28 Aug

NEED AN APPRAISAL – 7½ TIPS FOR SUCCESS

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

Do you need to get a current value of your property? Then you are going to need an appraisal.

Banks and other lending institutions want to know the “current” market value of your home before they consider loaning money on the property. An appraiser checks the general condition of your home and compares your home to other similar homes which have recently sold in order to define a comparable market value for your home.

Here are 7½ tips that can help you get top current market value.

Short version – Prepare your home as if it was going to be sold!!

Long version… If a picture is worth a thousand words, think what kind of story the pictures from your home are telling?

In the world of mortgages, lenders seldom set foot on the property before making a loan decision.

Instead, they rely on their trusted list of approved appraisers. All a lender usually gets is the appraiser’s pictures of your property and their comments about how your home was appraised.

Tip #1 – Clean up. The appraiser is basing the value of your property on how good it looks. Before the appraisal, prepare your home as if you’re selling it. Clean and declutter every room, vacuum, and scrub. Do whatever you can to make your home as presentable as possible.
Tip #2 – Pay attention to curb appeal. An appraisal is all about first impressions. And the very first one the appraiser gets is when they walk up to your property. Spend an hour or two making sure the outside of your house, townhouse or condo is warm and welcoming.

Tip #3 – The appraiser must be able to see every room of the home, no exceptions. Refusal to allow an appraiser to see any room will be noted in the appraisal can be a game stopper. There are times when it is not appropriate for the appraiser to take pictures of certain things and appraisers and lenders understand this, but refusal to grant access could kill your deal.

Tip #4 – Make a list of upgrades and features. It’s important that the appraiser is made aware of any updates you’ve made, especially those which are hidden, like new plumbing and electrical. If possible, give the appraiser this list. That way they have a reference as to what has been updated and how recent or professional that work was done.

Tip #5 – If you need to spend to update, be prudent. Many people think “bathrooms and kitchens” are the answer for getting high prices on home value. They aren’t. First, consider that kitchen and bathroom remodels can be some of the priciest reno costs. For that reason, it may be more prudent to spend a bit of money, for just a bit of updating. Paint, new flooring, new light or plumbing fixtures don’t break the bank, but can provide a dramatic impact and improve your home’s value.

Tip #6 – You know your neighbourhood better than your appraiser does. Find out what similar homes in your neighbourhood have sold for. Your property might look like one down the street, but if you believe the value of your property is worth more, let them know why.

Tip #7 – Lock up your pets. I’m sure most appraisers like pets, but some may be put off by your cat rubbing against their leg or the dog barking or following them around.

Tip #7½ – One last tip – don’t annoy the appraiser with questions and comments and follow them around. Instead, simply be prepared to answer any of their questions and, if you do have concerns or queries, wait until they’ve completed their viewing of the property, then ask.

Mortgages are complicated, but they don’t have to be… Engage a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage expert!

By Kelly Hudson

22 Aug

STRESS TEST RATE & RECENT DECREASE

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

Currently, all borrowers in Canada need to qualify for a new mortgage at the current Bank of Canada Benchmark Qualifying Rate or at their approved mortgage interest rate plus 2.0%, whichever is higher.

For more than a year, this Bank of Canada Benchmark Qualifying Rate has been 5.34%. Now, for the first time in 3-years, the Bank of Canada has decreased that Qualifying Rate to 5.19%, a 0.15% decrease.

What does this mean?

Well, this Bank of Canada Qualifying Rate is essentially a bank’s Stress Test Rate. If a borrower has an annual gross income of $60,000, they can qualify for a $265,000 purchase price with a 10% down payment at a 5.34% qualifying rate.

Change that qualifying rate to 5.19%, that same borrower qualifies for a $269,000 purchase price at 10% down payment. This is a $3,700 increase in borrowing ability.

A borrower with $80,000 of gross annual income and a 20% down payment qualifies for a $455,000 purchase price at a 5.34% Bank of Canada Qualifying Rate. Change it to 5.19%, it increases to $462,000. A $5,600 increase in borrowing ability.

1.5%. That is the increase borrowers now have in their borrowing ability.

Ironic part of all these calculations, the stress test was implemented to protect consumers against rising interest rates. Their concern was that borrowers would not be able to cover their monthly payments when they came up for renewal.

Highest 5-year interest rate since January 2010? 3.79%.

Highest 5-year fixed interest rate in the past 5-years? 3.24%.

Last time someone had to pay an interest rate above 5%? For one month in 2009 and before that, summer of 2008.

Food for thought! If you have any other questions regarding the Bank of Canada and mortgage Stress Test rules, please reach out to Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional today.

14 Aug

Ways of improving your Credit Score

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

Your credit score is a big factor when you apply for a mortgage. It can dictate how good your interest rate will be and the type of mortgage you qualify for.

Mortgage Professionals are experienced helping clients with a wide range of credit scores so we can find you a mortgage product even if your credit is far from perfect.

The good news about your credit score is that it can be improved:

  • Stop looking for more credit. If you’re frequently seeking credit that can affect your score as can the size of the balances you carry. Every time you apply for credit there is a hard credit check. It is particularly important that you not apply for a credit card in the six months leading up to your mortgage application. These credit checks may stay on your file for up to three years.
  • If your credit card is maxed out all the time, that’s going to hurt your credit score. Make some small monthly regular payments to reduce your balance and start using your debit card more. It’s important that you try to keep your balance under 30% or even 20% of your credit limit.
  • It’s also important to make your credit payments on time. People are often surprised that not paying their cell phone bill can hurt their credit score in the same way as not making their mortgage payment.
  • You should use your credit cards at least every few months. That’s so its use is reported to credit reporting agencies. As long as you pay the balance off quickly you won’t pay any interest.
  • You may wish to consider special credit cards used to rebuild credit. You simply make a deposit on the card and you get a credit limit for the value of that deposit. They are easy to get because the credit card company isn’t taking any risks.

Contact me today for any questions or concerns

8 Aug

Mortgage default rates are not a problem

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

There is always a lot of talk about the growing debt in the personal finances of everyday Canadians. And to some extent, it may be true. No doubt, many consumers have gotten used to throwing things on a credit card and then moving on to the next big purchase. The federal government was so concerned about personal debt, they enacted a bunch of rules related to qualifying for a mortgage in an effort to cool off the market. The politicians in Ottawa were concerned a sub-prime mortgage fiasco like the one that devastated the U.S. and world economy a decade ago would happen in Canada. You could argue, the intentions of these tougher qualifying rules were noble, but evidence suggests these measures weren’t really warranted. The most recent numbers by the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) seems to dispel the concerns by the federal government.

According to the CBA, at the end of January 2019, just .25 per cent of mortgages through the major banks were in arrears of three months or more. For more perspective, out of the 4.75 million mortgages in Canada through the banks, 11,742 were in arrears. That’s basically statistically insignificant. And what it also seems to suggest, is that Canadians are actually very responsible when it comes to paying their biggest bill on time.

A closer look at the numbers also appear to blow Ottawa’s case for tough mortgage rules out of the water.

The hottest markets during the last decade were Ontario and B.C. Home prices skyrocketed in cities like Vancouver and Toronto, the average price of a single-family home climbed to more than $1 million.

There was a wide concern that homebuyers were taking on too much mortgage and would end up under water. Again, the CBA’s stats seem to suggest otherwise. Both B.C. and Ontario have the lowest rate of arrears among the provinces. In Ontario, just .10 per cent of mortgages are in arrears, while in B.C., it’s slightly higher at .15 per cent. Just 955 mortgages in B.C. were in arrears at the end of January 2019 out of more than 643,000. The Atlantic province had the highest percentage of mortgages in arrears at .52 per cent.

Obviously any amount of people struggling to keep their home is unfortunate. It would be ideal if not a single homeowner defaulted on their mortgage. With an election this fall, it’s anyone’s guess where the mortgage qualifying rules are going to go. But statistically speaking, the mortgage industry is on very solid ground and Canadians are more than capable of paying their mortgage on time.

7 Aug

4 costs to consider as a first-time homebuyer

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

Oftentimes even the most organized and detail oriented first-time homebuyer can overlook some unexpected costs that come with the purchase of their new home. We are outlining four of the costs that we most commonly see overlooked by homebuyers in hopes that we can better prepare you—and save you from a few surprises!

Closing Costs

Congratulations! Your offer was just accepted on your new home, you’re one step closer to adding a major asset to your portfolio! We don’t want to shock or dampen the excitement of this moment. However, it’s important that you factor in closing costs right at the beginning of your purchase. The best time to do this is before even applying for your pre-approval or making any offers on a home. Closing costs may include:

• insurance
• taxes (Land Transfer, Property, and others depending on what province you are in)
• legal/notary fees
• inspection/appraisal fees.

A general rule of thumb is to set aside 1.5 per cent of the purchase price to account for the closing costs above. To plan ahead, consider speaking to a mortgage broker and your realtor. They can help you determine just how much you should set aside to accommodate those additional closing costs.

Utility Bills

If you’ve gotten used to living in a small space, such as a condo or an apartment, you may be surprised how much more water, heat, and energy you consume in a larger space such as a detached home or a townhouse. It’s important to prepare for these as you do not want to have a “surprise” when your bill arrives in the mail and it’s nearly double what you are used to spending!

Factoring in these bills is also crucial if you are going from renting to owning! Often times the landlord will cover a portion of your utility bills or your cable/internet depending on the contract you had with your landlord. Of course, once you are a homeowner, you are covering the entire cost! Ask family members, friends, even your mortgage broker or realtor what is a realistic cost for things such as cable and internet, water, heat, etc. You’d be surprised how fast they can add up!

Renovations and Updates

Unless you bought a newly built, brand new home, there is undoubtedly going to be future renovations and updates that you will need to do on your home. They may not need to happen right when you move in, but sometimes the unexpected does happen and having money set aside can make a world of difference! When you have your home inspection completed, make a prioritized list of what will need to be fixed/updated first and set aside money each month for it. In addition to the “must do” updates/renovations, new property owners may also want to make aesthetic improvements, whether they mean to reside there or not. Naturally, a homeowner wants to make the place feel more like their own, and investors want to add value their investment or make adjustments to make the asset more aesthetically pleasing.

Ongoing Maintenance

Homes require maintenance—all the time! Ask any homeowner and they will tell you that there is always home maintenance in one form or another happening.
A few common home maintenance costs may include:

• Gutter cleaning
• Roof repair/maintenance
• Drywall repair
• Furnace cleaning
• HVAC and Duct cleaning
• General plumbing and electrical fixes

Every home is different in regards to how much you should budget annually for regular maintenance. It will depend on the age of your home, square footage, climate in your region, and overall condition of your home.
In closing, property ownership shouldn’t be dampened by financial rules caused by lack of preparation. All of these costs, as well as additional other costs, are easy to plan ahead for and to ensure that you have budget set aside each and every single month to make sure that you stay on track. As a rule of thumb, the CMHC states that your housing costs including mortgage payment should not exceed 39 per cent of your monthly income. Treat this number as a point of reference when you’re doing your budget and consider leaving room for the unexpected. It’ll give you peace of mind on the long run and allow you to actually enjoy your new home!

6 Aug

MORTGAGES ARE LIKE COFFEE

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

The most common question we get for mortgages is “what is your best rate?” Now imagine we walked into our local coffee shop and asked “what is your best price?” Doesn’t happen. There are all kinds of different coffees and lots of ways to make them. The same goes for mortgages.

Getting a coffee at the lowest price is usually not going to get you the coffee that meets your needs. You want quality beans, flavour, extra features like a shot of caramel, maybe make it a macchiato, froth on the top, an alternative milk option, and the list goes on.

The same goes for mortgages. Lowest rate mortgages may come with a lack of portability, the inability to make extra payments, and they may lock you into a good rate today without the flexibility for better rates in the future. They may be the lowest rate without the lowest monthly payment amount, they may be for term lengths that are too long and have significant penalties when the mortgage needs to be broken.

The lowest rate mortgage may be collateral charge mortgages that allow a bank to foreclose on your property because you were delinquent on your credit card payments while you went on an extended vacation in Europe and forgot to keep track while you were having so much fun drinking coffee at a popular little hole in the wall café in some small ancient village. The 4 strategic priorities that every mortgage needs to balance are lowest cost, lowest payment, maximum flexibility, and lowest risk.

So the next time you need a mortgage, treat it like your coffee order, don’t ask for the best rate, ask how you can get the best mortgage that meets your needs.

By Todd Skene

1 Aug

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON A VARIABLE RATE MORTGAGE

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

A few years ago, I remember seeing a statistic that said that if you took out a variable rate mortgage instead of a fixed rate, you would do better in 95 out of the last 100 years. Often the spread between a 5-year variable rate and a 5-year fixed rate was more than 1% and so you could save thousands over a 60 month term.

More recently, about three years ago, the banks and mortgage companies started shaving the discount rate on these mortgages. While they had been Prime – .70-.80 they were now Prime – .45. That’s quite a change. Earlier this spring, the discount came back and now it’s possible to get into a variable rate mortgage with a discount of Prime – 1.0%!
This isn’t very good news for those people in Prime-45 mortgages. But, there’s something you can do.

Go see your favourite Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional and ask them to calculate the penalty to break your mortgage and get one with the new bigger discounted rate. As you are in a variable rate, this should be 3 months interest. At this discount you should be able to recover that penalty in just a few months.