Buying A Home, The 30,000 Foot View

Buying A Home, The 30,000 Foot View

Did you know that the average Canadian will spend roughly 11 months actively engaged in the house buying process? However, most of the dreaming (and preparation) happens before then. Buying a home is a big deal, and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. With all the recent changes by the Canadian government tightening mortgage qualification, you can never be too prepared! 

Even if you don’t plan to buy for a couple years, there is only so far general information can take you. Each person is different, as are their financial situations. So if you’d like to discuss your personal financial situation, feel free to contact us anytime. We would love to work with you!

With that said, here is a 30,000 foot view of what you need to know about buying a home, as it relates to mortgage financing. 

Are You Credit Worthy?

First things first, do you have a good credit? Having good credit is of paramount importance when applying for a mortgage. Establishing a good credit score takes some time, most lenders want to see that you have managed your credit well over a minimum of a 2 year period. 

Even if you have a huge downpayment and manage your money perfectly, and the idea of debt disgusts you, having an established history of borrowing and repaying money is crucial. It’s really hard to get mortgage financing without a credit history. 

How Will You Repay Your Mortgage?

If a lender is going to lend you money to buy a property, they are going to want to know you have the means to pay them back. They want to know that you have a steady job, and will make you prove it through documentation. Depending on how you get paid, lenders will want to see an employment letter, pay stubs, your T1Generals, Notice of Assessments, and really anything else they feel gives them an accurate picture of how much money you make!

Do You Have A Downpayment?

In order to borrow money from a financial institution, you’re going to have to bring some money to the table. Of course the best downpayment comes from an accumulation of your own resources, but there are other sources of downpayment that are available to you. A 5% downpayment will be the bare minimum required, and depending on the purchase price, it might be more. 

It’s important to know that you will have to prove the source of all downpayment funds. This can typically be done through 90 days of bank statements. The lenders (and government) want to ensure that you aren’t purchasing the property with the proceeds of crime, and laundering money. Just know that there will be heavy scrutiny on where you got your downpayment. 

As houses become more expensive, a lot of parents have decided to help their kids with the purchase of a property by gifting downpayment funds for a downpayment.

How Much Can you Afford?

What you can afford on paper and what you can afford in real life are often very different. The amount you qualify to borrow is based on way too many things to include in a single article. And the rules keep changing. Most recently, the government has introduced a financial “stress test” that forces buyers to qualify at a mortgage rate that is at least 2% higher than the rate they will pay. 

So once you are ready to actually start shopping, or even months before then, it’s a good idea to sit down with an independent mortgage professional who can work through your unique financial situation and will let you know exactly what you can afford to spend on a property. 

Regardless of where you are in the home buying process, it’s never too early to give us a call! Our goal is to walk you through the process from start to finish, even if that is a matter of years, instead of months. Contact us anytime, we’d love to work with you!

Top Dollar: How High Can You Go?

Top Dollar: How High Can You Go?

Affordability is a major concern for today’s aspiring first-time homebuyers. In hot real estate markets like the Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver regions, however, the desire for affordability can be challenged by the competitive fervour caused by escalating prices and bidding wars. As anyone who has researched homeownership in these markets knows, it’s easy to feel the pressure to bid higher than you’d like.

Resist the urge. It’s important to go house hunting with a firm price range in mind. If something is outside of your budget, it’s not affordable – period. A successful home purchase isn’t about beating out 20 other offers; it’s about sealing the deal on a home you can afford, with money left over each month after your mortgage is paid, to cover your other expenses, savings and a little bit of fun, too.

It’s a tall order, but there is a formula to help you find that sweet spot.

Find Your Right Price

Lenders and mortgage insurers look at two debt service ratios when qualifying you for a mortgage (and mortgage insurance, which you will need if you make a down payment of less than 20 per cent the cost of the home).

  • Gross debt service (GDS)
    The carrying costs of your home, such as mortgage payments, taxes, heating, etc., relative to your income.
  • Total debt service (TDS)
    Home carrying costs (mortgage payments, taxes, heating, etc.) plus your debt payments (credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.), again relative to your income.

The highest allowable GDS ratio is 39 per cent, and the highest allowable TDS ratio is 44 per cent.

Want a shortcut to determining affordability? Use’s “What Can I Afford?” online mortgage calculator. Input your income, current monthly debt payments and other details for an instant result that shows how much mortgage you can comfortably afford. (Note: For the interest rate, be sure to input the Bank of Canada’s conventional five-year mortgage rate, as that is what lenders use when determining GDS and TDS.)

Down Payment Strategies

Once you know how much mortgage you can manage, limit your house hunt to homes that keep you in that price range. That way, you won’t panic or find yourself in financial trouble if interest rates go up in the future.

You can buy “more house” for the same total mortgage if you have a larger down payment. Saving aggressively is one way to do that. Pair that with other strategies, such as the following:

  • Borrowing money from your RRSP under the government’s Home Buyers’ Plan.
  • Asking family for help via gifts or loans. (Don’t be embarrassed: 23 per cent of respondents in the 2017 Genworth Canada First-Time Homeownership Study say they’d do it!)
  • Taking on a side gig or second job.
  • Gulp! Moving back home with your parents so you can save on rent.

Location, Location, Location

The other way to end up with a smaller mortgage is to buy a less pricey house. Fixer-uppers help, but the most dramatic payoff may come from expanding your search to a wider radius.

Consider buying in a nearby city or suburb that you can commute to work from. Or blaze new ground by moving farther afield in search of a new home and new adventures – with the spare cash to enjoy them both!

This article is part of Genworth Canada’s Guide for Millennial Homebuyers. It was originally published online here.

I’ve Never Heard of That Lender Before?

I’ve Never Heard of That Lender Before?

One of the benefits of working with an independent mortgage professional; compared to getting your mortgage through a single institution, is choice. And as there are even more mortgage rules coming into place January 1st 2018, (read about them here) now more than ever, having access to a wide variety of mortgage products is going to ensure you get the mortgage that best suits your needs.

Working with an independent mortgage professional will give you access to varying products from many different lenders, some of these lender you may have never even heard of, but that’s okay. Sure, RBC, BMO, and CIBC, are more household names compared to say, MCAP, RMG, or Merix Financial, but as each lender has a different appetite for risk (there is always a risk when lending money) how do you know which lender is going to have the products that are going to be the best fit for you? 

Typically the conversation develops into something like this: “I’ve never heard of this lender before, are they safe, I mean… I have no idea who they are”? And although that is a valid question, there is a simple answer. Yes. Yes they are safe. All the lenders we work with are reputable and governed by the same regulator as the big banks. Ultimately, you have their money, they don’t have yours! 

But let’s answer a few of the common questions often asked about these lenders accessed only through an independent mortgage professional. 

Why haven’t I heard of any of these lenders? 

Instead of spending all their money on huge marketing campaigns (like the Canadian big banks) which drives up the cost of their product, broker channel lenders rely on competitive products and independent mortgage professionals to secure new clients. 

What happens if my lender gets purchased by another lender?

This actually happens quite a bit, however, it’s business as usual for you. Even if your mortgage contract gets sold, the terms of your mortgage stay intact and nothing changes for you. 

What happens if my lender goes bankrupt or is no longer lending at the end of my term?

This would be the same as if the lender was purchased by another lender. The only difference is, at the end of your term, we would have to find another lender to place your next term. And as this is already good practice, it’s business as usual. Again, you have their money, they don’t have yours. The contract would stay in force. 

Why don’t these lenders have physical locations?

Much like why you haven’t heard of these lenders, they save the money on advertising and infrastructure, and instead focus on creating unique products to give their clients more choice. These lenders rely on independent mortgage professionals for awareness and compete on product not public awareness. 

Do they really have better products?

Yes. Well, I guess we have to define what is meant by better products. If by better products you mean a variety of products that suit different individuals differently, then yes. Across the board, each lender has a different appetite for a different kind of risk. For example, while one lender might not include child tax income as part of your regular income, another might. While one lender might look favourably on a certain condo development, another might not. Each lender sees things a little differently. Knowing the products and preferences at each lender is what we do! 

When it comes to mortgage qualification, some broker channel lenders are more flexible than others (or the banks) and offer different programs that cater to self-employed, people who are retired, own multiple properties, or rely on disability income. While as it relates to the features of the mortgage, different lenders offer many different features. Some mortgages can be paid off at an accelerated pace with little to no penalty, some accomodate different payment structure, some products are set at lower rate, but sacrifice flexibility. 

At the end of the day, the goal should be to qualify for a mortgage that has the features that suit your individual needs. Regardless of which lender that is. If you would like to talk about your financial situation, and see which lender best suits your needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime! 

Bank of Canada Rate Announcement Oct 25th, 2017

Bank of Canada Rate Announcement Oct 25th, 2017

The Bank of Canada today maintained its target for the overnight rate at 1 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 1/4 per cent and the deposit rate is 3/4 per cent.

Inflation has picked up in recent months, as anticipated in the Bank’s July Monetary Policy Report (MPR), reflecting stronger economic activity and higher gasoline prices. Measures of core inflation have edged up, in line with a narrowing output gap and the diminishing effects of lower food prices. The Bank projects inflation will rise to 2 per cent in the second half of 2018. This is a little later than anticipated in July because of the recent strength in the Canadian dollar. The Bank is also mindful that global structural factors could be weighing on inflation in Canada and other advanced economies.

The global and Canadian economies are progressing as outlined in the July MPR. Economic activity continues to strengthen and broaden across countries. The Bank still expects global growth to average around 3 1/2 per cent over 2017-19. However, this outlook remains subject to substantial uncertainty about geopolitical developments and fiscal and trade policies, notably the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canada’s economic growth in the second quarter was stronger than expected, and was more broad-based across regions and sectors. Growth is expected to moderate to a more sustainable pace in the second half of 2017 and remain close to potential over the next two years, with real GDP expanding at 3.1 per cent in 2017, 2.1 per cent in 2018 and 1.5 per cent in 2019. Exports and business investment are both expected to continue to make a solid contribution to GDP growth. However, projected export growth is slightly slower than before, in part because of a stronger Canadian dollar than assumed in July. Housing and consumption are forecast to slow in light of policy changes affecting housing markets and higher interest rates. Because of high debt levels, household spending is likely more sensitive to interest rates than in the past.

The Bank estimates that the economy is operating close to its potential. However, wage and other data indicate that there is still slack in the labour market. This suggests that there could be room for more economic growth than the Bank is projecting without inflation rising materially above target.

Based on this outlook and the risks and uncertainties identified in today’s MPR, Governing Council judges that the current stance of monetary policy is appropriate. While less monetary policy stimulus will likely be required over time, Governing Council will be cautious in making future adjustments to the policy rate. In particular, the Bank will be guided by incoming data to assess the sensitivity of the economy to interest rates, the evolution of economic capacity, and the dynamics of both wage growth and inflation.

Here are the announcements dates set out for the remainder of 2017 and the complete schedule for 2018.

  • December 6th 2017
  • January 17th 2018*
  • March 7th 2018
  • April 18th 2018*
  • May 30th 2018
  • July 11th 2018*
  • September 5th 2018
  • October 24th 2018*
  • December 5th 2018

*Monetary Policy Report published

All rate announcements will be made at 10:00 (ET), and the Monetary Policy Report will continue to be published concurrently with the January, April, July and October rate announcements.

Monetary Policy Report

3 Reasons Canadian Mortgage Rates Will Never Hit 5%

3 Reasons Canadian Mortgage Rates Will Never Hit 5%

 High borrowing rates are a relic.

Canadian regulators may soon force borrowers to qualify at interest rates two percentage points above the contract rate.

With many posted mortgage rates now approaching and even surpassing 3.00% (depending on the term), this means borrowers will soon need to show they can afford payments based on rates of 5.00%+.

The justification is that regulators want Canadians to be prepared when interest rates rise, but that’s a hollow excuse. It’s a punitive macroprudential rule that is disconnected from reality.

Interest rates can only rise if inflation accelerates, but every force in the world is pushing in the other direction. We’re in an age of no inflation and it will completely change borrowing, lending and how the mortgage market works.

Here are three reasons you will never have to pay 5.00% on a typical 5-year fixed mortgage, but why you could be paying more in other ways:

1) There Is No Inflation

There is only one kind of inflation that matters to the Bank of Canada: wage inflation. Prices might rise on everything for a year or two, but if wages don’t go higher with them, the cycle hits a wall because people won’t have the money to pay those higher prices. Demand falters and prices flatten.

The classic wage-price spiral of the ‘70s and ‘80s will never return and here’s why:

The simple Economics 101 model is supply and demand. As the economy grows and companies expand, the supply of idle workers eventually runs out. That means more bargaining power for workers and wages rise. It’s something the Bank of Canada calls the “output gap” or “slack”.

This paradigm is now forever broken. The first reason why is that globalization means the supply of workers is no longer limited to where you are. Factories and many service industries can move to where workers are cheapest, and until there are jobs for the billions of workers on the planet there will always be slack.

Even if all those workers could find jobs it still wouldn’t matter because automation is a far bigger driver of disinflation. Workers everywhere are being replaced by technology. It’s not just robots, but also computers, algorithms and improved processes adopted from abroad. We are still in the very early stages of this change and it’s accelerating daily.

Add in de-unionization, Amazon-style competition, precarious labour, other technology and the lingering collective psychological shock of the financial crisis and it’s a Quantitative Easing-miracle that prices haven’t fallen already.

This isn’t just a Canadian phenomenon. It’s not even a developed market phenomenon; inflation is low virtually everywhere. Even emerging markets that are growing far faster than Canada’s economy aren’t generating runaway inflation.

China’s economy continues to grow at a nearly 7% annually, but inflation is just 1.8% and has been below 3% for four years. Average mortgage rates for homebuyers there remain under 5.00%, and until rules were tightened this year, borrowers were typically paying less than 4.00%.

2) The Pain Would be Catastrophic

The second reason that rates will never rise to beyond 5.00% in Canada is that there are now far too many people who wouldn’t be able to make their payments. The government’s last round of new mortgage rules was a noble effort to reign in the housing market, but the horse has already left the million-dollar barn. Many borrowers would be forced to sell their homes, and those who could afford to stay would have their spending power cut dramatically.

A two-percentage-point rate increase on a $500,000-mortgage boosts the payment by at least $500 per month. A 5.00% rate on a million-dollar mortgage means $50,000 spent per year in interest alone. That’s a devastating bite out of a household’s disposable income, which is crucial for sustaining the economy.

Canada is often described as a resource economy, but it’s far more dependent on the health of the consumer than the price of oil. If consumers begin to suffer, it will quickly show up in the economic data and the Bank of Canada would be forced to do a quick U-turn on rates.

Even if Canadians could afford those higher rates, it would be a disaster politically for any governing party. Making people feel poorer is a sure-fire way to find yourself voted out of Parliament.

3) Rules Are the New Rates

While there is no inflation in the classic sense, prices are rising. You don’t need to look any further than soaring real estate or sizzling global stock markets.

The crux is that there are two types of inflation. There’s the classic consumer inflation, which is tied to industrial, commercial and labour prices that are doomed to stay low forever.

Then there is asset-price inflation. Low rates have changed the economics of borrowing and investing. If you can borrow at 3.00%, virtually anything that returns more than that is a viable investment. So asset prices rise until even meagre returns are no longer economical. Add in scarcity, tighter land-use rules, foreign capital and the growing desire to live in urban centres and it’s a perfect storm for housing.

Ultimately, this is a big political problem. People want to live in cities and it’s unpopular for voters to be spending all their money on mortgage payments. It’s also bad for business to have workers commuting unreasonable distances.

There are two real solutions and two that governments will try first.

The ultimate solution to high house prices is to make it easier and cheaper to build more housing. That’s politically unpopular now but could change someday. For now, governments continue to make it tougher to build the homes people want at prices they can afford.

The other way to cool house prices is to raise interest rates, however that’s far too blunt of a tool. Forcing businesses or rural homeowners to borrow at higher rates would be an unnecessary blow. The Bank of Canada has already gone too far.

The two solutions governments are trying first are the two things they always do in a market crisis: blame foreigners and blame the speculators.

So far the execution has been sloppy, but politicians have sent a powerful signal that they are now part of the equation. So don’t worry about interest rates, worry about what’s coming from regulators.



This article was written by Adam Button, Chief Currency Analyst and Managing Editor of, one of the most-visited sites for foreign exchange news and analysis. It was originally posted here.

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