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Tag5 year fixed rate

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 announces lower rate IF you take a shorter amortization!

Have you heard the big news?   BMO lowers rate their best discounted 5 year fixed rate to 3.49%  to encourage Canadians to take an amortization 25 years or less.  They claim they want to encourage Canadians to pay their debt off faster…..  Sounds nice and in keeping with the Christmas spirit, doesn’t it?

Ok, before we get all warm-hearted and teary eyed, let’s take a closer look at what this really is.    First, this IS NOT the best discounted fixed rate in the market.   A good Mortgage Broker can get you 3.39% out there with no restrictions on amortization (even lower with some No Frills mortgage products).   We all want to pay our mortgage off faster, but choosing a shorter amortization only limits your future options…   My recommendation to almost all my clients is to take the longest amortization possible……

It’s not that I want you to have a mortgage forever, it’s about having options….  I always take a ‘what if’ approach….   Follow me for a minute…

Let’s say you had a $300,000 mortgage and you took this BMO 3.49% rate,  your payments on a 25 year amortization with be $1496.23/mth.   But if you took a truly discounted mortgage at 3.39% with a 35 year amortization, your minimum payment would be $1216.75/mth.   You could always INCREASE your payment to accelerate your amortization to 25 years or shorter.

Now, let’s say you lost your job, had some unexpected expense come up, or a financial emergency or just needed to lower your payments.   If you chose 25 year amort, then you are stuck with that payment.. if you chose 35 year, then you can always go back to that lower payment…    That’s the flexibility that we want.  It’s not about taking longer to pay, it’s about having the option to reduce your payment if needed.

LET’S NOT FORGET THE BANKS HISTORY WHEN IT COMES TO RATES

In keeping with the Christmas theme, Mr. Potter would be approve the Banks latest strategy.   In case you didn’t know, the 5 year Canada Bond is in record low territory…. hovering at around  1.31%… the 5 year fixed rates are priced from the bonds… the spread is normally around 1.25% to 1.40%… and yet today, the spread is 2.18%…. WOW!  and why?  TO MAXIMIZE PROFITS.   This is has nothing to do with wanting to helps Canadians. 5 year fixed rates should be under 3.00% but they aren’t, because the Banks want to maximize profits.

VARIABLE RATE PRICING IS AT 1990’s LEVEL

Variable rate pricing went from Prime less 0.90%, 3 years ago, to Prime plus 1.00% in during the October 2008 US mortgage crisis, to Prime less 0.75% just six months ago…. to Prime plus 0.20% today.    That’s right, Prime PLUS 0.20%.  Haven’t seen this pricing since the ’90s.  There are no fundamental reasons for this… it’s simply profit taking by the banks.. they are forcing us to take a 5 year fixed rate.   Sure, today’s 5 year fixed rates are at historical lows, so there is very little attention being given… but when rates go up, and they will in a few years, we will start to ask for more competitive products and better options other than a 5 year fixed rate….  (Can you see Mr. Potter’s grin getting larger?).

My advice… think about who your banker works for….and who your Mortgage Broker works for….

Fixed vs Variable in 2011

FIXED RATES MAKE MORE SENSE TODAY.

If you were  in a Variable rate mortgage over the last 2, 3, 5, 10 years or longer….then you paid less interest than someone in a Fixed rate product.   You probably saved $$thousands each and every year.    Variable rate has been lower than the 5 year fixed rate in over 88% of the time.

But how about today….?  Well, the Banks have changed the mortgage landscape.   They have decided there isn’t enough profit in Variable rate mortgages.    Up until 6 months ago, anyone needing a new mortgage could get a Variable rate at Bank Prime (3.00%) less 0.75% and maybe even a little better..!    If you took a Variable rate 4 years ago, you might still be enjoying Prime less 0.90%!!   Today, a quick search on the net for Variable rate pricing and you’ll find Bank Prime less 0%…. some are actually charging Bank Prime + 0.15%.

But it’s not all bad news.   With the bond market hitting all time lows, we are also experiencing historical low 5 year fixed rates.   Today, the best 5 year fixed rate seems to be 3.39%  (WORD OF WARNING… there are some NO FRILLS rates of 3.19% or lower being advertised out there… these NO FRILLS products carry limited or no prepayment privileges and you cannot exit these product without selling your home.   We are not quoting those rates).

Any upward movement in the Bank Prime rate and you could actually be paying more for that Variable rate vs today’s 5 year Fixed rate.   Yes, today we must consider Fixed rate as a good option…. Just make sure you are choosing the appropriate term.   Anything shorter than 3 years does not seem to give enough of a rate guarantee for most of us.  Anything longer than 5 years is too costly.   5 years seems to be a good option in most cases.  But not for all… we are all different and have different needs… speak to a Mortgage Broker to review all available products and decide which one fits you best.

My guess is that Variable rate pricing will continue to be priced at Bank Prime for the next 6 months to 12 months or at least until Bank Prime moves up or until one of the Banks is losing too much market share and wants to attract more business.

We will be watching and reporting.

Variable rate increases again..

Lenders have begun to raise their Variable rate mortgages again…. The second increase in less than a month.  A look at the Bank websites and you will Variable rate pricing is now at Bank Prime less 0%….  that’s 3.00%…   And although ‘3.00%’ sounds like a good rate, a Variable rate at Bank Prime less 0% is not good.

The Banks have gone from an advertised rate of Prime less 0.65% to Prime less 0% in about one month’s time.   Of course, the best wholesale rates through mortgage brokers now sit at Prime less 0.50% and will probably go to Prime less 0.40% after the dust settles.

So what’s causing the Banks to increase their Variable rate mortgages?   They tell us there are “profitability concerns”.   In simple talk, that means they simply want to increase their profit margins now that rates are expected to stay low for some time to come.   They also want to force us to take the much mortgage profitable 5 year fixed rate mortgage, now sitting at 3.99% (RBC website special rate)..    Keep in mind, there are better rates to be had in the wholesale market…. 3.49% seems to be the best 5 year fixed rate today.

But even 3.49% is too high.  The spread between the 5 year govt of Cda bond (1.45%) and 3.49% is still over 2.00%.   Historically, this spread has been between 1.10% and 1.40%..    It’s simply math…. the Banksters are saying ‘ka-ching, ka-ching”.

Stock market drop and slight recovery.

Did you know that between July 22nd and August 8th, the TSX index dropped 14%?   Did you know that since August 8th, it has recovered 9% of that loss?  What a roller coaster ride…But there’s good news here…

So how will this affect your mortgage rates?

Fixed mortgage rates are priced from the 5 year Cda govt bonds.. Bond yields also dropped like a rock.. from 2.27% to 1.35% during that same time period…  that’s a 0.92% decrease.  A visit to TD Bank’s website shows us their ‘5 year fixed rate Special offer’ is 4.19%... no drop at all.   Call a Mortgage broker and you’ll see rates of around 3.49% today.

Sure, fixed rates are very low but they should be lower….  Fixed rates are usually priced around 1.30% to 1. 70% above the 5 year bond yield…  Why haven’t you seen mortgage rates keep pace with the bond yield drop?   That’s not hard to figure out… The Banks are maximizing their profits… same old story…Banks are infamous for hiking rates quickly and but slow to move when it comes to cutting rates.

How about Variable rates?

Well, not much to report there… The Bank of Canada meets 8 times a year.   Last meeting was July 19th.  Next meeting is Sept 7th.    You can forget about any immediate rate hike.   Economists have done an about-face with their forecasts…. We were expecting a rate hike this September or October… That’s now been pushed back to 2012… and there were even some rumblings about a possible BOC rate cut (but I’m not sure that’s gonna happen).

At 3.00%, the Bank Prime rate is still very, very low and makes borrowing very attractive…   Current Variable rate mortgages are priced at between Prime less 0.65% to 0.80%…    We may not see interest rates drop, but there is no reason for them to go up for the next little while…. Enjoy the low rates.