With ultra-low interest rates all over the news, it’s no wonder that’s what people focus on. But they shouldn’t, say experts Jorge and Alisa Aragon
It is interesting that, time after time, when you ask someone “What is the most important thing about a mortgage?” they respond by saying “the rate”. This was exactly the answer we got at a networking event last week when we asked that question.
The reason why people focus on “the rate” is because that is the only thing you hear on the news. Last week, it was all over the news that both BMO and TD announced that they have dropped their five-year rate. Then the talk around the watercooler is “What is the rate on your mortgage?” or “I just got 2.74 per cent for five years”. There are other lenders that mortgage experts work with that have being offering lower rates than that for weeks.
But it’s not about “the rate” – or it shouldn’t be. While the rate is an important component of a mortgage, it is not the main thing you should focus on. You should be focusing on what is the best mortgage for your individual needs that provides a great rate but most importantly the best terms and conditions.
By understanding mortgage terms and what they mean in dollars and cents, you can save the most money and choose the term that is best suited to your specific needs.
So What Should You Consider When Looking for a Mortgage?
- Pre-payment penalties. All closed mortgages have the pre-payment clause that says that is you pay off your mortgage before the end of the term, you would have to pay a penalty calculated based on the greater of the IRD (interest rate differential) or the three-month interest penalty. However, there are some lenders that they are offering lower rates and in addition to the above penalties they are also including a 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent penalty (depending on the lender), which ever one is greater. In addition, since there is no magic formula to determine the penalty, each bank has its own calculation formula. Most banks determine the rate you pay based on the posted rate minus the discount you receive. However, at the time to calculate the pre-payment penalty they use the posted rate.
- Pre-payment options. The pre-payments without penalty clause is one of the conditions that can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage. This clause allows you to make payments on the principal of your loan, or increase the amount of your periodic payments (monthly, bi-monthly, etc.) without a penalty. Each lender has different programs for pre-payments, they usually vary from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. For example, you can pay any amount within the approved percentage of the original value of your mortgage, or increase your periodic payments once a year, without paying a penalty. Many people don’t take advantage of this clause because it is generally difficult to save the extra money to make additional lump sum payments, but they can certainly increase their payments up to 20 per cent. By doing this it will help you reduce your amortization period and pay more money toward principal than interest.
- How your mortgage is registered – collateral or conventional mortgage.
o With a conventional mortgage, the amount you are borrowing (property value minus down payment) is the amount that’s registered. But with a collateral mortgage, the amount that's registered is 100-125 per cent of the property value, and the lender has both a promissory note and a lien registered against the property for the total registered amount. The advantage of a collateral mortgage is easy access to credit. Since the mortgage is already registered for a larger amount than you need to buy the house, you can access additional funds in the future without any extra steps or legal fees. However, there are also several downsides of collateral mortgages especially if you are putting less than 20 per cent down payment. The reason being is that with the current mortgage rules you are not able to refinance your mortgage unless you have more than 20 per cent of equity in your home. Therefore, unless your home dramatically increases in value in the next five years you will not be refinancing anytime soon.
o Free transfers or switches to a new lender when your term is up aren’t usually available. Most other lenders don’t like the fine print and restrictions of collateral mortgages and won’t accept them unless they’re a refinance, which costs you legal, discharge fees and possible appraisal fees.
o You could end up paying a higher interest rate at renewal. If your collateral mortgage makes it difficult to switch lenders at renewal, you don’t have the ability to shop around for the best rate. That could end up costing you up to 1 per cent more on your mortgage rate.
Therefore, before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that it is clearly explain to you what are the terms and conditions of the mortgage you are getting. If you are not comfortable with the answers you are getting or if they are not taking the time to explain the details of the mortgage take a step back.
That is why it is important that you work with someone that you trust, feel comfortable with and know that they are looking out for your best interest. Mortgage experts have access to multiple lenders – including banks, credit unions and other lenders that only work with brokers – which will ensure that we find the best mortgage for your individual needs. After all, we work for you and not for the banks.