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Buyer beware

Last week I ran into a situation with clients who didn’t understand what they were signing. The fallout has been expensive for them.

The clients are selling a home in Toronto and moving to the Okanagan for a well-deserved retirement. They both grew up in B.C. and knew they wanted to move back at some point. They came out for an exploratory trip and found a patio home in Osoyoos that checked all their boxes.

They wrote an offer with a fairly standard two-week financing subject clause but they did not add a clause to make the offer subject to the sale of their home in Toronto.

They went home to Toronto and lined up financing with their bank, including a provision for bridge financing in case the sale of their home did not close before their purchase was scheduled to close. They listed their home for sale the first day they were back in Toronto. Two weeks flew by with a few viewings but no offers on their home.

In the meantime, a backup offer came in on the home in Osoyoos. My clients still had six weeks before they were supposed to close on the new home. They asked their realtor in Ontario how likely it was that their home would sell in the next few weeks. He told them it would absolutely sell, no concerns whatsoever.

And he said even if it didn’t sell, their would be options for financing.

Based on their realtor’s confidence, they removed the subject to financing clause and went firm on their purchase in the Okanagan.

One week went by. Two weeks went by. Three weeks went by.

Fast forward to 10 days before closing on their new home. Crickets. Not so much as an offer, even a lowball offer, for them to consider.

They called their bank and asked what to do to line up alternative financing. The bank sent them to a broker in Ontario who reached out to me. Based on their circumstances and the tight turnaround time, their options were limited. Most private lenders prefer larger centres and many private lenders are tapped out right now as more and more clients have had to go the private route.

After an incredibly hectic and stressful week, the clients did complete the purchase on their new home.

I mentioned at the beginning of the story that this was an expensive journey for the clients. Due to the request being so last-minute, the private lender that did provide an approval and charged an extra fee for the rush. The lawyers charged almost double for the rush. The clients now have a $3,500 a month payment on the new home, plus the mortgage payment on their current home until the current home sells. At minimum, this cost the clients more than $40,000, an amount that could have been avoided.

Over the last few years, rolling the dice on selling a home would still have been a dicey move but odds were in the sellers’ favour that their home would sell, usually quickly and often with multiple offers.With the rapid increase in interest rates however, the market has definitely cooled, making this a very risky proposition.

In previous columns I’ve talked about investors choosing to walk away from properties, and risk being sued as they felt that would be less of a hit than moving forward with a purchase where the value of the property had dropped so much. In this case, I truly feel the clients did not understand the implications of their decision to go firm without a sale in the works.

If you are considering making a move now (or ever), I cannot stress enough the importance of working with a mortgage professional that you trust. Try your best to take the emotion out of the home-buying process and consider the possible consequences if you move forward without a firm sale in place.

There will always be other homes. Losing a significant chunk of the money you have worked hard for can really put a dent in your pocketbook.

Make sure you have someone who you trust to help guide you through the process.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Interest rate increases – Are we done yet?

Rising cost of mortgages

While many in the mortgage world anticipated rates to increase this year, I don’t think anyone expected them to increase so much and so quickly.

What we’ve seen is unprecedented. If you are in a fixed rate mortgage these rate increases won’t affect you until you reach the end of your current term. At that point you will need to carefully consider where rates are at the time and decide whether you are going to opt for a fixed rate again, and if so for how long.

If you are currently in a variable mortgage there are a couple of things that may be happening for you right now. If you are in an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), your mortgage payment will have increased as prime has increased. That means that your remaining amortization is still on track.

It likely also means, however, you are starting to feel a pinch when making your mortgage payment. I know, I’m in an ARM and my payment has increased by more than $500 per month since March.

If you are in a variable rate mortgage (VRM), your mortgage payment will have stayed the same despite the rate increases but you are now at a tipping point, where the payment you are making may not even be covering the interest due on your mortgage. That can potentially mean either you are no longer paying down any of the principal balance or the principal balance is increasing.

That means the remaining amortization (length of time to pay off your mortgage) will be increasing as well.

For clients who are in VRMs, they are reaching what is known as the “trigger” rate (the tipping point I mentioned above). Financial institutions are starting to reach out to those clients to make alternate arrangements to make their mortgage payments.

Some of the options presented will likely include:

• Increasing your payment based on the current variable rate to bring the payment back to the point that it is paying down principal again.

• Make a lump sum payment and keep your payment the same.

• Convert to a fixed rate which will be increased to keep your amortization on track.

Whether you are in a VRM or an ARM, the increases to your mortgage payments smart.

Before you consider a knee-jerk reaction of locking into a five-year, fixed term, it is important to ask yourself why you are in a variable mortgage in the first place.

It is also important to do some serious thinking about your plans for the next few years.

While locking in for a longer term may feel attractive after how unsettling this year has been, if you are anticipating any kind of a major change to your life or your financial situation it may be a wise choice to stick with your original plan of the variable mortgage.

I am seeing a fair number of people choosing shorter, fixed terms in anticipation of rates softening again.

As a positive sign, I am starting to see rate specials posted by multiple lenders. This week, my favourite lender dropped its five-year fixed rate (for insured mortgages) from 5.84% to 5.44% and then again to 5.29%.

I think we will see rates drop a bit more before the next rate announcement on Dec. 7.

If you are struggling with the increased payments on your mortgage, I urge you to reach out to your mortgage person as soon as possible.

Lenders do not want to be in the foreclosure business, so most are open to working with their clients to find a solution that provides some relief and stability

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Fixed or variable mortgages in a time of interest hikes

Rising mortgage rates

Last weekend I attended the mortgage professionals conference in Vancouver. My goal was to take in as many professional development sessions as possible because I’m finding we are moving forward in a very strange interest rate environment.

Ironically, and I never thought I’d ever say this, the session I got the most from (and arguably enjoyed the most) was the presentation by Benjamin Tal. Tal is the managing director and deputy chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets Inc.

He spoke about his thoughts on our current rate environment, the forces driving the Bank of Canada’s economic policies, and where he felt rates will go.

He also spoke about the unprecedented rate hikes we’ve seen this year. The Bank of Canada is trying desperately to curb inflation and he thought the bank has gone too far and has overreached with the rate hikes this year.

I am a fan of variable rate mortgages. One of the key factors that influences this is the cost of breaking your mortgage early. If you need to pay your mortgage in full and it doesn’t make sense (or doesn’t work) to port your current mortgage, the maximum penalty you will be charged is three months’ interest.

With a fixed mortgage, the penalty to break your mortgage is normally the greater of either the interest rate differential (IRD) or three months’ interest. Investopedia.ca shows how an IRD penalty is calculated:

“An IRD weighs the contrast in interest rates between two similar interest-bearing assets. Most often it is the difference between two interest rates.”

This type of penalty can be substantial. I’m currently working with a client who is selling a luxury property whose current mortgage is up for renewal. It is a sizeable mortgage and he is understandably concerned about the volatility of mortgage interest rates right now.

I did the math for him. Had he locked into a five-year fixed-rate mortgage, based on where rates are now and the balance of his mortgage, his penalty was in the range of $32,000. The variable rate penalty, again based on today’s balance and rate, would be around $6,000. So for this particular client who is absolutely going to be selling his home in the next year the potential increase in payment due to rising rates was a far more palatable option than a penalty in the $32,000 range.

All this aside, for many Canadians in variable mortgages the incredible rate hikes we’ve seen this year make a massive dent in their monthly budget. It’s really tempting to think about locking into a fixed rate product for the stability of the payment.

One consideration is how you will feel if you lock into a rate in the mid to high five per cent range when rates start to move down again. Will you sleep better at night knowing you have the security of a fixed payment? Are you losing sleep thinking about where rates are going?

I recommend you think about why you chose variable in the first place. You likely enjoyed really low rates for the first part of your term and will very likely enjoy lower rates towards the end of your term as rates start to trend down again.

I guess I should have started with that. Tal’s take is that we are in for another significant rate hike very soon but he feels rates will stabilize next year and start trending down again towards the end of next year or early 2024.

One option is splitting the difference. There are lenders who offer true variable mortgages with a static payment. This means that regardless of where rates move your payment stays the same. I should say, it stays the same until the increase in rate means you aren’t paying enough to cover the interest due which in turn will affect your amortization.

You would have to pay a three-month interest penalty to break your current mortgage to switch to a lender that offers a static payment. Most lenders will allow you to capitalize up to $3,000 of your penalty into your new mortgage (more if you do a refinance instead of a straight switch, providing you have enough equity for this to work).

Going this route you will still enjoy the benefit of a variable rate mortgage once rates start moving down again, without worrying about potential penalties if you have to pay out your mortgage unexpectedly.

If you’d like to chat about this, and see if it’s a fit for you, I am happy to do a mortgage check-up and offer some insight.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Is a cash-back mortgage right for you?

Cash-back mortgages

With rates rising and house prices dropping slowly, I’m finding some clients are having a tougher time qualifying right now.

I feel like I have been saying the same thing for different reasons over the last few years.

A significant number of the clients I work with live in northern B.C. I was chatting with a realtor in Fort St John this week and shared that the challenge finding financing for northern clients is slightly different (sweeping generalization here) than clients in the Okanagan.

I have not done statistical research, so I am speaking based on my experience with my clients in both areas, and my comments don’t apply to clients across the board in either area as there are always exceptions.

In northern B.C., in resource-based communities, I regularly see family incomes of $150,000 or more. In the Okanagan, I see family incomes more in the $75,000 to $90,000 range.

House prices are of course very different in various parts of the province. In Mackenzie, I have clients buying fully renovated family homes with large yards for under $200,000. In Smithers and Fort St John prices run between $400,000 and $500,000 for similar homes.

In the Okanagan. I’m noticing more of price drop but similar homes to what I’ve just described are still well over $700,000.

What evens the playing field is lifestyle choice.

In northern B.C., it’s rare for me to work on an application where the clients don’t own several “toys” (trailers, quads, boats, etc) which usually come with loan payments. Although some clients in the Okanagan also have those items, I find more of my applicants might have a vehicle payment and otherwise limited credit usage.

This week, I’m working with first-time buyers in northern B.C. I took their application and was pleased to see all of their toys but one were owned outright. They did, however, finance a brand-new, shiny pickup truck three months ago to the tune of $80,000, or $1,350 per month.

Then he was offered an amazing opportunity in a different community. They have been saving for a down payment, so have their down payment and closing costs taken care of.

They found a home they love but with the new truck payment and the quad payment their ratios are a little high.

For these clients, we will be working with a lender that offers a cash-back program. They will be getting three per cent of the mortgage balance as cash at the time of closing.That cash will be used to pay off their quad loan. Win-win.

As a rule, I am not a huge fan of cash-back mortgages.

There is one particular chartered bank that really promotes its cash-back option, but if the borrowers need to pay the mortgage out early for any reason (before their initial five-year term is up) they have to repay every single penny of the cash-back funds, regardless of how long they have been paying on the mortgage.

The lender I took these clients to also offers three per cent cash back, and if clients have to pay the mortgage off before the initial five-year term is up, they have to repay a portion of the cash-back funds, but on a sliding scale depending on how long they have had the mortgage.

The key takeaway here is if you are considering a cash-back mortgage program, it is important you understand the fine print. Life happens so a little time researching up front may save aggravation down the road.

For these particular clients the mortgage is the right fit.

If you are looking at applying for a mortgage in the near future, I suggest holding off on any purchases that require financing until you’ve had a chance to work with your mortgage person to see how a new loan payment might affect your borrowing power.

If you’d like to play with numbers to see what you qualify for, and how a potential loan payment might affect your borrowing power, feel free to download the link to My Mortgage Planner.

If you are able to hold off on a purchase until you are into your new home, you will likely find it easier to arrange mortgage financing.

Happy Thanksgiving.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tracy Head and Laurie Baird help busy families find mortgage solutions. Together they have more than 45 years of experience in the mortgage industry.

With today’s increasingly complicated mortgage rules, Tracy and Laurie spend time getting to know the people they work with and help them to better understand the mortgage process. They support their clients before, during, and after their mortgage is in place.

Tracy and Laurie work closely with their clients, offering advice and options. With access to more than 40 different lenders, Tracy and Laurie are able to assist with residential, commercial, and reverse mortgages in order to match the needs of their clients with the right mortgage package.

They work closely with their clients to find the right fit, and are around to provide support for years down the road!

Contact them at 250-862-1806 or visit www.okanaganmortgages.com

Visit their blog at www.okanaganmortgages.com/blog


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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