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.
Prices continue to lose momentum in June
With the decrease in resale market transactions and the increase in interest rates, property price growth moderated for a third consecutive month, but still remained solid in June at 1.0% after adjusting for seasonal effects. Using the seasonally adjusted unsmoothed index, which is more sensitive to market fluctuations, the moderation is even more pronounced, with property prices essentially flat in May and June. While the Bank of Canada has indicated that it will continue to raise its policy rate and that transactions in the real estate market should continue to decline, we anticipate that the composite index should decrease by 10% by the end of 2023. The price declines have already begun to spread across the country. In fact, for all 32 markets where the seasonally adjusted unsmoothed index was available in June, 58% experienced a decline during the month, compared to 34% in May and only 16% in January. We have to go back to May 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic when uncertainty was at its peak, to find such a large proportion of markets in decline.
CANADA: Home sales continued to fall in June
From National Bank of Canda
On a seasonally adjusted basis, home sales fell 5.6% from May to June, bringing the level of sales 7.0% below its 10-year average. This was the fourth consecutive decline for this indicator, with sales down a cumulative 26.8% between February and June. The slowdown was broad- based, with the number of transactions declining in three quarters of the markets covered. We expect the current moderation in sales to continue going forward as the Bonk of Canada just announced a 1% rate increase this week and more rate hikes are expected by the end of the year. Now that interest rates for variable rate mortgages are generally over 4%, buyers must now qualify for the stress test with their mortgage rate +2% instead of a rate of 5.25%, which will add a drag on the market. The rapid rise in interest rates by the central bank is certainly having a psychological effect on buyers who are waiting to see how high rates will stabilize before taking action.
According to CREA, new listings rose 4.1% in June, a second consecutive monthly increase. With the reduction in sales and the increase in new properties for sale, the number of months of inventory rose from 2.7 to 3.1 months in June, the highest level in two years. Based on the active-listings-to-sales ratio, market conditions loosened in every province during the month, but the housing market continued to be tight in the country as a whole. Five provinces out of 10 are now in balanced territory: B.C., Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario (the two latter having switched this month). The others continued to indicate market conditions favourable to sellers mainly due to lack of supply.
On a year-over-year basis, home sales were down 23.9% compared to the strongest month of June in history last year. For the first semester of 2022, cumulative sales were down 18.9% compared to the same period in 2021.
Housing starts in Canada increased for a second month in a row by 21.5K in May to 287.3K (seasonally adjusted and annualized), the strongest print since November 2021 (at 305.9K). Starts were well above consensus calling for a 255K print in May while building permits remained high on a historical basis and housing supply continues to be tight. As interest rates rise and demand in the resale market declines, we expect housing starts to moderate in the coming year. Data on housing starts in June will be published on July 18.
The Teranet-National Bank Composite National House Price Index increased 1.6% in May compared to April and after seasonal adjustment. Ten of the 11 markets in the composite index were up during the month, with Edmonton being the exception. On a year-over-year basis, home price increased by 18.3% in May. The June Teranet -National Bank HPI will be published on July 20.