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DECODING THE MORTGAGE MARKET Mortgage rates today are way below normal. Or are they?
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty called Canada’s low interest rates an “anomaly” last week, echoing warnings that other government officials have been making since 2009. But one of the country’s best-known economists believes today’s rates are closer to normal than many think.Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC, caught viewers off guard in a recent webcast with a mortgage company TMG The Mortgage Group. Whereas most economists have been calling for the Bank of Canada to lift its 1 per cent key lending rate back to a more normal 3 per cent, Mr. Tal thinks that these days, “normal” is significantly less.“The speed limit of the economy has been permanently reduced,” Tal said. Inflation, the key rate threat, is extraordinarily low at 1.1 per cent. And the pace of economic growth is in a long-run downtrend, with few signs of bucking that trend.Consequently, “The new normal is much lower interest rates than there used to be…The new normal would be maybe another 100-125 basis points (above today), not more than that.”If true, this would suggest that prime rate - the basis for variable mortgage rates – will average just 4 to 4.25 per cent over the long term, a big departure from the roughly 5 per cent prime rate that most economists forecast as “normal.”Saving ¾ of a percentage point, over the long-term, would have enormous impact on the finances of regular Canadians. Over five years alone, it would put $11,000 of interest back in people’s pockets on the average home purchase, with 20 per cent down. If you’re financially secure, that makes shorter-term and variable-rate mortgages worth a close look.In an email with Mr. Tal about his call, he was careful to point out that “the new normal is a theoretical rate.”“There is a big difference between the actual and theoretical rate,” he said. “In practice, rates tend to overshoot or undershoot. So it is possible that rates will rise by more than that, possibly to 3 per cent.”Presumably, if his model is correct, rates would then revert back down to the mean and cycle around that 4.25 per cent prime rate number.Regardless of how accurate Mr. Tal’s forecast proves to be, the odds are decent that the prime rate will remain almost two percentage points below its 6.89 per cent 30-year average. That’s in keeping with the Bay Street consensus. But more importantly, it’s reflective of Canada’s new realities: contained inflation and modest economic growth.“Variable will probably do better in this environment...if you have a five-year time horizon.” But long-term interest rates will be “permanently higher” five years from now, Tal predicts.If Mr. Tal’s estimate of a 4 to 4.25 per cent prime rate does pan out, variable rates could save people more than fixed rates over the long-run, as they have for decades. And even if “normal” turns out to be a 5 per cent prime rate (which is closer to most economic forecasts), variables should still come out on top over the long term.The question is, what happens between now and the time that rates “normalize.”Today you can find variable rates at prime – 0.5 per cent (i.e., 2.5 per cent) and five-year fixed rates at 3.49 per cent. Let’s assume that rates shoot up in 2015 as economists expect (an expectation that changes with the wind) and that they increase two percentage points over the two years that follow.In the hypothetical scenario laid out above, those of you shopping for a mortgage may find extra value in two particular terms:A three-year fixed mortgage: If you can find one in the 2.75 per cent range or better, it’s a compelling option. It gives you meaningful savings for three years (when compared to terms of four years or more). It also provides insulation from rate increases for three years. Compared to a five-year fixed mortgage, rates would have to be 2.25 percentage points higher at renewal for you to lose on this strategy. That assumes you make equal payments in all cases and renew into a two-year fixed (which adds up to five years total). Betting against a 225 basis point hike in three years is a wager that most strong borrowers should make.A hybrid (50/50) mortgage: Despite our personal beliefs, rates are impossible to foretell with accuracy. A hybrid mortgage removes the guesswork, cuts your risk of rising rates in half and lets you participate in today’s low variable rates. This strategy involves putting 50 per cent of your mortgage in a five-year variable and 50 per cent in a five-year fixed, netting you a starting rate under 3 per cent. It also gives you more flexibility than a five-year fixed by letting you refinance early with a lower potential penalty, and letting you lock in the variable rate at any time.Keep in mind, these strategies are primarily based on hypothetical interest cost. They’re also suited mainly to well-qualified borrowers with sound finances, stable employment and a five-year time horizon. Your situation may be different so as always, make sure to do your own research on what works best for you.Robert McLister is the editor of CanadianMortgageTrends.com and a mortgage planner at VERICO intelliMortgage, a mortgage brokerage. You can also follow him on twitter at @CdnMortgageNews.Source:ROBERT MCLISTERSpecial to The Globe and MailPublished Sunday, Nov. 10 2013, 10:47 PM ESTLast updated Monday, Nov. 11 2013, 10:32 AM EST
Canadian home sales activity eases in October
Ottawa, ON, November 15, 2018 Statistics released today by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show national home sales declined between September and October 2018. Highlights:
National home sales fell 1.6% from September to October.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down by 3.7% from one year ago.
The number of newly listed homes eased 1.1% from September to October.
The MLS Home Price Index (HPI) was up 2.3% year-over-year (y-o-y) in October.
The national average sale price slipped by 1.5% y-o-y in October.
Home sales via Canadian MLS Systems edged back by 1.6% in October 2018. While activity is still stronger compared to the first half of 2018, it remains below monthly levels recorded from early 2014 through 2017. (Chart A) Transactions declined in more than half of all local markets, led by Hamilton-Burlington, Montreal and Edmonton. Although activity did improve modestly in many markets, it was offset by a decline in sales elsewhere by a factor of two.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity was down 3.7% compared to October 2017 and in line with the 10-year average for the month. While sales were down y-o-y in slightly more than half of all local markets in October, lower sales in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley more than offset the rise in sales in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Montreal by a wide margin.
This years new mortgage stress-test has lowered how much mortgage home buyers can qualify for across Canada, but its effect on sales has varied somewhat depending on location, housing type and price range, said CREA President Barb Sukkau. All real estate is local. A professional REALTOR is your best source for information and guidance in negotiating a purchase or sale of a home during these changing times, added Sukkau.
National sales activity lost momentum in October, said Gregory Klump, CREAs Chief Economist. In part, this reflects waning activity among some urban centers in Ontarios Greater Golden Horseshoe region and the absence of an offsetting rise in sales in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Even so, the balance between sales and listings in these regions points to stable prices or modest gains. By contrast, the balance between sales and listings for housing markets in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland indicates a weak pricing environment for homeowners who are looking to sell.
The number of newly listed homes edged down 1.1% between September and October, led by the GTA, Calgary and Victoria. The decline in new supply among these markets more than offset an increase in new supply in Edmonton and Greater Vancouver.
As for the balance between sales and listings, the national sales-to-new listings ratio in October came in at 54.2% close to Septembers reading of 54.4% and its long-term average of 53.4%.
Considering the degree and duration to which market balance readings are above or below their long-term average is the best way of gauging whether local housing market conditions favour buyers or sellers. As a rule of thumb, measures of market balance that are within one standard deviation of their long-term average are generally consistent with balanced market conditions.
Based on a comparison of the sales-to-new listings ratio with the long-term average, about two-thirds of all local markets were in balanced market territory in October 2018.
Most First-Time Homebuyers Spending All They Can Afford
Millennials have made up a significant portion of homebuyers in recent years and based on the 2018 Mortgage Consumer Survey, they continue to do so, representing just under half (49%) of first-time buyer respondents. Although this is a decrease from 60% in 2017 and 58% in 2016, Millennials continue to influence and shape the homebuying and mortgage process.
Heres more of what we learned about Millennials and first-time buyers as a whole, powered by the 2018 Mortgage Consumer Survey.
What does the typical first-time buyer profile look like? Forty percent are married, 80% are employed full-time and about one-quarter (26%) have a household income between $60,000 and $90,000. A strong percentage of them were born outside of Canada, with 22% identifying as newcomers to Canada. Mortgage professionals can help meet the unique needs of newcomers with the support of CMHCs homebuying information which is available in 8 different languages.
The top 2 reasons first-time buyers bought a home: they wanted to get a first home and they felt financially ready. Although certain urban markets continue to exhibit high house prices and other barriers to entry, the survey found that 61% of first-time buyers bought a single-detached home. In fact, single-detached home was the top housing type purchased in all regions across Canada, except in British Columbia where condominium apartment was the most popular housing type.
The vast majority (85%) of first-time buyers spent the most they could afford on their home, compared to 68% of repeat buyers. This indicates that first-time buyers, including Millennials, may be stretching themselves financially to purchase their home. When it comes to the down payment, savings from outside an RRSP was the main source for first-time buyers. This suggest there is an opportunity to further educate first-time buyers about other options to help fund their down payment, such as the Government of Canadas Home Buyers Plan (HBP).
To get assistance with the mortgage process, first-time buyers contacted, on average, 2 brokers and 3 lenders. First-time buyer satisfaction levels with mortgage brokers and lenders remains high. However, mortgage professionals could further increase satisfaction levels by conducting more post-transaction follow-up and by providing clients with more information on closing costs, house purchase fees, interest rates, and steps involved in buying a home. CMHCs Step by Step guide is a valuable tool for mortgage professionals to share with homebuyers to ensure they feel confident throughout the entire homebuying process.