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.
Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings in Montréal continue to climb
In October, the value of permits for both single-family and multi-family dwellings increased in the CMAs of Montral and Toronto. However, in the Vancouver CMA, both residential components fell, offsetting the gains in September.
Municipalities in the CMA of Montral issued $538.1 million in permits for multi-family dwellings in October, higher than in Toronto ($409.2 million) and Vancouver ($330.6 million). In regards to single-family homes, Toronto registered $451.3 million in permits, followed by Vancouver ($148.1 million) and Montral ($122.4 million).
The Montral CMA issued permits approving the construction of 2,956 new units, stemming mainly from multi-family dwellings (2,720). October marked the fifth consecutive month where the number of units approved for multi-family dwellings exceeded 2,000. Vancouver approved the construction of 1,860 new units for multi-family homes, while Toronto (1,691) approved fewer despite having a higher value for the component.
Housing Market Digest by Will Dunning, Economist for Mortgage Professionals Canada
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) now requires that all residential mortgages by federally-regulated lenders must be stress-tested, at two percentage points above the contract interest rate (or the 5- year posted rate, if that is higher). In combination with the requirements for mortgage insurance, about 90% of all new mortgages will be tested.
This can be expected to reduce housing activity by 10-15%. It is on top of the impact from recent rises for mortgage interest rates (another 5-10% drop in activity). The combined 15-25% drop in housing activity will affect the broader economy.
In two years, employment could be 150,000-250,000 lower than it would otherwise be. There is a risk that house prices will fall. In a modern economy, a sustained drop in house prices is one of the most dangerous things that can happen: as happened in the US a decade ago, falling house prices can turn into widespread economic decline.
Resale activity recovered a bit more in September, to 492,900, due to partial rebounds in BC and Ontario. Activity is flat in most other areas.
CREAs House Price Index was flat in September. The year-over-year change is now 10.7% (down from the peak of 19.7% that was seen in April).
The sales-to-new-listings ratio (SNLR) was 55.7% in September, slightly above the balanced market threshold of 51%. This indicator points to an outlook for stable prices (at worst). But, as noted, OSFIs stress test policy creates a risk of falling prices.
We should, in general, expect that resale activity will trend upwards over time, because the population is growing and the housing inventory is expanding. Therefore, it is useful to look at sales on a per capita basis. Recent activity is below the long-term average.