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.
Record December caps record year for Canadian home sales
Statistics released today by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show national home sales set another all-time record in December 2020.
Home sales recorded over Canadian MLS Systems jumped by 7.2% between November and December to set another new all-time record.
Seasonally adjusted activity was running at an annualized pace of 714,516 units in December 2020 the first time on record that monthly sales at seasonally adjusted annual rates have ever topped the 700,000 mark.
The month-over-month increase in national sales activity from November to December was driven by gains of more than 20% in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity posted a 47.2% y-o-y gain in December the largest year-over-year increase in monthly sales in 11 years. It was a new record for the month of December by a margin of more than 12,000 transactions. For the sixth straight month, sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019.
For 2020 as a whole, some 551,392 homes traded hands over Canadian MLS Systems a new annual record. This is an increase of 12.6% from 2019 and stood 2.3% above the previous record set back in 2016.
Mortgage Deferral Agreements and Their Impact
CMHCs Fall 2020 Residential Mortgage Industry Dashboard discusses mortgage deferral agreements and their impact.
At the end of the second quarter, credit unions, mortgage finance companies (MFCs) and mortgage investment entities (MIEs) have allowed mortgage deferral agreements for about 6%, 7% and 7% of their respective residential mortgage portfolios.
Chartered banks have allowed 16% of mortgages to go into deferral since the beginning of the pandemic. Of these, close to 2 out of 3 borrowers had resumed payments on their mortgages at the end of the third quarter of 2020. In the coming months, we could see higher delinquency rates if some borrowers are unable to resume their payments; these mortgages will have to be booked as arrears.
These deferral agreements have affected financial institutions cash flows, with reductions of:
4% in scheduled mortgage payments
3% in non-scheduled payments (accelerated monthly payments and lump-sum payments)
While remaining at low levels, mortgages in arrears (90 or more days delinquent) have increased slightly between the first and second quarters of 2020 from:
0.24% to 0.26%, on average, for chartered banks
0.23% to 0.25%, on average, for non-bank mortgage lenders
We also observe an increase in early-stage delinquencies (31 to 59 days and 60 to 89 days), which suggests that arrears could continue on an upward trend.