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.
Weakness in Toronto and Vancouver after seasonal adjustment
In August the TeranetNational Bank National Composite House Price IndexTM was up 0.2% from the previous month. Removing normal seasonal patterns (seasonal adjustment), the index would have been virtually flat, following retreats in June and July. In other words, after seasonal adjustment, the downtrend of June and July did not turn around in August.
Individual market indexes were up in eight of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed. Seasonally adjusted, they would have been up in only four. The published (non-seasonally-adjusted) indexes were up strongly under any respect in Ottawa-Gatineau (1.4%), Hamilton (1.4%), Montreal (1.2%) and Quebec City (0.5%). However, gains in Toronto (0.3%), Edmonton (0.2%), Victoria (0.1%) and Winnipeg (0.1%) only reflected usual seasonal pressures. After seasonal adjustment, these indexes would have dropped or be flat. Indexes were down for Halifax (0.6%), Calgary (0.3%) and Vancouver (0.4%).
The published Toronto index was up for a fifth straight month. But it is the opposite after seasonal adjustment as the index would then have been down for a fifth straight month. For Vancouver and Victoria it was a third straight month of decline after seasonal adjustment.
In August the composite index was up 1.4% from a year earlier, the smallest 12-month rise since November 2009. This weakness is partly attributable to a peak in August 2017 from which the index declined in following months. For this reason the 12-month rise is likely to accelerate in the months ahead. August 2018 indexes were down from a year earlier in Toronto (3.3%), Hamilton (0.7%), Calgary (0.5%) and Edmonton (0.3%). They were up from a year earlier in Winnipeg (1.3%), Quebec City (1.4%), Halifax (4.6%), Montreal (4.8%), Victoria (5.0%), Ottawa-Gatineau (5.2%) and Vancouver (7.6%).
Besides the Toronto and Hamilton indexes included in the composite index, indexes exist for the seven other urban areas of the Golden Horseshoe. In July, two of these, Barrie and Oshawa, were, like Toronto and Hamilton, below their peaks of Q3 2017. Indexes not included in the composite index also exist for seven markets outside the Golden Horseshoe, five of them in Ontario and two in B.C. The 12-month rise of these indexes varied widely, from 1.5% for Sudbury to 14.3% for Abbotsford-Mission.
 Note on methodology: The current-month data used to calculate the index are those of closed sales entered in the provincial land registry. To illustrate the home price trend, the published indexes of the 11 metropolitan markets entering into the TeranetNational Bank Composite House Price Index present moving averages of the last three months of raw indexes, a procedure that evens out month-to-month fluctuations. For our full methodology, please visit www.housepriceindex.ca
Bank of Canada maintains overnight rate target at 1 ½ per cent
The Bank of Canada today maintained its target for the overnight rate at 1 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 per cent and the deposit rate is 1 per cent.
CPI inflation moved up to 3 per cent in July. This was higher than expected, in large part because of a jump in the airfare component of the consumer price index. The Bank expects CPI inflation to move back towards 2 per cent in early 2019, as the effects of past increases in gasoline prices dissipate. The Banks core measures of inflation remain firmly around 2 per cent, consistent with an economy that has been operating near capacity for some time. Wage growth remains moderate.
Recent data on the global economy have been consistent with the Banks July Monetary Policy Report (MPR) projections. The US economy is particularly robust, with strong consumer spending and business investment. Elevated trade tensions remain a key risk to the global outlook and are pulling some commodity prices lower. Meanwhile, financial stresses have intensified in certain emerging market economies, but with limited spillovers to other countries.
The Canadian economy is evolving closely in line with the Banks July projection for growth to average near potential. Following growth of 1.4 per cent in the first quarter, GDP rebounded by 2.9 per cent in the second quarter, as the Bank had forecast. GDP growth is expected to slow temporarily in the third quarter, mainly because of further fluctuations in energy production and exports.
While uncertainty about trade policies continues to weigh on businesses, the rotation of demand towards business investment and exports is proceeding. Despite choppiness in the data, both business investment and exports have been growing solidly for several quarters. Meanwhile, activity in the housing market is beginning to stabilize as households adjust to higher interest rates and changes in housing policies. Continuing gains in employment and labour income are helping to support consumption. As past interest rate increases work their way through the economy, credit growth has moderated and the household debt-to-income ratio is beginning to edge down.
Recent data reinforce Governing Councils assessment that higher interest rates will be warranted to achieve the inflation target. We will continue to take a gradual approach, guided by incoming data. In particular, the Bank continues to gauge the economys reaction to higher interest rates. The Bank is also monitoring closely the course of NAFTA negotiations and other trade policy developments, and their impact on the inflation outlook.
The next scheduled date for announcing the overnight rate target is October 24, 2018. The next full update of the Banks outlook for the economy and inflation, including risks to the projection, will be published in the MPR at the same time.