Tag Archives: debt consolidation

Why consumers should be wary of using the wildly popular home equity lines of credit as ATMs

A federal agency is warning consumers addicted to home equity lines of credit — a product increasingly driving debt —  could find themselves at increased risk of default if the housing market corrects.

“Falling housing prices may constrain HELOC borrowers’ access to credit, forcing them to curtail spending, which could in turn negatively affect the economy,” the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada wrote in a 15-page report out Wednesday. “Furthermore, during a severe and prolonged market correction, lenders may revise HELOC limits downward or call in loans.”

The timing of the release from FCAC is coincidental but it comes just two days after the Toronto Real Estate Board reported new data that clearly show the housing market in retreat. May sales dropped 20.3 per cent from a year ago and prices were off 6.2 per cent from April amid a massive surge of active listings.

The report, titled Home Equity Lines of Credit: Market Trends and Consumer Issues, focuses on the massive explosion of the HELOC market which grew from about $35 billion in 2000 to $186 billion by 2010 for an average annual growth rate of 20 per cent.

During that period, HELOC became the fastest growing segment of non-mortgage consumer debt. In 2000, the HELOC market made up just 10 per cent of non-mortgage consumer debt but had climbed to 40 per cent by 2010.

“At a time when consumers are carrying record amounts of debt, the persistence of HELOC debt may add stress to the financial well-being of Canadian households. HELOCs may lead Canadians to use their homes as ATMs, making it easier for them to borrow more than they can afford,” said Lucie Tedesco, commissioner of the FCAC. “Consumers carrying high levels of debt are more vulnerable to the impact of an unforeseen event or economic shock.”

The average annual growth of the HELOC market slowed to five per cent from 2011 to 2013 and has averaged two per cent since, the slowdown at least partially attributable to tougher federal guidelines on how much home equity consumers can access through a HELOC.

HELOC products have become popular because they work like credit cards or unsecured lines of credit, in terms of the ability to draw money from them. They are usually backed by a collateral charge on your home but a HELOC most often gives the consumer the ability to withdraw and pay off their HELOC with flexibility — financed at a rate which is usually close to the prime lending rate at most banks.

Unlike a mortgage, a HELOC is a demand loan, and while most borrowers can pay interest-only on them, the loans are callable by the bank at any moment — a practice rarely seen in the Canadian market at this time.

A positive feature of a HELOC is the ability to consolidate high-interest debt from items like credit cards, and the report says from 1999-2010, 26 per cent of loans were used for just that. Another 34 per cent were used for financial and non-financial investment. The remaining 40 per cent was used for consumption or home renovation — a market Altus Group said was worth $71.4 billion in 2016.

The federal agency noted that most HELOC products sold today are part of what is called readvanceable mortgage. In those cases a HELOC is combined with the mortgage and as the mortgage is paid down, the available credit in  HELOC increases.

“In recent years, lenders have been strongly encouraging consumers to use readvanceable mortgages to finance their new homes,” said Tedesco.

She said complaints have shown people are not understanding the product. “It’s not that they’ve been bamboozled,” said Tedesco. “One of the things that we will be doing with the results of our research is trying to see how we can improve the disclosure around readvanceable mortgages, and will communicate to the financial institutions our expectations on that front.”

Source: Financial Post – Garry Marr | June 7, 2017

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Pros and Cons of Joint Credit Cards

CoupleUsingCreditCard_ImageSource_DigitalVision.jpg

When two people have a joint credit card account, both people can make charges to the credit card and the card’s history is included on both people’s credit report. Both people are also liable for the credit card payments. When the payments become delinquent, the credit card issuer can go after either cardholder for payment.

If you’re thinking about getting a joint credit card with a partner, spouse, or child, knowing the pros and cons will help you decide whether it’s a good idea.

Advantages of Joint Credit Cards

You share a bill. When you and the other person, your spouse for example, have one rent, one electricity bill, one cell phone bill, it seems only natural to share a credit card bill. Having one less bill to pay can let you make the most of your income. Plus, when it’s time to pay off your debt, you’ll have an easier time deciding which card to pay back first.

Help one person get better credit. Adding a spouse or family member with bad credit to your credit card can help them get better credit. But it will only work if the credit card is managed right – the bill is paid on time and the balance is kept low.

Help one person get a credit card/good interest rate where they otherwise wouldn’t. Being added as a joint user might be the only way to get your spouse a credit card, or to get her a low interest rate.

Disadvantages of Having a Joint Credit Card

Both people are legally responsible for making the payments. That means the credit card issuer can take legal action against you for charges you might not have made.

You could even be sued and have your wages garnished.

Credit card disagreements could cause relationship problems. In a 2008 poll conducted for CreditCards.com, 19% of respondents who shared a credit card said they had arguements with the other person about the account. Seven percent said they’d cancelled a shared credit card because it caused relationship problems.

Breakups or divorce make it hard to manage the credit card. No matter what a divorce decree says, the credit card issuer holds you to the original credit card agreement. So if your ex-spouse isn’t paying his or her share of the credit card bills, your credit can stil be affected. It’s even harder to manage the credit card bill if you sever ties with someone you were dating or even a friend or family member.

One person could use the credit card to hurt the other. It sounds childish, but it happens, often after a breakup. One cardholder could go on a revenge spending splurge, leaving the other cardholder with the bill. If the revenge-seeker already has bad credit, she (or he) has nothing to lose from a maxed out credit card or a few more late payments.

Should You Share a Credit Card?

It’s wiser to keep separate credit cards. Before you make the decision to get a joint credit card, evaluate your reasons for sharing a credit card. In the CreditCards.com survey, only 9% of respondents said they felt closer to the person after sharing a credit card.

Similarly, 9% said they felt more in control of the relationship.

Discuss the pros and cons of having a joint credit card. Make sure both people understand the effect a breakup could have on your credit history.

Source: TheBalance.com – Updated September 10, 2016

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When your mortgage is more than you can handle

On paper, you could afford your mortgage. Your lender even approved the paperwork. But now that you’re settled in your home, maybe you’ve incurred some unplanned-for monthly expenses, such as higher-than-planned utility bills, property taxes that have risen (as they tend to do), or increased insurance premiums, and find that you’re unable to make your mortgage payments. If you’re not sure what to do, the first thing is not to panic. All hope isn’t lost, and you don’t have to let your home own you. You do, however, have to confront the issue head-on in order not to lose control of your finances.

If you think your mortgage is too big, here are some options and avenues to consider going forward.

  1. Budget
The first solution is the most obvious: Cut back on other expenses to try and make up for the shortfall. If you got a mortgage without properly budgeting, then it’s better late than ever. Be honest with yourself and keep track of everything you spend for one month – or even better, categorize all of your spending that took place last month so you can get a jump-start on the process. Quicken, Mint, and YNAB (you need a budget) are popular tools for tracking your spending and creating a budget. By tweaking your lifestyle and spending habits, you might be able to close the gap between the amount of money that you need for your mortgage and housing-related expenses and how much you’re spending elsewhere.

 

  1. Refinance
Refinancing is when you go back to your lender (or a new lender) and renegotiate your mortgage contract, based on your current balance and the current interest rates, before your mortgage term has expired. Note that if you refinance, you’re almost certainly going to end up paying a penalty for breaking your mortgage contract, even if you stay with the same lender. But the upside is that if you refinance at a lower interest rate than the one that’s currently being applied to your mortgage, then you can save money on your monthly payments. Another option would be switching from a fixed rate to a variable rate mortgage during a refinance, since variable rate mortgages tend to have lower interest rates than fixed mortgages. But since the interest rate on your mortgages fluctuates with the market rate, this tactic could also end up backfiring on you if interest rates go up; you’ll be forced to pay the higher interest rate and payments could end up being higher than you were previously paying. Refinancing can also be used as a tool in conjunction with budgeting, so that you withdraw some of the equity in your home to consolidate and get on top of your debt while better managing your cash flow going forward.
  1. Sell, sell, sell
It is always an option to sell your house and get a smaller one. While selling your home and pocketing the profit may seem like a good idea, the profits might not be as big as you’d expect. Between land transfer taxes, the penalty of breaking the mortgage, fees for real estate agents, and other selling expenses such as staging and/or making small repairs, you may find that your profits will be eaten into at such an extent that you can’t sell your house while generating enough cash to pay off the mortgage. Reasearching your housing market and having a frank conversation with a realtor when it comes to how much you could realistically expect to get for your home will be a big factor in determining whether or not you should sell, as well as using online calculators so that you know how much those other incidentals will impact your bottom line.

 

  1. Rent it out
Renting often gets a bad rap as the doomed fate of the poor, the irresponsible, or the nomadic. But the thing is, it’s a fiscally responsible option for many people. If your housing market isn’t favouring sellers, or you aren’t getting any response to your house being on the market, considering whether it may be an option to rent your property to a tenant and live in a less costly option, whether that be smaller or located in a less desirable area. The sale and rental markets are related, so what’s happening in one will impact the other. If your area is experiencing a slow housing market and fewer people are buying homes for whatever reason, then there may be more people who are renting, or open to the idea. Ideally, your income from the rental will cover the costs associated with your home, and all you’ll have to pay for is your new rent, which you would find at an amount that you could actually afford.
  1. Get a private loan
This is not a fail-safe option and the private lending space isn’t for undisciplined borrowers. That being said, if you have a plan, a private loan can be a good way to consolidate other high-interest debt that could free up some money that could go toward your mortgage payment if you’re suffering from a temporary setback such as making ends meet during a period where you had a loss of income, or went through a divorce.
  1. Talk to your mortgage broker
It’s all about knowing your options in this situation, and whether you want to refinance your mortgage, switch lenders, sell your home, you need to know exactly what each option is going to mean in terms of your current mortgage, which means you need to know how much the penalty is going to end up costing you in the long run. Remember, talking to your broker is free, and even though they’re not a financial planner or advisor, they can advise you as to what loans and mortgages would work best for you in your current situation.

Whatever you decide to do, you do have options. They may not always be the best options, but there are ways for you to get your head above water, even if your mortgage is too big for you. If anything, once you get on top of your situation or the next time you buy a house, you’ll know better how to anticipate your true expenses and budget for them going ahead.

Source: WhichMortgage.ca By Kimberly Greene | this page was last updated on the 25 Jan 2017

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Nearly half of homeowners unprepared for job loss or other emergency

The poll released today by Manulife Bank finds that 24 per cent of those surveyed don’t know how much is in their emergency fund, 14 per cent have not put away any funds and nine per cent have access to $1,000 or less. (GETTY IMAGES)

An emergency fund is meant to be there in times of need, but a new survey suggests nearly half of Canadian homeowners would be ill prepared for a personal financial dilemma such as job loss.

The poll released Thursday by Manulife Bank found that 24 per cent of those surveyed don’t know how much is in their emergency fund, 14 per cent admit to not putting away any funds and nine per cent only have access to $1,000 or less.

The remainder of those surveyed have up to $10,000 saved, with the average amount being $5,000.

Manulife Bank chief executive Rick Lunny says not having three to six months of expenses set aside can lead to desperation if a situation arises where you need to access money right away.

“The risk here is when they don’t have that money, and an unexpected event happens like you need a new furnace or a car repair, many of these people don’t have a choice but to lean on high interest cards,” he said.

Lunny noted that instead of taking advantage of the current low-interest rate environment to save money, the poll suggests that many homeowners are using it to buy more expensive homes.

“They’ve taken on large mortgages and as a result of that, they’re stretched in many ways,” he said. “Because of that, maybe they haven’t had the financial discipline to put aside rainy day money.”

Manulife says among those polled, homeowners had an average of $174,000 in mortgage debt, with an average of 28 per cent of their net income going toward paying off their home each month.

About half (46 per cent) of those polled say they would have difficulty making their monthly mortgage payments in six months or less if their household’s primary income earner lost his or her job.

Sixteen per cent say they would have financial difficulty if interest rates cause their mortgage payments to increase.

Mortgage data has been a hot-button topic in recent months as the federal government takes steps toward reducing the risks in the Canadian housing market, particularly in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that stress tests will be required for all insured mortgages to ensure that borrowers would still be able to make their mortgage payments if interest rates rise or their financial situations change.

Last year, Ottawa raised the minimum down payment on the portion of a home worth over $500,000 to 10 per cent.

Lunny applauded the changes but says it doesn’t change the financial situation of current homeowners, who may already find it difficult to make mortgage payments.

The poll by Environics Research was conducted online with 2,372 Canadian homeowners from June 28 and July 8 of this year. Survey participants were between the ages of 20 to 69 with household income of $50,000 or more.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

Source: LINDA NGUYENTORONTO — The Canadian Press Published Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 

The poll released today by Manulife Bank finds that 24 per cent of those surveyed don’t know how much is in their emergency fund, 14 per cent have not put away any funds and nine per cent have access to $1,000 or less. (GETTY IMAGES)

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It won’t take much to drive Canadian borrowers over the edge, new study says

There are more than 700,000 Canadians who might be watching the next Bank of Canada decision very closely, because even a modest interest rate increase could push them over the financial edge.

A new study out Tuesday from credit agency TransUnion shows that of the 26 million credit-active Canadians in the country, 718,000 can’t absorb a 25-basis point increase or they won’t have enough cash flow to cover their debts. Raise rates one percentage point, something not likely to happen overnight, and 971,000 Canadians end up in a cash crunch.

The next interest rate announcement is not due until mid-October but the consensus among economists is there will not be a rate hike until the third quarter of 2017. That may be part of the problem, since consumers have come to expect rates will never go up and are now borrowing based on a prime lending rate of 2.7 per cent.

“I would say for five or six years interest rates have been so low, a lot of these consumers look okay because of the low rate environment. This is one of the things we are looking at,” said Jason Wang, director of research and industry analysis with Chicago-based TransUnion. “If everything changes and interest rates are higher, and they have to pay more on a monthly basis back to lenders, they may not be able to handle (an increase).”

The report looked at so-called super prime customers — the people with the best credit and scores in the 830-900 range — who make up the largest segment of the credit-holding population unable to absorb a small increase. Of super prime customers, TransUnion says a 25 basis point increase to interest rates would cause cash-flow trouble for 239,000. Only 101,000 Canadians borrowing with sub-prime ratings, in the range of 300-599, would face the same cash crunch under those circumstances.

Wang said the super-prime customers are far more leveraged and therefore more vulnerable to an interest rate increase. If rates rose one percentage point, 298,000 super-prime customers would face cash flow problems.

On average, credit-active Canadians carried 3.7 credit products, TransUnion said. The study focused on two major types of debt that carry variable rates, including lines of credit and variable-rate mortgages.

The message to consumers is to pay down debt before interest rates start to rise, while issuers need to look at their books.

“Take a look at their prime- and super-prime customers to see if they have a problem, because these are the people who will be surprised,”  Wang said. “We don’t want creditors to be surprised.”

Laurie Campbell, executive director of Credit Canada, said high quality customers have been building up debt because they’re attracted to low rates that never seem to rise.

“There is an assumption that those with better income and good (credit ratings) are in good financial shape,” Campbell said. “It’s not the case at all. We see people in our offices all the time that should be managing well that are not due to a number of factors. One is over extension, they’re biting off more than they can chew.”

Source: Financial Post Gary Marr | September 13, 2016 | Last Updated: Sep 13 8:43 PM ET

 

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Not All Debt is Bad

Not All Debt is Bad

Not all debt is bad. When you distinguish between credit used to fund the purchase of something that will increase your wealth and debit created for disposable items, you are empowering yourself to make informed financial decisions.

Why is referring to credit use as “bad” keeping you locked in debt? Judgments like this will translate back to yourself and you will end up feeling like you are a bad person with no discipline or self-control. This sort of language and self-talk will end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy – unless you can learn to turn your view around and use the debt as an opportunity to reflect on past expenditures you have made.

Things to consider are:

  1. Why was the expenditure made?
  2. How much was spent?
  3. Over what time period were the expenditures made?
  4. What can you do about it?

 

And, at the same time, always show gratitude for all the enjoyment you have received from the items and experiences that were purchased on credit and have created the debt. Look for ways to turn the debt into credit that will up your financial position.

For more information on debt solutions, contact the Ray C. McMillan Mortgage Team

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Should You Sell Your Home to Pay Off Debt?

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Home prices have literally gone through the roof in Canada in recent years. If you’re lucky enough to have entered the market a few years ago, you’ve built up some equity. But what if you have other, not so good debts, like credit cards, overdrafts and tapped out lines of credit? How should you use the equity in your home to deal with this debt?

If you do have equity in your home, you have three potential options to pay off excess unsecured debt:

  • Sell your home, cash in the equity and pay off your debt.
  • Use the equity in your house to support a debt consolidation loan to amalgamate multiple old debts into one new, hopefully lower cost, debt.
  • Depending on how severe your debts are, consider something called a consumer proposal.

Each alternative comes with its own pros and cons and choosing the best alternative means doing a cost-benefit comparison based on your individual situation. Let’s look at some of the considerations.

Can you afford to maintain your home?

The very first step is reviewing your budget to see if you can afford the ongoing costs of keeping your house. If your unsecured debts came about because of other spending problems or you were out of work temporarily, but things have returned to normal and you expect you can now keep up with your mortgage payments, selling your home may not be the best option.

If, however, your home is one of the main reasons your budget is now out of balance, perhaps because your income was permanently reduced due to retirement or a job change, then you need to make the hard decision to sell and downsize. Dealing with old debts, while continuing to pile on more to make ends meet each month, doesn’t make long-term sense.

Will you realize enough to pay off all your debts?

Let’s assume you can afford to keep your home. The next question becomes should you sell anyway in order to pay off your other debts and effectively start over? This may only make sense if you truly are able to begin again without any other unwanted debt.

If you owe $50,000 in credit card debt and only have $35,000 equity in your home, selling your home won’t solve all your problems. Once again, you need to look at your budget and decide if selling your home and relocating (you have to live somewhere) will save enough that you’ll be able to repay the additional $15,000 you owe in a reasonable period of time.

Interestingly, this is the same analysis you need to make when considering a debt consolidation loan. If taking out asecond mortgage on your home doesn’t consolidate all of your existing unsecured debts and balance your budget, then it might not be the best choice.

Are your debts too large to deal with on your own?

Finally, if selling your home (or taking out a debt consolidation loan) won’t cover all of your debts, and repaying the excess will take too long, then it’s time to consider options that will help you eliminate all of your debts now.

If you have equity in your home, a consumer proposal filed with a bankruptcy trustee is a way to use that equity to negotiate a settlement agreement with your creditors. In a consumer proposal, you’ll end up paying less than you owe, yet all of your unsecured debts are eliminated.

So in our original scenario you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with your creditors to pay them $35,000 to $40,000 and walk away from $50,000 in debt. In a consumer proposal, you can keep your house if you decide you can afford to or you can sell your home and make a lump sum settlement offer. The point is, your debts are eliminated no matter how much equity you have. So if you owe more than the equity in your home, this is a great option to consider.

The best approach is to talk with a professional such as a bankruptcy trustee. They can help you review the numbers and choose the right solution for you.

 

Source: RateHub.ca by Doug Hoyes November 13, 2015

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