a 22 year mortgage industry veteran and industry insider, that these proposed changes will just shrink our economy, force us to take longer fixed rate products resulting in even higher mortgage penalties for the Banks…  It will force us to tap into our credit cards and unsecured, higher interest credit facilities.… It will force business owners to pay more for raising capital… it will discourage investors….

Give this one a rethink… you are searching for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

When opportunity knocks…open the door.

It’s March, 2012.   How will you look back at this month in 5 years time?    There are certain dates in history that stand out for all of us.   Some are more personal than others, like the birth of my son, the day I met my wife, my first trip overseas, NHL pro hockey camp, etc.

And then there are dates where I look back at missed opportunities.

-October 1984, I had a chance to buy a waterfront lot on Balsam Lake in Ontario’s cottage country, for $22,000…. now selling for $400,000.   There was a new condo in east Toronto for $82,000 in September 1987…. now selling for $392,000….(and yes, I think I was 5 years old…Lol!)..

-Or how about that semi-detached house at Danforth Ave and Woodbine, in Toronto, for $175,000 in 1990….now selling for $500,000.    More recently, I could have bought a house for $320,000 in 2005, near the water in Burlington, Ontario…..that same house sold for $800,000 last year.

The point it, I think we will look back at March 2012 as the month when the Banks declared mortgage war against each other…  Only in this war, there is a winner… YOU, the consumer, YOU the borrower, YOU the investor.   We are seeing record low mortgage rates.   And they won’t last forever.  In fact, this mortgage war is probably going to accelerate interest rate hikes…  almost like starting a campfire with gasoline soaked wood… It’s burning red hot but it won’t last for long.

With interest rates are record lows, isn’t this the time to borrow?    A $300,000 mortgage will carry for $1196/mth.. and that’s with a 5 year fixed rate term.  Bond yields are climbing… 5 yr bond yields are up to 1.71%.. that’s up 30bps in less than a month… 5 year fixed rates follow bond movement… i think it’s safe to say, we should expect rates to climb in the near future… and the reason they haven’t moved yet is because of the Mortgage wars…

We are hearing the cries by the govt and some bankers, telling us not to borrow too much.  Personal Debt level concerns are plastered all over the internet and media.   But we aren’t seeing many articles telling us how to borrow and invest wisely…. borrow when rates are low instead of borrowing when rates are high… borrow when you qualify instead of borrowing when you don’t… borrow when you don’t need the money…   Isn’t that when Banks want to lend you the money?

We have just seen a draft guideline, Bill B-20,  entered in for review with a May 1st decision date.   These new regulations are aimed at tightening lending rules even further.. and this time it’s targeting Home Equity Lines of Credit..   That’s right, they want to make it even harder to qualify for these products and possibly make the repayment terms more strict…

Opportunity is knocking… answer the door..

BMO NO FRILLS mortgage 2.99% is back… but please don’t read the fine print…

Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s a quote from Mr. Frank Techar, head of BMO’s domestic retail bank as published in The Financial Post “We believe these products will allow our customers to borrow smartly,”     I couldn’t agree more… After you spend some time reading the product details, you are sure to turn around and run.

BMO’s NO FRILLS mortgage is back…2.99% for 5 yrs fixed and 3.99% for 10 yrs fixed until March 28. Both come with the same restrictions and limitations as before…  We give this product a BIG THUMBS DOWNS!  We recommend you stay away from this type of product.

Even thought I don’t like the product, I do like seeing these product announcements… they create a buzz and get competitors to react.  It’s great for business.

First off, let me say, there are LOWER unadvertised rates out there…you can get another NO FRILLS 5 yr fixed at 2.95% and a REGULAR 10 yr fixed for 3.94%…..Now that I have your attention, I strongly recommend you read the details before making a decision…. mortgages can be complicated.  Don’t make the wrong a decision.. speak with a Mortgage Broker.

What makes this product different from their regular line of mortgages are the restrictions and limitations.  In January, BMO made headlines when they first announced this so-called ‘special offer’.    It’s special alright… READ THE PRODUCT OVERVIEW…  In January, I warned against taking this product…. my warning has been reactivated…. Once you read the fine print, you will realize this product is not suitable for most of us..it’s just a lot of smoke and mirrors trying to get you in the front BMO door..  a good marketing ploy… and I’m sure they’ll gain market share because of it.   But let’s make sure you understand the fine print…

YOU STILL WANT THAT BMO NO FRILLS RATE?

But let’s say you’ve read all the fine print and still want this product… I’ve got news for you…. There are BETTER PRICED NO FRILLS PRODUCTS…. As a Mortgage  Broker I have access to better unadvertised rates…  Only problem is, I don’t have a $500million advertising budget… So I have to rely on providing my clients with good advice…Fortunately, my good advice has served me well and 95% of my business comes from repeat clients and referrals.

MY ADVICE

No Frills products came out around 8 years ago and my advice has been the same.   DON’T TAKE these products.  If you do, chances are you will not come back to me as a satisfied client.  I can kiss your future business and future referrals good-bye.   And I can’t afford to do that.  That’s why you’ll NEVER see me promote or recommend these products.  Yes, I have access to them but I’m going to do everything in my power to steer you clear of them.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE TODAY

Interest rate is probably the most important part of a mortgage but it’s not everything.  Did you know that there are excellent 5 year fixed rate products hovering between 3.19% and 3.29%?   and 10 yr fixed rates of around 3.94%?   Why are these better?  You don’t have to give up your options. You don’t have the restrictions of a NO FRILLS product, like BMO’s ‘low-rate mortgage’.  You have full prepayment privileges.. you can payout the mortgage without having to sell your home.. you can refinance with any lender and not just your original lender… meaning you will be able to negotiate a competitive rate should you need to refinance.  On average, Canadians refinance their mortgage every 3 years… This happens for a number of reasons.. selling their home, debt restructuring, family issues, work issues, etc….  Mortgage penalties charged on these NO FRILLS mortgages can be outrageous… we’ve seen penalties of up to 14, 16 and even 20 months worth of interest…  Don’t put yourself in that situation…

Get all the facts and then make a decision.

Mortgage penalty rules change… finally.. well, sort of…

The Federal govt announced some changes to protect Canadian Consumers… including rule changes to credit cards and mortgage prepayment information.   Here’s a link to the entire news release.

For our purposes, we are focusing more on the mortgage prepayment announcement.   Here’s a link to that portion of the news release.

There are 5 Elements to the Code of Conduct for Federally regulated institutions.  The changes must be implemented within 6 to 12 months.   In short, the new Code of Conduct rules will require these lenders to provide clear disclosure on how penalties are calculated, along with online calculators and access to knowledgeable staff that can be contacted through a toll-free phone. Read the rest of this entry »

Banks are at it again… calling mortgage clients before maturity..

With all the recent talk in the media about ‘rate wars’ and ‘mortgage market share’, it was only a matter of time before we saw this happening.  Yes, the Banksters are at it again.

We’re getting reports that Banks are contacting borrowers 4, 5 and even 6 months prior to maturity.   Supposedly, they are calling to ‘offer a great rate, if you sign now!’   Hey, that sounds great.  Except the interest rates that we see being offered aren’t really that great. In fact, they are higher than what is available in the wholesale market.

This isn’t anything new.   We saw this happen in late 2008 and early 2009.  The Banks were telling clients to lock into Fixed rates if they were in Variable (and we told our clients to stick with Variable as interest rates were heading down… sure enough, they did go down)…. And they were offering supposed ‘special rates’ 4 to 6 months prior to maturity.    The only problem is that the interest rates being offered were not as good as the Banks made it seem.  And the timing of the product offerings were clearly wrong.

What makes this problem even more complex today, is that some of the Banks are offering NO FRILLS mortgages with limited prepayment privileges and NO option to pay the mortgage out in full unless you sell the house.   They dangle an attractive interest rate but forget to tell you about the product limitations.   STAY away from these products.   They will come back to bite you in your bottom….. bottom line, that is.

Here’s some advice… Before signing any renewal offer, speak with your Mortgage Broker… find out if that offer and product are really as good as the Bank makes it seem.    The stats tell us that most Canadians will not bother shopping and just sign their renewal offer…  and that’s too bad.  A 0.40% difference in rate on a $250,000 mortgage will cost you $4774 in the first 5 years alone.   Don’t be so quick to sign what the Bank offers you… don’t be complacent….you could pay dearly for it.

%d bloggers like this: