A first-time homebuyer’s guide to getting pre-approved for a mortgage

Many Canadians might want to start their homebuying journey by contacting a realtor and scoping out open houses, but their first step should actually start in a lender’s office. The mission: To get a mortgage pre-approval. In this process, a potential mortgage lender looks at your finances to figure out the maximum amount they can lend you and what interest rates are available to you.

Lisa Okun, a Toronto-based mortgage broker, recommends getting a pre-approval right out of the gates. “You need to understand the financing piece before you start shopping. Through the process of getting a pre-approval letter, you will also get your ducks in a row,” says Okun.

Make yourself house proud.

The key benefits to getting a pre-approval are that you’ll have a ballpark figure for the maximum mortgage you can qualify for and your lender can estimate your monthly mortgage payments. You’ll also be able to lock in an interest rate for up to 120 days. This means if interest rates go up in the months following your pre-approval, most lenders will honour the lower rate that they initially qualified you for.

That said, pre-approvals have some limitations. Okun breaks it all down here.

Photo: James Bombales

Let’s start with the basics. Where do you get a pre-approval?

Mortgages are available from several types of lenders like banks, mortgage companies and credit unions. If you’re getting a traditional mortgage, you can get pre-approved by one of Canada’s major banks or through a mortgage broker or agent. A bank will only be able to offer you mortgage products under their umbrella. Mortgage brokers and agents don’t actually lend the money directly to you. Instead, they arrange the transactions by finding a lender for you and then get a commission from the sale. Unlike a bank, brokers and agents have access to dozens of mortgage products.
Not all mortgage brokers have access to the same products, so it’s important to shop around, do your research, and compare interest rates and products before you settle on ‘the one’. Even half a percentage point can make a massive difference in the size of your monthly payments and the total interest you’ll pay over the life of your mortgage.

Photo: James Bombales 

Your pre-approval is not a guarantee.

With a pre-approval, your lender is approving you. With a final approval, they will be approving the property you intend to buy, along with ensuring your finances haven’t changed since you were initially given the green light.

“A lender is always going to reserve the right to approve you on a live transaction,” says Okun. “Let’s say someone’s credit score dropped in the six months that they were shopping. That could change things. Now, I may have to assess you at a lower debt servicing ratio.”

In addition to the possibility of your financial snapshot changing, the lender may not like the property you want to buy (remember, as the primary investor, it’s their house too). “If they believe they would have trouble unloading that property in the event of a default, they may not go for it,” says Okun. “For condos, many have minimum square footage requirements. If there’s an environmental issue, they may have concerns about that. Or if they decide that you overpaid for it, they might only be willing to finance the property to a certain amount. Then it’s up to the client to decide if they want to come up with the difference, or if they want to walk away from that property.”

Photo: Helloquence on Unsplash

What do lenders require for a pre-approval?

Whether you go to a bank,mortgage broker or agent, you will need to provide documentation that shows your current assets (whether it’s a car, a cottage, stocks, etc.), your income and employment status, and what percentage of your income will go towards paying your total debts.

Proof of employment

Your lender or broker may ask you to provide a current pay stub or letter from your employer stating your title, salary, whether you’re a full-time or part-time employee, and how long you’ve been with the organization.

If you’re self-employed, your lender will need to see your taxes from the last two years (Notices of Assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency). “Ideally, it’s going to show two years of working at the same business,” says Okun. “If you had one venture and then you abandoned it and you started something new, that’s not going to show as well as if you’ve had the business for three years and your income has steadily increased.”

If you are currently employed, this is not the best time to switch up your resume. “If someone is full-time employed and they just started in a new job, I can still use a job letter and paystub,” says Okun. “But ideally, I want it to say they’re not on probation. Not to say that would kill it but it’s a bit easier if they aren’t.”

If you’ve recently switched jobs, your lender may ask to see your tax returns from previous years to confirm that you’ve had continuous employment and have stayed within a relative income bracket.

Photo: James Bombales

Proof of downpayment

Your lender will want to have an understanding of how liquid your downpayment is. “I usually don’t ask for a history of the funds when we’re discussing pre-approval, but I will ask a lot of questions about where the funds are and how accessible they are,” says Okun. This could include details on whether you’re waiting for an inheritance or gifted funds, selling stocks or other investments, or corralling funds spread across multiple accounts.

Your lender should also have a conversation with you about closing costs, moving costs and ongoing maintenance costs to ensure you’re prepared for the total cost of owning the house you’re approved for.

Credit score

Before you meet with a lender to get a pre-approval, order a copy of your credit report and review it for any errors.

If you don’t have a good credit score, the mortgage lender may refuse to approve your mortgage, decide to approve it for a lower amount or at a higher interest rate, only consider your application if you have a large downpayment, or require that someone co-sign with you on the mortgage.

Your credit score will also have an impact on how much mortgage you qualify for. Lenders figure this out by looking at what percentage of your income will go towards your housing costs and total debts (including housing). If your credit score is higher, you are allocated the maximum percentage allowance, which means you get more house for your money. “If your credit score is above 680, the limit for your gross debt service ratio (GDS) is 39 percent and total debt service ratio (TDS) is 44 percent,” says Okun. More on that below.

Photo: James Bombales

Calculating your total monthly housing costs and total debt load.

Your gross debt service (GDS) ratio encompasses your monthly mortgage payments, property tax, heating and 50 percent of condo fees (if applicable). This is sometimes referred to as PITH (Principal, Interest, Taxes and Heating).

Your lender will also do a calculation called total debt service ratio (TDS) that determines what percentage of your income is going towards servicing your total debts (including the housing debts you’ll be taking on).

To calculate your TDS, add up PITH and every other debt you have including car loans, credit cards, lines of credit, student loans, etc. Then see how that stacks up against your income.

The guidelines state your GDS should be no more than 32 percent and your TDS should be no more than 40 percent. However, as mentioned above, if you have a fabulous credit score you can stretch this maximum to 39 percent for GDS and 44 percent for TDS.

You might be wondering how your lender can calculate your property taxes when there isn’t a property in question. To do this they set aside one percent of the forecasted purchase price. On a $600,000 property, this amount would work out to $6,000 a year. “It’s not going to be that much but that’s the calculation your lender will use,” says Okun. That’s why it’s a good idea to run the numbers with your lenders every time you find a property of interest so they reflect your actual affordability.

Photo: James Bombales

Levers you can pull if you aren’t pre-approved for the amount you want.

Maybe your affordability isn’t reaching as high as you’d like. In this case, there are a few levers you can pull. One option is to go with a “B lender” — an institution that offers a lower barrier to entry to qualify for their products. The only problem is that this can often be offset with higher interest rates and fees.

“There are B lenders that would have different debt servicing ratios, and will let us push those numbers a little bit further,” says Okun. “But you’re going to pay a higher interest rate and there’s going to be a one percent fee to do your deal with them.” Say your mortgage is $800,000. Prepare to be dinged at least $8,000. And it’s not just a one-time fee — if you have to renew, they’ll ding you again.

“There’s always a solution, but you have to ask yourself, ‘Is it worth it and how much is it going to cost?’” says Okun.

Another suggestion Okun shares is to add a cosigner. With an extra income, you’ll have access to a higher purchasing price. “You’re also going to be taking that person’s liabilities onto the application now, so they have to be a good applicant in terms of their debt,” she says.

You could also contribute more to your downpayment to ensure you’re putting down at least 20 percent. This will give you access to a 30-year amortization, instead of a 25-year (this is the amount of time you’re given to pay your mortgage back in full). “This stretches your loan over 30 years instead of 25 which changes the payment significantly,” says Okun. “That allows you to essentially afford more.” Another strategy is to pay off significant debts so they aren’t tipping your debt servicing ratios over the edge.

Where there’s a will (and a patient lender), there is often a way.

 

Source: Livabl.com –  

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Home renovations are costly, prone to errors

Jennifer Skingley and her partner—the former an erstwhile project manager and the latter an executive manager—are meticulous planners, so no detail was spared when they planned a home renovation. However, no amount of planning could have prepared them for the aggravations they would subsequently endure.

“We got the keys to our home in February 2018 and before we even took possession of it we had teed up people to do the work. We really researched and organized our renovation,” said Skingley. “There were several false starts trying to get people who were available to commit to doing the work. We interviewed a ton of contractors, got multiple estimates and did as much of the leg work ourselves as humanly possible without actually being construction experts. We tried to hand everything over on a silver platter, but for the work to actually start was like pulling teeth.”

And that was only the beginning, added Skingley.

The basement level needed external waterproofing, upgraded plumbing and a new bathroom was fitted in, while the kitchen and upstairs bathroom also received significant work.

However, because of last minute cancellations by contractors and a seeming deluge of errors, the home renovation took much longer than originally anticipated and cost over $80,000.

“Management was the issue,” said Skingley. “There were some blatant oversights and lossages with the team of people we picked, so we definitely ended up spending more money than we had allocated, even though we budgeted quite thoroughly from the outset, because we know when you tear things apart you find ugly surprises, but we there were things like having to tear floors out a second time because they forgot to get a permit. Silly little things like that took us way over and above. Even sourcing material was challenging.”

Unfortunately, Skingley and her partner’s nightmare renovation is extremely common, and given the exorbitant cost of the work, most homeowners can afford nary a thing to go wrong, says Casper Wong, co-founder and COO of Financeit, a consumer financing platform.

“When most Canadians renovate their homes, they aren’t offered flexible payment plans by their merchants, and while there are more traditional ways of paying, like with cash or using HELOCs [home equity lines of credit], not every Canadian can afford to make cash payments up front,” he said.

“Not everybody has access to HELOCs. Only three million Canadians have access to them, and on average Canadians owe $65,000, and 25% of Canadians with HELOCs just make interest-only payments.”

Financeit, a digital platform, works with thousands of contractors to homeowners make those large renovations in low-installation payments.

“We use our technology—and we own the entire stack, which allows us to manage credit, underwriting, servicing, and we work with multiple lenders and have a mobile app,” said Wong. “Not every Canadian can afford to make cash payments up front and usually when they do, they’re more reliant on credit, but credit cards have high interest.”

Source: Canadian Real Estate Magazine – Neil Sharma 12 Aug 2019

 

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First-Time Home-buyer Lessons

 

My husband and I bought our first home three years ago, and I’ll admit we made some mistakes along the way.

Here are 5 hard lessons we learned as first-time homebuyers.

1. We bought a very old house. Before we bought the home, we had it inspected by a reputable home inspector. In his report, he suggested that we have the house’s foundation assessed by an engineer. But we didn’t do that. Why? We were in too much of a rush to buy the house.

Lesson? Pay attention to the inspection report. After living in the home for about a year and a half, I called an engineer who told us a foundation wall had to be replaced–and soon. It wasn’t cheap.

2. Our agent told us that upping our offer by a few thousand dollars would only mean an extra $40, $50 or $60 a month on our mortgage. It doesn’t sound like much, but if interest rates go up spending thousands more on our home will hurt.

Lesson? Once you figure out your maximum price, stick to it. This is one thing we actually did well. In the end our offer was accepted at the price we were willing to pay, but upping our bid could’ve made paying the mortgage a lot tougher.

3. When you’ve been a renter for most of your life, it’s a shock to suddenly find yourself responsible for repairs. We hired a roofer who did a really bad job, and we had to pay another roofer to do the work a second time. Then I had to go to small claims court to try getting my money back from the first one.

Lesson? Shop around before hiring a contractor. I should have paid more attention to a couple of negative online reviews. You can also look up court decisions online to see if other customers have had problems.

4. We were able to put a 20% down payment on our home and had about $10,000 set aside for closing costs, taxes, home insurance and other expenses. It wasn’t enough.

Lesson? Set money aside, then set some more aside. You also need to budget for the unexpected. In the first year, we spent several hundred dollars on a new sump pump after our crawl space flooded. Last year, we spent a few hundred dollars on an exterminator for mice.

5. This past winter, while our foundation wall was being dug up and replaced, I called a real estate agent to talk about possibly putting our house up for sale. I was pretty fed up with the seemingly unending problems and stress. The good news was that our home had gone up in value and we could make a profit. Though we’ll stay put for now, at least we have an exit plan–as long as the housing market stays strong.

Lesson? Have an exit plan. Hopefully these hard-earned lessons can help you become homeowners. Or maybe decide to remain renters. Good luck!

 

Source: Tangerine.ca – by Dominique Jarry Shore Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

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8 HOME INSPECTION RED FLAGS

8 HOME INSPECTION RED FLAGS:

Our gallery of home inspection nightmares (below) is good for a laugh, but a home inspection is serious business. It’s the buyer’s opportunity to make sure that the house they’re about to purchase doesn’t hold any expensive surprises.

A typical home inspection includes a check of a house’s structural and mechanical condition, from the roof to the foundation, as well as tests for the presence of radon gas and the detection of wood-destroying insects. Depending on the seriousness of what the inspection uncovers, the buyer can walk away from the deal (most contracts include an inspection contingency in the event of major flaws) or negotiate with the seller for the necessary repairs.

These are the red flags that should send a buyer back to the negotiating table, according to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutler of The Money Pit.

1. Termites and other live-in pests: The home you’ve fallen in love with may also be adored by the local termite population. The sooner termites are detected, the better. The same goes for other wood-devouring pests like powder-post beetles. Keep in mind that getting rid of the intruders is just the first step. Once the problem has been addressed, have a pest control expert advise you on what needs to be done in order to prevent their return.

2. Drainage issues: Poor drainage can lead to wood rot, wet basements, perennially wet crawlspaces and major mold growth. Problems are usually caused by missing or damaged gutters and downspouts, or improper grading at ground level. Correcting grading and replacing gutters is a lot less costly than undoing damage caused by the accumulation of moisture.

3. Pervasive mold: Where moisture collects, so grows mold, a threat to human health as well as to a home’s structure. Improper ventilation can be the culprit in smaller, more contained spaces, such as bathrooms. But think twice about buying a property where mold is pervasive — that’s a sign of long-term moisture issues.

4. Faulty foundation: A cracked or crumbling foundation calls for attention and repair, with costs ranging from moderate to astronomically expensive. The topper of foundation expenses is the foundation that needs to be replaced altogether — a possibility if you insist on shopping “historic” properties. Be aware that their beautiful details and old-fashioned charms may come with epic underlying expenses.

6. Worn-out roofing: Enter any sale agreement with an awareness of your own cost tolerance for roof repair versus replacement. The age and type of roofing material will figure into your home inspector’s findings, as well as the price tag of repair or replacement. An older home still sheltered by asbestos roofing material, for example, requires costly disposal processes to prevent release of and exposure to its dangerous contents.

7. Toxic materials: Asbestos may be elsewhere in a home’s finishes, calling for your consideration of containment and replacement costs. Other expensive finish issues include lead paint and, more recently, Chinese drywall, which found its way into homes built during the boom years of 2004 and 2005. This product’s sulfur off-gassing leads to illness as well as damage to home systems, so you’ll need to have it completely removed and replaced if it’s found in the home that you’re hoping to buy.

8. Outdated wiring: Home inspectors will typically open and inspect the main electrical panel, looking for overloaded circuits, proper grounding and the presence of any trouble spots like aluminum branch circuit wiring, a serious fire hazard.

The McMillan Group/Centum Supreme Mortgages Ltd.

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10 Signs to Watch out for to Avoid Renovating a Money Pit

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12 home inspection issues buyers can leverage to negotiate the sale price

Photo: James Bombales

Waiving a home inspection is like purchasing a used car on Craigslist without taking a look under the hood — you’re likely to run into issues down the road. A new survey from the online home improvement marketplace, Porch, reveals that 86 percent of home inspections uncover one or more problems that need to be addressed. While hiring a home inspector will set you back about $377 on average, their expertise could save you from buying a lemon or shelling out thousands of dollars in future repairs.

Prospective homebuyers can use the information provided by a home inspector to negotiate a lower sales price, accounting for the cost of repairs or replacing a feature altogether. Of the 1,000 individuals surveyed by Porch who hired a home inspector, 37 percent submitted a revised offer with help from their real estate agent, saving an average of $14,000 off the listing price of their new home. That’s no small chunk of change!

Here we examine the most-flagged home inspection issues buyers can use to negotiate the best sale price.

Photo: James Bombales

1. Roof – flagged in 19.7% of reports

Roofs with asphalt or cedar shingles have an average lifespan of 20 years whereas metal roofs only need to be replaced every 50 to 75 years. Your home inspector will look for signs of water damage, mold or algae, and take note of any sagging or missing shingles.

2. Electrical – flagged in 18.7% of reports

If you’re looking to purchase a home built prior to the 1950s, you’ll want to inquire about its electrical wiring. Knob-and-tube wiring, which was popular from the 1880s to the 1940s, can cause electrical shocks and fire. Other issues to take note of include exposed wiring, ungrounded wire receptacles and paint on electrical outlets.

Photo: James Bombales

3. Windows – flagged in 18.4% of reports

While broken windows are a pretty obvious spot, your home inspector may conduct a simple test to check for air leaks. However, there’s no guarantee the home owners will agree to repair the window seals — some consider this cosmetic, rather than structural.

4. Gutters – flagged in 16.9% of reports

Your home inspector will want to make sure the gutters are in good working condition, assessing their size, any damage, and how far water is directed away from the house.

Photo: James Bombales

5. Plumbing – flagged in 13.6% of reports

Plumbing problems can quickly add up, costing an unsuspecting homeowner thousands of dollars. With a flashlight in hand, your home inspector will scan for potential leaks, polybutylene piping, DIY projects gone wrong, tree root damage, and more.

6. Branches overhanging roof – flagged in 13.3% of reports

Having an old-growth tree in your front yard might seem like a selling point, but it can actually cause a lot of damage if not properly maintained. Branches can rip off roof shingles, leaves can pile up and clog up your gutters, and heavy limbs can come crashing down into your living room.

Photo: James Bombales

7. Fencing – flagged in 12.6% of reports

Home inspectors will evaluate the condition of a fence that lines the property. But again, this is one of those “choose your battles” situations. Are you willing to risk losing out on your dream home because a few pickets have gone missing? Probably not.

8. Water heater – flagged in 12.2% of reports

While a rickety fence may be no big deal, a busted up water heater certainly is. Home inspectors check for things like water leaks, sediment buildup, corrosion on the pipes, and low water pressure.

Photo: James Bombales

9. Driveways, sidewalks, patios, entrance landing – flagged in 11.9% of reports

Cracks in your driveway or patio are pretty much inevitable. That being said, you’ll want the home inspector to ensure water isn’t seeping into those crevices. If major issues do turn up, you may be able to seek compensation for those repairs.

10. Air conditioning – flagged in 9.9% of reports

According to the Porch survey, most homebuyers negotiate only $500 for AC repairs, but the actual costs are much higher — think thousands of dollars, not hundreds.

Photo: James Bombales

11. Exterior paint – flagged in 9.6% of reports

If the house was constructed before 1979, your inspector will likely conduct a lead paint test. Additionally, if the exterior paint is peeling, some lenders (like the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs) will not approve the loan due to concerns over health and safety.

12. Foundation issues/cracks – flagged in 8.9% of reports

Home inspectors can look for obvious signs of foundation problems like cracks in basement walls, damaged bricks and uneven floors. If you and your home inspector suspect the problems are serious, you may want to bring in an engineer. But consider it money well spent — foundation fixes can cost $10,000 or more. Gulp.

Source: Livabl.com –  

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Fed unveils First-Time Home Buyer Incentive in Barrie

Fed unveils First-Time Home Buyer Incentive in Barrie 

A federal official unveiled Canada’s First-Time Home Buyer Incentive in Barrie, ON last week.

Adam Vaughan, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of families, children, and social development, said that $1.25 billion has been allocated for the program over the next three years. The program, which will begin on September 2, is expected to reduce monthly mortgage payments required for first-time buyers without increasing the amount they need to save for a down payment.

“Housing affordability is a major issue and a major concern for families,” said Vaughan. “This region has become one of the most expensive in the world and the prices of downtown Toronto are starting to echo up into communities like Barrie, and the success of Barrie itself is also having an impact on housing values and land costs.”

The program will be available to first-time home buyers with qualified annual household incomes of up to $120,000. Under the incentive, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) will provide up to 10% on the purchase price of a new build and 5% on a resale.

Source: Mortgage Broker News – by Duffie Osental 31 Jul 2019

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