Mortgage 101: 10 Mortgage terms every first-time homebuyer should know

Getting started on your homeownership journey? Familiarize yourself with the “local language,” a.k.a. mortgage speak. This introduction to 10 key mortgage terms and phrases will boost your homebuying IQ and have you ready to meet with a mortgage broker to talk about your options.

Amortization period

The amortization period refers to the number of years it will take to pay off your mortgage through regular payments. Most mortgages, including Genworth Canada-insured mortgages, are amortized over 25 years.

DID YOU KNOW? You can pay off your mortgage sooner (saving interest in the long run) by:

  • Making payments biweekly instead of monthly;
  • Making an extra principal or lump sum payment on the anniversary date of your mortgage;
  • Boosting your payment by 10-20% on the anniversary date;
  • Making the same payments each month (or better yet: biweekly), even as your principal borrowed amount gets lower.

Fixed rate mortgage

With a fixed rate mortgage, the interest rate on your home loan is set for the term of the mortgage. Fixed rate mortgages offer the peace of mind of consistency: you’ll know exactly how much you’ll owe at the end of each mortgage term.

See also: Variable rate mortgage

Gross debt service (GDS) ratio

GDS refers to the percentage of your household’s gross monthly income that goes toward your housing payments – mortgage (principal + interest), property taxes, heating and, if applicable, 50% of condo fees. Lenders use your GDS and TDS (total debt service) ratios to assess your mortgage application and to determine how much to loan you and what interest rate to apply. Genworth Canada programs require a GDS ratio of no greater than 39%.

See also: Total debt service (TDS) ratio

High-ratio mortgage

A high-ratio mortgage is one for which the homebuyer makes a down payment of less than 20% of the cost of the home. All high-ratio mortgages must be covered by mortgage loan insurance (also known as “mortgage insurance”).

See also: Low-ratio mortgage

Low-ratio mortgage

Also known as a conventional mortgage, a low-ratio mortgage is one where the homebuyer has made a down payment of 20% or more of the home’s purchase price. No mortgage insurance is required for this type of mortgage.

DID YOU KNOW? You can use your retirement savings to help buy your nest egg. The federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan lets you borrow money from your RRSP to put toward the down payment for your first home.

See also: High-ratio mortgage

Mortgage loan insurance

Also known as “mortgage default insurance” or just “mortgage insurance,” this financial product is mandatory on all high-ratio mortgages. Your mortgage lender pays the insurance premium and then passes the cost on to you; you can pay it in one lump sum or carry it on your mortgage for monthly payments.

Mortgage term

Not to be confused with amortization, mortgage term refers to the time period covered by your mortgage agreement. It can range from one to five years or more. After each term expires, the balance of the mortgage principal (the remaining loan amount) can be repaid in full, or a new mortgage can be renegotiated at current interest rates.

Principal

The amount initially borrowed for your home purchase. The balance of this amount will go down as you make regular mortgage payments. (Your mortgage payments go toward a portion of the principal, as well as the loan interest and, for those with high-ratio mortgages, mortgage insurance.)

Total debt service (TDS) ratio

TDS refers to the percentage of your household’s gross monthly income that goes toward housing costs (i.e., mortgage, property taxes, heating, etc.) plus your other debts and financing (i.e., car loans, credit cards, etc.). Banks use this calculation, along with your gross debt service ratio, when assessing your mortgage application. Genworth Canada programs require a TDS of no greater than 44%.

See also: Gross debt service (GDS) ratio

Variable rate mortgage

Also known as a floating rate mortgage or adjustable rate mortgage, this type of mortgage has an interest rate that fluctuates with the prime lending rate. The main benefit of variable rate mortgages is lower interest rates, but in return, mortgagors (homeowners) take on risk: if the prime rate goes up, a larger chunk of your mortgage payment will go toward the interest, not paying down your principal. The result: your mortgage could take longer to pay off and cost you more in interest.

See also: Fixed rate mortgage

Read on! You can enhance your Mortgage 101 education with these Homeownership.ca feature stories:

Source: HomeOwnership.ca

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Even New Yorkers Can’t Afford a Home in Toronto

 

There’s only a handful of cities in the world that make living in New York seem cheap for middle-income people, places like London, Sydney and Hong Kong. And then there’s Toronto, as 26-year-old JunJun Wu will tell you with a sigh.

After almost three years in New York she opted to move to Toronto for what she figured would be less-expensive housing.

“The apartments that I saw were so tiny, which was shocking,” she said. “Compared to my studio in New York, these were half the size.”

Prices have soared almost 60 percent in the last five years in Canada’s biggest city, and are up another 3 percent already this year. They’re not as high as Vancouver — one of the hottest real-estate markets anywhere — but among the world’s major cities, Toronto housing ranks as the fifth most unaffordable relative to income, according to consultant Demographia.

Severely Unaffordable

The world’s seven priciest housing markets relative to salary

Source: Demographia

Rankings are only for major markets with over 5 million residents. Price and pre-tax income are medians.

All that means is that a Canadian millennial, aged 25 to 31 with a median income of C$38,148 ($29,360), can’t buy very much housing in Toronto. Her maximum budget at that salary would be about C$193,661, according to Royal LePage. That calculation includes tougher lending rules, institutedthis year, that has reduced buyers’ purchasing power by almost 20 percent and cooled the market.

That’s probably not even enough money to purchase the garage of a detached home in the Toronto region, where the average price was C$1.05 million in May, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

Rents are no better, having soared about 11 percent to an average monthly C$2,206 ($1,697) in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to researcher Urbanation. That’s if you can find a unit: the number of newly completed condos available dropped to 1,945 over that time frame, the lowest in more than eight years.

Angie Mosquera, a 23-year-old software developer, saw up to 30 different units in recent months but kept getting outbid.

“I was so frustrated by the whole process,” Mosquera said. “I was like screw this, I’m going to be 40 and living at home, and I don’t even want to live in Toronto anymore.”

She eventually found a tiny studio downtown for about C$1,620 per month, meeting her budget. Still, the rent eats up a huge chunk of her salary, which is especially frustrating because she moved to Toronto from Montreal for a 40 percent bump up in pay.

Penthouse Condo

Stephanie and Justin Wood

Source: Justin Wood

Even those with more resources find it tough. Three years ago, Justin Wood and his wife Stephanie bought a three-bedroom penthouse condo for about C$430,000. Its price surged by about C$181,000 and this year they decided to upgrade to a house, with a toddler in tow.

“We thought we were going to be rich and it was going to be amazing,” said Wood, 33, who is now chief executive officer of his own Toronto-based tech startup. “But then we were like ‘Oh wait, we have to buy something.’”

As living in Toronto proved to be too expensive, the Woods headed for the suburbs and ended up purchasing a three-bedroom detached house in neighboring Oakville with a pool for about C$800,000. Monthly mortgage payments are about C$3,400. The commute is around two hours.

After spending almost a month in Toronto looking at about 40 listings, JunJun Wu, a college-prep counselor originally from Montreal, finally found a studio to rent in downtown Toronto through an online listing. She’s relieved that she secured a lease but the experience has left her unnerved.

“Maybe I should’ve gone back to Montreal instead,” she said. “I’m thinking I’ll give myself maybe one or two years in this city to see.”

Source: 

 

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We recommended our contractor to friends and they hated his work. How can we repair this mess?

THE QUESTION

My husband and I recommended a contractor to friends of ours and they didn’t like the work he did. They not only bad-mouthed him but they also refused to pay. Now he’s upset with our friends, our friends are upset with us and we’re upset with our friends. I’m wishing we never recommended our guy (who has always done great work for us) in the first place. Please help! What do we do now?

THE ANSWER

I hear you. Similar scenarios have played themselves out in our lives a few times and, yes, it is upsetting – to the point where I’ve decided my new policy is not to recommend anyone to anyone anymore.

Why bother? It’s a mug’s game! If it works out, fine. But if not – everyone gets upset.

Example: We had “a guy,” and he always did good work for us. So we recommended him to a friend who, as in your case, not only wound up bad-mouthing him but also stiffing him, financially, for the work he did.

She had some story about how he tried to rip her off. Excuse me, we knew this guy for nearly two decades, and during that time he was in our house more or less constantly, like Eldin the painter from Murphy Brown, if you remember that show. Anyway, I/we knew him backward and forward and inside and out and knew he was above board and would never rip anyone off.

Long story short, I am no longer friends with that (ex-)friend.

Now, I’m not saying be like me and turn your back on your friend. But I truly hate it when someone stiffs an honest, hard-working person.

Of course, you can stiff people. That possibility always lurks in the do-work-now-pay-me-later arrangement.

But to me, it’s like “dine and dash” (where you eat in a restaurant then scamper off into the night before the bill comes): it sucks because civilized society is based on people trusting other people not to do that.

Except “reno and dash” is even worse because (at least in the case of my ex-friend) we’re talking not about hundreds but tens of thousands of dollars – money our (former) contractor could have used/needed to put food on his family’s table.

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And that’s serious, a.k.a., not a joke. When you mess with someone’s ability to earn a living, that is a profoundly uncool thing to do.

So I think you’re well within your rights to speak to your friend, to the effect of: “Hey! What’s up with stiffing [name of contractor here]? That is completely uncool, not only in its own right but also because it reflects on me.”

Not only does it reflect on you, (you could furthermore add), “But now I have to deal with it. I have to apologize to him for hooking you up with him in the first place.”

Expect some backlash. I gave a similar speech to my former friend (the one who stiffed our contractor), and it led to a friendship-ending conversation.

I’m not suggesting you follow my example there (I’m always an advocate of hanging on to friends and all loved ones through thick and thin). “Do as I say not as I do” would be my watchwords in this circumstance.

But I wouldn’t let your friend off the hook too easily. Ask yourself: “What kind of person refuses to pay for work honestly, even if perhaps not-so-wonderfully, performed?”

I’ve had people do work for me I wasn’t crazy about, and I wasn’t crazy about their work-ethic either.

Some of them were just unreliable. A guy who built a set of bookshelves for us comes to mind. He was all like, “Tra-la-la, I’ll come at 10 tomorrow,” and then just wouldn’t show up.

But the bookshelves got built in the end, and it never occurred to me to stiff him, to look him in the eye and say: “You know what, the whole experience was a pain and I’ve decided I’m just not going to pay you.”

I think you should seriously ask yourself if you want a friend like that, and beyond that (even though I’m an advice columnist), I’m not going to tell you what to do, except to say: comport yourself accordingly.

Source: SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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Mississauga condos becoming an increasingly popular purchase option

Mississauga condos becoming an increasingly popular purchase option 

A new analysis from brokerage and real estate information portal Zoocasa showed that Mississauga is increasingly seen by starter home buyers as a reasonable destination away from the overheated Toronto market.

Mississauga’s average condo prices saw a 5.5% increase over the last year, up to $435,254. In its report, Zoocasa stated that the highest-priced condos and buildings – many of which saw double-digit positive value changes – were mostly situated around the city center, with some veering closer to Lake Ontario.

“None of the buildings were located north of Eglinton Avenue,” according to the Zoocasa report. “In addition, the buildings skew newer, with the oldest one having been registered in 2004, and the majority after 2012.”

Read more: Toronto’s monthly rents saw a sharp upward spike in Q1

Analyzing sales in over 100 developments where at least 5 transactions occurred over the past year, and averaging the square foot based on TREB sold data for the year to date, Zoocasa ranked the most valuable condo buildings in Mississauga as of present:

Rank 5: One City Centre

Location: 1 Elm Dr.

2018 price/sq. ft.: $584

2017-18 change: 20.5%

Rank 4: Limelight

Location: 365 Prince of Wales Dr.

2018 price/sq. ft.: $599

2017-18 value change: 14.7%

Rank 3: Pinnacle Grand Park

Location: 3985 Grand Park Dr.

2018 price/sq. ft.: $610

2017-18 value change: 20.1%

Rank 2: No. 1 City Center Condos

Location: 33 Elm Dr.

2018 price/sq. ft.: $610

2017-18 value change: 10.3%

Rank 1: North Shore

Location: 1 Hurontario St.

2018 price/sq. ft.: $674

2017-18 value change: 7.4%

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca – by Ephraim Vecina 28 May 2018

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Is co-ownership a good idea?

As co-ownership becomes a popular antidote to unaffordability, expect to hear about ensuing acrimony.

“On paper, it seems like a great idea, but in reality…”

Steve Arruda, a Century 21 Regal Realty sales rep, agrees that unaffordability in cities like Toronto and Vancouver is catalyzing creating living arrangements, but he can see myriad problems arising from ones like co-ownership.

“Everybody has the best of plans, and on paper it looks perfect, but when they move in with each other, who’s responsible for what? What if one person wants to sell early because they got a job on the other side of the country or far outside of the city?”

While co-ownership between friends can be tricky, it becomes amplified when more than one family owns and shares a home.

“I’ve had ones where two friends bought a place together and thought it’d be a great idea and good for their families, but they didn’t buy a mansion,” said Arruda. “It was a crammed space for two families and four children. With the respective families or events they host, there will be issues that way. They have the best intentions, but when you’re living in a crammed space, function becomes a different story.

“It could be happy when two friends share but when you start bringing in partners—more personalities under one roof could cause a problem.”

Arruda concedes, however, that the arrangement has better likelihood of succeeding if a duplex is the shared abode. Not to say it won’t have its share of problems.

“I find the best option for that is if the home is divided equally into a duplex, each with its own kitchen and bathroom, and maybe they have a shared living space,” he said. “But if one person wants to sell, the other has to sell or buy that person out.”

Manu Singh, a broker with Right At Home Realty, doesn’t recommend co-ownership but nevertheless suggests both parties draw up an exit strategy.

“They should have an agreement in place, an exit strategy,” he said. “Just a simple contract, not a complicated one, that lays out what the exit strategy is should one party decide to move on. If it’s for investment purposes, maybe the appreciation rate reaches such and such level and only then can the partner decide to sell.”

Singh also recommends a minimum hold period of five years “to recoup a lot of costs of the transaction, like the Land Transfer Tax.”

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth – Neil Sharma 25 May 2018

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3 things you probably didn’t know about your credit score

A photo illustration shows charts for credit scores on a computer in North Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, June, 15, 2016.

Here’s what most Canadians likely know about their credit score: It’s a number somewhere on a scale from 300 to 900 — and the higher that number, the easier and cheaper it generally is to get credit.

If you want to take out a mortgage or auto loan, a good credit score improves your chances of being approved and getting a lower interest rate. A high score may also give you access to instant-approval credit cards and loans.

 

But here’s something you probably didn’t know:

No one really knows exactly how credit scores work

For obvious reasons, Canada’s two credit-reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion, do not reveal the exact formula through which they come up with credit scores. If they did, it would become easy for anyone to game the system.

 

The implication here is that most advice you get about how to improve, build or repair your credit score is really an educated guess. Based on anecdotal evidence and what they see dealing with clients, financial advisers have a pretty good idea of how different types of behaviour affect credit scores. But they can’t tell exactly how much of a difference each one really makes.

That’s why Douglas Hoyes, a licensed insolvency trustee at Kitchener, Ont.-based Hoyes, Michalos and Associates, is skeptical of strategies that entail taking out costly loans just so you can supposedly build or repair your credit score faster.

WATCH BELOW: Huge price to pay for payday loans

Borrowing at, say, 30 per cent interest is guaranteed to cost you a pretty penny. The gain, on the other hand, it quite uncertain. Taking out a loan will definitely improve you score if you make your payments on time, but how much of a difference will it really make? No one can say for sure.

Given the uncertainty, Hoyes advises borrowing through the lowest-cost debt you can access and trust that your credit score will gradually improve if you keep on top of your finances.

WATCH BELOW: Dollars and sense: Credit score basics

For those with no credit history or a poor credit score, a good first step is getting a secured credit card such as the Home Trust Visa, according to Hoyes. “Secured” credit means the lender will ask you to put down, say, a $1,000 security deposit for a $1,000 credit card limit. The point of such a credit card isn’t to borrow money to finance expenses for which you don’t have cash at hand but to show that you can make disciplined debt repayments.

Secured credit cards normally come with steep interest rates. The no-fee version of the Home Trust Visa charges interest of 19.99 per cent, but borrowers need not worry about it if they pay off their balance in full and on time, Hoyes noted.

 

Credit scores are designed with banks, not you, in mind

You might think that diligently paying off your credit card bills as soon as they come would get you the best possible score. You might be wrong.

Some financial advisers and debt management experts believe carrying a small balance of up to 30 per cent of your available credit on your card might actually boost your score more than having a balance of zero.

That’s because “credit scores are meant for the benefit of the banks, not you,” said Hoyes.

Banks are happy with customers who reliably repay their debt. But they also make money off charging interest. So they may be happiest with customers who will eventually repay their debt but keep carrying a balance, on which they’ll have to pay interest, explained Hoyes.

He advises doing what’s best for your pocketbook and skipping on financial behaviour that will ultimately cost you more — even if it means your credit score will be a bit lower.

 

Credit scores don’t matter as much as you think

A third thing to keep in mind about credit scores is that they aren’t necessarily the only metric a bank will use to assess your creditworthiness. “Banks may have their own formulas, too, which are different from whatever Equifax and TransUnion are using,” noted Hoyes.

Finally, he added, a bad credit score won’t shut you out of borrowing forever. Even bankruptcy is something you can recover from relatively quickly, if you have a good, stable job and show financial discipline, said Hoyes.

“I have plenty of clients who bought houses two years after being discharged from bankruptcy,” he told Global News.

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Bankruptcy scores: Why lenders may turn you down despite a good credit score

Few borrowers know about bankruptcy scores, but lenders have been using them for years.

Few borrowers know about bankruptcy scores, but lenders have been using them for years.

Few have heard of them, but they’ve been around for a few years: Bankruptcy scores.

Most Canadians know about credit scores, and some are acutely aware of their three-digit number. Where you fall on a scale from 300 to 900 can affect whether or not you qualify for a mortgage for your dream house, a car loan or a credit card and how much you’ll pay for the privilege of borrowing that money.

 

But there’s often another set of numbers that could cause lenders to deny you a loan or hike your interest rate — even if your credit score doesn’t look so bad. Financial institutions often rely on bankruptcy scores to gauge the probability that you’ll go financially belly up in the next 12 to 24 months.

Credit reporting bureau Equifax has a Bankruptcy Navigator Index that it says allows lenders to “uncover the financial red flags not so obvious at first glance.” And competitor TransUnion has its own CreditVision Bankruptcy Score.

 

The latter “is an empirically-derived model designed specifically for the Canadian market,” TransUnion Canada told Global News via an emailed statement. “The score ranges from 100 to 950, with lower scores indicating a higher risk of filing for bankruptcy or [a consumer] proposal,” the company added, noting that financial institutions, telecom companies and lenders in the auto-loan industry, among others, use it.

TransUnion has had bankruptcy scores for a number of years but introduced its CreditVision score in 2015, it said.

Equifax did not respond to two requests to provide additional information on its Bankruptcy Navigator.

 

How bankruptcy scores work

Bankruptcy scores are aimed at detecting risky borrowers that sometimes go under the radar with traditional credit scores, licensed insolvency trustee Doug Hoyes told Global News.

“It turns out that there is a significant difference in behaviour between the person with bad credit who will not file bankruptcy and the person with a similar bad credit score who will declare bankruptcy and this is what your bankruptcy score measures,” Hoyes, co-founder of Ontario-based debt-relief firm Hoyes Michalos, wrote in a blog post.

 

Sometimes, there’s a lag between when an overstretched borrower reaches the point of no return and when that reality will be reflected in his or her credit score. It’s possible for people with scores in the 600-700 range to be on the verge of defaulting on their debt repayments, said David Gowling, senior vice-president at debt consultancy MNP.

“Some people come in telling me how great their credit score is, but then you find out they’re using one type of credit to pay another type of credit,” Gowling told Global News. And because they’re still able to make minimum payments, “the credit score hasn’t caught up,” he added.

According to Hoyes, compared to someone with a bad credit score who will stay afloat, someone who is at high risk of going bankrupt tends to:

  • Use credit more often;
  • Apply for credit more often and have more recently acquired debts or credit accounts;
  • Have fewer accounts in collection. (This is because people who rely on debt to pay more debt are often careful about not missing payments in the belief that this will grant them access to more credit);
  • Have a higher credit utilization rate, i.e. carrying a credit balance that takes up a large percentage of your borrowing limit.

 

While credit scores are a look at your borrowing history in the rear-view mirror, bankruptcy scores likely pick up on these telltale signs of might happen in the near future, Hoyes told Global News.

In general, the credit file of someone at high risk of bankruptcy tends to show much more recent activity, which is why applying for new credit in an attempt to improve your credit score can backfire, according to Hoyes.

WATCH: Lenders behave like car insurance companies: If you don’t have a driving record, you’re automatically a very risky driver.

What bankruptcy scores mean for you

Bankruptcy scores affect borrowers in three main ways, Hoyes said. Like credit scores, they can influence both how much you’ll be able to borrow and at what rate. But they could also result in lenders deciding to sell your debt to so-called debt buyers.

 

Debt-buyers are companies – sometimes collection agencies – that buy delinquent debt at a deep discount and then try to collect some of that debt.

If a lender has, say, 100 borrowers who are late making debt repayments, it can use a bankruptcy score to decide which ones to offload to a debt-buyer. Selling the riskiest accounts for a fraction of the face-value of the credit balance means writing off some debt, but the loss for the lender might ultimately be less than if the borrowers filed for bankruptcy.

The thing is, though, that there’s no way to know what your bankruptcy score is. While consumers can review their credit reports and purchase their credit scores, bankruptcy scores are typically only available to lenders.

The key takeaway, though, is that if you’ve reached the point where you’re using new debt to pay old debt, your decent-looking credit score is probably meaningless.

Source: 

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