Mortgage rates hit all-time lows….it all adds up to record savings too.

graph trend downMortgage rates are still low… In fact, they are at record lows…  5 year fixed rates for qualify products can be found at 2.89%… some No Frills products are at 2.79% (stay away from these products)..   Put another way, for every $100,000 of mortgage you borrower, your payment is $468/mth.

Compare this with the average 5 year fixed rate for the past 25 years being over 7.00% and you have huge potential savings.  That same $100,000 mortgage would cost you $700/mth… That’s a $232/mth difference.  No wonder more Canadians are buying homes, buying rental properties or tapping into their equity to invest. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Stock investing is dead’, says World’s largest Bond fund manager.

For those of you that have made little or negative returns on your mutual funds and stocks, this statement might sound familiar.  Bill Gross is a founder and managing director of PIMCO,  They manage over $1.7trillion of securities.  His latest Investment Outlook paper had some very strong statements.

He says the historic 6.6% return on the stock market is more of a ponzi scheme.   And we shouldn’t expect the stock market to keep up with the real cost of living.   WOW!… strong words, but coming from someone who manages more money than several countries GDP,  we should pay some attention.

So if stocks and mutual funds aren’t cutting it and aren’t going to cut in the future, where do we turn?   There was no clear answer given in Mr. Gross’ article.   But maybe it’s time to look elsewhere…  There is one investment that has proven to stand the test of time.  Real Estate.  Real estate doesn’t have to appreciate in value to generate a positive return…but of course, it usually does.  How’s that you say?  Well, let’s take a close, but simplified look.

If you bought a property for $300k and put a $60k or $70k down payment, rented the house out, and paid your mortgage off in 20 or 25 years (by the way, the average time to pay a mortgage in Canada is between 12 and 17 years), you would own a tangible asset worth $300k.   And let’s not forget the rental income that just keeps being generated each and every month, year after year…. We can use any number for this but a realistic rent on a $300k property would be in the $1300 to $1600/mth range.  But remember, rents go up with inflation… so we should also expect rents to increase with cost of living.  And if they don’t increase, then inflation isn’t an issue…

Yes, the first 5 years or so, may not see a positive cashflow.. maybe even a negative one… but any loss could be written off against your income… and eventually, you would be in a positive position as your mortgage balance decreases.

Real estate investments scare most of us.  We don’t understand what’s involved.  We imagine the worst… the possible tenant from hell, that doesn’t pay for 6 months or destroys your property….or buying the money pit and having major repair bills, or mortgage rates going up making our payments unaffordable.     But in reality, if you are careful with your property selection, put the time in to manage and watch your property, and are careful with tenant selection, you will be with the majority of investors that see their investment perform well… you will build equity in your property as the mortgage gets paid over time.    And hopefully, the value of your property will only go up…

Maybe it’s time to invest in something we can see, touch and take care of….  instead of a piece of paper like stocks shares or mutual funds.  There’s a growing number of Canadians that are fed up with the stock market and mutual funds… fed up with paying 2% management expense ratios or 6% deferred sales charges only to come out with a negative return….  How may of us have been forced into mutual funds or stocks because we’ve been told to invest into RRSPs to reduce our taxes and invest for retirement?   Has that formula really worked for anyone?  If you want to look at something different but certainly not new, then take a look at real estate… you may be pleasantly surprised.

If you need help with understanding mortgages and how financing an investment property works,  please feel free to contact me.  I’m always happy to help.

Steve Garganis

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..

Death, taxes and interest payments. Part 2 of 2.

Part 2 of 2….  In Part 1, we examined rental properties and how they can be a great way to reduce your taxes, build net worth and create an income stream.     Part 2 looks at Interest payments.    Interest payments are big part of our personal expenses.   Here are  few suggestions on how to reduce your interest costs.

INTEREST PAYMENT REDUCTION TIPS

It is estimated there is over $1.5trillion worth of personal debt outstanding in Canada.   $1trillion of this is mortgage debt and $500billion is credit card and other debts.   Interest rates can vary from 2.60% for a Variable rate mortgage to 20% for a credit card.   Banks make an obscene amount of profit from these interest rates.   Let’s reduce the amount we contribute to their coffers…

consolidate your debts…. there is no reason to carry credit card balances if you qualify or have access to a line of credit… Interest rates for unsecured lines of credit are around Prime plus 3%… that’s 6% today.  ($20,000 in credit cards could cost you around $4,000 in interest annually… a line of credit cost around $1,200 per year… a savings of $2,800 per year).

consolidate your personal loans and unsecured lines of credit into a new mortgage or secured line of credit if you have the equity in your home.  Residential mortgage rates charge the lowest rate of interest…  Variable rate mortgages are around 2.60%. ($40,000 of loans and unsecured lines of credit could cost $$2,400 annually… a mortgage could cost you $1,040… a savings of $1,360 per year).

increase your mortgage payments and pay your mortgage off sooner… making an extra month’s worth of payments annually, will help you pay the mortgage off in 20 years vs 25 years.  Hey, rates have been extremely low for almost 4 years now… take advantage… pay that mortgage down.

choose the right mortgage product.   Fixed rate or Variable rate?    Short term or Long term?  The answer depends on personal circumstances, your needs, goals and the mortgage market.   All too often, the first question borrowers ask is, “what is the interest rate?”.  Good question, but they should probably be asking “which product will cost me the least amount of money to own my home?”  This isn’t a one time question and answer.   A mortgage needs to be evaluated regularly, just like an investment.  There are times where it makes sense to exit one mortgage product, mid-term, pay a penalty, and get into a lower cost product.   A mortgage requires planning and on-going review.  The strategy should always be to eliminate this large debt as soon as possible.

– speaking of penalties,  “what are the biggest costs associated with a mortgage?”.   The answers are penalties, interest and being in the wrong mortgage product.   A mortgage penalty can range from 3 months interest to 6, 9, 12 or ever 15 months worth of interest (yes, there have been several penalties charged to borrowers in the 10 to 15 month range by Canadian Banks).  That’s why being in the wrong mortgage product can be costly.

beware of ‘No-Frills’ mortgages.   This is the latest thing to hit the mortgage industry.   These products carry limited repayment options, carry higher than normal penalties to exit and some don’t allow you the exit unless you sell your home.   You better know the penalties and limitations associated with that low-interest mortgage before signing into a contract…

stay away from the water-cooler talk.   It’s great to talk with friends and co-workers about mortgage rates and compare.  This usually generates good questions.  But don’t make any decisions before speaking with a professional.   Your brother’s in-law’s cousin’s friend’s mother that works at the grocery store may have got a great mortgage rate or they locked into a great fixed rate when rates were going up…. but what are the details of that mortgage and the circumstances around that person’s decision?  What are the terms that went with that mortgage?     Don’t rely on water-cooler talk….  Speak with a professional that can review YOUR needs and give PERSONALIZED on-going advice for the next 15 to 17 years that it normally takes us to repay the mortgage.  You’ll have a better chance of doing the right thing with your mortgage.

who said to lock into a 5 year fixed rate?  A lot of us were contacted by our bankers and told to lock into a 5 year fixed rate over the past few years…. clearly, that was not the best choice as Variable rates outperformed Fixed rates by as much as 3%….. Remember, the Banks would love to have all their clients in a 5 year fixed rate mortgage.   This is their most profitable product.  But this isn’t always the best choice for you.  There is very little data to suggest that 5 year fixed has been the best mortgage term to choose.    But perhaps we are in one of those rate times where 5 year fixed does make sense.  Get a professional opinion and then decide…

-turn your bad debt into good debt.   A couple were considering buying a new home and keeping their existing home.  The existing home had little to no mortgage debt.  The couple were going to finance the new purchase with a mortgage on that new house and rent the existing house.  This is not a good strategy.  A better option would be to refinance their current home, while they are still occupying it… thus reducing the amount of the mortgage they require on the new house.   Then, once they buy a new home and rent the current home, they could deduct the interest cost against rental income…. minimizing their taxes.

The bottom line is that there are some things you can do to minimize taxes and interest costs…. and maybe by taking some action, we can also live a little longer by taking some stress out of our lives.

Death, taxes and interest payments! Part 1 of 2.

Death and taxes… .. the only two things that are certain in life….you’ve heard this one before.   I think there is a third thing that can be just as stressful… ‘interest payments’…. (before this article becomes too depressing, I’m going to share some things that will help to reduce our interest costs and minimize our taxes).

Paying interest on your credit cards, loans, lines of credit or mortgage is something all of us will experience at some point in our lives or, for many of us, for most of our lives…   ‘Paying interest and taxes can be the death of us’.   That’s because taxes and interest payments account for as much as 67% of our gross incomes.  That’s right, 67%!!

Tax Freedom Day (the day in which Canada, as a whole, has earned enough income to pay all their taxes for the year) this yeas was June 6th.   Any income earned up to this point was paid over to the govt.  Any income after this date is paid to yourself.    It’s hard to know exactly how much tax you really pay given there are several hidden taxes such as alcohol, amusement, gasoline tax, property taxes, HST, etc.    That’s about 42% of your gross annual income going towards taxes.

Now let’s add in how much we pay towards carrying out debts.   There are different stats out there but from my experience, I would say that 25% of gross income goes towards paying all debts...

Add the two together and you get 67%.   67% of your gross income goes towards taxes and interest…  Okay, that’s the bad news.. and now for some positive news…. Here come the tax and interest tips….and maybe this will extend your life by making things a little less stressful.

TAX TIPS

Foreward   – I’m going to skip the usually RRSP recommendations…. anyone invested in the stock market over the past 10 years will know that there has been virtually 0% return during this time..  There may be a place for RRSPs but I’m just not a big fan of them…  Remember, RRSPs are not tax exempt like a Tax Free Savings Account.   Tax is still payable when you withdraw the investment.   ..The theory is that your investment can grow within the RRSP, tax-free, and then you can withdraw your investment at a later date and pay taxes only on the amounts you withdraw….

-In general, to reduce the amount of tax you pay, you must take advantage of tax-incentive programs or participate in tax-deductible investments..  One of the proven winners over the long and short term has been real estate.   We all know someone that made money by buying investing in property…

REAL ESTATE RENTALS

buying a rental property will allow you several different deductions and opportunities to build capital and a future income stream….

-rental property purchases will allow you to write off expenses associated with purchasing the property… such as legal fees, any arrangement fees, account set up fees, bank fees, maintenance and repair of the property, etc.

-interest payments and on-going maintenance costs can be deducted from rental income, resulting in reduced rental income or a possible rental income loss that can be written off again your personal income.

-the property can appreciate in value, tax-free…. You ONLY pay tax if and when you sell for a profit.   (Historically, property values increase every 7 years… we are in an unusual period of history at the moment.  There are no guarantees the property will be worth more tomorrow..but I like a proven winner.).  If you plan to buy an investment property, then plan to hold for 7 years.

-when you sell the property, you will have to pay capital gains tax on the net profit (purchase price less expenses such as real estate fees, lawyer fees, moving costs, etc).    At the highest marginal tax rate, you would have to pay around 21.50% of your net sale profit towards tax….  Here’s a link to the formula…  That tax rate is in line with the RRSP withdrawal tax rates…

-let’s not forget that your mortgage on the rental property is being paid down for you by the rental income.… each and every year.   If you buy, rent and hold, then you will have a mortgage-free property in 20 or 25 years.. maybe sooner if you factor in the normal rent increases every year…  Rental income is usually indexed with the cost of living….    This part of the investment is rarely considered or talked about.

Watch for Part 2 for our advice on how to minimize taxes and reduce your interest costs.

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