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Tagfixed vs. variable

Rates went up, so now what do you do?

fearOn July 12th, for the first time in seven years, the Bank of Canada increased the overnight rate by .25%, withdrawing some of the stimulus that was needed after the oil price collapse and 2008 financial crisis. Variable rate mortgages and lines of credit will see higher rates and modest payment increases. Fixed-rate mortgage – which are based on the bond market – had already been trending slightly upward, although if you have a fixed mortgage, you aren’t affected until it’s time to renew. Keep in mind that this is a very small increase, and we’re still in an ultra-low rate environment and an incredibly stable market. We’ve also seen increases before to only see them decrease again. But rates have risen, so here are answers to the questions I’m getting:

Should I jump into the market now? Actually, my advice is always the same: buy when you are financially ready. Don’t jump the gun just because rates “may” go higher. But by all means, if you’re thinking about buying, I can arrange a pre-approval so you’re protected from rate increases while you shop around.

Should I lock in my variable rate mortgage ASAP? 
Continue reading “Rates went up, so now what do you do?”

Variable rate is out, Fixed rates are in…. But, which term…?

Variable rate mortgageFor more than a decade, I’ve been recommending Variable rate mortgages, as the product of choice. My clients have saved $thousands.  It’s been a great 11 year run..   But now, the strategy has changed slightly.   Read on, to see my newest recommendations..

QUICK VARIABLE RATE HISTORY.

First, you need to understand the history..  Variable rate had lots of pluses.   It had a lower rate of interest, the penalty can never go over 3 months interest, and you have the option to lock into a Fixed rate at any time.

Being in a Variable meant paying lower rates.  In fact, the difference, compared with Fixed rates, ranged between 1.00% and 3.00%.  This translated to several $$thousand in less interest each year. Continue reading “Variable rate is out, Fixed rates are in…. But, which term…?”

Senior Deputy Governor says lower rates are the new normal.

Carolyn Wilkins In her first public speech as Senior Deputy Governor for the Bank of Canada, Carolyn Wilkins brought some good news to Canadians with mortgages.    Interest rates should remain low for some time….. and we can expect lower rates to be the “new normal”.

Ms. Wilkins went on to say that “the recovery has had repeated false starts and still faces considerable headwinds.”  This seems to be the new message coming from the Bank of Canada.  And I must say, it’s a refreshing change from the previous high-profile Governor, Mark Carney.

UNPOPULAR COMMENTS

Remember our previous Bank of Canada governor?  Mr. Carney earned high praise for helping Canada avoid any U.S. style recession.   But in the years leading up to his 2013 departure, his repeated warnings of pending interest rate hikes never materialized.  In fact, we now know they were way off.  Interest rates went down and have stayed down.    Looking back, Carney’s rate hike warnings sounded more like ‘the boy who cried wolf’. Continue reading “Senior Deputy Governor says lower rates are the new normal.”

Variable or Fixed? an update on how to choose.

Variable rate mortgage

FIXED OR VARIABLE?

The debate over fixed vs variable never seems to end.   For the past 5 years, the Federal govt and the BIG SIX BANKS have been doing everything in their power to force us into choosing a 5 year Fixed rate.    The govt says it gives us security and protection against the anticipated interest rate hikes.   BANKS jumped on this bandwagon because 5 yr fixed is the most profitable mortgage product.. and with fixed rates hovering at 3.00% for the last 3 years, it’s been an easy sell.

On the surface, it’s not bad advice.    Fixed rates were supposed to go up.   The spread between Fixed and Variable has been less than 1.00% over the last 3 years.     My rule of thumb is that Variable rates should be 1.00% lower than 5 yr fixed in order to benefit from the possible rate fluctuations.   So naturally, 5 yr fixed was a better choice.

DO YOU TRUST YOUR GOVT AND YOUR BANK? Continue reading “Variable or Fixed? an update on how to choose.”

2.99% is back… does that mean we should take it?

record low rates5 year fixed @ 2.99% is back.   This is NOT a NO FRILLS product (for those of you that saw a similar rate elsewhere earlier this year) but there is tougher qualifying.   This seems to have become an annual event.  For the past 3 years, we’ve seen 2.99% or less, being offered each Spring.   So, why haven’t rates gone up like the Bank’s economists, government analysts and other so-called ‘experts’ had predicted?

There are several reasons but, to sum it all up, the global economies haven’t recovered from the 2008 recession.    The US recovery is slower than expected.   Canada’s inflation rate is below target levels.   There were even concerns we could see deflation, which would cause the Bank of Canada to lower rates… those concerns have gone away…. for now!

WHAT’S THE FORECAST NOW?

Continue reading “2.99% is back… does that mean we should take it?”

Bank of Canada says no rate hikes, but possible rate drops!!

stephen poloz  Last week, the Bank of Canada governor, Stephen Poloz, held the first of 8 scheduled meetings to set the Target Rate.    This is the rate used to set the Bank Prime rate which currently sits at 3.00%.   No surprise, no change in the rate.  It has been the same since Sept 2010.

From 2011 to 2013, the previous Bank of Canada governor, Mark Carney, continually announced of a pending rate increase.   But late last year, Poloz changed the tide when he announced it could be a few years before rates go up.   One of the key drivers for rate hikes is inflation.  The BoC target for inflation is between 1% and 3%.  If inflation goes above 3%, we can expect rate hikes.

Inflation is not a concern.  In fact, there are concerns about deflation as the current inflation rate sit at 1.2%.  Some experts believe we could see the BoC rate drop.  Great news for anyone in a Variable rate.   We are also seeing the govt of Cda bond yields drop.   Friday’s close was down to 1.59% for 5 yr bonds.  Haven’t seen that level since June 2013.   This means Fixed mortgage rates will probably go down further. Continue reading “Bank of Canada says no rate hikes, but possible rate drops!!”

Long term is almost always more expensive.

long term contractsEver wanted to change cell phone providers?  How about internet providers?  Move your investments or rrsps?  Cancel that hydro or gas contract because you moved?

And how about mortgages?  When interest rates started heading down about 4 years ago, thousand of borrowers in fixed rate mortgages wanted to get out of their higher rates and start benefiting from the record low interest rates.

But borrowers were shocked to hear of unbelievably high early prepayment penalties…   Penalties of $15,000, $20,000, $30,000.    One recent situation had CIBC charging a $33,000 penalty on a $500,000 mortgage.  I’ve seen dozens and dozens of situations like this.   Almost all of these high penalties were from one of the BIG SIX BANKS…    Continue reading “Long term is almost always more expensive.”

You heard it here first!… Rule of thumb for choosing Variable over Fixed.

First For the past few years, the Bank of Canada has warned us about the imminent interest rate hikes.   Reminds me of the boy that cried wolf.    “Interest rates are going up…  soon!…  real soon…. really, really soon!!”   But last week, the new Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz, surprised many experts when he said rates would remain low for quite a while.

This announcement prompted many advisors to jump on the Variable Rate bandwagon and start recommending Variable rate over Fixed rate.   I agree…  Variable rate is the obvious choice for most of us today.   But I also noticed a familiar rule of thumb being quoted in the media.   So I wanted to set the record straight. Continue reading “You heard it here first!… Rule of thumb for choosing Variable over Fixed.”

Time to look at Variable Rates again.

Variable rate mortgage

With fixed rates up around 0.60% over the last 4 weeks (currently at around 3.49%.. there are some lower rates but these come with conditions so we are using the more widely available rate) we must again take a look at Variable rates.   Today’s best Variable rate product is sitting at around Prime less 0.40% … there’s even a few promotional Variables at Prime less 0.50% for qualified applicants.   But for this article we will stick with Prime less 0.40%.  That’s 2.60% today.  We are almost at that 1.00% spread that I like to see.

Two years ago, the best Variable rate was at Prime less 0.75% with the option to lock into the BEST discounted fixed rate at any time (this option is important, don’t ever settle for a variable product that doesn’t have this clause).   And 5 years ago, we had Variable rate products as low at Prime less 0.90%. Continue reading “Time to look at Variable Rates again.”

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…

 

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.

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…

CIBC Economist gives us the stats

CIBC Senior Economist, Ben Tal, spoke at this year’s annual Mortgage Broker conference in Montreal.  The conference, organized by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, is a great place for Mortgage Brokers to meet all the Lenders and service providers under one roof.

It’s also a great opportunity to hear some of Canada’s experts talk about the economy, real estate, interest rates and the mortgage market.  Here are a few highlights from Mr. Tal’s presentation.

-there are 12.5million households in Canada…31% rent, 69% own..

-of the 69% that own, 39.9% have a mortgage and 28.9% have no mortgage.

-69% of homeowners with a mortgage have more than 20% equity in their homes… only 30% have less than 20% equity in their homes.

-Renters have excellent cashflow… 96% of renters are using less than 40% of their income to pay for all their debts… so in reality, these renters could qualify for a mortgage based on their debt servicing ratios.. (most lenders allow borrowers to use up to 42% of their gross income towards a mortgage payment)…

One more comment that caught our attention was about Variable rate mortgages vs. Fixed rate… The historical data is overwhelmingly in favour of Variable rates….it’s really been a no-brainer… But what about now?  Fixed rates are at historical lows…  Mr. Tal said that Fixed rates might outperform Variable rate over the next 5 years… BUT it is so close that a 0.50% increase in Fixed rates would probably tip the scales back in favour of Variable

That being said, we must also consider the flexibility of a Variable Rate product.. it does allow one to lock into a fixed rate at any time and it does allow for an early exit at a minimal cost….   For me, Variable rate is still better choice…for most of us.

What mortgage product does your bank want you to take?

Here are some interesting stats…

-A Variable rate mortgage outperforms a fixed rate mortgage in over 88% of the time… According the Milevsky study done earlier this decade and updated in 2008….

-Variable rate mortgages have been at least 1.00% lower than the 5 year fixed rate mortgage over the past 25 years….and on occasion, better by as much as 2.00%.

-Canadians move every 3 years on average…meaning they must either refinance their mortgage or pay it out.

-a Variable rate mortgage has a fixed penalty of 3 months interest.

-a 5 year fixed rate mortgage has a penalty that is at least 3 months interest but has no limit…. and in the past 18 months, we have seen penalties of 6, 10 and even 14 months worth of interest.

-yet, 66% of Canadians have a 5 year fixed rate mortgage…

Is the 5 year fixed rate mortgage really the right product for 66% of Canadians?    Can the 5 year fixed rate mortgage be the right product for everyone?  Which mortgage product do you think your bank wants you to choose?

By the way, can you guess which mortgage product is the most profitable?…. you guessed it.. the 5 year fixed rate.

Make sure your Mortgage Broker does a needs analysis before they recommend a mortgage product for you…. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to mortgages….  Ask yourself, ‘who is this mortgage best for’…. my bank or me?

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