Tag Archives: mortgage approval

New report envisions a path for longer-term mortgages

New report envisions a path for longer-term mortgages

Increasing the length of mortgage terms isn’t just about allowing consumers greater choice; it could have the added benefit of enhancing financial stability, writes Michael K. Feldman in the latest report from the C.D. Howe Institute, an independent not-for-profit research organization.

The idea of longer-term amortizations got a lot of attention in the lead-up to last fall’s federal election. PC Candidate Andrew Scheer was particularly vocal about his intent to raise amortizations for first-time homebuyers, along with various real estate boards. Lengthening mortgage terms would also have a big impact on consumers as well as the overall economy.

Feldman first waded into the conversation regarding longer-term mortgages in 2018. He has since been joined by Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, whose remarks to the Canadian Credit Union Association in 2019 noted three ways that more variety in mortgage durations would contribute to a safer financial system: if more borrowers had longer-term mortgages, they wouldn’t face the risk of having to renew at higher interest rates as often; homeowners would have the potential to build more equity within a single term, giving them more options upon renewal; and fewer borrowers would be renewing their mortgages in any given year.

Feldman adds that longer-term mortgages act as a protection in the event of systemic instability.

“A significant downturn in the real estate market could result in the insolvency of some mortgage lenders, particularly unregulated lenders. If this were to happen, borrowers from these lenders may not be able to renew their mortgages if their lenders were being liquidated and may not be able to refinance their mortgages due to the downturn in the real estate market,” Feldman writes. “This would lead to additional defaulted mortgages, which could further depress the real estate market. This risk decreases with more longer-term mortgages because there will be fewer renewals throughout the amortization term.”

There are, however, some regulatory obstacles that stand in the way of longer mortgage terms becoming commonplace in Canada, and one of those is demand.

The government would have to provide incentives to both borrowers and lenders to jump-start this demand, and/or make some regulatory changes. Feldman writes that these changes could include revising the stress-test for longer-term mortgages.

“Since the main purpose of the stress test is to predict the ability of borrowers to continue to service their mortgages if they must renew at maturity at a higher interest rate, it would be logical to loosen the stress test for borrowers willing to fix their rates for terms longer than five years. For example, if the stress test for a 10-year mortgage was set at the contract rate plus one percent (or zero percent) without any reference to a “Bank of Canada 10-year mortgage rate” (in recognition of the added refinancing flexibility after 10 years compared to five years), then borrowers could qualify for larger mortgages by opting for 10-year mortgages. This would encourage them to seek out longer-term mortgages and require lenders to offer competitive rates to retain market share.”

Other changes include amending the Interest Act to reduce the pricing premium that a lender would have to charge for its reinvestment risk on mortgages up to 10 years and reducing that risk in general by giving borrowers a short-term redemption period; increasing covered bond limits, and developing a private residential mortgage-backed securities market.

Limiting mortgages to five-year terms is thought to have grown out of a 19th-century statute that allowed the borrower to pay off the mortgage with a set penalty of no more than three months’ interest any time after five years following the initial date of the mortgage. The practice then evolved to where borrowers could renew their mortgage for another five years after the initial five-year period, with that renewal date becoming the new date of the mortgage. As long as the lender provided borrowers the opportunity to “redeem” the mortgage once every five years, they could prevent borrowers from prepaying the mortgage in full during the rest of the term without penalty.

As a result of this evolution, lenders can avoid reinvestment risks associated with prepayments by offering mortgages and renewals with terms no longer than five years, Feldman writes. From a borrower perspective, however, if there were increased desire for 10-year mortgages and increased competition from lenders to meet the demand, the cost of prepayment penalties would be reduced.

The majority of regulated financial institutions in Canada fund most of their uninsured residential mortgages by accepting deposits, including GICs that are insured by the CDIC. The CDIC, however, may only insure deposits having a term of five years or less. This limit posts a challenge for issuing longer-term mortgages from institutions that rely on these deposits.

This hurdle, however, may soon be removed. The federal government amended the CDIC Act to eliminate the five-year term limit on insured deposits, which comes into effect on April 3rd, 2020. This, Feldman believes, should make it easier for federally regulated financial institutions to fund longer-term mortgages—in theory.

“This will depend upon the retail demand for longer-term deposits,” he writes. “In a flat yield curve environment, as we have now, one would expect that most retail demand would be for shorter-term deposits; however, once the yield curve reverts to a more common rising curve, a demand for longer-term deposits may develop.”

Ultimately, Feldman writes, the current five-year term is “too well-entrenched to be overcome organically” and that the federal government will have to modify certain rules and create policies and programs in order to change the status quo.

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Those who think they are financially literate may be a bigger risk

Many Canadians are taking risks with their financial security and some of those that say they know better are building up higher levels of debt.

A new survey shows that 67% of respondents said that they are financially literate but when tested two thirds are not repaying credit cards in full each month (30% believe making the minimum payment stops interest charges); 72% are not saving on a regular basis; and 43% are not tracking their monthly expenses or spending habits.

The survey from loan search and comparison platform Loans Canada also reveals that 46% of respondents are ‘loan stacking’ or taking on multiple loans from several lenders for emergency funds or just to cover everyday expenses.

When arranging a loan 60% do not call the lender and 38% don’t compare lenders.

Almost half of the credit-constrained Canadians carry high-interest debt in the form of payday loans (45%) and credit cards (55%).

“The purpose of this survey was to learn more about credit-challenged Canadians and the role their financial literacy plays in the financial decisions they make.” said Loans Canada CTO Cris Ravazzano.

Source: Real Estate Professional – by Steve Randall 24 Jan 2020

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Mortgage Fraud In Canada: What Millennials Should Know

When striving to achieve a big goal, like buying a home, it’s not uncommon to submit to a temptation to cut corners, find loopholes, and even tell white lies. If we think such dubious tactics will help our chances, we will rationalize our behaviour as a victimless crime or even an act of admirable perseverance in an unforgiving financial system and hostile real estate market.

Equifax, the global data, analytics and technology company, released a survey on mortgage fraud and the results were startling, particularly among millennials. Nearly 23% of millennials “believe it’s acceptable to inflate your income when applying for a mortgage,” according to the survey. That’s a shocking admission of dishonesty and almost double the percentage of the general population when asked the same question (12%).

So why are young people so inclined to embellish their financial qualifications as a means to attaining a mortgage? Perhaps it has to do with Canada’s increasing impenetrable real estate markets in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver, where getting your foot in the door can take years if not decades. By that view, it’s hard not to be sympathetic with those looking for an edge.

But mortgage fraud – defined as a deliberate misrepresentation of information to obtain mortgage financing that would not have been granted if the truth had been known – is a dangerous game. It can lead to overextended credit situations, causing you stress and the potential to default on payments, which will impact your credit score.

As Julie Kuzmic, Director of Consumer Advocacy at Equifax Canada, says, “What some may see as a little white lie during the mortgage application process could have legal consequences or become a very hard lesson for people to learn if they cannot keep up with their mortgage payments.”

Is mortgage fraud a victimless crime?

With 23% of millennials, and 16% of all respondents, saying mortgage fraud is a victimless crime, the Equifax survey tells us that this technically illegal act is being viewed in a similar light to jaywalking or highjacking your neighbour’s Wi-Fi signal. Nobody is getting hurt right? Wrong.

The reality is the victim will usually be the one committing the fraud. Inflating your income or withholding important financial information might get you a bigger mortgage, but you’re going to be on the hook for repayments that might be beyond your means. This could cause daily stress on you and your family. Not to mention impacting your overall financial health for a long time.

Don’t be persuaded by shady lenders or brokers who want your business and don’t care about your long-term future. If they encourage you to be less than truthful in a mortgage application, walk away or report them to your province’s financial regulatory body. Conversely, if a broker or lender suspects you of fraud, you could be reported and have your credit tarnished, affecting future applications. You don’t want that Scarlett letter, so to speak.

How to avoid mortgage fraud – start with your credit score

The Equifax survey also revealed a high number of mortgage applicants are not checking their credit scores going into the application process. That’s a mistake to think that claiming an inflated income is enough to secure a mortgage; you usually need a decent credit rating too. The survey had 60% of respondents saying they did not check their credit scores before approaching a lender.

Doing due diligence on your credit score will give you insight into how successful your mortgage application will be. Ideally, a lender or broker wants to see good credit behaviour, which is represented by a number between 300-900. According to Equifax, a credit score rated above 660 is considered good by most lenders. You can check your Equifax credit score for FREE using Borrowell.

Credit Score Range Canada

Build your credit profile

As discussed, it usually takes more than the required income level to successfully obtain a mortgage – you also will usually need a history of good credit behaviour. That may not be realistic for everyone, but there are always ways to rehab your credit rating. In fact, Fresh Start Finance has written a guide to

Basically, you start the process by obtaining your credit report and checking it for errors. You never know what mistakes were made in the bureaucratic world of credit ratings. Some other quick wins include increasing the credit limit on a credit card or line of credit. That might seem counterintuitive, but it improves what’s called credit utilization, meaning the more credit you are not using, the better it looks. Try to keep balances at about 30% of your total credit limit.

Another tactic is to keep credit cards open even if you’re aren’t using them (putting credit cards in the freezer, for example, is good way to put them out of use). Credit history is a key factor that affects your credit score – 15% to be exact.

Those are the quick and easy ways to improve your credit score. Now here’s the long hard road – pay down debt and don’t ever, ever miss bill payments. Punctuality is vital in building a solid credit profile. In fact, it accounts for a whopping 35% of your credit score.

Pro tip: Set up automatic payments where possible, so you’ll never forget to pay a bill again.

How is your credit score calculated?

Consider a side hustle to improve your mortgage chances

Instead of lying on mortgage applications and living like a criminal in the shadows of society consider pumping up your income the legit way. More and more young people are turning to side hustles to augment their incomes.

Although it is the primary reason, the advantage of a side hustle isn’t just added revenue. It also breaks up the monotony of your main source of income. If it’s something you’re passionate about, even better, because it can elevate your spirit to know your energy is being invested in something that matters to you. Plus, it will make you feel less “trapped” in your workaday life.

Can’t afford a home right now? Give it time.

Even if you’re not immediately ready to qualify for a mortgage, a broker will work with you and help you prepare for homeownership when the time is right. Just remember to be honest with your mortgage broker. A home could be the biggest purchase of your life – you don’t want it crashing down on you like a leaky roof.

 


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In the $1.6-trillion mortgage market Canadians don’t even understand the basics

Houses and townhouses are seen in an aerial view, in Langley, B.C., on Wednesday May 16, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

When it comes to mortgages, a government survey finds most Canadians don’t know their terms from their amortizations

 

It’s no secret that the financial literacy of Canadians is tenuous at best, but given the fact that households are carrying $1.6 trillion worth of residential mortgage debt, we should be particularly nervous about just how yawning the knowledge gaps are when it comes to the basics of a mortgage.

survey conducted for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and the Bank of Canada and made public this week found when it comes to simple mortgage terminology like “term” and “amortization” most Canadians are hopelessly lost.

According to the survey slightly more than half of consumers failed to correctly identity what “mortgage term” means. Only 49 per cent offered purely correct responses like “the years you have a mortgage/contract term,” “the length of time you are committed to a mortgage rate,” or “the length of time before renewal.”

Canadians have an even shakier grasp on what “amortization” means  — while just over one quarter (28 per cent) of the general population could offer a proper definition of the word, they also said things in their answers that made it clear they didn’t fully know what they were talking about.

Fewer than one per cent of Canadians could give a strictly correct definition for amortization as “the time to pay the mortgage in full.”

Just so we’re clear, the amortization period is the length of time it will take you to completely pay off a mortgage (generally 25 years) while the mortgage term is the length of time you commit to a specific mortgage rate and conditions with a lender (usually five years).

While the above responses from the survey reflect the mortgage knowledge of the general population, even those people specifically targeted in the survey who have a mortgage or plan to buy a home in the next five years had only a marginally-better understanding of mortgage basics. As the survey results note, “three-in-10 in the target audience … do not know what the phrase ‘amortization period’ means,” which suggests a large number of people plunged into the biggest financial decision of their lives with a dubious understanding of the core terminology in the documents they were signing.

“The responses indicate that there is a significant lack of knowledge about mortgage terms among both the general population and the target audience,” wrote the authors of the survey. The survey, which was published was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs and involved interviews with 5,000 Canadians between May and June 2019.

The findings were meant to establish the “baseline knowledge” Canadians have about mortgages as part of a larger quest: to find out what Canadians know about long-term mortgages and why they don’t chose that option more.

In fact just as the survey was getting underway last May, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz gave a speech in Winnipeg where he made an impassioned (well, for a central banker, at least) case for the financial industry and Canadians homebuyers to embrace longer-term mortgages. It was part of a broader call by him for innovation in the mortgage sector.

While fixed-rate mortgages with terms longer than five years are widely available, they’re little used — just two per cent of all mortgages issued in 2018 were fixed-rate loans with terms longer than five years, according to the Bank of Canada. Yet Poloz sees a lot of benefits to both consumers and the financial system if that number were to rise. For one thing, he said, a longer term means fewer renewals and hence less risk that when households do renew it will be at a higher rate. (Poloz acknowledged a longer-term mortgage will have a higher interest rate, but for some homebuyers the trade-off for lower risk will be worth it.)

As for the financial system, the fact that nearly half of all mortgages in Canada carry fixed-rate five-year terms means that when interest rates do start to rise again, which they will, a whole lot of borrowers who took on massive mortgages in recent years will be up for renewal each year. “Simple math tells you that of all those five-year mortgages, roughly 20 per cent will be renewed every year,” he said. “That is a lot of households. If all the mortgages were 10-year loans, only 10 per cent of these homeowners would renew every year.”

Based on the survey results Poloz has his work cut out for him — only one-in-10 homeowners or likely buyers can correctly define both a mortgage term and an amortization period and at the same time even know that mortgages with terms longer than five years exist in Canada.

 

Source: Macleans.ca – by Jan 16, 2020

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These Homeowners Need a Private Mortgage

 

But that is totally not true. More often than not, they are needed when bad things happen to good people.

And private mortgages and B-lender mortgages are the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian mortgage industry.

One reason is because it’s much harder to qualify for an A-lender mortgage now than at any time in recent memory. High home prices, in major cities particularly, result in large mortgage requirements, and the mortgage stress test can put qualification out of reach for homeowners who previously had no such concerns.

In addition, there are several situations people find themselves in which are not attractive to regular mortgage lenders. These problems require solutions, but a different type of lender needs to step forward and help the homeowner get on track. Let’s look at three such situations.

#1) This homeowner has too many debts, and his credit score is low. Notwithstanding lots of equity in his home, the banks have said no.

#2) These homeowners are in the middle of a consumer proposal. The doors to the banks are firmly closed, yet they need to finance a car purchase, and they would like to improve their monthly cashflow.

#3) This homeowner has large CRA debt. Banks and other A-lenders do not like refinancing to pay off CRA debt.

#1) Too Much Debt And Credit Score Too Low

How to use home equity to pay overdue taxesThis fellow has been living proud and mortgage-free for several years, but meanwhile has racked up credit card debt that just won’t go away. At first, people believe they can manage it down, but the crippling high interest rates of 19.99% or more make it really hard.

And when the cycle starts, they next tap into other available credit to pay off the credit cards that are giving them a problem.

When he approached us, he had a nice town home in the west end of Toronto, $115,000 of unsecured debt, and a credit score of 557. And he had no mortgage.

The minimum monthly payment on the credit card debt was not much less than his take home pay from his job!

The Solution

We could see his credit score would zoom upwards once all the debts were cleared and no remaining balances. So, we found a private lender who was happy to lend a new first mortgage on very favourable terms. An annual mortgage interest rate of 5.99%, and a mortgage fully open after three months. This means as soon as he is ready, he can refinance to an A-lender without penalty.

And when that happens, all the ugly credit card debt will be scrunched up into a mortgage at roughly 3% interest, with a monthly payment of around $500. This is a game-changer compared to the $3,000 per month or so he was paying before.

#2) In A Consumer Proposal

measures of financial distress in canadaThese homeowners both have decent jobs and more than $200,000 equity in their detached B.C. home. Three years ago they both had to file a consumer proposal after a new business venture failed and left them with lots of consumer debt.

They reached out to us for three reasons:

1) Their bank, which holds their first mortgage, has told them they will not offer a renewal in late 2020.

2) Their car lease is expiring in January 2020, and they want to exercise the buy-out option. They are being quoted crazy high interest rates on a car loan.

3) They are finding it tough, paying $1,300 each month towards the proposals, on top of their car payment, and also their mortgage, taxes and utilities.

The Solution

The solution here is a one-year, private second mortgage for around $60,000. Interest-only payments at a rate of 12%, and the monthly payment is only $600, which is half of what they are paying now on their consumer proposal.

This small new mortgage will pay off their proposal completely, and also allow them to buy the car when it comes off lease.

And after their proposal is paid off, we will coach them on rebuilding their personal credit histories. And we will send an investigation package to Equifax Canada requesting they clean up all the reporting errors. (Sadly, there are ALWAYS reporting errors in the credit report after filing a consumer proposal.)

And in late 2020, when their first mortgage matures, they won’t have to worry about the renewal. We will refinance both mortgages into one new mortgage with a different lender. They will be ready.

#3) CRA Debt Problem

Owing taxes to the Canada Revenue AgencySeveral months ago, we met a Mississauga homeowner who only owed $70,000 on his first mortgage, but he had neglected filing corporate taxes for a few years, and owed CRA significant money. There was a judgment against him for $49,000, which had been registered as a lien against the family home. And another one looming for $133,000. And he had also accumulated a large amount of unsecured debt.

If you are self-employed and owe a lot of money to CRA, your borrowing options are very slim in the world of conventional mortgage lenders. We talked about this in a previous article. Occasionally we encounter homeowners whose tax debt is so large it cannot be readily paid. The end result is a debt that can’t be negotiated away, with a creditor you can’t afford to ignore.

The Solution

The solution for our clients was either going to be a very large, disproportionate private second mortgage at a high interest rate (close to 12%) or to refinance the small first mortgage to a new private first mortgage at only 6.99%.

For a lengthier discussion about the costs associated with a private mortgage, you can read this article.

We took the first mortgage approach; paid off the CRA liens and all other personal debts. As a bonus, the lender allowed us to partially prepay the mortgage payments in advance, so that the monthly payment for the new mortgage would be roughly what it will be when they refinance down the road – avoiding payment shock!

Then we contacted Equifax Canada to confirm the tax liens had been cleared and waited for the client’s credit score to rocket upwards, unencumbered by a high debt load.

Sure enough, it all came to pass, and now we are refinancing the private mortgage into an A-lender, only six months later.

The Wrap

pay down debt using home equityIn our first two cases, we also gave consideration to B lender solutions. They were a legitimate option, but here the private mortgage made more “dollars and sense.”

There are many other reasons why you might one day need a private mortgage. This article told the story of three fairly common situations.

You can find a more in-depth look at why you might need a private mortgage here. If a private mortgage is in your future, you should tread carefully and satisfy yourself you are dealing with reputable people who will treat you fairly.

Source: Canadian Mortgage Trends – ROSS TAYLOR 

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Canadians Need Guidance With Their Mortgages

That’s the takeaway from a national survey released this week by Rates.ca, which found half of Canadians aren’t aware of the mortgage options available to them.

Not only that, but Canadians are lacking in some other basic mortgage trivia, with an astounding 9 out of 10 respondents not knowing that mortgage interest is charged semi-annually:

  • 28% think interest is compounded monthly;
  • 17% think it’s bi-weekly;
  • 17% think it’s annually;
  • 28% just have no idea.

Should we be concerned?

confused mortgage consumerDustan Woodhouse, President of Mortgage Architects, and a former active broker who has written multiple educational mortgage books, thinks so.

“Sounds about right. We know about what we pay attention to, i.e., The Kardashians,” he wrote to CMT. “The material concern in this is how easy it makes it for the government to over-regulate the industry, with clients blaming the banksrather than the appropriate parties. This disconnect is deeply concerning.”

Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that only four out of 10 Canadians (39%) know they can avoid paying default insurance on their mortgage if they make a down payment of 20% or more.

With default insurance running anywhere from 45.85% of the mortgage value, we’re talking some serious dinero being spentpotentially unknowingly and unnecessarily.

So, what can be done? Woodhouse admits there are no simple answers, but says making mortgages more tangible to borrowers would be a good place to start.

“The root issue is making mortgages interesting and relevant to clients more often than when they need one,” he said. “It needs to be all about housing, not simply mortgages.”

Paul Taylor, President and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada, agrees.

“Unless you deal in mortgages, you only talk about them, generally, once every five years,” he said. “I’m sure at the time of signing, the borrowers understood what their payment obligations were and the schedule; after that, the rest of the information provided was likely filed under ‘nice to know but not relevant enough to me to retain.’”

Making the Case for Mortgage Brokers

With a growing trend towards “do-it-yourself” online mortgage shopping, we wondered if these survey results reinforce the need for mortgage brokers in guiding uninformed borrowers about their mortgage options.

mortgage broker helping clients“Big time…more than ever brokers are required,” Woodhouse said.

Taylor added that the stats “clearly demonstrate the need for professional and impartial advice at the time of purchase/renewal/refinance. And while some may suggest they are comfortable purchasing online without counsel, I think we can see that is inadvisable in almost all cases.”

Taylor pointed to the UK as an example. Following the crash of 2008, he noted the country adopted several policies by 2014, including disallowing borrowers to be able to self-declare income, and requiring mortgage consumers to be provided mandatory advice on mortgage products.

“The last point, I think, would likely begin to receive international discussion/attention if online sales begin to increase too quickly given the data this survey demonstrates,” Taylor said. “Given the size of these loans, the personal liability and the potential interest-cost difference for as little as a quarter-point in interest, I expect there may be some scrutiny on consumer outcomes for these self-serve options.”

Additional Survey Tidbits

The Rates.ca survey revealed some additional interesting findings about Canadians’ knowledge gap when it comes to financial products, including:

  • Nearly 7 out of 10 Canadians (68%) aren’t aware that interest on credit cards is calculated daily.
  • 30% admitted they are unlikely or somewhat unlikely to make the minimum monthly payments on their credit cards.
  • 40% of respondents admitted to not knowing their credit score.
  • 43% said they felt comfortable negotiating their mortgage over the internet.
  • And 94% believe schools should place greater emphasis on teaching financial literacy.
Source: Canadian Mortgage Trends – Steve Huebl 
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Why 4 websites give you 4 different credit scores — and none is the number most lenders actually see

These three consumers looked up their credit score on four different websites and each got four different results. (Jonathan Stainton/CBC)

The most popular credit score that lenders use in Canada can’t be accessed directly by consumers

Whether through ads or our own experiences dealing with banks and other lenders, Canadians are frequently reminded of the power of a single number, a credit score, in determining their financial options.

That slightly mysterious number can determine whether you’re able to secure a loan and how much extra it will cost to pay it back.

It can be the difference between having a credit card with a manageable interest rate or one that keeps you drowning in debt.

Not surprisingly, many Canadians want to know their score, and there are several web-based services that offer to provide it.

But a Marketplace investigation has found that the same consumer is likely to get significantly different credit scores from different websites — and chances are none of those scores actually matches the one lenders consult when deciding your financial fate.

‘That’s so strange’

We had three Canadians check their credit scores using four different services: Credit Karma and Borrowell, which are both free; and Equifax and TransUnion, which charge about $20 a month for credit monitoring, a plan that includes access to your credit score.

One of the participants was Raman Agarwal, a 58-year-old small business owner from Ottawa, who says he pays his bills on time and has little debt.

Canadian company Borrowell’s site said he had a “below average” credit score of 637. On Credit Karma, his score of 762 was labelled “very good.”

As for the paid sites, Equifax provided a “good” score of 684, while TransUnion said his 686 score was “poor.”

Agarwal was surprised by the inconsistent results.

“That’s so strange, because the scoring should be based on the same principles,” he said. “I don’t know why there’s a confusion like that.”

The other two participants also each received four different scores from the four different services. The largest gap between two scores for the same participant was 125 points.

The results when three consumers checked their credit score using four different websites. (David Abrahams/ CBC)

 

The free websites, Borrowell and Credit Karma, purchase the scores they provide to consumers from Equifax and TransUnion, respectively, yet all four companies share a different score with a different proprietary name.

Credit scores are calculated based on many factors, including payment history; credit utilization, which is how much of a loan you owe versus how much you have available to you; money owing; how long you’ve been borrowing; and the types of credit you have. But these factors can be weighted differently depending on the credit bureau or lender, resulting in different scores.

So, which credit score is giving Agarwal the clearest picture of his credit standing?

Marketplace learned that none of the scores the four websites provide is necessarily the same as the one lenders are most likely to use when determining Agarwal’s creditworthiness.

We spoke with multiple lenders in the financial, automotive and mortgage sectors, who all said they would not accept any of the scores our participants received from the four websites.

“So, we don’t know what these scores represent,” said Vince Gaetano, principal broker at MonsterMortgage.ca. “They’re not necessarily reliable from my perspective.”

All consumer credit score platforms have small fine-print messages on their sites explaining that lenders might consult a different score from the one provided.

‘Soft’ vs. ‘hard’ credit check

The score that most Canadian lenders use is called a FICO score, previously known as the Beacon score. FICO, which is a U.S. company, sells its score to both Equifax and TransUnion. FICO says 90 per cent of Canadian lenders use it, including major banks.

But Canadian consumers cannot access their FICO score on their own.

To find out his FICO score, Agarwal had to agree to what’s known as a “hard” credit check. That’s where a business runs a credit check as though a customer is applying for a loan.

Lenders are contractually obligated not to share a copy of the report FICO provides with the customer. They can only discuss the information and provide insight.

A hard check comes with risk. Unlike the “soft” check Agarwal agreed to from the four websites, a hard check could negatively impact his credit score.

As Credit Karma’s website explains, “Multiple hard inquiries in a short period could lead lenders and credit card issuers to consider you a higher-risk customer, as it suggests you may be short on cash or getting ready to rack up a lot of debt.”

Mortgage broker Vince Gaetano offered to do a hard credit check for Agarwal, as if he was applying for a loan, so he could learn his FICO score.

Agarwal took him up on the offer and was stunned to learn his FICO score was 829 — nearly 200 points higher than the lowest score he received online.

Raman Agarwal of Ottawa was shocked to learn the disparity between his FICO score and the four other credit scores he received online. (CBC )

 

“Oh my god!” Agarwal said when he heard the news. “I am really happy, but totally surprised.”

Doug Hoyes, co-founder of Hoyes, Michalos and Associates Inc., one of the largest personal insolvency firms in Canada, was also surprised by the disparity between Agarwal’s FICO score and the other scores he’d received.

“How can you be poor somewhere and fantastic somewhere else?”

Marketplace asked all four credit score companies why Agarwal’s FICO score was so different from the ones provided on their sites.

No one could provide a detailed answer. Equifax and TransUnion did say their scores are used by lenders, but they wouldn’t name any, citing proprietary reasons.

Credit Karma declined to comment. However, on its customer service website, it says the credit score it provides to consumers is a “widely used scoring model by lenders.”

‘A complicated system’

The free services, Borrowell and Credit Karma, make money by arranging loan and credit card offers for customers who visit their sites. Borrowell told Marketplace the credit score it provides is used by the company itself to offer loans directly from Borrowell. The company could not confirm whether any of its lending partners also use the score.

“So there are many different types of credit scores in Canada … and they’re calculated very differently,” said Andrew Graham, CEO of Borrowell. “It’s a complicated system, and we’re the first to say that it’s frustrating for consumers. We’re trying to help add transparency to it and help consumers navigate it.”

From Agarwal’s perspective, the credit companies are simply using the scoring system as a marketing tool.

“There should be one score,” he said. “If they are running an algorithm, there should be one score, no matter what you do, how you do it, should not change that score.”

The FICO score is also the most popular score in the U.S. Unlike in Canada, Americans can access their score easily by purchasing it on FICO’s website, or through FICO’s Open Access Program, without any risk of it impacting their credit rating.

 

FICO told Marketplace it would like to bring the Open Access Program to Canada, but it’s up to Canadian lenders.

“We are open to working with any lender and their credit bureau partner of choice to enable FICO Score access to the lender’s customers,” FICO said in an email.

Hoyes, the insolvency expert, suggests instead of focusing on your credit score, a better approach to monitoring your financial status would be to shift attention to your credit report and ensuring its accuracy.

All four websites Marketplace looked at provide credit reports to consumers.

A credit report is the file that describes your financial situation. It lists bank accounts, credit cards, inquiries from lenders who have requested your report, bankruptcies, student loans, mortgages, whether you pay your credit card bill on time, and other debt.

Although the mathematical formulas used to calculate different credit scores are unknown, credit score companies say these are some of the factors that could influence your number. (David Abrahams/CBC)

 

Hoyes said consumers are trying too hard to have the perfect credit score. The fact is, some activities that could boost a credit score, such as getting a new credit card or taking on a loan, aren’t necessarily the best financial decisions.

“My advice is to focus on what is better for your financial health, not what is best for the lender’s financial health.”

He said paying off debt and increasing savings is a better idea than focusing solely on the factors that can increase your credit score.

You focusing on this one metric, that isn’t the same thing the lender is using anyways, is really pointless, and I think it leads to bad decisions.– Doug Hoyes, Hoyes, Michalos and Associates Inc.

He points to billionaire investor Warren Buffett, the third richest person in the world, as an example.

“Would you rather lend to Warren Buffett, who’s got … cash in the bank but has a lousy credit score because he’s never borrowed and hasn’t built up any history, or some guy who has five credit cards and he constantly … moves the balance from one to the other and keeps his utilization under 20 per cent?”

The real estate, mortgage and auto lenders Marketplace spoke with said they look at more than just your credit score before making a lending decision. They also consider things like your income, your history with their company, the size of a downpayment, and other factors not reflected in your score.

For Hoyes, those factors are much more important than a three-digit number.

“You focusing on this one metric, that isn’t the same thing the lender is using anyways, is really pointless, and I think it leads to bad decisions.”

 

The good news, according to Borrowell CEO Andrew Graham, is that if you’re doing things like paying your bills on time and not maxing out your credit cards, you will see improvement in whatever credit score you track.

“I think that’s the power here.”

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Mortgage Pre-Qualification vs Mortgage Pre-Approval vs Mortgage Approval

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Buying & Selling Tips

Mortgage Pre-Qualification vs Mortgage Pre-Approval vs Mortgage Approval

What are the differences between each stage of the mortgage process?
By Kara Kuryllowicz September 18, 2019

In early 2019, several Canadian banks launched digital apps that offer home buyers easy, hassle-free mortgage pre-qualification in 60 seconds or less. Sounds great, right?  The problem is many consumers believe a mortgage pre-qualification is a lot like a mortgage pre-approval or mortgage approval. As a result, prospective home buyers and sellers are left expecting the financial institution associated with the app to lend them hundreds of thousands of dollars, despite the fact they simply keyed their names, addresses, contact information and gross income into various online fields.

Getting Mortgage Approval

“Every week, as many as 40% of my new clients come to me because they’ve just bought a home and discovered that mortgage pre-qualification is meaningless and that they do not have the financing required for the purchase,” says Tracy Valko, owner and principal broker of Dominion Lending Centres Valko Financial Ltd., and a director at Mortgage Professionals of Canada.

Let’s get real: A mortgage pre-qualification gives the financial institution warm leads (names, contact information, purchasing timeline) and tells consumers how much money a financial institution might loan them. There is no way any financial institution will actually lend consumers hundreds of thousands of dollars just because they spent 45 seconds with the company’s mortgage pre-qualification tool.

Lenders do everything they can to ensure the borrower will repay the loan. A mortgage pre-approval looks at how an individual manages his/her money to determine that person’s creditworthiness. The next step is the mortgage approval which assesses that specific person’s ability to repay a loan of a certain amount at a set interest rate on a particular home.

“Always get a mortgage pre-approval before you start searching for a home and have a mortgage approval in place before you waive your financing condition on the offer – back out of a deal after it’s firm and you could be sued by the seller.” says Valko. “A mortgage pre-approval will tell consumers and their realtors what they can realistically afford to buy.”

Let’s further define the terms consumers need to fully understand before they commit to a real estate agent and start shopping for a home.

What is Mortgage Pre-Qualification?

It takes less than 60 seconds because it requests only the most basic information, whether it’s submitted to an online app or a financial representative. Mortgage pre-qualification never requires supporting documentation that proves the consumer actually has a full-time job, is paid a weekly salary and has earned a good credit score. At best, a mortgage pre-qualification can provide a very loose, broad estimate of a consumer’s home-buying power based on the consumer’s unverified data. Because the consumer typically inputs the information into an online tool, it takes just seconds for the software, not an experienced, professional underwriter, to pre-qualify a consumer for a mortgage.

If consumers notice and bother to read the apps’ fine print or legal disclaimers, they’ll likely see a statement like this one: “This is not a mortgage approval or pre-approval. You must submit a separate application for a mortgage approval or a mortgage pre-approval and a full credit report.”

In other words, they’re not actually promising you a dime, let alone enough the hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ll likely need to buy a home anywhere in Canada.

What is Mortgage Pre-Approval?

In general, it will take two to five business days to investigate an individual’s financial circumstances and the risk that a person might represent to the lender. The underwriter will need the basics, such as name, address and contact information in addition to detailed data on their income, assets (e.g. stocks, RRSPs, property, vehicles, savings), liabilities (e.g. debt, loans, mortgages) and their credit rating and report as well as the available down payment. Supporting documentation may be required to prove any or all of the above.

Unlike a pre-qualifying app, lenders’ underwriters may request a letter of employment, a Notice of Assessment, pay stubs, or T4 for the two most recent years as well as documentation indicating the down payment is available. The lender or mortgage broker will also require the consumers’ permission to pull credit scores and credit reports from organizations such as Equifax.

Your credit score, typically 300 to 800+, is based on feedback from lenders who confirm that you do or don’t pay your bills in full and on time every month. The credit report includes your name, address, social insurance number and date of birth as well as your credit history, for example, your debts and assets and whether you’ve ever been sent to collection or declared bankruptcy.

“Lenders want to know how well or how poorly you manage your money and will be looking for patterns of insufficient, late and missed payments,” says Valko.

A mortgage pre-approval is generally valid for up to 120 days at a specific interest rate unless the consumers’ circumstances change, for example, employment status, down payment, or income. For example, a consumer may not realize it, but their probationary status with a new employer, whether it’s three, six or 12 months, does matter to lenders. Likewise, a move from a salaried to a contract or self-employed position will also be seen as a higher risk.

“I’ve had clients believe they were full time, salaried employees, then discover they’re still on probation when we start underwriting,” says Valko. “An electrician client left his full-time salaried position to work independently and didn’t realize it negated his mortgage pre-approval, which was based on the guaranteed weekly paycheck versus the sporadic earnings associated with self-employment.”

What is Mortgage Approval?

This is the big one. Once consumers have identified the homes they want to purchase, they need mortgage approval to buy that specific home. Lenders assess the age and condition of the homes and consider comparable homes to confirm the price being paid is fair and market value. The mortgage approval is valid until the closing date unless the buyers’ circumstances change.

“Only the mortgage approval accounts for property specifics, such as taxes or condo fees, so give your underwriter/lender time to ensure the numbers previously used are still valid and that the property is acceptable to the lender,” says Valko.

If you’re serious about the home search and purchase process, skip the mortgage pre-qualification apps. Instead, take the time and make the effort to get mortgage pre-approval, then find the home suits you best, then get mortgage approval to close the deal. Then? Enjoy your new keys.

Source: REW.ca –  Kara Kuryllowicz September 18, 2019

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When You Might Need an Alternative Lender Mortgage

 

The majority of homeowners are blissfully unaware of alternative mortgages. They presume everyone is entitled to sub-3% mortgage interest rates, with no fees of any kind.

But there is a growing, significant percentage of borrowers who need a different type of mortgage financing solution. Sometimes there is no choice. That is why the alternative lending market (B-lenders) is so important to the overall health of the mortgage industry and, indeed, our economy.

Could this happen to you? Who would you turn to if your bank turned you down for a mortgage? How would you know if you are being given the straight goods, or being sold a bunch of baloney?

Plan BIf your primary financial institution (bank, credit union, trust company) refuses you a mortgage, you need to source a mortgage broker who can explore alternative financing options for youhopefully with a B-lender solution. And if that doesn’t work out, then there are numerous private mortgage lenders, too.

Most mortgage brokers are very comfortable working with A-lenders like banks, credit unions and monoline lenders, such as MCAP. And, in recent years, a growing number have expanded their businesses to provide alternative and private lending solutions. Be sure to select a professional who is experienced with these types of specialized products when you are in the market for a non-traditional mortgage.

Mortgage brokers have access to numerous alternative mortgage lenders (B-lenders) who offer excellent solutions above and beyond the traditional branch-based lenders, including:

  • Expanded debt-service ratiossome alternative lenders will allow GDS and TDS ratios as high as 50%, and are not constrained by 35/42 or 39/44 ratios, as traditional lenders usually are. In fact, if the loan-to-value ratio is low, they can get really creative. (For example, Haventree Bank will allow 60/60 when the LTV is under 65%)
  • Tolerant of damaged credit historiesthey will reserve their lowest rates for those with high credit scores (720 and above, sometimes less) but, at the same time, may entertain your mortgage application with a score as low as 500 or even lower.
  • Receptive to forms of income that traditional lenders cannot consider, such as Air BnB income, commission income, tips and contributory income from spouses not even on title. And most are more relaxed in their approach to self-employed borrowers.

Suppose for you the door is closed to banks and all A-lenders. How did you get here? Reasons typically include one or more of the following:

  • Cannot pass the mortgage stress test: inability to meet maximum debt-service ratios.
  • Low credit scores: could be too many late payments, balances too high on credit facilities, collections and liens, or even a consumer proposal or bankruptcy.
  • Non-traditional income: could be commissioned or rely on tips and work in a cash-based business. May even be irregular part-time income. Or perhaps you rent out rooms in your home, or have Air BnB income, foster care income, disability income, child tax benefits, etc. Do you buy, renovate and sell houses, and the capital gains are your only income? You could even own “too many properties.” (Yes, that can be a thing!)
  • Self-employed: you could be a business owner with lots of expense deductions and low reported taxable income. Or maybe you have been self-employed only a short timefewer than the two years A lenders prefer to see.

How long will it take to graduate back to A-lending?

The length of time you remain in an alternative lending product will vary based on your unique situation, but the ideal timeframe is one to two years. As such, most alternative mortgages are offered as one or two-year terms. There are some lenders who offer three and even five-year terms, but this is much rarer.

There are some borrowers who remain in this space for the long haul. It is unlikely they will ever qualify for a mortgage with an A-lender because of credit and/or income issues and that’s ok. They are grateful there is a reasonable cost alternative.

What added costs come with alternative mortgages?

Interest rate

Your interest rate will be a bit higher than those offered by an A-lender. These days, they mostly range from 3.99% to 5.99%. I don’t have the stats, but it feels like a large percentage of these are in the narrower range of 4.24% to 5.24%.

And the lowest rates are typically for a one-year term, with the two-year term coming in a touch higher.

Here are some sample payments to illustrate the impact of different mortgage rates. The difference is not as much as people expect.

  • $300,000 at 2.99% with a 30-year amortization = monthly payments of $1,260
  • $300,000 at 3.99% with a 30-year amortization = monthly payments of $1,425
  • $300,000 at 4.99% with a 30-year amortization = monthly payments of $1,600

Lender fees

Most of the time, your lender will charge a one-time fee of 1% of the loan amount.

Brokerage fees

alternative lender feesWith mortgages arranged with A-lenders, your mortgage broker is paid by the lender at no extra cost to you. This is less the case with alternative mortgages, mainly because the shorter the mortgage term, the less the compensation, yet the workload is at least the same and often more intense.

Therefore, when sourcing an alternative mortgage for you, your mortgage broker will often charge a brokerage fee. They should be upfront about this exact charge early on in the process. The amount varies from broker to broker and from loan to loan. Factors brokers consider are:

  • The complexity and level of effort they anticipate is involved to fund your mortgage.
  • The size of your mortgage. The smaller your mortgage, the larger the fee may seem as a percentage of the loan amount, and the larger the mortgage, potentially the smaller the fee may seem as a percentage of the loan amount.

If you are buying a property, lender and brokerage fees come from your pocket. If you are refinancing, they are deducted from the mortgage advance, if there is enough equity to do so.

All fees and costs must be disclosed properly to you according to your provincial regulator’s rules. Lender and broker fees are paid on your funding date

Other fees

As with most mortgages, you can expect to pay for an appraisal, solicitor and title insurance.

Some lenders charge annual administration or “maintenance” fees of a few hundred dollars, and they typically charge a renewal fee if you accept one of their renewal offers. There is not a one-size-fits-all formula applied when calculating renewal fees.

Monthly property tax administration fees can also be charged (less than $5 per month).

Alternative lenders are a safe route

In the Q1 broker lender market share figures, alternative lenders Home Trust Company and Equitable Bank together held more than 13% of broker market share.

Alternative lenders are not to be feared or disparaged. They serve a very useful role in the mortgage industry and are a terrific midpoint between a bank-issued mortgage and a private lender solution.

When a mortgage borrower does not even fit into the world of alternative lenders, your mortgage broker will need to source a private mortgage solution for you. I will explore this option in future articles.

Source: CanadianMortgageTrends.ca – Ross Taylor

 

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How divorces affect mortgages


How divorces affect mortgagesThey say about half of all marriages end in divorce—whatever the figure, complications arise when it comes to dividing assets like homes, and determining who keeps making mortgage payments.

“It’s a commercial transaction irrelevant to marital status,” said Nathalie Boutet of Boutet Family Law & Mediation. “If one person moves out and the other stays in the house, they still have an obligation to pay the mortgage to the bank, so the sooner the separating spouses make an arrangement the better because it could impact credit rating.”

According to Statistics Canada, there were roughly 2.64 million divorced people living in Canada last year—a figure brokers may not find surprising. While divorcing couples often fight over their marital home as an asset, the gamut of considerations is in fact more onerous.

“With the stress test, it’s a lot harder,” said Nick Kyprianou, president and CEO of RiverRock Mortgage Investment Corporation. “The challenge is qualifying again with a single salary. The stress test adds a whole other level of complexity to the servicing.”

Additional complexities include a new appraisal, application, and discharge fees.

“If you have a five-year mortgage and you’re only two years into it, there will be some penalties,” said Kyprianou. “Then there’s a situation of whether or not the person will qualify as a single person for a new mortgage.”

As an equity lender, RiverRock has welcomed into the fold its fair share of borrowers whose previous institutional lender wouldn’t allow one of the spouses to come off title because they were qualified together.

If one spouse is the mortgage holder and the other is not, Boutet explains how the law would mediate.

“Let’s say she owns the house and he moves in and pays her something she would put towards the mortgage but it’s still below market rent, she’s effectively giving him a break,” she said. “Would part of his rent go towards a little equity in the house because he helps pay the mortgage? Or is he ahead of the game because he pays less than he would to rent an apartment? What they have decided in this case is that a percentage of his payment will be given back to him as compensation for helping her out with her mortgage and he will never go on title.”

Boutet recommends that cohabitating couples, one of whom being a mortgage holder, should have frank discussions at the outset about where the rent payments go.

“Sometimes the person who pays rent has a false understanding of paying the mortgage. They have a misunderstanding of what that money is going towards.”

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