Got a small mortgage balance owing? Why you'll likely get a lousy rate.
Special to The Globe and Mail -PublishedSunday, Nov. 22, 2015 5:45PM EST -Last updatedMonday, Nov. 23, 2015 8:12AM EST
Picture this: You spend 15 or 20 years slaving to pay down your mortgage. Youve built up 80 per cent equity in your home and you have just five years left until its free and clear.
After all that effort, after all that built-up equity, you deserve the lowest mortgage rate around, right?
Perhaps, but thats not how it works in our mortgage market. The people rewarded with the lowest rates are the ones with big, fat six-figure mortgages, and there are two main reasons for it. The first one wont surprise you, but the second one might.
The No. 1 reason that lenders covet monster loans is profit. If youve got a giant mortgage, banks and credit unions figure youll have more assets to invest with them, more savings to rot in their 1-per-cent savings accounts, more purchases to put on their credit cards and credit lines, more appetite for insurance and so on.
Thats why its easier to grind down a banks mortgage specialist on a $700,000 loan than one for $70,000. (One exception is when you have a small mortgage, plus a large amount of non-mortgage business with that lender, and you threaten to leave them.)
Brokers are the same way. They earn commissions just like bankers. And the bigger the mortgage, the bigger the commission.
Thats why some of the best deals on rate-comparison websites say things such as: For mortgages of $300,000 or more. Mortgage minimums are becoming more and more common.
For most brokers, one $300,000 mortgage is better than doing six for $50,000. Of course, six $50,000 clients means six potential referral sources instead of one. But it also means exerting six times the effort to close those mortgages, and time is a scarce resource for brokers.
The second reason small-time borrowers do worse in the rate department is risk. Its one of the most counterintuitive things in the mortgage industry, but someone with a puny 5-per-cent down payment often gets a better rate than someone whos been pounding down his or her mortgage for decades.
Thats crazy, you may say. Isnt my mortgage less risky if I have a huge amount of home equity?
Technically, yes. But if youre dealing with a lender who sells mortgages to investors, thats not always reality. Mortgage investors prefer the safety of insured mortgages. Those are mortgages where an insurer, backed by the Government of Canada, guarantees to pay off the balance if the borrower defaults.
Theres a cost for this insurance, and when the mortgage is less than 80 per cent of the property value, the lender must typically cough up this fee. By comparison, when the loan-to-value ratio is more than 80 per cent, it is the borrower who pays that insurance premium. For lenders who sell their mortgages to investors, avoiding the cost of insurance lets them offer slightly lower rates usually about one-tenth of a percentage point lower.
Quick tip: If youre renewing a mortgage that you paid to insure, youve built up 20 per cent equity or more and youre switching lenders, provide your insurance policy number to your new lender or broker. Keeping your default insurance in force costs you nothing and gives you a wider selection of lenders and rates when you renew the next time.
So, where can diligent borrowers go for a deal on a mini-mortgage? Most people just renew with their existing lender. Saving one-tenth of a per cent interest on a $50,000 mortgage with a five-year term and amortization is only about $130. Unless you need to refinance or add a secured line of credit, the trivial savings dont offset the hassle of reapplying elsewhere, collecting your documentation, getting your home appraised (which you must often pay for), meeting with a lawyer or closing agent, paying your lenders discharge fee and so on.
None of this should stop you from trying to better your rate. At the very least, use competitors rate quotes as a bargaining chip, either with your existing lender or with a broker who doesnt have a mortgage minimum. And if you have loads of other business with your bank or credit union, definitely use that as leverage. There are always other lenders who would welcome all of your banking business with open arms.
Canadian home sales activity improves in June
Statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show national home sales were up from May to June 2018.
National home sales rose 4.1% from May to June.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down 10.7% from June 2017.
The number of newly listed homes eased 1.8% from May to June.
The MLS Home Price Index (HPI) in June was up 0.9% year-over-year (y-o-y).
The national average sale price edged down 1.3% y-o-y in June.
National home sales via Canadian MLS Systems rose 4.1% in June 2018 compared to May. While this marks the first substantive month-over-month increase this year, sales remain well down from monthly levels recorded over the past five years.
More than 60% of all local housing markets reported increased sales activity in June compared to May, led by the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). By contrast, sales in British Columbia continue to moderate.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down almost 11% compared to June 2017. Sales marked a five-year low and stood almost 7% below the 10-year average for the month of June. Activity came in below year-ago levels in about two-thirds of all local markets, led overwhelmingly by those in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
This years new stress-test on mortgage applicants has been weighing on homes sales activity; however, the increase in June suggests its impact may be starting to lift, said CREA President Barb Sukkau. The extent to which the stress-test continues to sideline home buyers varies by housing market and price range. All real estate is local, and REALTORS remain your best source for information about sales and listings where you live or might like to in the future, said Sukkau.
Bank of Canada raises overnight rate target to 1 ½ per cent
The Bank of Canada today increased its target for the overnight rate to 1 per cent.
The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 per cent and the deposit rate is 1 per cent. The Bank expects the global economy to grow by about 3 per cent in 2018 and 3 per cent in 2019, in line with the April Monetary Policy Report (MPR). The US economy is proving stronger than expected, reinforcing market expectations of higher policy rates and pushing up the US dollar. This is contributing to financial stresses in some emerging market economies. Meanwhile, oil prices have risen. Yet, the Canadian dollar is lower, reflecting broad-based US dollar strength and concerns about trade actions. The possibility of more trade protectionism is the most important threat to global prospects.
Canadas economy continues to operate close to its capacity and the composition of growth is shifting. Temporary factors are causing volatility in quarterly growth rates: the Bank projects a pick-up to 2.8 per cent in the second quarter and a moderation to 1.5 per cent in the third. Household spending is being dampened by higher interest rates and tighter mortgage lending guidelines. Recent data suggest housing markets are beginning to stabilize following a weak start to 2018. Meanwhile, exports are being buoyed by strong global demand and higher commodity prices. Business investment is growing in response to solid demand growth and capacity pressures, although trade tensions are weighing on investment in some sectors. Overall, the Bank still expects average growth of close to 2 per cent over 2018-2020.