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 fall in April
Statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show national home sales fell from March to April 2018.
National home sales fell 2.9% from March to April.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down 13.9% from April 2017.
The number of newly listed homes declined 4.8% from March to April.
The MLS Home Price Index (HPI) in April was up 1.5% year-over-year (y-o-y).
The national average sale price declined by 11.3% y-o-y in April.
National home sales via Canadian MLS Systems declined by 2.9% in April 2018 to the lowest level in more than five years (Chart A). About 60% of all local housing markets reported fewer sales, led by the Fraser Valley, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal. Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down 13.9% compared to April of last year and hit a seven-year low for the month. It also stood 6.9% below the 10-year average for the month. Activity was below year-ago levels in about 60% of all local markets, led overwhelmingly by the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and by markets in and around Ontarios Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region.
The stress-test that came into effect this year for homebuyers with more than a twenty percent down payment continued to cast its shadow over sales activity in April, said CREA President Barb Sukkau. Its impact on housing markets varies by region, she added. A professional REALTOR is your best source for information and guidance in negotiations to purchase or sell a home during these changing times, said Sukkau.
This years new stress test has lowered sales activity and destabilized market balance for housing markets in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador Provinces, said Gregory Klump, CREAs Chief Economist. This is exactly the type of collateral damage that CREA warned the government about. As provinces whose economic prospects have faced difficulties because they are closely tied to those of natural resources, it is puzzling that the government would describe the effect of its new policy as intended consequences.
First quarter: The value of multi-family dwellings leads the rise
Canadian municipalities issued $24.9 billion worth of building permits in the first quarter of 2018, up 3.3% compared with the fourth quarter of 2017.
Construction intentions for residential dwellings led the national increase, rising 6.9% from the fourth quarter of 2017 to $15.9 billion in the first quarter of 2018. The 18.4% increase of the multi-family component more than offset a 3.5% decline in the single-family component.
On the other hand, the value of non-residential building permits fell 2.6% from the fourth quarter of 2017 to $9.0 billion in the first quarter of 2018. The drop was the result of lower activity in both the industrial and institutional components.