19 Nov

Should you go fixed or go variable?

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

It’s the first and only thing anyone usually asks when you talk about your mortgage: What’s your rate? While everyone can recall their rate off the top of their head, it’s the only detail of the mortgage they remember or care to know. Though the rate is obviously important, your mortgage is so much more than a rate, and if you’re not paying close attention, it can cost you money.

Before we dive deeper, let’s talk fixed rate vs. a variable rate and which one is better. Well, that all depends. First-time homebuyers and older homebuyers typically love the stability of a fixed rate. Keep in mind, seven-in-ten fixed mortgages are broken before the term ends. A fixed rate for five years is fine as long as you stick with a lender that’s going to calculate the penalty if you break your mortgage on the contract rate versus the Benchmark rate. That’s because the Benchmark rate, or as it’s sometimes called the Bank of Canada rate, is higher than your contract rate. Typically a credit union or monoline is the right choice for this mortgage.

Variable rates are great with any lender as it just comes down to who offers the best discounted variable rate. There’s a pretty simple way to decide whether a variable or fixed makes sense, based on rate alone. It’s called the 50-basis point rule.

Basically, take the best fixed rate out there and the best variable rate out there and subtract the two. If the number is less than 50 basis points, there is strong argument to go for a fixed rate. However, if the difference is more than 50 basis points, there’s a solid case to go with a variable.

Pretty simple right? What’s not as simple is the personality of your mortgage. It may not seem like it, but yes, your mortgage has a personality. Think of it like a shiny sports car. It may look amazing when it rolls off the lot, but as the years go on, does it meet your daily needs? Besides your mortgage rate, you need to consider portability, and whether it can be blended and extended and how penalties for breaking the mortgage are calculated. When people start looking for a mortgage, they’re usually getting advice from friends or their parents, and the only question they’re asking is, what’s the rate? But if they don’t know the details of the mortgage like the ones listed above, you can tell them to stick their head in the sand, because they’re giving you bad advice. And if a mortgage broker is only fixated on the rate, you’re working with the wrong one.

Life happens and our circumstances change. You really want to make sure the mortgage will work for you in the future before you sign on the dotted line.

12 Nov

Homeowner Tips – Let the heat reach you

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

Dust or vacuum radiators, baseboard heaters and furnace duct openings often and keep them free from obstructions such as furniture, carpets and drapes.

Replace/Clean Furnace Filters:
Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation system filters, such as those for heat recovery ventilators, should be checked every two months.

9 Nov

Using the interest on a second mortgage as a tax write-off

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

We all know owning a second rental property is a great way to invest and build your wealth portfolio. Unfortunately, a lot of homeowners sitting on plenty of equity are afraid to use that money for a downpayment to purchase a rental or investment property. The idea of a second or third mortgage tends to spook people away. While there are always financial risks in any investment, there’s a little-known incentive that might make you take the leap from homeowner to real estate mogul.

You can expense the interest on a mortgage as long as the INTENT for the funds are used on an investment property.

Thus, when you’re refinancing or taking equity, you can pull money from your existing owner-occupied home and use the funds on a rental property. Now the interest on the money you pulled out (and only that money, not any existing money) can be written off or expensed against your rental income.

You could expense your rental income down to a negative which in turn lowers your overall taxable income. Putting even more money back into your pocket.

It might only lead to a savings of a few hundred dollars a month, but not many people know it’s an option and is an extra incentive to consider.

You’ll definitely want to talk to your accountant and your mortgage broker to get more details.

There are also a few things to consider if you’re going down this route for an investment property.

You must claim your rental income on your tax return. It’s tax evasion if you don’t.

Mortgage rates are also typically cheaper for owner-occupied homes compared to rental or investment homes. Don’t be tempted to tell your broker or lender the house use will be owner occupied when it will actually be a rental because you want the lower rate. That is mortgage fraud. You could get charged and or the lender could call the balance.

While taking on a second or third mortgage might seem a little daunting, there are some options available to save you money and your mortgage broker can help.

7 Nov

MORTGAGES 101 – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MORTGAGES

Mortgage Tips

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

Mortgage [ˈmôrɡij] NOUN

With a residential mortgage, a home buyer pledges his or her house to the bank. The bank has a claim on the house should the home buyer default on paying the mortgage. In the case of a foreclosure, the bank may evict the home’s occupants and sell the house, using the income from the sale to clear the mortgage debt.

Mortgages in a Nutshell:

Since homes are expensive, a mortgage is a lending system that allows you to pay a small portion of a home’s cost (called the down payment) upfront, while a bank/lender loans you the rest of the money. You arrange to pay back the money that you borrowed, plus interest, over a set period of time (known as amortization), which can be as long as 30 years.

When you get a mortgage loan, you are called the mortgagor. The lender is called the mortgagee.

How Do You Get a Mortgage?:

The companies that supply you with the funds that you need to buy your home are referred to as “lenders” which can include banks, credit unions, trust companies etc.

Mortgage lenders don’t lend hundreds of thousands of dollars to just anyone, which is why it’s so important to maintain your credit score. Your credit score is a primary way that lenders evaluate you as a reliable borrower – that is, someone who’s likely to pay back the money in full WITHOUT a lot of hassle. A score of 680-720 or higher generally indicates a positive financial history; a score below 680 could be detrimental, making you a higher risk. Higher risk = higher rates!

How Mortgages Are Structured:

Down payment: This is the money you must put down on a home to show a lender you have some stake in the home. Ideally you want to make a 20% down payment of the price of the home (e.g., $60,000 on a $300,000 home), because this will allow you to avoid the extra cost of Mortgage Default Insurance which is mandatory with all down payments of less than 20%.

Every mortgage has three components: the principal, the interest, and the amortization period.

Mortgages are typically paid back gradually in the form of a monthly mortgage payment, which will be a combination of your paying back your principal plus interest.

Principal: This is the amount of money that you are borrowing and must pay back. This is the price of the home minus your down payment taking the above example, purchase price $300,000 minus $60,000 down payment to get a mortgage (principal) of $240,000.

Interest rate: Lenders don’t just loan you the money because they’re nice guys. They want to make money off you, so you will be paying them back the original amount you borrowed (principal) plus interest—a percentage of the money you borrow.The interest rate you get from the lender will vary based on: property, lender, credit bureau, employment and your personal situation.

Amortization means life of the mortgage, or how long the mortgage needs to be, in order to pay off the complete loan (principal) plus interest. Mortgage loans have different “amortizations,” the two most common terms are 25 & 30 years.Within the life of the mortgage (amortization) you will have a Term. The length of time that the contract with your mortgage lender including interest rate is set up (typically 5 years). After your term completes, you can renew your mortgage with the same lender or move to a new lender.

WHEN TO GET A MORTGAGE:

First Step: connect with a Mortgage Broker for a mortgage before you start hunting for a home. You need to know what you can afford – especially with all the new government regulations.

Ideally you need a mortgage pre-approval, which an in-depth process where a lender will check your credit report, credit score, debt-to-income ratio, loan-to-value ratio, and other aspects of your financial profile.

This serves two purposes:

It will let you know the maximum purchase price of a home you can afford.

A mortgage pre-approval shows home sellers and their realtors that you are serious about buying a home, which is particularly crucial in a hot housing market.

Types of Mortgages:

How do you figure out which mortgage is right for you? Here are the 2 main types of home loans to consider:

Fixed-rate mortgage:This is the most popular payment setup for a mortgage. A fixed mortgage interest rate is locked-in and will not increase for the term of the mortgage.

Variable rate mortgage aka Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM) A variable mortgage interest rate is based on the Bank of Canada rate and can fluctuate based on market conditions and the Canadian economy. A mortgage loan with an interest rate that is subject to change and is not fixed at the same level for the life of the term. These types of mortgages usually start off with a lower interest rate but can subject the borrower to payment uncertainty.

How to Shop for a Mortgage?:

Use a mortgage broker, a professional who works with many different lenders to find a mortgage that best suits the needs of the borrower.

Brokers specialize in Mortgage Intelligence, educating people about mortgages, how they work and what lenders are looking for. Everyone’s home purchasing situation is different, so working with us will give you a better sense of what mortgage options are available based on the 4 strategic priorities that every mortgage needs to balance:

lowest cost
lowest payment
maximum flexibility
lowest risk

Most Canadians are conditioned to think that the lowest interest rate means the best mortgage product. Although sometimes that is true, a mortgage is more than just an interest rate. You can save yourself a lot of money if you pay attention to the fine print, not just the rate.

Banks tend to concentrate on the 5 year fixed mortgage rate (since that’s the best option for them)… rates are important, however your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional will look at the total cost of the mortgage. Brokers will advise & explain mortgage options, help you understand the implications of your choice and help you avoid the pitfalls of choosing a mortgage based on rates alone.

By Kelly Hudson

4 Nov

BUILDING A REAL ESTATE PORTFOLIO

General

Posted by: Alan J. Nicholas

More and more Canadians do not have a defined benefits pension plan. Companies are moving away from this model due to the expense of maintaining enough in the fund to pay out until the employee and survivors die. Those who are self employed also do not have pensions beside the Canadian Pension Plan.
What can you do if you fall into this category? How do you save enough to have a comfortable retirement? The answer is, build up your own investments through a real estate portfolio.

In order to purchase a revenue property you need 20% down payment . This can be a huge sum to save and you could get discouraged as you see property prices rising. There is a legal work around that is an open secret that realtors and other property investors have used for years.

Purchase a starter home with a 5% down payment. While you are living in the property, it is considered as your primary residence and any increase in value is tax free. Start from Day 1 to save for your next home. You may purchase a condo as the prices are usually less than most detached homes in Canadian cities. When you have saved 5% or if your present home has increased enough in value that you have more than 20% in equity you can remove that extra equity with a line of credit or by refinancing your home you can now purchase a larger home. Now you move to House #2 and rent out House #1.

You are now on your way to building a real estate portfolio. If you repeat this every 3 to 5 years in 20 years you’ll have a portfolio of 4 or more rental properties Is this for everyone? No, if you aren’t handy and if you don’t want the expense of hiring a property management company you cold end up spending your free time on maintenance of several homes.

Talk to your financial advisor or accountant first and then meet with your local Dominion Lending Centre mortgage professional. We can provide answers to your real estate financial needs.

By David Cooke