30 Dec

New Mortgage Restrictions, Round III


Posted by: K.C. Scherpenberg

FlahertyDespite Jim Flaherty’s assertion that “Most Canadians are quite careful and use common sense in their borrowing,” the government tightened mortgage rules for the third time since 2008.

For high-ratio insured mortgages, the Finance Department outlawed both 35-year amortizations and refinances over 85% LTV. That led to:

    An immediate 40% plunge in insured refinances (as per CMHC’s Q2 stats)
    Greater interest expenses for consumers who could no longer refinance as much high-interest debt
    One less amortization option for well-qualified borrowers who need to maximize cash cash-flow
    A seemingly tacit agreement among the Big 6 banks to reduce their maximum amortizations to 30 years on conventional mortgages (even though this wasn’t officially required by the government)
    Rising popularity of 5% cash-back refinances, which simulate 90% LTV refis but cost more.

The government also made it tougher for non-bank lenders to offer HELOCs by eliminating government insurance on secured credit lines. That was virtually pointless since the major banks dominate this segment and seldom insured their credit lines anyway. Moreover, HELOCs require strong qualifications and 20% equity and those sorts of individuals rarely default.

2) Freakishly Low Fixed Rates

Rate-drop“Lower for longer.” That was economists’ buzzphrase in 2011 as they were forced to repeatedly push their rate hike forecasts further into 2012-2013.

At the same time, investors spooked by European risk fled to bonds in safe countries like Canada. With our bonds being bought up, bond yields (which lead fixed mortgage rates) dropped like a anvil.

In total, the benchmark 5-year government yield tumbled 115 basis points this year (as of today), hitting several all-time lows along the way.

Lower fixed-rate funding costs led to some spectacular rates this year, like 2.49% for a two-year fixed, 2.89% for a 4-year fixed, 2.99% for a 5-year fixed (for brief stints) and 4.34% for the 10-year.

Despite these bargains, however, rates could have been even lower. Funding costs absolutely permitted it but lenders’ desire for fatter profits kept fixed mortgage pricing higher than normal.

3)  Death of the Variable

Rising-variable-ratesVariable-rate mortgages have long been the strategy of choice for savvy homeowners…that is, until August 2011. Variable discounts started shrinking soon after the U.S. debt downgrade. Rates that were once prime – 0.90% ended the year as high as prime + 0.10%.

Lenders made no bones about why they jacked variable rates. Among other factors, banks openly admitted in earnings calls that they wanted wider margins.

With variables becoming so uncompetitive, fixed rates stole the show and the media declared variable-rate mortgages to be “over.”

Fortunately, what dies in the mortgage world can always be resurrected. Expect variable-rate discounts to make a comeback, although it may take a while.

4) Interprovincial Mortgage Brokers

Provincial-Mortgage-RegulationsWhile federal regulation has long allowed bank reps to operate nationwide, provincial regulations have made it onerous for mortgage brokers to do the same. That changed somewhat on July 1, 2011 when the Agreement on Internal Trade dramatically simplified the process for brokers to register in multiple provinces.

Among other things, this change promises to usher in more rate competition and we suspect it’ll be a big net plus for consumers.

23 Dec

Consumers to brokers: What do you do? Do you Know? Give us a call and we will explain how we save you a bag of money!


Posted by: K.C. Scherpenberg

Consumers to brokers: What do you do?

By Vernon Clement Jones | 22/12/2011 6:00:00 PM | 0 comments


Mortgage brokers have yet to clear the “biggest hurdle” standing in their way, according to the latest CAAMP-Maritz consumer survey, pointing to less than 10 per cent of respondents who really understand exactly what it is they do.

“It is very difficult to sell anything if consumers don’t understand the offering and this may be the biggest hurdle standing in the way of future success for Canada’s mortgage broker channel,” reads the report, based on consumer and broker surveys and released this week.

That may be an understatement.

In fact, the poll results indicate just 5 per cent have a full appreciation of the function of mortgage professionals, with only about a third of respondents indicating they have a good understanding.

“The importance of seeing these numbers increase cannot be overstated,” concludes Maritz, pointing to greater broker penetration among consumers who understand the services they bring to the table.

Broker market share is 50 per cent higher among the 40 per cent of consumers who have a full or good understanding of broker services. That translates into a market share of 32 per cent, compared with 21 per cent among those with a lesser understanding.

“When we asked non-broker customers why they did not consult with a broker, the top reason was loyalty to my bank, followed by four reasons relating to lack of awareness of broker services.”

The broker channel is expected to formally address its public awareness challenges in 2012, with growing support for a 1 bps fund.

“If every broker was to contribute one basis point that would equate to $5.5 million to $6 million a year,” Merix head Boris Boziche told brokers this fall, as part of “Winning the Rate Wars,” a webinar hosted by industry trainer Greg Williamson.

That “every broker” is the more than 15,000 mortgage professionals plying their trade across both regulated and unregulated Canadian jurisdictions. That “1 bp” would come off of each and every deal a broker submits and closes.

Those collective funds would get funnelled into a marketing campaign both paid by and focused on promoting mortgage brokers. That idea continues to gain traction as the industry grapples with increased competition from the banks and a slowing real estate market.

“I agree with Boris that mortgage brokers need to pay for this initiative,” said Williamson, head of 180 Degrees Coaching. “The great people at Dominion Lending pay to promote their brand nationally and I suspect they are happy with the results they are getting. We all pay to have the AMP designation promoted nationally why should we not promote the concept of using a mortgage broker and more importantly what we do.”

22 Dec

Stress over finances rising, lets get your finances in order and start saving money with a brand new mortgage!


Posted by: K.C. Scherpenberg

Stress over finances rising

How to get out of debt Shutterstock

TORONTO—A survey suggests that more than a third of Canadians — including well over half of young people — feel more stressed about their financial situation now than a year ago.

The survey commissioned by insurer Sun Life Financial and released Wednesday says 36 per cent of respondents are more worried about their personal finances than last year.

The survey comes as the economy slows down and volatile markets, squeezed incomes and recession fears erode consumer and business confidence.

Economic confidence trends have been moving negatively for months as consumers retrench and businesses worry about the economic future. A scaleback in spending is already affecting the Christmas shopping season and could lead to tighter money next year.

Still, there is some resiliency in consumer spending. On Wednesday, Statistics Canada reported that retail sales rose one per cent to $38.6 billion in October, their third straight monthly increase.

The Sun Life survey shows 43 per cent of women and 53 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 to 34 feel more pessimistic about their financial prospects.

The Canadian Financial Checkup survey was done by Ipsos Reid and polled more than 2,136 people about personal finances, work and career and the economy at the end of this year.

Such surveys are routinely done by banks, insurers or other financial companies to research their customers’s views and promote financial products and services such as mutual funds and wealth management.

On the economy, the survey found that one in five men felt more stressed about the economy than they did this time last year. One in five Canadians 55 and older are also more stressed about the economy.

“It’s clear from the survey that the uncertain economic conditions are impacting Canadians and causing financial concerns during an already stressful time of year,” said Kevin Strain, Sun Life’ Canada’s senior vice-president of individual insurance and investments.

“Canadians approaching retirement are feeling these impacts the most because they are planning to put their savings into action,” added Strain, who said Canadians should work with financial advisers to help plan their finances in an uncertain economy.

“If they haven’t prepared accordingly, the current environment may be throwing their plans off track.”

Most economists expect Canadian growth to slow to under two per cent in 2012 as the economy continues to weaken because of European recession fears and slower growth in the United States, China and India.

Such sluggish growth will do little to create jobs for the nearly 1.4 million Canadians now unemployed. With prospects of federal and provincial government restraint looming in 2012 and beyond and an expected jump in the 7.4 per cent jobless rate, consumer and business confidence could erode further next year.

The survey results show more women and younger Canadians are feeling more stress related to personal finances and work.

“We’ve seen that women are often taking care of family finances, and the holidays are when we feel the impacts of our spending habits throughout the year,” said psychotherapist Kimberly Moffitt, a member of the Ontario Association of Counsellors, Consultants, Psychotherapists, and Psychometrists.

Sun Life is Canada’s third-largest insurer with operations around the world. It has about 16,000 employees, nearly half of them in Canada.

20 Dec

Two strategies to help tame your debts.


Posted by: K.C. Scherpenberg

Two strategies to help tame your debts

December 19, 2011 By Krystal Yee 0 Comment(s)

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With December coming to a close, we are all starting to think about our New Year’s Resolutions. And in addition to resolving to go the gym more often, there’s a good chance that your list of 2012 resolutions involves a financial goal.

If one of your goals is to pay down your debt, you’re not alone. According to a recent Statistics Canada report.

There are two basic strategies to tackling your debt, the debt avalanche: where you pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first and . the other is the debt snowball where you pay down the debt with the smallest balance first.

For example, if you owe $23,000 to five different creditors, you will first need to determine your interest rate for each debt, as well as your minimum monthly payment. Then, after you have satisfied your minimum debt repayment obligations, you must figure out how much extra you can put towards your debt each month.

For the example below, let’s assume there is an extra $200 in your budget to put towards debt repayment:

Debt Balance Interest Rate
Visa $6,000 21%
Line of Credit $3,000 6%
Student Loan $10,000 8%
Mastercard $1,500 11%
Store credit card $2,500 19%

Debt Snowball 
Using this method, you will list all of your debts in ascending order, from smallest to largest balance. Since your smallest debt would be your Mastercard, you will need to commit to paying the minimum payments on every debt, and apply the extra $200 each month towards the Mastercard.

Once that debt is paid in full, you will then roll the Mastercard minimum payment plus the extra $200 towards the next smallest debt, which would be the store credit card.

This method works because by paying the smaller debts first, you eliminate the number of creditors faster, giving you the motivation she needs to keep going.

Debt Avalanche 
The debt avalanche  is similar, except instead of paying off your smallest debt first,  you repay the balance with the highest interest rate first.

Mathematically, this is the most effective way to repay debt  because you end up paying less interest over the course of your repayment schedule.

So, in this example, you pay off the Visa bill first, because it has the highest interest rate. Then, once that is paid it off, you will take the minimum payment and the $200 extra payment and put it towards the debt with the next highest interest rate – which would be the store credit card.

Which method should you choose?
There is a lot of debate about which strategy is best. The debt snowball plays to emotions and a sense of victory when we achieve goals fairly quickly. However, avalanche is the rational and more mathematically correct method.

The debt snowball is best suited for people who are strongly influenced by emotion and prefer quick, tangible results. It is also an effective method if all of your debts are at relatively the same interest rate, since you won’t end up saving as much interest as someone who has varying interest rates.

 I ended up using the debt avalanche. Even though I missed out on the emotional highs of getting rid of my creditors faster, I knew I was saving more money in the long run by eliminating my debt with the highest interest rate first.

Check out the website unbury.me to calculate whether the avalanche or snowball method will work best for your debt.

What debt repayment strategy do you use?