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CBC news reports Scotiabank slams client with $30,000 penalty!

A word about world events the past 4 weeks…  We have seen a lot of turmoil overseas……  Egypt, Libya  and other middle east countries…. We need to pay attention…. Let’s hope for an immediate and peaceful resolution…

The Tsunami in Japan has been horrible… the images on TV are tough to watch…what a tragedy… Our hearts go out to the people of that nation.

Fixed rates drop slightly and Variable rates remain flat.

We have also seen how mortgage rates can be affected by these events… The uncertainty has caused the Bond market to fall…. and we even saw a very small rate reduction by the Big Banks… Posted Fixed rates are down around 10bps… 5 yr fixed is 5.34%. Continue reading “CBC news reports Scotiabank slams client with $30,000 penalty!”

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.

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…

January credit card offers, new mortgage rules and Canadians buying U.S. real estate…

There’s been lots of reaction to the latest round of Mortgage rule changes… it’s been just over a week since the changes were announced and I’ve had some time to digest these changes but something just isn’t making sense.

At the same time, my December credit card bills have started to come in…..and because it’s January, I’m also getting those preapproved credit card offers…. I can even skip a payment with some of my credit cards… Isn’t that convenient?

This made me wonder….I decided to ask some simple questions like, “who will be affected?”… and “who will benefit?”.    Here’s what I have come up with…

First, here’s what a few Experts think…

Jim Murhpy, President of Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, says ‘Debt Fears are overblown’…. and here are the stats to back it up.   One stat that really stood out for me was that 79% of Canadians are in a 5 year fixed rate mortgage… that means 79% of Canadians are not at risk of interest rate hikes…

(as an aside, I still like Variable rate mortgages with their low interest rates and the historical data that clearly shows Variable outperforming Fixed rate….but if the govt wants us to be ‘safe and secure’ in our mortgage, then this stat should make the govt feel more comfortable)….

On January 10th, 2011, Bank of Canada’s own Deputy Governor, Agatha Cote, said that debt growth in Canada was slowing… So hold on here….On the one hand, we are spending like kids in a candy shop.. but on the other hand, our spending has slowed….  Mixed message?  … So what’s really going on?

I’m going to change the subject for a minute…. but read on as you will see this is all related….

Canadians are buying U.S. real estate like never before

There was another great article last week that showed Canadians are the largest foreign buyers of real estate in the U.S. accounting for 23% of all purchases? WOW!  And in border towns like Ellicottville, New York, a local real estate broker said Canadians accounted for 50% of sales….   read more here.

These stats and buying patterns are showing me something…  Our mortgage arrears are below 1.00%… this is an unbelievably low number.. Click here to see what our U.S. neighbors are saying…..   Hmmm, maybe we are borrowing wisely?  Maybe we are borrowing to invest?  Isn’t this a good way to spend our money?

If the govt wants to slow personal debt levels, then why not impose qualifying rules on borrowing unsecured lines of credits, credit cards and loans?   After all, mortgage balances are around $1trillion… but Credit card purchases totaled $260billion...!   Remember this number.

Who is really affected by the new Mortgage Rules?

Simply put, there are 3 new Mortgage rule changes:

1- Amortization maximum is 30 years, down from 35 years and down from 40 years in 2008.    2- Refinances will be reduced to 85% loan to value, down from 90% and down from 95% just 2 years ago.   3- Secured lines of Credit will no longer be insured, meaning the maximum is 80% loan to value.

1- 30 year Amortization.First time home buyers, Self-employed, contract employees are just some of the people that will be affected.. More Canadians are becoming self-employed or are on contract employment… This group of individuals doesn’t get a steady pay cheque… I would always recommend that this group take the longest amortization possible….Not to have a mortgage forever, but to ensure they have options and flexibility during times of uncertain income…  I would also recommend they set their payments based on a 25 year amortization or shorter… The longer amortization just means you could always reduce your payment to the lowest possible amount if and when needed.

This change will also make it a little harder for some Canadians to qualify for a mortgage… If you think this is good you need to remember last year, the government changed the rules that made it mandatory for all mortgages with less than 20% down to qualify at the Bank POSTED 5 year fixed rate (if you were considering a shorter term or a Variable Rate mortgage).  Many Banks are using this policy even if you have more than 20% down payment.   In effect, many of us are being forced into a 5 year fixed rate mortgage…. and which product do banks make the most profit on?   You guessed it… 5 year fixed rate mortgages…. read here for a little more insight.

Rental property Investors will also be affected.  Let’s face it, company pension plans are a thing of the past for most of us… (sometimes I wish I had a government job)…  So what’s someone without a company pension supposed to do?  RRSP you say?  Well, if your RRSP is anything like mine, then you are better off going to the racetrack or Las Vegas ….  At least you’ll have a good time spending it.   Real estate has been a proven winner over the last 10, 20, 40, 100, 300 years and probably longer….  The rents are usually indexed with cost of living and over time, the mortgage is eliminated giving you income and an appreciating asset.  Last year, the govt got out of lending on rental properties with less than 20% down…   It’s now a little harder to buy that investment property…

2- Refinances to 85% loan to value… Just one year ago, we were able to refinance our homes up to 95%… This options was not used by many…  Then it was reduced to 90%… now it’s 85%…   This won’t affect many of us but it will affect some..   Most people refinancing up to 85% or 90% were doing so to consolidate higher interest debt or to cover some emergency expense.   How is this helping to lower our personal debt levels?     This move will just force us to carry and borrow with those higher interest rate products… (are seeing a pattern here?)

3- Secured lines of Credit or Home Equity Lines of Credit (Heloc) are no longer available over 80%… This change really doesn’t affect many of us as most lenders stopped offering this product long ago and even when it was being offered, the costs were prohibitive.  This is a non-event.

Who will benefit from these new Mortgage rules?

So who really benefits from making it harder to qualify for a mortgage?   The answer is simple… Canadians will be forced to carry more debt on their credit cards, unsecured lines of credit and other high interest rate products… There are NO rule changes or policies in place for these products…  Don’t forget, credit card purchases totaled around $260billion last year…. In case you’re wondering, the total outstanding mortgage balances in Canada is around $1trillion.

The new rules won’t slow the credit seeker from getting another credit card and buying that new surround sound stero or hot tub or new car, etc..

So why did the government choose to make even further changes to mortgage rules?  The answers are obvious to me but I will let you decide.

Bank of Canada dates for 2011

Happy New Year!  Wishing you all the best in 2011….

Here’s the Bank of Canada’s schedule for key interest rate announcements in 2011.

January 18, March 1, April 12, May 31, July 19, September 7, October 25, December 6.

The Bank meets eight times a year to set the Target Interest rate.   This rate directly affects the Bank Prime rate and Variable rate mortgages.  It also affects Fixed rate mortgage indirectly.

Historically, the Bank adjusts this rate up and down between 2 and 3 times a year.   In 2010, we had 3 rate increases of 0.25% each after a full 12 months of no changes.  And most experts were forecasting for even greater rate hikes…   This all changed when the economic recovery stumbled in many parts of the world, raising fears of a double dip recession.

Even today, there is still uncertainty about the economy in many parts of Europe and the U.S.   At home, in Canada, we seem to be doing well….not great, but okay.

This uncertainty is delaying the expected interest rate hikes that so many experts were calling for in 2010….  Best guess now is for rates to remain stable until April or even July.

Enjoy the low rates…!