Tag Archives: mortgage qualification

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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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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Mortgage qualification a barrier to homeownership — poll

A growing number of Canadians see mortgage qualification as the biggest barrier to homeownership, according to a recent study by Zillow and Ipsos.

Around 56% of Canadians see qualifying for a mortgage as a barrier to homeownership, a six-point increase from 2018. After mortgage qualification, the next top worry for buyers is whether they can afford the mortgage payment, with roughly 54% saying so.

Canadian borrowers have to qualify under the stricter mortgage requirements and stress test that took effect in January 2018. Under the new rules, borrowers should be able to prove that they can service a mortgage at a higher rate.

“The rule only applies to newly originated mortgages and is designed to prevent borrowers from taking on more debt than they can handle if interest rates go up,” the study said.

One in two Canadians said they are concerned that these new rules will prevent them from qualifying from a mortgage.

Younger borrowers bear the weight of the new rules the most, with 69% of those in the 18-34 age bracket feeling concerned about qualifying for a mortgage.

“These mortgage regulations could impact a substantial portion of potential buyers, as the survey results show a large share of Canadian homeowners get mortgages. This worry is also present for current renters who may be considering the purchase of their first home,” the study said.

A recent report by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, however, indicated that most buyers felt there were benefits to the stress test. The CMHC survey found that 65% of buyers believe the mortgage qualification stress test will prevent more Canadians from taking on a mortgage they can’t afford in the future.

While the majority of homebuyers surveyed by CMHC were aware of the new rules, more than three-quarters said the changes had little or no impact on their decision to buy a home. This number is down slightly from 80% in 2018, but still represents a healthy majority of homebuyers.

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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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Ontario’s rental vacancy rate is starting 2020 at a near record low

Mississauga Toronto condo prices<img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-196480″ src=”https://d3exkutavo4sli.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Mississauga-Toronto-condo-prices.jpg” alt=”Mississauga Toronto condo prices” width=”1024″ height=”683″ />

Photo: James Bombales

New year, no vacancy. Renters in cities across Ontario will spend another year struggling to find rental housing as prices continue to rise in the face of tight market conditions.

In 2019, the vacancy rate was 1.6 percent and it will likely drop further through 2020 to a near record low of 1.5 percent, according to Central 1 Credit Union economist Edgard Navarrete. For context, the vacancy rate for Ontario’s rental market averaged 2.6 percent between 1991 and 2018.

In his 2019-2022 housing forecast published at the end of 2019, Navarrete noted that the province has seen a substantial uptick in completed new rental units over the last three years. Through the same 1991 to 2018 period, the average number of new rental units added to the market was 1,500. From 2017 to 2019, the average increased to 7,000 units.

The trouble is that increase still doesn’t satisfy the demand for rentals in some of the province’s most competitive markets, especially Toronto, which is said to have the worst rental supply deficit in Canada.

“Government investments in rental housing will continue to add to the rental universe but expect [the province’s] rental vacancy rate to remain stubbornly lower than the long-term average due to continued strong demand from immigrants settling in Ontario and existing renters opting to remain in rental longer until they have a sufficient down payment to qualify for a mortgage loan,” wrote Navarrete in the Central 1 Housing Forecast.

Unfortunately, the main takeaway here for Ontario renters is monthly rents will continue to climb above inflation as long as this sharp disparity exists between rental supply and persistent demand. Navarrete singles out Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau, London, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo and Hamilton as markets where rental prices will log especially steep increases and bidding wars will keep intensifying. These cities will feel the strain on their rental markets particularly acutely because they are set to absorb the most new residents to the province.

There is hope for a rental unit supply uptick in the next few years, but for those looking for a new rental this year, it’s unlikely to offer much relief. The provincial government under Premier Doug Ford rolled back the rent control measures introduced by the Wynne Liberal government just a couple years earlier. With more flexibility to price rental units in response to market demand, investors are more likely to see condos as a solid long-term moneymaker and purchase units to add to the rental market.

These investor-owned condos are known as the “secondary rental market” since they are not built for the sole purpose of being added to the rental pool. Purpose-built rental units are known as the primary rental market.

The caveat is that the positive market changes this policy shift from the Ford government intended to inspire won’t be felt for at least a few years.

“If we see a large number of investors entering the market today, with the average completion time of high-density housing such as condo apartments anywhere from two to three years from the time shovels hit the ground, it wouldn’t be until after 2022 when the increased rental market supply will alleviate some of the pressures from the primary rental market,” wrote Navarrete.

Source: Livabl.com –

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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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What You Should Know About Collateral Charge Mortgages

 

I recently had clients who were refinancing their mortgage completely reject a very attractive offering from one of the big chartered banks.

Their reasoning? All of this bank’s mortgages are registered as collateral charges, and all of their online research into this topic spooked them completely.

Over the years, dozens of articles have been written on the topic of collateral mortgages, often tending to a negative bias. But as Rob McLister once said, and I agree with him, “collateral mortgages shouldn’t be portrayed as a supreme evil of the mortgage universe, when in fact they offer advantages to some.”

One can present persuasive arguments in favour or against collateral mortgages. But this client’s response compelled me to revisit the topic with fresh eyes and offer an updated perspective.

Mortgage loans are typically registered as a standard-charge mortgage or a collateral charge mortgage. So, let’s explore both types…

What Is a Standard Charge Mortgage?

A standard charge only secures the mortgage loan that is detailed in the document. It does not secure any other loan products you may have with your lender. The charge is registered for the actual amount of your mortgage.

If you want to borrow more money in the future, you’ll need to apply and re-qualify for additional money and register a new charge. There may then be costs, such as legal, administrative, discharge and registration fees.

If you want to switch your mortgage loan to a different lender at the end of your term, you may be able to do so by simply assigning your mortgage to a new lender at no cost to you.

Monoline lenders such as MCAP, First National Financial, CMLS and others default to standard-charge mortgages, unless offering a product such as MCAP Fusion (which has a re-advanceable HELOC component)

What Is a Collateral Charge Mortgage?

A collateral charge is basically a method of securing a mortgage or loan against your property. As explained here previously, “unlike a standard mortgage, a collateral charge is re-advanceable. That means the lender can lend you more money after closing without you needing to refinance and pay a lawyer.”

You can keep re-using this charge, and a new charge will only be required if you want to borrow more than the amount that was originally registered.

Most chartered banks offer both types of mortgages. A couple (TD Bank and Tangerine)  only register their mortgages as collateral charges.

Most chartered banks also offer a type of combination home financing, which consists of a mortgage component and a line of credit component. (Actually there could be several components.) For example, the Scotia Total Equity Plan (STEP) mortgage.

If you have a Home Equity Line of Credit, you have a collateral charge mortgage.

A collateral charge can be used to secure multiple loans with your lender. This means credit cards, car loans, overdraft protection and personal lines of credit could also be included.

Arguments people make in favour of collateral charge mortgages

1) If you wish to borrow more money during the term of your mortgage, you can tap into your home equity without the expense of a mortgage refinance. You can save legal fees. (This is assuming of course, your personal credit and income are sufficient to qualify for more money.)

2) If you have a mortgage and a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), it may be structured such that every time you make a mortgage payment, the amount you pay towards your principal balance is added to your HELOC limit. Large available credit, used wisely, is usually a good thing.

3) Collateral charges are often best suited to strong borrowers with lots of equity. They might readily access contingency funds at no cost down the road. This could be by increasing their mortgage loan amount or adding a home equity line of credit to the mix.

Ironically, our same clients who objected strenuously to the collateral charge actually fit this profile. After refinancing their current mortgage, they will still have $500,000 in equity left in their home. Who knows, down the road they may want a Home Equity Line of Credit or to increase their mortgage. If they register their mortgage today for more than its face value, they could avoid all refinancing costs at that time.

Arguments people make against collateral charge mortgages

1) Some people trash the collateral charge because there is often a cost to switching lenders at renewal. I think that’s overstated and no longer factual.

It’s so competitive out there, if you’re still considered strong borrowers, chances are someone is willing to eat the costs to move you.

Also, some lenders are now offering no-cost switch programs for collateral charge mortgages. That was not the case a few years ago, and the list of such lenders is growing.

And keep in mind the moment you wish to change any material aspect of your mortgage (for example, the amortization period or the loan amount), it is no longer considered a switch, but rather a refinance—so legal and appraisal costs are in play anyway.

2) Others argue you could be offered less competitive interest rates from your current lender at renewal than you will be from a new lender. Again, if you are a strong borrower, someone is going to offer you low rates, and your current lender, under pressure, will often match or beat competitive offers. For that reason I view this as less of a concern.

3) Some lenders register a collateral charge for more than the loan amount—to as much as 125% of the appraised value of your home. Some just do this by default and others may ask you to choose the dollar amount to be registered. The rationale being you will retain the benefits of your collateral charge, even as your home increases in value.

This is where you might pause to reflect.

If, down the road, your personal finances take a U-turn, or you no longer qualify for additional financing with your current lender, then you might find a high collateral charge impairs your ability to seek secondary financing elsewhere.

For example, we are presently working with two Ontario-based clients who need a private second mortgage, but the collateral charge registered against their home is roughly the same as the value of their home. Even if their current mortgage balance is very low, unless a private mortgage lender’s lawyer can cap the collateral charge at that lower balance, these homeowners will find alternate lender sources are unlikely to lend new money.

4) A collateral charge mortgage is not only a charge on your home, but can include other credit you have with that same lender. These lenders have a “right of offset,” meaning they can collect from the equity in your home on any financial products you have (or co-signed for) that are now in default.

There is also the potential that when asked to pay out the mortgage at the time you leave your collateral charge mortgage lender, they can also add in overdraft, credit card and line of credit balances. Resulting in less funds to you than you expected and may need.

That said, it is unclear how often this happens, if ever, to borrowers with spotless records.

Industry insider Dustan Woodhouse points out, “(Even) co-signing a credit card or car loan for somebody (who then stops making payments) carries a risk of a foreclosure action against your property as a remedy for what was perceived to be an unrelated debt.”

The Wrap

Collateral charge mortgages are here to stay. More lenders are adopting them and you should have a good understanding of what type of mortgage you are being offered. Most of the time, it probably will not matter much to you how your mortgage is registered.

For all the arguments about extra costs if you wish leave your lender at renewal, as long as your borrower profile is strong you should be able to avoid any incremental out-of-pocket costs.

But if you want to take a conservative approach, consider the following:

Choose a standard charge mortgage if it really bothers you, and if you have a choice of lenders.

Or, when given the option, just register the collateral charge mortgage for the actual face amount of the mortgage, rather than a much larger amount.

In closing, Woodhouse has some sage advice: “It is perhaps a key consideration that one should in fact not have all their banking, credit cards and small loans with the same institution as their mortgage…mortgage with Lender A, consumer debt/trade lines with Lender B, and perhaps any business accounts with Lender C.”

Source: Canadian Mortgage Trends – ROSS TAYLOR  

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