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.

What is a cash back mortgage?

Blog Posts David Cooke 12 Dec

Every once in a while, a bank will advertise a cash back mortgage. It sounds great but there are a few things to consider.

When you purchase a home, you may find that you need some extra cash. You may want to renovate, purchase some furniture, or start on building a fence or landscaping.. Fortunately, some Canadian lenders offer mortgages that give you a cash back rebate when you take out your mortgage.
With a cash back mortgage, your lender advances you a cash lump sum when your mortgage closes. The most common sum you receive is 5% of your mortgage amount, but it’s possible to get between 1% and 5% depending on the lender you choose. Note that you receive these funds when the mortgage closes. The funds cannot be used for your down payment, however if you borrowed your down payment you could use the funds to pay back the loan.
This sounds like a great idea but there are some down sides to this type of mortgage. First- you will pay about 1.5% higher interest rate for the duration of the mortgage term. Usually this is a five-year term and if you take a look at how much extra interest you are paying you will find that it takes you five years to pay this sum back to the lender.
Another point to consider is that Canadians move on average every three years. What if you have to break the mortgage? In that case, you owe the lender the usual three months interest or Interest Rate Differential (IRD) as well as the balance of the cash back balance. This could be a very pricey move. If your lender allows it , it’s best to port your mortgage to your new home to avoid the double hit of the penalty and paying the cash back.
A cash back mortgage is a great option but it’s not for everyone. Be sure to tell your mortgage broker if it’s at all possible that you will have to move before your mortgage term is over so that he or she can advise you on what your penalties would be. If you have any questions, contact your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage specialist.

Secrets for building your credit

Blog Posts David Cooke 15 Aug

Over the years, I have come across all sorts of people who have had no idea what their credit score is. Some of them have declared to me that they have great credit only to find that they had poor credit scores or a number of late payments. I have also had people tell me that they had lousy credit only to find that they had a very respectable credit score. People do not know anything about credit and need an expert to help them to build their credit.

When you ask the two major credit reporting agencies, Equifax and Trans Union how they score credit, they give you a vague idea but no idea on how to quickly up your score.

Perhaps you have seen this pie chart that shows how they score different activities I have found out recently that people have higher scores that they had previously and this is due to more emphasis on what you owe now as opposed to your payment history.

Here are some things I have observed over my 12 years of being a mortgage broker.

1- Credit card balance. If you have a credit limit of $1,500 and your balance is at $1,450 you are losing 25-30 points. Having a balance of $0 or using less than 50% of the limit adds points. If you pay the minimum balance you may go over your limit. If you are over your credit limit by $1 you will lose 35 points !

How do you quickly get your score up in this situation? Call your credit card company and tell them that you have a large purchase coming up. Ask them to increase your limit to $2,500. They won’t give you a decision over the phone but often within a week you will receive notification that your balance has been increased. You now have an extra 25 points with one phone call. You can also ask them to lower your interest rate so that you can pay your balance down quicker. Most people don’t realize that credit card companies will do this. You can also move your credit card balance over from a high interest department store card at 26% to a lower interest bank card at 9.95%.

2- Types of credit used – credit agencies want to see proper usage of revolving credit ( i.e.: credit cards) and installment credit (i.e. car loans) . They also want to see that you have over $2,500 in available credit. You probably have a credit card but you may not have an installment loan showing on your credit report. You don’t have to buy a car to get this showing on your report. Consider getting a $1,000 RRSP loan from your bank. Why? Well, $1,000 is a substantial loan. Your bank or credit union will be more willing to lend you money for an RRSP that you may buy from them than they would lending you the money for a gambling junket to Vegas.
The RRSP loan is a win/win for you. Besides increasing your credit score and thickening your credit file you will get a tax refund at the end of the year which can be used towards your down payment. 90 days after you open your RRSP you can use the money towards your down payment under the Home Buyers Program up to a maximum of $25,000.

Credit history – don’t close the old credit card you got in university just because you aren’t using it.
Chances are that this card is still reporting month after month that you have credit with them and that the balance for that month is $0. Finally this brings me to my best tip for building credit.

Payment History – Recently I had a young client who wanted to renew his mortgage. When I obtained his credit report I was surprised to see that he had a 900 credit score. This is the highest score possible and usually it is reserved for older people with 20+ years of credit history. When I asked him how he managed this he told me that the only thing he does differently is that he checks his credit card balance every week and pays it off to $0. I knew that people who paid bi-weekly often had higher scores from having more payments showing in their history but this was the first time I had ever heard of someone paying weekly. I am not certain if it’s the number of payments, the fact that the balance is $0 so many more times or a combination of the two factors.
Recently, using these techniques I was able to raise a client’s credit score by 60 points in one month.

If you want to buy a home and you suspect your credit is weak, your first call should be to a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker. They can check and make suggestions to get your credit score up and to get you into a home a lot sooner than you could do this on your own.

Five things to think about when you buy a rural property

Blog Posts David Cooke 3 Aug

After several years as a home owner, my friend was set to buy the home of his dreams. He always wanted to own an acreage outside of town. He had visions of having a few animals, a small tractor and lots of space.

As a person with experience buying homes he felt that he was ready and that he knew what he was getting into. Wrong. As soon as you consider buying a home outside of a municipality there are a number of things to consider, not the least being how different it is to get a mortgage.

Zoning – is the property zoned “residential”, “agricultural” or perhaps “country residential”?
Some lenders will not mortgage properties that are zoned agricultural. They may even dislike country residential properties. Why? If you default on your mortgage the process of foreclosing on an agricultural property is very different and difficult for lenders. Taking a farm away from a farmer means taking their livelihood away so there are many obstacles to this.
If you are buying a hobby farm, some lenders will object to you having more than two horses or even making money selling hay.

Water and Sewerage – if you are far from a city your water may come from a well and your sewerage may be in a septic tank. A good country realtor will recommend an inspection of the septic tank as a condition on the purchase offer. Be prepared for the inspection to cost more than it cost you in the city. Many lenders will also ask for a pot ability and flow test for the well. A house without water is very hard to sell.

Land – most lenders will mortgage a house, one outbuilding and up to 10 acres of land. Anything above this amount and it will not be considered in the mortgage. In other words, besides paying a minimum of 5% down payment you could end up having to pay out more cash to cover the second out building and the extra land being sold.

Appraisal – your appraisal will cost you more as the appraiser needs to travel farther to see the property. It may also come in low as rural properties do not turn over as quickly as city properties. Be prepared to have to come up with the difference between the selling price and the appraised value of the property.

Fire Insurance – living in the country can be nice but you are also far from fire hydrants and fire stations. Expect to pay more for home insurance.

Finally, if you are thinking about purchasing a home in a rural area, be sure to speak to a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker before you do anything. They can often recommend a realtor who specializes in rural properties and knows the areas better than the #1 top producer in your city or town.

5 reasons the bank may turn you down for a mortgage

Blog Posts David Cooke 24 Jul

Mortgage rules have become stricter over the past few years. Assuming you have a down payment, good credit and a good job, what could prevent you from obtaining financing for a home purchase?
Below are five less obvious reasons a bank may turn you down:

It’s not you, it’s the building
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but even if you’re the perfect candidate for a loan, you can still be rejected by a lender if the building you’re considering flunks a bank’s requirements. There are myriad reasons a building can be rejected, but one possible reason could be the building construction or condition.
In downtown Calgary we have some condos that were built in the 1970’s using a technique called Post Tension. It has been discovered that the steel rods in the walls can corrode over time and the buildings could collapse. Some lenders are okay with an engineer’s report but others won’t consider lending in this type of building. A few years ago a condo was found to have water seeping down between the inner and outer walls from the roof. This resulted in a $70,000 special assessment for each condo owner. Before the problem and the cost were assessed most lenders refused to lend on this property.
If a condominium building does not have a large enough a reserve fund for repairs a lender may want to avoid lending in that building as well.

Your credit doesn’t make the cut
If you have a credit score of 680+ this probably won’t be a problem for you but for first time home buyers with limited credit this can be a major stumbling block to home ownership. Check your credit score before you start your home search.
Not having enough credit can also be a problem. If you have a Visa card with a $300 limit, that won’t cut it. A minimum of 2 credit lines with limits of $2,000 is needed; one revolving credit line such as a credit card and an installment loan such as a car loan or a furniture store loan.
A long forgotten student loan or utility bill from your university days can also cause problems if its showing as a collection.
You’re lacking a paper trail
You have to be able to show where your money comes from. A cash gift of the down payment for your new property without a paper trail isn’t going to fly with the bank. If it is a gift, we need to see the account that the money came from, a gift letter from a family member, and the account the money was deposited into.

Your job
Being self-employed or a consultant comes with its own set of obstacles. But the solution here, too, is about documentation. And be prepared to offer up more documentation than someone with a more permanent income stream. Two years of Notices of Assessment from the CRA will show your average income over a two-year period. This could be a problem if your business had a slow start and then really picked up in year two. The two-year average would be a lot lower than your present income.
Another stumbling block may be how you are paid. Many people in the trucking industry get paid by the mile or the load. Once again a two year NOA average should help.
In Alberta, many people are paid northern allowances, overtime and a series of pay incentives not seen in other industries. This can be a problem if you do not have a two-year history.
When you apply for a mortgage you need to stay at your position at least until after your home purchase is complete. Making a job change with a 90 day probation means you will need to be past your probation before the mortgage closes. If you make a career change , you may need to be in your new industry for a least a year before a lender will consider giving you a loan.
The property’s appraisal value is too low
This often happens in a fast moving market. The appraisers base their value on previously sold homes on the market in the last 90 days. If prices have gone up quickly your home value may not be in line with the appraisers value. If the home you want to purchase is going for $500,000 and the appraised value is $480,000, you have to come up with $20,000 PLUS the 5% down payment in order to make the deal work.
Finally, with all the potential problems that can arise, it’s best to contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker before you start the home search to make sure that you have your ducks in a row.

Mortgage brokers are super heroes

Blog Posts David Cooke 12 Jul

Mortgage brokers have a reputation as superheroes. Although we cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound we can do extraordinary things.

Is the down payment money coming from outside of Canada? I had a client who had a joint account with her father in Japan. She showed me bank statements with the money in the account and leaving Japan. I had another bank statement showing the funds coming into her Canadian account. Finally I showed the foreign exchange rate for that day from Yen to CAD. The bank accepted this as a suitable paper trail.

An unusual down payment source? I had a client who sold his vintage Cadillac for his his down payment. A copy of the registration, the bill of sale and a bank statement showing the funds going into his account was deemed fine by the bank.

Is your down payment coming from multiple sources? I recently had two brothers purchasing a home together. They both had their money in RRSP’s and TFSAs. It took some explaining but we were able to show all the down payment and closing costs coming from four different sources.

Several years ago I had a client defaulting on two mortgages. Foreclosure was just days away.

I was able to consolidate the two mortgages, pay them out and get a reasonable payment schedule for one year. After the year , I moved him to a regular lender and arranged for a line of credit so that he could pay for some home renovations with a low interest rate secured against his home.

I had a couple who wanted to buy a home. The husband had had a business failure and it had affected his credit. I could only use the wife’s credit and her income for this purchase. She was a foster mother with six children. Her income was good but not high enough. I was able to get the lender to gross up her income by 25%, as her income was tax free. This was enough for them to buy a large home for the couple and their foster children.

Small towns can also pose unique problems. I had a client who wanted to refinance his home. I checked his credit report and found a credit card that he did not have. He told me that there were five people with his name in this small town. He also revealed that he had an account at Home Hardware that was not reporting on the credit bureau. The manager was a friend and thought that the loan would hurt his credit so they made an informal arrangement to pay it off.

Did I mention that he had three jobs? He worked as a tire installer, and invoiced the company from his firm. I was able to get a lender to accept this client his varied income and got the mortgage . Come to think of it , perhaps mortgage brokers are superheroes. If you have a difficult situation the best person to speak to is a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional, if it can be done legally, a broker can do it.

Industry initials explained

Blog Posts David Cooke 12 Jun

Image Source: www.gotcredit.com

Many of us will remember the television show, Mork and Mindy.

Imagine that you have just moved to Canada and you overhear a conversation, “ I was watching NBC and they said that the FBI arrested a criminal at IGA.”

You probably wouldn’t understand what they said because we all use acronyms. We often replace the long descriptions for many organizations, institutions and government bodies with the initials or short forms in conversations. The show was based on Mork, an alien, misunderstanding terms, expressions and common traditions that we have in our society. It made for a funny show but it’s not so funny if you are new to Canada or want to make the largest purchase in your life.

Imagine this same person speaking to a realtor or a mortgage broker when they started using abbreviations for words used in their industry. As a public service to any of you who may have recently arrived from a foreign county or another planet, I am going to define a few expressions that we all take for granted.

AMORTIZATION – How long you have to pay off the mortgage on a home. Typically in Canada you have 25 years. In Japan it can be 99 years. Payments are spread out equally over the specified time period . If they were not, you would have huge payments in the first few years and very small ones in the last 6 months of your mortgage term.

DOWN –  short for down payment. A deposit of 5% minimum is required for a home purchase.

FLEX DOWN – a borrowed down payment program, where the repayment of the loan is included in the debt calculations.

PULL – “He pulled my credit before the loan approval “ – a pull is a credit bureau report inquiry.

TRADE LINES –  a trade line is a credit card or cellphone  account, a loan or mortgage that appears on your credit report.

DEROGS – short for derogatory , referring to late payments on your credit report.

20/20 – refer to your ability to repay 20% of the mortgage balance or increase your payment by 20% without incurring a penalty.

MIC – short for a Mortgage Investment Corporation – a group of investors who will lend you the money for a mortgage if a traditional lender will not due to unusual circumstances.

TERM – although mortgages have 25 year amortizations, Canadians traditionally take terms of 1- 5 years and then renegotiate their mortgages. 1-5 years is the TERM.

DEFAULT – failing to pay your mortgage on time puts your mortgage into DEFAULT

FORECLOSESURE – If your mortgage is in default you can make your payments up or the lender will put your home in FORECLOSEURE and you will lose your home.

OPEN MORTGAGE – a mortgage where you can pay out the mortgage at any time during the term.

CLOSED MORTGAGE –a mortgage where you have agreed to pay the lender for a specified period of time . If you wish to terminate the mortgage, a penalty will have to be paid.

PIT – principal, interest and taxes – an amount  used to calculate how much  you  can afford to pay monthly on your home.  Often heat is also included in this calculation (PITH) .

High Ratio – a mortgage where the buyer has less than 20% for the down payment and needs to pay CMHC fees to insure it.

CONVENTIONAL – a mortgage where the buyer has 20% or more down payment or equity in their home.

While I have not covered all the terms you may encounter I hope that I have covered most of them.

If you find yourself talking to a mortgage broker who is using business expressions you should feel free to remind them that you are not in the industry and would like to the terms explained. Any broker worth their salt will be very happy to explain these terms to you. There are many Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professionals who are more than happy to answer your questions.

Thinking outside of the box – blanket mortgages

Blog Posts David Cooke 29 May

When someone calls me up out of the blue for a mortgage , I often ask them, “Why did you call me?”
Often the reply is that a family member suggested it. I then ask, “Do you know what I do?”
Once again , I will get a reply that they aren’t sure. I will then explain to them that while banks do mortgages, they don’t specialize in them. They also do deposits, GIC’s, RRSP’s , insurance ,car loans etc.
I only do mortgages, day after day. As a result, I have more experience in unusual situations and we are getting more of them all the time. Sometimes you need to think outside of the box.
Here’s an example, Sally and Ted want to buy a home but they don’t have a down payment. A recent study found that 37 per cent of young Canadians count on the Bank of Mom and Dad for their down payment.
Unfortunately in many cases, Mom and Dad would like to help them out but they don’t have the cash.
They own their home or have a low mortgage balance but their savings are tied up . This is where thinking outside of the box comes in handy. A blanket mortgage is a mortgage that covers the subject property and another property that has sufficient equity in it to carry both properties. If the parents are willing, a mortgage can be placed on the parents  home and the new home. If the property value for the two homes is more than 80 per cent of the mortgage amount the new home can be purchased without the young couple having to save a down payment and pay expensive CMHC fees.

What risks or down sides are there to this idea? If Mom and Dad want to sell their home and move to Arizona, the children will have to get a new mortgage to cover their home. There may be penalties for breaking the mortgage which will have to be paid. There’s also the risk that the children may fall behind on their mortgage due to layoffs or maternity leaves and that could jeopardize the parent’s home.

Is a blanket mortgage a good idea for everyone? No. Discuss your issues with your mortgage broker and they may find this to be the best solution for you or they may suggest something else is better for you.

Why You Should Speak To Your Mortgage Broker Before You Sell Your Home

Blog Posts David Cooke 12 Apr

While many people will speak to a mortgage broker before buying a home, few people call a mortgage broker before selling a home. Calling could save you thousands of dollars and many sleepless nights.

Why? Brokers understand mortgages and ask the right questions. How long do you have remaining in your present mortgage? Do you know if it’s portable to a new property? Have you heard of increase and blend? A mortgage broker can help you to anticipate a penalty to break your present mortgage and see if porting or taking your mortgage to your new property is a good idea. Need more money? Blend and Increase will allow you to increase your mortgage amount and blend the old rate with the present day rate and save you thousands in penalties.

If you are at the stage in life where you have children leaving for university and you are down-sizing, perhaps a line of credit might be useful for helping to pay tuition and dorm fees.

While you may like your home it may need a new roof. Most home buyers do not want a fixer-upper and will discount your selling price to account for this. It may be easier to get the price you want and sell faster if you replace the roof, furnace or whatever is old yourself. The problem is that you are saving money for a down payment. Your mortgage broker can come to the rescue with a line of credit, either secured or unsecured which can be paid out with the home sale. In short, “we’ve got a mortgage for that!”.

Remember, calling your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker before buying is a no-brainer but why not call them before you sell.

Why I Recommend Title Insurance

Blog Posts David Cooke 16 Aug

As a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker, I often see in the lender’s conditions sheet a request for the lawyer to obtain title insurance. We all know that this is a measure to protect the lender and to allow for the deal to proceed if there is a delay with the title or the other lawyer.

However, did you know that title insurance is also available for the new home buyer? Why would you recommend that they spend more money when they have already have to provide a down payment, pay legal fees and moving expenses? It’s the right thing to do.

Title insurance protects you from unknown defaults in the title. This is coming up more and more now that people who bought homes in the 1960’s and 70’s are moving into retirement homes after many years in these homes. You may not realize that in 1973 Mr. Jones made a verbal agreement with his neighbour Mr. Smith to allow his garage roof to straddle the property line. Now the neighbours want you to move the roof over 6 inches to comply with their property survey. Who pays for this? Fortunately, if you have title insurance with either FCT or Stewart Title, they would.

Another very important reason to consider title insurance even when you own the property free and clear is identity theft.

There was a very enterprising fraudster operating in southern Alberta a few years ago. He would search land titles for properties in rural areas where the owners had no mortgages or liens. He would then go into a bank posing as the property owner and ask to re-finance the property. If it was worth $500,000, he would ask for $200,000. He would then say that he was going to Arizona for 3 months and wanted to pay his first 3 months on the mortgage up front.

The bank rep would be impressed by the fraudster’s responsible behavior and agree to accept the pre-payment. The fraudster would put a few more deals like this and then leave well before the 3 months was up. The property owner would then be contacted by the bank asking for the late payment in month 4 and would have no idea he had been a victim of fraud. If he was fortunate enough to have title insurance, the insurer would pay for his legal representation and settle the claim with the lender.

I recommend title insurance to my clients for all the above reasons but by mentioning this to them I am also showing my clients that I want to protect them. It’s one more way Dominion Lending Centres can differentiate ourselves from the banks.