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.
How to tell between a real CRA call and a scam
(NC) Many of us have heard of scammers pretending to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. You may have even received a call or email yourself. But how do you know what you can trust?
Avoiding this common scam is easier when you know what the agency will and wont do. The agency will never threaten you with immediate arrest or jail for a tax debt, and never uses text or instant messaging to communicate about taxes. It will never demand that you settle tax debt by buying gift cards or prepaid credit cards, or using cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, or offer to pay you a refund by e-transfer.
Remain vigilant when you receive communication from someone claiming to be from the CRA, especially when asked for personal information such as a social insurance, credit card, bank account or passport number. If you are unsure that the person on the phone is a legitimate agency employee, ask for the agents phone number and badge number and call 1-800-959-8281 to validate the caller.
If you receive a call demanding immediate payment, take time to think it over. If you believe it was legitimate, you can check the status of your account online.
If you use online or telephone services, you can further protect yourself by keeping your access codes, user ID, passwords and PINs secret, and changing them frequently. Enabling email notifications for online CRA accounts will notify you by email of changes to them, warning you of potentially fraudulent activity.
Finally, suspicious phone calls or messages can be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by telephone. If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, contact your local police.
Find more information at canada.ca/taxes.
Home prices accelerate in February
In February the TeranetNational Bank National Composite House Price IndexTM was up 0.5% from the previous month, an acceleration from the January increase after three consecutive months of slowing. The advance was led by four of the 11 constituent markets: Halifax (2.3%), Hamilton (1.1%), Vancouver (0.8%) and Quebec City (0.7%). Rises of less than the countrywide average were reported for Montreal (0.5%), Victoria (0.4%), Calgary (0.4%) and Toronto (0.4%). The index for Winnipeg was flat on the month. Down from the month before were the indexes for Edmonton (0.1%) and Ottawa-Gatineau (0.5%). After three months, from September to November last fall, in which all 11 markets of the composite index were up from the month before, February was a third consecutive month in which one or more markets were down on the month.
The February rise is consistent with the increase in the number of home sales over the last several months reported by the Canadian Real Estate Association. For a sixth straight month, the number of sale pairs entering into the 11 metropolitan indexes was higher than a year earlier. The unsmoothed composite index, seasonally adjusted, was up 1.1% in February, suggesting that the uptrend of the published (smoothed) index could persist.
Source: National Bank