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A first-time buyer’s guide to choosing a mortgage plan that’s right for you

I used to think I had a pretty good understanding of mortgages — you contribute a downpayment (a minimum of five percent of the property value if you’re in Canada) and someone (usually a bank) lends you the rest. If you fail to pay your mortgage back, your lender can take your house away. Ouch.

When I started looking into buying a cottage, I realized my mortgage knowledge fell seriously short (by the way, the cottage is the inspiration behind our brand new newsletter called The Ladder, about the climb on and up the property ladder). Early on, I jumped on an online calculator and immediately had a lot of questions. How can these interest rates vary so wildly? What is a fixed versus variable mortgage? What does amortization mean? If I put down less than 20 percent will terrible things happen to me and everyone I love? They don’t teach this stuff in school and I learned there is no one-size-fits-all mortgage plan that will work for everyone.

Photo: Romain Toornier 

Enter Matt Yakabuski, an Ontario-based mortgage broker — here to break it all down and help you, me, all of us— understand the variables to help pick the best mortgage plan. If you’re Oprah, or just won the lottery — feel free to stop reading. Everyone else, buckle in!

And if you’re curious, I’ll be sharing more about my cottage mortgage in the next newsletter, landing in your inbox on Wednesday, April 3rd — sign up here!

Um, where do I get a mortgage?

Mortgages usually come from either a bank or a broker.

Think of your mortgage broker as your personal mortgage shopper — they are provincially licensed professionals who have access to multiple lenders, including all of the major banks. They will listen to your needs and goals, analyze the numbers, help you through the qualifying process and find a mortgage product that fits just so.

“Online, you’ll get an idea of what the rates are generally, but they vary based on the downpayment amount, the location, your credit, your income and more. No two deals are alike, no two clients are alike, no two properties are alike,” says Yakabuski.

Banks are trusted, federally regulated lenders that can only access and offer you their own rates and products. You can also get a mortgage from a credit union (an increasingly popular option ever since the mortgage stress test was introduced) or a non-traditional Mortgage Investment Corporation. MICs are typically used by Canadians who have not qualified with traditional lenders and are willing to gobble higher interest rates to get into the property game.

Photo: CreditRepairExpert

How do I qualify for a mortgage?

To qualify for a mortgage, you have to prove to your lender that you can afford it and have a steady stream of income to keep up with payments. They will take a look at your income before taxes, living expenses, your credit score and all of the debts you carry. They will also look at your downpayment amount and the terms of your mortgage.

“Your debt servicing ratio is the main measure we use to qualify people for their mortgage,” says Yakabuski. “Depending on your credit score, you’re allowed to put a maximum of 44 percent of your total income towards debt servicing. This covers your mortgage, your property tax, credit card bills, car loans and any lines of credit.” If your debt eats up more than 44 percent of your income, you won’t be approved by traditional lenders.

Will I pass the mortgage stress test?

As of January 1st, 2018, you also have to pass the mortgage stress test — a calculation used by federally regulated lenders to determine if homebuyers can keep up with their mortgage payments if interest rates were to rise. If you can demonstrate that you can withstand your mortgage at the Bank of Canada’s benchmark qualifying rate (at 5.34 percent at the time of writing) or your interest rate plus two points — whichever amount is greater — you pass.

The mortgage stress test has reduced purchasing power by just under 20 percent. But as Yakabuski puts it, “If interest rates do go up, you know you can afford it.”

Photo: adventures_of_pippa_and_clark/Instagram

Should I take the biggest loan I can get?

Your lender will tell you the maximum loan you can qualify for (and they can help you find ways to increase that amount). But the maximum isn’t necessarily the loan you should take.

“Instead of my clients asking me what they can afford, I ask them what they’re comfortable spending on a monthly basis on their mortgage, property tax, heat, hydro, that kind of thing. And then we’ll work backwards,” explains Yakabuski.

Everyone has different comfort levels. “Some people are conservative and some people just want to hit their maximum,” he says. In the end, it all comes down to budgeting and making sure you don’t completely wipe out your bank account and end up house poor. If you have to beg your in-laws to cover the closing costs, can’t afford to hire movers or even get the nice coffee beans you like — you may want to consider getting less house than you can actually qualify for, but more financial freedom.

Photo: mandimakes/Instagram

Finding the “best rate” is not as easy as it looks

You may have seen a low rate on a website or on the window at the bank, but not every rate is for you and you have to read the fine print. There are rates for refinancing, rates for rental properties, rates if you’re putting more than 20 percent down (uninsured) and rates if you’re putting less (insured), and on and on.

“Your friend who got a 2.49 percent interest rate six months ago, sorry to say — that’s just not available today — and even if it was, it doesn’t mean you could have gotten it. If you find a rate that seems like a much better deal than everywhere else, there’s probably a reason for that,” explains Yakabuski.

For example, restricted mortgages, which often have lower rates but inflict painful penalties if you break them and prohibit you from refinancing elsewhere before your term is up. “If I sell you a restricted mortgage and then in two years, you have to sell the property, I don’t want to say, ‘Sorry, your penalty is going to be triple the amount of a regular penalty because it was a restricted deal.’ Anyone who is looking out for your best interest is going to take into consideration the portability of the mortgage.”

Photo: James Bombales

How long should my term and amortization be?

The term you choose will have a direct impact on your mortgage rate and how long you’re locked in to the rate, lender, and various terms and conditions of your mortgage product.

“A shorter term length has historically proven to have a lower interest rate. Right now, not so much,” explains Yakabuski. Terms can range from six months to 10 years. “Most people choose a five-year because it’s often the longest term for the best rate.”

Your mortgage amortization period is the length of time it will take you to pay off your entire loan. In Canada, the maximum amortization period is 35 years — but you’ll only have access to this timeframe if you’re putting down more than 20 percent. If you’re putting down less than 20 percent and have an insured mortgage, the maximum amortization period is 25 years.

If you go with a longer amortization period, you will have smaller monthly payments, but keep in mind: you’ll pay more in the long run in interest over the life of your mortgage.

Depending on your mortgage commitment, lenders will only allow you to pay so much extra towards a mortgage before they start penalizing you. How’s it’s calculated depends on the product you’re in and what lender you’re with, but in many cases you will have the opportunity to make lump-sum payments towards your mortgage, to double up payments or to increase the payment amount.

“I suggest taking the highest amortization possible, but if you have the affordability to pay more, make sure you do,” says Yakabuski. “Even with a longer amortization, you effectively could pay at the rate of a 15- or 20-year amortization, saving you thousands of dollars in interest by paying the principal off that much quicker. But should your financial situation change, you could scale back your payments all the way to the 25-year if you have to.”

Photo: James Bombales

Should I get a fixed or variable mortgage?

Fixed mortgages mean the rate you settle on will be your rate for the entire term of your mortgage. A variable rate is going to fluctuate based on what the prime rate is doing (at the time of writing, it’s currently sitting at 3.95 percent). If the prime rate goes down, your rate and payment will go down and vice versa. With a variable rate, there is often an opportunity to save money, but you have to be comfortable with some risk.

Choosing the right strategy often comes down to flexibility. Many Canadians default to a five-year fixed rate mortgage, but if there’s a possibility you may be moving on before then, the penalty for breaking the term can get costly, whereas a variable mortgage will cost you three months of interest.

“Variable is a good option because they traditionally have a lower interest rate and you have flexibility should you need to get rid of it quicker with the smallest penalty possible,” says Yakabuski.

Should I go for an open or closed mortgage?

Let’s say you come into a large inheritance and want to pay off your mortgage in full or you unexpectedly have to ditch your property before the term is up.

With a closed mortgage, you cannot repay, renew or renegotiate before the term is up without incurring penalties. With an open mortgage, you can do all of the above without penalty — but the interest rates are often much higher.

“I rarely recommend an open mortgage, even when people say they’re going to flip the property,” says Yakabuski. “The reason is because an open mortgage right now has an interest rate of about six percent (all open terms are variable). Whereas the interest on a closed, variable mortgage is, let’s say, three percent less. If you’re going to sell the place inside two, maybe three months, then open makes sense. But if you’re going to keep it for four months plus, generally the three-month interest penalty on breaking a closed, variable mortgage can save you thousands in just six months.”

Photo: alyssacloud_/Instagram

Now for the fun part — finding a home

Before you even start looking at properties, it’s important to get your finances in order so you can crunch the numbers when you do find places you like. You’ve saved for a downpayment, qualified for a loan and have chosen a mortgage plan that is right for you. You’re officially a mortgage badass and it’s time to start house hunting. You’ve got this.

Source: Livabl.com –  

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Homebuyers to get new mortgage incentive, Home Buyer’s Plan boost under 2019 budget

Homebuyers to get new mortgage incentive, Home Buyer’s Plan boost under 2019 budget

 

 

 

WATCH: Federal budget 2019: Incentives for first-time home buyers, skills training

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Can’t afford to buy a house? The government may take on part of the cost.

That is the gist of the boldest proposal that Budget 2019 puts forth to help more middle-income Canadians fulfill their homeownership dream.

Under the new CMHC First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation would use up to $1.25 billion over three years to help lower mortgage costs for eligible Canadians.

 

The money would go to first-time home buyers applying for insured mortgages. Borrowers would still have to pony up a down payment of at least five per cent of the home purchase price. On top of that, though, they would receive an incentive of up to 10 per cent of the house price, which would lower the amount of their mortgage.

For example, say you’re hoping to buy a $400,000 home with the minimum required five per cent down payment, which works out to $20,000. With the new incentive, you could receive up to $40,000 through the CMHC. Now, instead of taking out a $380,000 mortgage, you’d need to borrow only $340,000. This would lower your monthly mortgage bill from over $1,970 to less than $1,750.

The incentive would be 10 per cent for buyers purchasing a newly built home and 5 per cent for existing homes. Only households with an annual income under $120,000 would be able to participate in the program.

Watch: Finance Minister Bill Morneau presented the 2019 federal budget in the House of Commons Tuesday.


Home owners would eventually have to repay the incentive, possibly at re-sale, though it’s unclear yet how that would work.

Also, mortgage applicants still have to qualify under the federal stress test, which ensures that borrowers will be able to keep up with their debt repayments even at higher interest rates.

However, the incentive would essentially lower the bar for test takers, as applicants would have to qualify for a lower mortgage.

On the other hand, the amount of the insured mortgage plus the CMHC incentive would be capped at four times the home buyers’ annual incomes, or up to $480,000.

This means the most expensive homes Canadians would be able to buy this way would be worth around $500,000 ($480,000 max in insured mortgage and incentive, plus the down payment amount).

The government is hoping to have the program up and running by September.

Home Buyer’s Plan gets a boost

As was widely anticipated, the government would also enhance the Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP), which currently allows first-time buyers to take out up to $25,000 from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) to finance the purchase of a home, without having to pay tax on the withdrawal. The budget proposes raising that cap to $35,000.

The new limit would apply to HBP withdrawals made after March 19, 2019.

New measures would encourage more borrowing, possibly drive up home prices

Economists said the new CMHC incentive and the enhanced HBP would encourage Canadians to take on more debt, stimulate housing demand, and possibly push up housing prices.

“It’s a different kind of borrowing,” David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said of the CMHC incentive.

And with a home-price limit of around $500,000, the program is unlikely to help middle-class millennials buy homes in Vancouver and Toronto, where average property values are far higher, said TD economist Brain De Pratto.

 

Those taking advantage of the higher HBP limit, on the other hand, would have to keep in mind that the government is not extending the program’s repayment timeline, said Doug Carroll, a tax and financial planning expert at Meridian.

Home buyers must put the money back into their RRSP over 15 years to avoid their HBP withdrawal being added to their taxable income. Now Canadians will have to repay a maximum of $35,000 – instead of $25,000 – over the same period, Carroll noted.

In general, the economists and financial experts Global News spoke to saw the budget as being focused on demand-side housing measures, rather than policies that would encourage the construction of new homes.

And while the budget does earmark $10 billion over nine years for new rental homes, it does not propose major tax breaks for homebuilders.

Tax incentives proved to be an effective way to stimulate residential construction in the past, said Don Carson, tax partner at MNP.

“They really drove supply,” he said.

Source: Global News –

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A first-time buyer’s guide to becoming a landlord

Photo: James Bombales

Buying a home isn’t always about finding the perfect place to raise a family or host those summer barbecues — for some first-time buyers, owning real estate is the gateway into the realm of landlordship.

Becoming a small-scale landlord can look easy, but there’s more to it than collecting the rental cheques every month. Whether you lease out an individual property or have a self-contained rental unit in your home, such as a basement apartment, buying to become a landlord requires you to be a hands-on business owner.

“I tell my clients upfront [that] you’ve got to think of it as a business,” says Nawar Naji, a Toronto real estate investor and broker at Chestnut Park Real Estate. “It’s not just about, ‘Let’s go buy a condo and rent it out.’ You’ve got to think of it from a business perspective. Think of the operation side of it, taxation aspect of it, and the other part of it — the exit.”

Want to buy your first home?

With television shows like HGTV’s Income Property showcasing the benefits of owning a rental property, like easy income and a boost in property value, renting out your basement looks appealing. Yet, without proper preparation or knowledge of provincial landlord and tenancy laws, the landlord dream can quickly go sour.

“If people have a bad experience in the first year [of landlording], and the first tenancy is problem-ridden, nine times out of 10 I would think they would get out of the business,” says Susan Wankiewicz, executive director of the Landlord’s Self-Help Centre, a non-profit legal clinic for Ontario’s small landlords.

If you do your homework and plan accordingly, becoming a small landlord can be rewarding. As Naji and Wankiewicz tell it, here’s what you can expect if you’re working towards that first investment property.

Put your back into it

Landlording isn’t a passive investment — it requires maintenance, time and experience to nurture into a successful money-maker. As with any business, being present and aware of your investment’s unique needs will start you on the path to being a successful landlord.

“You’ve got to be active in the business,” says Naji. “It’s not just paying the mortgage, getting the rental cheque and calling it a day. There’s more work to be done to it.”

Naji, who has been investing in real estate since 2006, says a new landlord can expect the operation stage of landlording — running the property — to be the longest and most cumbersome. Semi-annual inspections, repairs, collecting rent and regular maintenance are the landlord’s responsibility. You could hire a property management company to take care of this for you for a percentage of your rental earnings, but Naji advises not to within the first year of a new investment property.

Photo: Julien Dumont/ Flickr

“[That way] when you pass it on to a property manager, and they call you [about a house issue], you’ll understand if it makes sense or doesn’t make sense,” he says. “If you haven’t done it by experience, somebody can call you and can come up with explanations that don’t necessarily make sense — it might not need any repairs.”

Naji also recommends building a team of professionals that specialize in residential investments. Your accountant, repair person or real estate agent, he says, should have knowledge of landlording in order to fully understand your needs.

Know it like the back of your hand

Legal jargon may be a dry read, but understanding tenancy laws in-depth before you become a landlord could save you a whole lot of trouble down the road.

“Usually we meet landlords once they’ve rented and they’re in trouble,” says Wankiewicz. “If they were to do the front-end research and understand what they’re getting into before they rent, I think they’d be better off.”

Wankiewicz has seen every kind of problem come through the LSHC office: tenants that default on rent; pets that suddenly appear unannounced; damage to the property; and tenants that decided to move their whole extended family into the unit. Whatever the issue may be, Wankiewicz explains that landlords who familiarize themselves with the provincial landlord and tenancy laws beforehand have a better understanding of what their rights are. For instance, she still encounters landlords who haven’t fully read Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Actand don’t understand that the law equally applies to both high-rise and second suite rentals.

“Landlords are surprised because they think that [because] they’re renting in their home and they’re the king of the castle. That’s not the case. They’re subject to the same legislation as if it were a high rise rental,” she says.

Photo: James Bombales

If a tenancy isn’t working out and an eviction is required, Wankiewicz warns that the process isn’t a quick fix. If a tenant stops paying rent, a landlord will need to give a termination notice and apply for a court hearing to the Landlord and Tenant Board as soon as possible.

“What we are seeing now is that it’s taking anywhere from four to six months for a landlord to terminate the tenancy and recover possession of the rental unit,” she says.

The price is right

Buying a house ain’t cheap, nor is saving for a downpayment, so you’ll want to ensure that you can get a return on your first investment property, and it starts with picking the right rental unit.

Naji says to follow the money — wherever there’s construction for a master-planned community or an injection of government funding into infrastructure, there will be a demand for rental housing. Highlights of a specific neighbourhood — proximity to transit, a family-friendly community, lots of amenities — will entice tenants over more space. As Naji explains, buying the largest rental unit on the market might allow you to charge slightly higher rent, but it will cost you more to purchase.

Photo: James Bombales

“If you’re buying the largest two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo, it’s not necessarily the best idea because the tenants are not going to pay more rent,” explains Naji. “They might pay a little more rent, but not enough to justify the additional cost of acquisition for that larger, or extra large, unit.”

Instead of focusing on big bedrooms and living areas, Naji says to look for smaller spaces with appealing characteristics. Tenants are feature focused; they’ll value better appliances or a shorter commute time over a bigger kitchen. A semi-detached could bring you in the same amount of money as a fully-detached home with the same number of bedrooms, but will cost you less to buy.

“It might be a little bit smaller, but your cost of acquisition is less, and the numbers are going the be in your favour because your rent is going to be pretty much the same with a lower purchase price,” he says.

When pricing your rental unit, Naji says to compare current neighbourhood rental prices with seasonal demand to determine the right price.

Meet and greet

With a tenant living on your property, you’ll get to know all of their quirks very quickly. Some landlords aren’t prepared for the extra smells, sounds and interesting habits on display that go hand in hand with having a tenant.

“Landlords in a smaller situation, were they’re renting part of their home, they become consumed with tenant behaviour, like if the tenant has an overnight guest and, ‘They didn’t tell me’, ‘The tenant’s taking too many showers’, or ‘The tenant’s leaving the lights on’, or ‘They brought in a pet and I didn’t approve a pet’— issues like that, small-living landlords are unprepared for,” says Wankiewicz.

The landlord-tenant relationship can sometimes be a rocky one. Wankiewicz emphasizes that in addition to good communication and responding to issues quickly, landlords need to conduct a comprehensive screening process to find a trustworthy tenant. She advises that going off face-value alone won’t provide enough information about a person. Using a rental application, speaking to references and checking a tenant applicant’s credit score are good methods to finding a quality tenant.

“So many times the small landlord will just make their decision on how their tenant appears, but they need to dig in and check with previous landlords, not just where they’re living now, but where they lived prior to that, because that’s where they’re going to get accurate information about what their behaviour was like,” says Wankiewicz.

Naji likes to take a personal approach to rental applications; he strongly recommends meeting prospective tenants in-person not only to check for that gut-feeling, but to get to know the person.

“At the end of the day, this is a people business. You’re renting your property to a person or a couple. It’s good to meet them, get to know who they are.”

Source: Livabl.com –  

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Your Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

When winter departs, it’s time to check for damage and prepare for hot weather ahead

With the days lengthening and weather warming, spring is a good time to get outdoors and tackle some larger home projects. With the threat of winter storms past, you can look for damage and make any needed repairs, as well as prep your home and garden for summer. We spoke with an expert to get some tips on what to watch for this season, from proper irrigation to mosquitoes and termites (oh my!).
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How reverse mortgages staged a comeback

Professor Chris Mayer has a lesson for ­homeowners: Reverse mortgages, which let older Americans tap their home equity without selling or moving, aren’t as risky as some say. In an online video, he brushes aside “common misconceptions,” including fears about losing your home.

Mayer, a real estate professor at Columbia Business School, isn’t an impartial observer. He’s chief executive officer of a company that sells reverse mortgages. He’s trying to rehabilitate one of the U.S.’s most-­reviled financial products—part of a broader push that relies in part on academics with interests in the mortgage industry.

The host of Mayer’s talk was the American College of Financial Services, a school that trains financial planners and insurance agents. Until recently, it had a task force funded by reverse mortgage companies, which each contribute $40,000 a year. They include Mayer’s firm, Longbridge Financial, and Quicken Loans’ One Reverse Mortgage.

To show the need for reverse mortgages, industry websites cite a Boston College retirement research center run by Alicia Munnell, a professor and former assistant secretary of the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration. She once invested $150,000 in Mayer’s company, though she’s since sold her stake.

The six-year-old task force cites key successes. Mainstream publications have run articles quoting positive research on the loans, and financial planners are growing more comfortable recommending them. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities industry’s self-regulatory agency, in 2014 withdrew its warning that reverse mortgages should generally be used as “a last resort.”

Mayer and Munnell said they’ve fully disclosed, in research, appearances, and interviews, their financial interest in the lender. Columbia and Boston College both said they approved the arrangements.

The professors and industry officials say these government-backed mortgages deserve a second look, partly because of a series of federal reforms in recent years designed to protect taxpayers and consumers.

“We are looking to help people responsibly incorporate home equity in their retirement planning,” Mayer said of Longbridge.

Reverse mortgages let homeowners draw down their equity in monthly installments, lines of credit or lump sums. The balance grows over time and comes due on the borrower’s death, at which point their heirs may pay off the loan when they sell the house. Borrowers must keep paying taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities—and could face foreclosure if they don’t.

While even critics say the mortgages can make sense for some customers, they say the loans are still too expensive and can tempt seniors to spend their home equity early, before they might need it for health expenses.

Fees on a $100,000 loan, based on a $200,000 home, can total $10,000. Because the fees are typically wrapped into the mortgage, they compound at interest rates that can rise over time. Homeowners who need cash could be better off selling and moving to less expensive quarters.

“The profits are significant, the oversight is minimal, and greed could work to the disadvantage of seniors who should be protected by government programs and not targeted as prey,” said Dave Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association until last year and a commissioner for the Federal Housing Administration in the Obama administration.

Academics represent a new face for an industry that’s long relied on aging celebrity pitchmen. The late Fred Thompson, a U.S. senator and Law & Order actor, represented American Advisors Group, the industry’s biggest player. These days, the same company leans on actor Tom Selleck.

“Just like you, I thought reverse mortgages had to have some catch,” Selleck says in an online video. “Then I did some homework and found out it’s not any of that. It’s not another way for a bank to get your house.”

Michael Douglas, in his Golden Globe-winning performance on the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, satirizes such pitches. His financially desperate character, an acting teacher, quits filming a reverse mortgage commercial because he can’t stomach the script.

In 2016 administrative proceedings, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accused American Advisors, as well as two other companies, of running deceptive ads. Without admitting or denying the allegations, American Advisors agreed to add more caveats to its advertising and pay a $400,000 fine.

Company spokesman Ryan Whittington said the company has since made “significant investments” in compliance. Reverse mortgages are “highly regulated, viable financial tools,” and all customers must undergo third-party counseling before buying one, he said.

The FHA has backed more than 1 million such reverse mortgages. Homeowners pay into an insurance fund an upfront fee equal to 2 percent of a home’s value, as well as an additional half a percentage point every year.

After the last housing crash, taxpayers had to make up a $1.7 billion shortfall because of reverse mortgage losses. Over the past five years, the government has been tightening rules, such as requiring homeowners to show they can afford tax and insurance payments.

In response to public concerns, Shelley Giordino, then an executive at reverse mortgage company Security 1 Lending, co-founded the Funding Longevity Task Force in 2012. It later became affiliated with the Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania-based American College of Financial Services.

Giordino, who now works for Mutual of Omaha’s reverse mortgage division, described her role as “head cheerleader” for positive reverse mortgages research. Gregg Smith, CEO of One Reverse Mortgage, said the group is promoting “true academic research,” including work by professors with no industry ties.

In January, the American College cut its ties with the task force because the school, as a nonprofit institution, wasn’t comfortable being affiliated with an organization endorsing products, according to Vice President James N. Katsaounis. “A proper retirement portfolio is one that is well-balanced and diversified, which may or may not include reverse mortgages,” he said.

Mayer, the Columbia professor and reverse mortgage company CEO, said many older consumers could benefit from the loans because they can never owe more than their house is worth even if real estate prices plunge.

A former economist at the Federal Reserve of Boston with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mayer joined the Columbia faculty in 2004 and currently co-­directs Columbia’s Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate. He wrote his first paper on reverse mortgages in 1994, when the FHA product was five years old.

In 2012, Mayer co-founded Longbridge, based in Mahwah, New Jersey, and in 2013 became CEO. He’s on the board of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. He said his company, which services 10,000 loans, hasn’t had a single completed foreclosure because of failure to pay property taxes or insurance.

While many colleges let professors engage in outside business activities, Gerald Epstein, a University of Massachusetts economics professor who’s studied academic conflicts of interest, said Columbia may need to scrutinize Mayer’s arrangement closely.

“They really should be careful when people have this kind of dual loyalty,” he said.

Columbia said it monitors Mayer’s employment as CEO of the mortgage company to ensure compliance with its policies. “Professor Mayer has demonstrated a commitment to openness and transparency by disclosing outside affiliations,” said Chris Cashman, a spokesman for the business school. Mayer has a “special appointment,” which reduces his salary and teaching load and also caps his hours at Longbridge, Cashman said.

Likewise, Boston College said it reviewed Professor Munnell’s investment in Mayer’s company, on whose board she served from 2012 through 2014. Munnell said another round of investors in 2016 bought out her $150,000 stake in Longbridge for an additional $4,000 in interest.

She said she now prefers another approach: States allowing seniors to defer property tax payments. The advantages include “no fee, no paperwork and no salespeople,” she said. In one way, she’s glad she exited her reverse mortgage investments.

“Anytime I had a conversation like this, I had to say at the beginning that I have $150,000 in Longbridge,” she said. “I had to do it all the time. I’m just as happy to be out, for my academic life.”

 

Source: Copyright Bloomberg News – Business News 13 Mar 2019

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A first-time homebuyer’s guide to avoiding the house poor trap

Photo: James Bombales

Life likes to deal us surprises from time to time — a job loss, a chronic illness, an unfortunate fender bender. As a homeowner, any one of these sudden changes can throw you off your game, financially speaking, but if you’re house poor, even a minor expense change can have catastrophic consequences.

House poorness occurs when a large portion of your income goes towards your housing expenses, leaving little leftover for savings, discretionary spending or emergency funds. House poorness is not uncommon; an Ipsos poll by MNP published in January found that nearly half of Canadians are $200 or less away from being unable to pay their bills. A fluctuation in interest rates or a sudden expense can bring a house poor owner to their knees, Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions explains.

“You’re really fighting a situation where anything that happens becomes too much,” she says.

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Sign up for The Ladder newsletter, your essential guide to making the jump into the housing market.

House poorness falls on a spectrum of intensity. For some, not having much financial wiggle room means no vacations or new cars. For others, it’s the difference between paying the mortgage and saving for retirement.

“The more serious version of house poor that I think people are just starting to see, and possibly for a couple more years, is people who not only can’t afford to do those discretionary spending types of things, but who also cannot save for retirement, save for children’s education, other things that are really important to do as well,” says Jason Heath, managing director of Objective Financial Partners Inc.

While the prospect of house poorness is frightening, it can be prevented through detailed planning, budgeting and thinking into the future. Campbell and Heath share how you can avoid house poorness, even before you sign those mortgage documents.

Want to retire? Buy from the bottom

While it’s expected that Canada’s hottest housing markets won’t cool off entirely this year, affordable housing remains inaccessible for many. Campbell is concerned that in the current market conditions, some new buyers are still purchasing above what they can afford. In the event of a interest rate rise, she says that those who’ve bought beyond their means could be on a course for financial hardship.

Photo: James Bombales

“Even a quarter point could result in immediate financial discord for a family that has really bought at the top of their income,” says Campbell.

Heath has worked with a number of clients, who, after several years of house poorness, have not been able to efficiently save for retirement. In order to recoup their losses, Heath says that house poorness has forced some homeowners to make downsizing an inevitable part of their financial plan. He fears that those overpaying in today’s market will follow the same fate.

“Particularly if and when home interest rates rise, mortgages payments will rise accordingly,” says Heath. “I worry that you’ve got a whole generation of young people who may be putting a lot of their retirement plans into their home as opposed to saving in a traditional manner.”

Preventing house poorness starts with buying at the bottom of the market, where the prices are the lowest, but Campbell adds that it also requires ignoring the pressures of needing to buy right now — home prices may decline further yet. By monitoring the price of homes in the markets in which you want to buy, you’ll build your knowledge of a fair evaluation of prices in your desired area and skip overpaying, Campbell explains.

“Even if you want to buy a house a year from now, start doing your research now,” she says. “Know what the real cost of housing in the area you want to buy is so you can make sure you’re evaluating the houses that are up for sale with experience.”

Taking on a smaller mortgage loan may also prevent house poorness, especially in the event of an unexpected income change. Borrowing under the maximum amount a mortgage lender approves you for, Heath says, leaves a good buffer in your financial budget in case any unanticipated changes should occur.

“I think it’s a really good lesson to people before they buy to appreciate that job loss happens, health issues happen,” says Heath. “There are extraordinary financial situations that you may not be able to anticipate that could put you into difficulty if you bite off more than you can chew in the first place.”

Skip the McMansion — think long term

Like we keep a spare tire in the event of a flat, or a box of bandaids for those little accidents, avoiding house poorness requires establishing some safeguards in case of unforeseen circumstances. This means having a well thought out financial budget, and a good cushion of emergency funds.

When it comes to budgets, Heath says it takes a very personalized approach to get it right. The mortgage stress test does not factor in personal spending, so financial budgets for homeownership should reflect your own spending habits and expenses.

“The mortgage qualification process does not take into account things like your discretionary spending or the activities that your children are enrolled in, for example,” says Heath. “You can have two families with the same income and the same mortgage approval, but spend very different amounts of money month to month on housing related stuff.”

Photo: CafeCreditFlickr

Beyond budgets, Campbell says it’s also important to account for the long-term lifestyle you’ll want under your mortgage. Owning a home in your early thirties with no children will mean different financial priorities compared to your late forties with post-secondary education fees and retirement in mind. It’s important that your mortgage accommodates your long-term savings and planned changes to family and income. Campbell says this starts with sticking to a budget.

“You don’t need the McMansion,” she says. “A lot of people think the bigger the house, the better it is and a lot of people regret that. So make sure that it’s within the budget that you have within an emergency fund that you need to develop around that budget and you’re able to do the things that you’ve wanted to do over time that won’t be impacted by the decisions you make with that home.”

Don’t give up everything

Owning a home ain’t cheap: there’s renovations, regular maintenance, seasonal upkeep and at least one emergency repair that you’ll need to fork out for at some point. Heath says that new home buyers tend to overlook these expenses — but they are critical to account for in any homeowner budget.

“I think it’s really important to, either on your own or with a professional, to try to assess what the true homeownership cost is going to be in that home,” says Heath. “Particularly, if you’re moving from a condo into a house, or from a rental into a homeownership position.”

Failing to accommodate regular home upkeep and extra costs in the budget can skew the true cost of homeownership. It can also be a drain on your finances. House poorness is marked by a lack of disposable income, which not only leads to skipping those needed repairs, but also the inability to go out and enjoy living life.

“People will often say, ‘We’ll give up everything to buy this house,’ but everything gets really boring very fast to have given up everything,” says Campbell.

Heath recommends making a detailed budget for the medium- to long-term financial outcomes of buying a home in order to assess true ownership costs.

Breaking up is hard to do

If you’re in a position of house poorness, don’t give up — there are options.

Campbell says that boosting your income is a good first step. You can do this by getting a part-time job, or creating side hustle from your home by renting out your extra rooms on Airbnb. But, if your mortgage payments have simply become too much, Heath says that you may need to consider selling and downsizing.

“There are situations where people need to consider the home that they own and whether it is too expensive,” he says.

If selling is the last resort, Campbell advises not to do so hastily. While there could be a mounting urge to get cash — and fast — selling quickly could cost you value in your home.

“Don’t wait until you really hit the dirt, and then try to sell your house, because chances are you’re going to have to sell it very quickly, and if you need to sell it very quickly, you’ll probably going to sell at a lower rate than you wanted to get,” says Campbell.

Source: Livabl.com –   

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The Cost of Selling Your Home Without a Real Estate Agent

Everybody likes to save a little money. So when Rossana was ready to sell her condo a few years ago, she figured she could save some cash by selling it herself — without using a real estate agent. After all, her property was in a hot real estate market and she thought: “How hard could this be?”

Rossana, a busy mother of one, had become overwhelmed juggling her daily responsibilities in addition to managing her rental condo. She had grown tired of being a landlord and dealing with a revolving door of tenants — so when the family currently renting it was moving out, she decided that it was time to sell.

In hopes of saving some money, Rossana chose to sell her condo herself instead of working with a real estate agent. She thought: How hard could it be? She figured it would be easy to just hire a company that charges a flat fee to photograph the condo for her and advertising the property online. After all, she could handle the rest of the details herself. Right?

What she quickly discovered was that this approach didn’t work.

Missed Opportunities

“I found the service I used was not the best,” Rossana says. First, she says the service might have turned off potential buyers with unprofessional photos, “Honestly, I could have done a better job if I had done it myself.”

Second, when it came to marketing her property, Rossana says the marketing plan wasn’t aggressive enough to expose her condo listing to a large population of potential buyers. “My condo just didn’t get the same visibility if it would have had on MLS.”

Her condo was not widely promoted, and the service she used was not authorized to advertise on Realtor.ca (also known as MLS), which is many Canadians’ first stop when starting their home search.

Low Buyer Confidence

Rossana found buyers who had real estate agents wouldn’t come to view her property since she was selling it herself. “I think they lacked confidence that the sale would go through, or that it would be a complicated process because I didn’t have an agent.”

While she wasn’t getting a great deal of interest, Rossana still had to be on-site for open houses over the weekends. “I was living at the other end of the city at the time, so the commute was terrible. It was so much work, but I wasn’t getting much traction.”

Less-than Attractive Offers

When offers did get presented, they were far below the listing price. Plus, agents came in very confident with their clients’ offers, and Rossana didn’t feel she had the experience to handle these types of negotiations.

“I felt people were trying to take advantage of me, because I was trying to sell on my own. And I didn’t have the full picture of the market. I didn’t have the background to stand up to those low offers.”

Making the Decision to Hire an Agent

After more than five weeks of trying to sell the property on her own, Rossana decided to list her home with a professional real estate agent, after getting a referral from a friend.

“I immediately saw the difference in having a real estate professional in my corner,” Rossana recalls. “She offered staging, took really nice photos, and her level of professionalism was so impressive. And when there was an offer coming in, she was able to negotiate on my behalf.”

In the end, Rossana sold her condo — about two weeks after hiring an agent — and for a price she was very happy with.

“I really underestimated the amount of time an effort needed to sell a home myself. For anyone looking to sell their home, I highly recommend working with a real estate professional.”

Reasons to Use a Real Estate Professional

Rossana’s experience is a valuable tale for those thinking of taking a DIY approach to selling a home. While there is a cost to selling with a real state agent in the form of commission, the cost to sell without one may be greater.

Here are five benefits to working with a real estate agent:

  1. Market Knowledge. Rossana’s real estate agent knew what comparable condos in her neighbourhood had sold for, and the inventory on the market at the time. This enabled her to have an informed perspective on a reasonable listing price and acceptable end selling price.
  2. Visibility and Presentation. From professional staging to high quality photos, Rossana’s real estate agent presented her home in a highly attractive manner that was appealing to potential buyers. And because she could list the property on Realtor.ca, those looking for properties online could browse the photos and features of Rossana’s condo 24/7.
  3. Administration and Coordination. One of the things that Rossana underestimated was the time commitment required to sell a home privately. Her real estate agent took care of all the showings and open houses, allowing Rossana to be completely hands off until it came time to review an offer.
  4. Professional Real Estate Networks. As an established agent, Rossana’s real estate agent could connect with others working with buyers in the neighbourhood, and present the property to those in her network, further widening the net of potential purchasers.
  5. Negotiation Skills. Rossana’s real estate agent had significant experience negotiating deals and was in a great position to get Rossana the best possible price for her condo — Rossana didn’t have to do any of the negotiating herself.

Thinking about selling your home? Let Rossana’s story be a reminder of the benefits to working with a real estate professional.

Not sure how to find one or what to look for in a real estate professional? Discover Seven Things to Look for in a Real Estate Professional for some valuable tips.

Source: RoyalBank.com – By Diane Amato February 19, 2019
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