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Top 10 Mortgage Tips for 2014

Top 10 A peek at the year ahead: Our Top Ten Mortgage Tips for 2014!

Your home may be the biggest investment you’ll ever make. That means you want to be smart with your mortgage. Although we can’t say for sure what mortgage rates will do – or how the housing market will shift – we have compiled our top tips for the year ahead; sensible strategies for today’s homebuyers and owners.

1. Variables are back.  Several lenders are offering strong “prime minus” rates that could save you thousands in interest. And the Bank of Canada is still holding their key “overnight rate” very steady and very low… making variable-rate mortgages a sensible option right now. Fixed versus variable has always been a challenging mortgage decision. Let us help you decide which financing option best meets your needs.

2.  Don’t sleepwalk through your mortgage renewal. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to save thousands on your mortgage. When your lender sends you a letter saying it’s time to renew… then it’s time to get an expert second opinion. We’re independent and we have access to over 50 lenders. If there’s a better deal, we’ll find it.

3. Pay your phone bill on time!Paying your bills on time has always been the most important credit habit. Equifax recently started to include phone companies on credit bureau reports – so your lender can see if you have any delinquencies with your phone bills. Look like a good borrower.

Continue reading “Top 10 Mortgage Tips for 2014”

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.”

Looking back 5 years.. which mortgage product did your Banker recommend in 2008?

greedy bankerRemember 2008?  It was almost 5 years ago that the U.S. sub-prime mortgage scandal erupted.   October 2008, to be exact.  That’s almost 5 years ago…  And with October and November 2013 renewals being less than 120 days away, we can now lock in some rates for those upcoming renewals.  So I thought this would be a great time to see what sort of advice and recommendations the Banks were giving to their mortgage customers.

THE BANK’S ADVICE

The funny thing is, Banks have never changed their advice or strategy.  ‘Take a 5 year fixed rate’.  That’s all the Banks seem to want to promote.  And with good reason… it’s the most profitable product FOR THE BANKS.   But historically, it’s NOT the best product to take.   There is no historical data that I am aware of that shows taking a 5 year fixed is the best strategy.  But I’ll get into that in more detail later. Continue reading “Looking back 5 years.. which mortgage product did your Banker recommend in 2008?”

Bank of Cda doesn’t change rate…U.S. Fed not to raise rates until 2015?

Bank of Canada announced they were keeping the Target Rate unchanged today, during their 6th of 8 regularly scheduled meetings for 2012.  (This is not a recording..Lol!)

A more interesting topic is the U.S. Fed.  There was an article last week that caught my eye.   The article quotes the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank president as saying he doesn’t believe the U.S. Fed will raise rates until 2015.  And even if you don’t agree with that forecast, we must acknowledge that US Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has stated he doesn’t forecast any increases until 2014.

Why is this important for Canadians to follow?  They say when the U.S sneezes, Canada catches a cold.   There’s a lot of truth to that statement.  The U.S. is our biggest trading partner.   History tells us we follow U.S. economic policies and trends.

CANADA MAKES IT’S OWN PATH

But something changed in 2008.   The U.S. had a financial meltdown.  The entire world was impacted and pushed into a global recession.   Somehow, Canada came out of this with minimal damage.   No housing crash.  No Bank failures.  No meltdown.   In fact, many sectors our industry have flourished including our housing industry.   We don’t have any mortgage default problem.   Our unemployment rate is 7.3% compared with the 30 yr average of 8.4%.   And our Banks are reporting $billion quarterly profits.    We are the envy of the world….financially speaking.

CDA GOVT CONTINUES TO FOLLOW US GOVT

Still, the Cda govt continues to follow the U.S. Fed with regards to any rate increases or decreases.  After all, we are still a very small economy compared with the U.S. and the rest of the world.  The Bank of Canada has not increased the Target Rate for 24 months.  Bank Prime currently sits at 3.00%.   And many economists believe we won’t see any increase until late 2013 or even 2014.   This leads me to believe mortgage rates will remain low for some time to come.

BUT WHICH MORTGAGE TERM SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

The big question is which mortgage term to choose today… short or long?  fixed or variable?   The answer depends on you…. your goals, plans, financial strategy, risk tolerance, etc.   Each of us has different needs… Product selection is very different today.   There is an interested Variable rate product at Prime less 0.35% that has my attention.  5 yr fixed at 3.19% and 3.09% are still available… not a bad option for most of us…. My best advice is to get some advice.   Speak with a qualified, unbiased professional.  Speak with a Mortgage Broker.   A Mortgage Broker doesn’t work for any one Bank.. they can offer a wide variety of products from a large number of Lenders….

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me.

Steve Garganis

steve@mortgagenow.ca

416 224 0114

Lenders chop rates again… 2.99%… and Variable rates at Prime less 0.35%!

Today we saw 2 announcements….   For the first time ever, we saw a 5 yr fixed rate being offered for 2.99%.    This is not a No Frills mortgage… so you don’t have to worry about minimal prepayment privileges, or restricted payout options, and no monkey business when it comes to penalty calculation….  You probably won’t see a lot of publicity about this because of the mainstream media was quick to promote the BMO NO FRILLS mortgage as the first 5 yr fixed mortgage under 3.00%….earlier this year.   But I can tell you, it’s a significant milestone.

And we also saw the introduction of the lowest Variable rate mortgage in almost a year… Prime less 0.35%, or 2.65%.   This isn’t one of those NO FRILLS Variable rate mortgages that is full of restrictions… you have all the regular options including being able to lock into the BEST discounted fixed rate at any time.

These 2 offers are very special…   They don’t come with hidden clauses or back door penalties, or exit fees.   These products are legit!

The driver behind the pricing is competition, the increased spread in profit margins and a slowing housing market..   The thirst to grow a business and keep the business on the books is going to see a lot of competition…. and the winners are us… the borrowers…

If you want more info on these rates or other mortgage related issues, call me anytime.

Steve Garganis

416 224 0114

 

 

A change of strategy… Fixed rates… 5yr or 10 yr?

For years, I have recommended Variable rate mortgages over Fixed rates.   The reasons are simple:

  • Variable rate outperformed Fixed rates in over 88% of the time.
  • You could lock into a Fixed rate at anytime should interest rates go up.
  • you could exit the product at anytime with a maximum 3 month interest rate penalty (compared with Interest Rate Differential penalties for Fixed rates that vary depending on current rates.. we’ve seen 10, 14, 16 and even 20 months interest penalties charged in recent years).
  • If you were in a Variable rate the last 5 years, then you have enjoyed an average rate of around 2.92% compared with a 4.37% fixed rate (annual average rate over last 5 yrs).    It’s been the least expensive way to own your home…  (my clients have saved between 1.45% and 3.00% per year on their mortgages over the past 5 years based on my recommendation).

But then, in August 2011, the Banks caught on.  They decided they wouldn’t offer those great Variable Rates or Prime less 0.75% (3.00% less 0.75% = 2.25%).  They all raised the price on new Variable rate mortgages to Prime less 0.00%.    And this year we have seen 5 year fixed rates hover at around 3.19% to 3.39%…  10 year fixed has also come down to 3.99% and 3.94%.

So what’s the strategy today?  What’s the least expensive way to own your home?     Here are some answers…

If you have Prime less 0.50%  or better, then considering sticking with it.

The fact is, over 80% of my clients are in a Variable rate mortgage of Prime less 0.50% or better.   They have enjoyed huge savings, especially over the last 5 years. I’m not too anxious to have them start paying a higher rate….. Instead of locking into a 5 or 10 yr Fixed rate, why not set your Variable rate payment based on the higher Fixed rates…  You’ll pay more towards principal and pay the mortgage off faster.

If you’re getting a new mortgage or your mortgage is coming up for renewal, then I would consider a Fixed rate term..

This might shock many of my clients and regular readers, but I can’t recommend taking a new 5 year Variable rate based on today’s pricing…  It’s time to look at Fixed rates…  The term will depend on your own personal situation, goals and needs.   5 year fixed (currently 3.29%) is looking like a good choice for many today… But a 1 year fixed (2.89%) might also we a good choice…   One product that is attracting more attention is the 10 year fixed rate (3.89% to 3.94%)… It’s never been under 4.00%… so many people are recommending it… But I’m not so sure about it…. After all, if you were to pay this mortgage out before the first 5 years, you would be faced with a monster penalty!   10, 14, 18 months worth of interest … maybe more…  On the positive side, if you paid the mortgage out after 5 years, the penalty is capped at 3 months interest.

If we compare the 5 yr fixed vs the 10 yr fixed, we can look at a number of different scenarios… but here’s a really simple one to look at…The question is, how much will rates have to increase by in order for you to be further ahead?

If you took a 5 yr fixed rate today at 3.29% but set your payments based on today’s 10 yr fixed of 3.94%, then at the end of the first 5 years, you would have to renew at a rate of 4.75% or higher, before you start to win with a 10 yr fixed rate.     So this is where the unknown comes in to play…  and the unknown can cause fear and panic…     But it can also mean opportunity…  Will interest rates be 2.00% higher than they are today??   Will Variable rate pricing come back to normal and again be the product of choice?  Will there be a new product that is even better than today?    I don’t know the answer… but I think 10 years is just too long of a term to commit to…Things change faster today…   Can we really make plans for 10 yrs?  Remember, if we need to refinance or sell, there is mortgage penalty to deal with….this can blow the savings right out the window…  A lot of what if’s…    I’d probably stick with 5 yr fixed today or go shorter term…

A last thought and point of reflection..

Interest rates have remained below average for the last 10 years…  They have been at record lows over the past 4 years due to the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and the longer than expected global and US economic recovery…..  Interest rates are expected to go up…  the big question is, when??   Regardless of the answer, shorter terms have ALWAYS been a better choice when it comes to mortgages… don’t be so quick to jump into a 5 or 10 year fixed rate… speak with your mortgage broker and get some advice.   Banks want borrowers to be afraid.. they want you to remain unsure…  They want you to lock into the longest term possible because this is where they earn the most $$profit….   Don’t be so quick to contribute the Bank’s profit margin….

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…

 

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….

Canadians saved $2.7billion on their mortgage by refinancing or renewing this year.

Variable rate mortgages have been extremely popular.   A study by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP) showed that 37% of Canadians took a Variable rate last year, compared 31% from the year prior.

And Canadians saved almost $2.7billion by renewing or refinancing their mortgages this year.   Wow, that’s a lot of money… maybe too much?   The banks have put a lot of pressure on borrowers NOT to take Variable… they’ve made it harder to qualify by getting the govt involved and having them qualify all new Variable rate clients with posted 5 year fixed rates…. And most recently, the Banks have jacked up their Variable rate pricing from Prime less 0.75%, 0.80% and even 0.90%, to Prime less 0.00% and even Prime PLUS 0.10%.

Watch for the Banks to hike fixed rates as they aren’t earning enough… or so they tell us…

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.

BMO Economist forecast no rate hikes til 2013

More good news…. interest rates are not expected to increase til 2013, according to Bank of Montreal.

Really no surprise here.  The global economy is not doing well.  But here in Canada, the economy is performing relatively well.   The only reason our stock market and Canadian $ are down is because of the uncertainty of the European debt crisis.

5 year fixed rates are hovering at 3.39%… and they are even lower for qualified borrowers…. Variable rates are at around 2.60%…  We are in record low territory.

Did you know a $300,000 mortgage will carry for as little as $1199/month?   Hey, if you’re paying $1400/mth for rent, then why not consider buying place of your own…  And for those that want off the stock market roller coaster, a rental property may just be what you need…  Best thing is to talk to a Mortgage Broker, crunch the numbers and see how it looks.   It’s probably easier than you think.

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”.

More Banks raise their variable rates

BMO has joined RBC in raising their Variable rate mortgage pricing. The Financial Post reports that BMO raised their Variable rate mortgages from Prime 015% to Prime less 0%.

Can you say, ‘we want to force borrowers into the more profitable 5 year fixed rate products’???  That’s right.. The Banks would rather see you in a 4.00% rate vs. a 2.25% rate…  And why not?  They are a business after all.

We have also just received reports from other wholesale lenders that they will raise their pricing as well…  If you were looking at buying a house, refinancing your mortgage or had a mortgage coming up for renewal in the next 4 months, I would suggest you speak with your Mortgage Broker and get some rates locked in…

It’s important to understand, the Bank of Canada is not likely to raise their rate anytime soon.   Bank Prime remains at 3.00%.  We are seeing the Bank Economists tell us they think the economy will remain slow… The Banks do not make as much profit with the low Variable rate mortgages… They want and prefer you to take a 5 year fixed.. these are the most profitable mortgage products for them.

So  the bad news is Lenders will raise their Variable rates slightly, the good news is that we are probably going to continue to enjoy mortgage rates under 3.00% for some time to come…..

RBC raises their Variable rate mortgage pricing.

Earlier this year, we saw a few lenders raise their Variable rate pricing from Prime less 0.75% to Prime less 0.50%…. Most other lenders did not follow.. But it made us wonder if there was some concern that the Bank of Canada might hold off on any increases in the  Bank Prime this year, as was widely forecast by most Experts….

Sure enough, the recent stock market collapse, the European and US debt crisis has put any potential rate hikes on the back burner with most Economists forecasting for no increases until next year…

Fast forward to today… The Financial Post reported that RBC would increase their pricing from Prime less 0.65% to Prime less 0.45%.   This move would indicate that the RBC Economists think the Bank of Canada is not in any hurry to raise the Prime rate…. or they believe the BOC may even lower the rate at some point…

Mortgage Brokers still have access to better priced Variable rate products through their wholesale channels but will other Lenders raise their pricing in the coming weeks?   We’ll be watching and will let you know…

 

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.

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