How the mortgage industry became green

Blog Posts David Cooke 27 Feb

When I started working as a broker in 2005, the mortgage industry and the financial industry in general weren’t very eco-friendly. Let’s face it. When someone buys a home, there’s a paper trail. Starting with the mortgage pre-approval which can run four pages,  the Offer to Purchase, which is another 12 pages, income documents, notices of assessment, appraisal, and MLS listing condo documentation to add to the pile of paper. Often you would end up with a stack of paper 50-60 pages high. I needed a copy, the lender needed a copy and then my broker needed to keep a copy on file for seven years. I found that I was going to Staples and buying a case of 5,000 sheets of paper every year. I recall going to my broker’s office and seeing the admin assistant struggling to find a place to put another big box of files as the storage room was full.
What a difference a few years makes. Lenders started to accept documents in PDF format, saving us from faxing them, while brokers and lenders started to use secure servers to store the documents and the paper pile dropped for me from 5,000 sheets a year to less than 500. With photo scanning apps on phones, I expect that the paperwork will continue to shrink.
However, there are other signs of greening in the financial sector. Products like CMHC’s Purchase plus Improvements allow us to encourage our clients to change their windows and doors for more energy efficient ones, adding insulation and putting the renovations into their mortgage. In addition, if the repairs result in an Ener-guide reading of more than 82, or if they buy a new Built Green Canada home, they can qualify for a 15% rebate in their mortgage default insurance premiums.
We may not be building windmills or using solar power, but the Mortgage Industry has definitely become greener in the past decade. If you have any questions, contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional near you.

6 Reasons To Get A Home Inspection Before You Buy

Blog Posts David Cooke 23 Feb

Image Source: Mark Moz

In an active housing market sometimes buyers are urged by their realtors to make an offer with no conditions. As a mortgage broker this always makes my heart skip a beat. I know from experience that financing can go sideways and you need to be sure it’s in place before removing conditions.
Another item that should not be forgotten is a house inspection. You may have a good eye for décor but house inspections are not for amateurs. We have all heard, “Never judge a book by its cover” so why would you make the most important purchase in your life without checking it out? This may be the best $300-$500 you ever spent. Here’s why.

#1 – It provides an out for the home buyer.
Sometimes hidden structural issues like a cracked foundation or saggy beams can mean expensive repairs. If the price can’t be re-negotiated then you have a way to walk away from an expensive mistake.
A few years ago I had a client who I preapproved for a mortgage. He found the perfect house in south east Calgary and made an offer which was accepted. He then ordered a house inspection while I arranged the mortgage. The inspector came back and told my client that there were 10 things he could see in the house that indicated that it had been used as a grow op. My client used this to break the contract and went on to buy another home without any problems.

#2 – Revealing illegal additions or improper renovations
If the DIY seller wired the house improperly or used sub-standard materials your home insurance could be null and void if you had something happen in the future. The home inspector for my first home noticed that the indoor outdoor carpet in the master bedroom had been glued to the hardwood, something that resulted in a multi-day project we were not counting on.

#3 Safety and Structural issues
Inspectors go up into the attic , and down into the farthest reaches of the basement and can spot things like mold, holes in the chimney, improper wiring or improperly vented fans.

#4 – Aiding in the planning for future maintenance expenses
Unless the home is brand new you will need to replace a number of things; water heaters last 6-10 years, roofs about 20 years , furnaces about 25 years. . The report will include an estimate on the remaining life for each of these expensive items which will give you time to save for their eventual replacement.

#5 Bargaining power
If you find something that will cost a considerable amount to replace or repair you can go back to the seller’s agent and ask for a reduction in the price. A leaky roof may cost $3000 to replace. Perhaps the seller would split the cost with you? It’s worth asking.

#6 Peace of Mind
Finally, for your own peace of mind. When you have spent all your hard earned cash on a home and will be paying it off for 20+ years, it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that the house won’t come tumbling down on you or that you paid too much .
While an inspection cuts into your budget at a time when you need all the cash you can get, you will find it is money well spent. NOTE: If you live in an area where housing prices are rising quickly your appraisal may come in low as the property is appraised based on sales in the previous 90 days. Ask your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker and your realtor if this is the case for your area.

What’s an acceptable down payment for a house?

Blog Posts David Cooke 13 Feb

Ask people this question and you will get a variety of answers.  Most home owners will say 10% is what you should put down. However, if you speak with your grandparents, they are likely to suggest that 20% is what you need for a down payment.

The truth is 5% is the minimum down payment that you can make on a home in Canada. If you are planning on buying a $200,000 home then you need $10,000.

It all can be explained by the creation of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing corporation (CMHC) by the Canadian government on January 1st, 1946. Before this time, you needed to have 20% down payment to purchase a home . This made home ownership difficult for many Canadians. CMHC  was created to ease home ownership. This was done by offering mortgage default insurance. Basically what CMHC does is it guarantees that you will not default on your mortgage payments. If you do, they will reimburse the lender who gave you the mortgage up to 100% of what the homeowner borrowed. In return lenders allow you to purchase a home with a smaller down payment and a lower interest rate.

CMHC charges an insurance premium for this service to cover any losses that may occur from defaulted mortgages. This program was so successful that CMHC lowered the minimum down payment to 5% in the 1980’s.

However, if you have little credit history or some late payments in the past they may ask you to provide 10% instead of the tradition 5% if they feel there is a risk that you may default at some time.

You should also be aware that the more money you put down, the lower your monthly mortgage payments will be. You also can save thousands in mortgage default insurance premiums by putting 20% down.  At this time,  home buyers who put 5% down have to pay a fee of 4% to CMHC or one of the other mortgage default insurers to obtain home financing. On a $400,000 home this is close to $16,000.

If you can provide a 10% down payment the insurance premium falls to 3.10% and if you can provide 20% it drops to zero.  While 20% can seem like an impossible amount to save, you can use a combination of savings, a gift from family and/or a portion of your RRSP savings to achieve this figure. The best recommendation that I can make is to speak with your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional to discuss your options and where to start on your home buying adventure.