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.
Unemployment rate unchanged in October
Following two consecutive months of growth, employment held steady in October. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5%.
On a year-over-year basis, employment grew by 443,000 or 2.4%, driven by gains in full-time work. Over the same period, total hours worked were up 1.3%.
In October, employment increased in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and was little changed in the other provinces.
Employment was down for men in the core working ages of 25 to 54, and grew for the population aged 55 and over.
Employment declined in manufacturing and construction. At the same time, employment was up in public administration and in finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing.
The number of self-employed workers decreased, while the number of employees in the public sector increased for the second consecutive month.
Canada: Household Credit Growth Continues To Climb in September
CANADIANS BORROWING HAND OVER FIST
Total Canadian household credit growth continued to accelerate in September, reaching a pace last seen in mid-2018. Despite a slight deceleration from the previous month to 4.3% at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (m/m saar), trend growth remains at elevated levels. Both mortgage and consumer credit growth contributed to the 68 bps slowdown from the prior month (46 bps and 22 bps, respectively), but borrowing conditions remain favourable overall with trend growth still in strongly positive territory.
RESIDENTIAL MORTGAGE CREDIT EXPANSION CONTINUES ITS ASCENT
Residential mortgage credit growth continued on its upward trajectory in September supported by favourable borrowing conditions and strong labour markets. Mortgage loan growth accelerated by 4.9% m/m saar in September, pushing the year-on-year trend growth rate to 4.2% y/ythe fastest pace since mid-2018, marking a well-pronounced recovery in the mortgage-borrowing market.
Canadas real estate market looks to be rebounding following a turbulent couple of years due to various policy announcements from 2017 to 2018 designed to cool the market. Mortgage borrowing has picked up through the second half of 2019 with the uptick in demand following a reduction in the mortgage qualifying rate in July and a decline in 5-year mortgage rates. With the Bank of Canada under pressure to continue to provide a stimulative environment following sustained levels of uncertainty, residential mortgage credit growth is expected to remain supported in the foreseeable-future.
Strength in Canadian labour markets has also been conducive to a favourable borrowing environment. Septembers surge in job gains contributed to a fall in the unemployment rate to 5.5%.