Sorting through the numerous mortgage options available to today’s home buyers can be intimidating for everyone from first-time purchasers to long-time owners. The rules seem to change constantly and there’s a smorgasbord of terminologies to learn.
First, it’s necessary to know exactly which kinds of institutions will lend you money. Banks and trust companies lead the pack, but credit unions and private lenders also offer funds. There’s also an option to consult a mortgage broker. Brokers have access to a wide variety of lending sources, including domestic banks and trust companies, but they can also employ other alternatives such as pension funds, real estate syndicates and foreign banks. You may also find yourself in a situation where you can ‘assume’ an existing mortgage held by the seller. Advantages of assuming a mortgage are that you can speed the buying process due to reduced paperwork and save money in lower legal fees and closing costs. A disadvantage is that the current lending rate may be less than that of the assumed mortgage.
What is a Mortgage
A mortgage is made up of two parts: principal and interest. Principal is the actual amount borrowed. Interest is the lender’s fee you are charged for borrowing. You’ll have to decide on an amortization period (the length of time it will take to completely pay off the mortgage) and the term, or length of time each mortgage agreement guarantees the interest rate
Amount of the Mortgage
With lower interest rates, you may qualify for a larger mortgage because your monthly payments will be lower. But always keep in mind that the larger your mortgage, the more interest you’ll pay in the long run. That simply means your house will cost more. Also, what if interest rates rise? Will you still be able to carry the payments comfortably?
Types of Mortgages:
Lenders will loan you up to 75 per cent of the appraised value or purchase price of the property (whichever is lower), and you must come up with the remaining 25 per cent yourself. Many people save specifically for this purpose, but in some cases, alternate or ‘secondary’ financing maybe available.
High- Ratio Mortgage
is one alternative if you don’t have the 25 per cent down payment. These are available for up to 95 per cent of the appraised value or purchase price of the property (whichever is lower) to a maximum set by government regulation. The proviso is that high-ratio mortgages must be insured, and the cost, from one to three percent of the mortgage amount, falls to you.
Of course, if you cannot add on to your mortgage, you may consider a second mortgage. Each mortgage uses your home as security and gives the mortgagee the right to take your home if you default on your loan. The first mortgagee gets paid first in cases of default and has the best chance of recovering all of its money. So it only goes to figure that subsequent mortgages usually come with a higher interest rate.
Variable Rate Mortgage
‘Variable-rate’ mortgages are usually offered for both conventional and high-ratio mortgages. Typically, your monthly payments remain fixed for the term, while the interest rate fluctuates with economic conditions. This means that if interest rates climb, you’ll be paying more per month in interest. If rates drop, you’ll then be paying more off your principal.
Fixed Rate Mortgage
‘Fixed rate’ mortgages maintain the same rate of interest over the entire negotiated term.
Amortization refers to the time period in which the mortgage is assumed to be paid. A common amortization period is 25 years. This means interest and principal payments are set as if you were paying the amount borrowed over a 25 year payment schedule. Obviously, the shorter the amortization period, the less interest you will pay.
This type of mortgage offers a great deal of flexibility, as it can be repaid in part or full at any time without penalty. This is a great mortgage if you believe interest rates are moving down or if you plan to move in the near future. The term may be limited to six months or one year.
Here the interest rate is fixed for the full term of the mortgage, and you will have to pay a penalty to change the agreement conditions. This type of mortgage is ideal for buyers who suspect that interest rates will rise and who are not planning to move in the near future. This type of mortgage is usually available in a wide variety of terms.
With this mortgage, you’ll enjoy the same peace of mind as a closed mortgage, plus the flexibility to convert to a longer closed mortgage at any time without penalty. If you think rates will drop, this will allow you to wait until you feel they have hit bottom, or if rates rise, you can lock in.
Every lending institution is different, and each will have their own customizable mortgage options. When you’re hunting for a lender and a home, see how the following features could be beneficial to you.
This is a wonderful option if you receive regular bonuses or if your income fluctuates throughout the year. With a pre-payment privilege, you have the right to make payments toward the principal portion of your mortgage over and above the monthly payments. A mortgage with a pre-payment option is closed. An open mortgage means you can pay the entire principal sum without notice of bonus.
If you still have time remaining on that fantastic loan you negotiated, portability is one option you’ll want to discuss with your lender. Quite simply, it means transferring the balance of your current mortgage at the existing rates and with the existing terms and conditions, to your new home.
Let’s say that the vendor has negotiated a dynamite mortgage. With an assumable mortgage you, the purchaser, simply assume the obligations of the mortgage. This is a wonderful feature especially if the terms are more favourable than the existing market conditions would allow. Remember, when it is time for you to sell, you may still be liable for any mortgage you allow the buyer to assume. This means if the buyer stops making payments, you could be accountable for the payments. Be sure to have the subsequent buyer approved for the assumption of the payments, thereby avoiding this potential land mine.
If you need additional funds down the road, will your mortgage terms allow you to increase the principal amount? Usually, your new rate will be a blended amount of the initial mortgage rate and the prevailing rates. It’s a great option to discuss with your lender if you foresee large expenses in your future like renovation or education costs.
Obtaining a Pre-Approved Mortgage
Why go house hunting only to find that you don’t qualify for a mortgage on the dream home you’ve found? Having a pre-approved mortgage will give you the confidence of knowing exactly what you can spend on a home before you start looking. You will also be protected against interest-rate increases while you look for your new home.
Once you’ve done your homework and shopped for the best rate, meet with the loans officer to arrange a pre-approved mortgage and discuss the features you’re looking for to tailor payments to your needs. It could take a few days, but give your lending institution about two weeks.
Pre-Approved Mortgage Features to Look For
*Portions of this article courtesy of the Ontario Real Estate Association