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Tagfixed vs. variable

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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