25 Sep

5 MISTAKES FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS SHOULD AVOID

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

Buying a home might just be the biggest purchase of your life—it’s important to do your homework before jumping in! We have outlined the 5 mistakes first time homebuyers commonly make, and how you can avoid them and look like a Home Buying Champ.

1. Shopping Outside Your Budget
It’s always an excellent idea to get pre-approved prior to starting your house hunting. This can give you a clear idea of exactly what your finances are and what you can comfortably afford. Your Mortgage Broker will give you the maximum amount that you can spend on a house but that does not mean that you should spend that full amount. There are additional costs that you need to consider (Property Transfer Tax, Strata Fees, Legal Fees, Moving Costs) and leave room for in your budget. Stretching yourself too thin can lead to you being “House Rich and Cash Poor” something you will want to avoid. Instead, buying a home within your home-buying limit will allow you to be ready for any potential curveballs and to keep your savings on track.

2. Forgetting to Budget for Closing Costs
Most first-time buyers know about the down payment but fail to realize that there are a number of costs associated with closing on a home. These can be substantial and should not be overlooked. They include:
• Legal and Notary Fees
• Property Transfer Tax (though, as a First Time Home Buyer, you might be exempt from this cost).
• Home Inspection fees
There can also be other costs included depending on the type of mortgage and lender you work with (ex. Insurance premiums, broker/lender fees). Check with your broker and get an estimate of what the cost will be once you have your pre-approval completed.

3. Buying a Home on Looks Alone
It can be easy to fall in love with a home the minute you walk into it. Updated kitchen + bathrooms, beautifully redone flooring, new appliances…what’s not to like? But before putting in an offer on the home, be sure to look past the cosmetic upgrades. Ask questions such as:
• When was the roof last done?
• How old is the furnace?
• How old is the water heater?
• How old is the house itself? And what upgrades have been done to electrical, plumbing, etc.
• When were the windows last updated?

All of these things are necessary pieces to a home and are quite expensive to finance, especially as a first- time buyer. Look for a home that has solid, good bones. Cosmetic upgrades can be made later and are far less of a headache than these bigger upgrades.

4. Skipping the Home Inspection
In a red-hot housing market, a new trend is for homebuyers to skip the home inspection. This is one thing we recommend you do not skip! A home inspection can turn up so many unforeseen problems such as water damage, foundation cracks and other potential problems that would be expensive to have to repair down the road. The inspection report will provide you a handy checklist of all the things you should do to make sure your home is in great shape.

5. Not Using a Broker
We compare prices for everything: Cars, TV’s, Clothing…even groceries. So, it makes sense to shop around for your mortgage too! If you are relying solely on your bank to provide you with the best rate, you may be missing out on great opportunities that a mortgage broker can offer you. They can work with you to and multiple lenders to find the sharpest rate and the best product for your lifestyle.

Remember, when you are buying a home, you are not alone! The minute you decide to work with a Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Broker you are bringing on a team of individuals who are there to help you through the process from start to finish.

Written by Geoff Lee

11 Sep

FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS INCENTIVE PROGRAM

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

The new First Time Home Buyer Incentive program from CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) was officially released on September 2. This program was met with mixed reactions across the mortgage industry, but we wanted to take a minute to give you the facts regarding the program. Below are the key points you need to know, and as always if you do have any further questions please reach out to us.

What is it?
Eligible homeowners are able to apply for a 5% or 10% shared equity mortgage with the Government of Canada.  A shared equity mortgage is where the government shares in the upside and downside of the property value. The Incentive enables first-time homebuyers to reduce their monthly mortgage payment without increasing their down payment. The Incentive is not interest bearing and does not require ongoing repayments.
Through the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, the Government of Canada will offer:
• 5% for a first-time buyer’s purchase of a re-sale home
• 5% or 10% for a first-time buyer’s purchase of a new construction

It’s important to understand that with this program, the government will then OWN 5-10% of the equity of your home (pending on how much was contributed to the down payment).

Who is eligible?
First, you must be a First Time Home Buyer. This incentive is only offered to those who are purchasing their first home. Second, you need to have the minimum down payment to be eligible. The minimum down payment is 5% of the purchase price of the property, and this must come from your own resources. The Federal Government will not give you 5% to put towards/cover the entire down payment. Third, your maximum qualifying income is no more than $120,000. Lastly, your total borrowing is limited to 4 times the qualifying income.

There are restrictions on the type of property you can purchase. The below are the eligible properties:
o New construction (5-10% incentive)
o Re-sale home (5% incentive)
o New and resale mobile/manufactured homes (5% incentive)

Residential properties include single family homes, semi-detached homes, duplexes, triplex, fourplex, townhouses, condominium units. The property must be located in Canada and must be suitable and available for full-time, year-round occupancy.

How Does Repayment Work?

You can repay back the incentive in full at any time without a pre-payment penalty or you can repay the incentive after 25 years or if the property is sold, whichever happens first. The repayment of the incentive is based on the property’s fair market value:
o You are given a 5% incentive of the home’s purchase price of $200,000 or $10,000. If your home value increases to $300,000 your payback would be 5% of the current value or %15,000
o You are given a 10% incentive of the home’s purchase price of $200,000 or $20,000 and your home value decreases to $150,000, your payback amount would be 10% of the current value or $15,000.

If you are interested in this program or have further questions, we encourage you to reach out to your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker. This is a brand-new program and more details are coming out each day. We also are working to better understand the implications of this type of shared equity mortgage and will keep you updated on any news or updates we receive.

Written by Geoff Lee

6 Sep

4 WAYS TO MAKE THE MORTGAGE PROCESS SMOOTHER

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

Mortgages are complicated—we get it! But there are steps that you as a homebuyer can take to make the process a much smoother one (plus let you walk away with the sharpest rate!)

1. Use a Broker
This should be the first step you take when getting a mortgage! Enlisting a trusted broker to work with you can help you secure the sharpest rate and the right mortgage product too! This is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) purchase you will make in your lifetime. Working with a professional will make all the difference.

2. Budget, Budget, and Budget Some More
Budgets aren’t the most glamorous element of homebuying but they are a necessity. Why? Because often you will have overlooked costs that can make or break you getting into your home. A few things to consider:
• Property transfer taxes
• Legal fees
• Home inspection/appraisal fees
• Down payment (this is kind of a big one)
• Mortgage insurance
And the costs don’t stop once you own the home.

3. Understand the Importance of the Down-Payment
Many home-buyers focus on just simply putting money aside for the down payment. While this is crucial, there are other considerations.
• How big of a down payment can you make? You must meet the federally mandated minimum down payment: 5% for all mortgages up to $500,000, and 10% on any portion above $500,000 up to $999,999.99 (CMHC-insured mortgage loans are only available on properties valued under $1 million). But the size of the down payment will also reduce the interest you pay out over the life of your mortgage and reduce the size of the CMHC mortgage premium too.
• Take advantage of the Home Buyer’s Plan to withdraw up to $25,000 tax free from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). This can help to supplement your down payment as long as you understand the rules for paying it back.
• Leave plenty of time to transfer the funds from whichever source you are pulling them from. You will also need to leave adequate time for a certified or cashier’s cheque to be produced before the closing

4. Don’t Become Hyper Focused On the Rate
Yes, the rate is important, but don’t be hasty and jump into a mortgage purely based on the rate. Consider other areas such as the terms, the penalty to break, the amortization, and all other factors before signing on the dotted line. Your broker can help you to understand the ins and outs of a mortgage.

Considering these four things can help you be more prepared when beginning the mortgage process. Remember, a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker will help you and guide you through each of these things to ensure you are getting the best mortgage possible and with minimal stress too!

Written by Geoff Lee

4 Sep

RENT-TO-OWN EXPLAINED

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

In some markets, it can take a long time to sell a property. An option available to some sellers is the Rent-to-Own sales method.

If you have someone interested in purchasing your property but they can’t obtain a mortgage either because they don’t have a down payment saved or their credit score is too low, this can be way to purchase a home. Usually the agreements run for 2 – 3 years.

A sales agreement is signed which states what the tenant and future owners are going to pay as rent while they save up a down payment and /or improve their credit score. The agreement has to state how much of their monthly payment is going towards the down payment. They also have to be paying market rents. In addition, the agreement must state that if the deal is cancelled the purchasers will get their down payment funds returned to them.

The reason that this must be stated in the agreement is that the mortgage insurers like Genworth and CMHC stipulate these terms must be in the agreement before they will approve a mortgage.
What are the pros and cons of this type of an agreement? The pros are that the tenants will maintain the property and not abuse it as they want to purchase it. The seller gets steady income while the buyer is saving for the purchase. The con is that as the price is determined in advance – radical changes to the local housing market may mean that the purchaser will get a great deal at the end of the agreement or walk away if the market drops significantly.

If you are considering this option, consult with a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional before you sign an agreement. They can determine if it will be valid with the mortgage companies and insurers before you’ve spent a cent.

Written by David Cooke

28 Aug

NEED AN APRAISAL-71/2 TIPS FOR SUCCESS

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

Do you need to get a current value of your property? Then you are going to need an appraisal.

Banks and other lending institutions want to know the “current” market value of your home before they consider loaning money on the property. An appraiser checks the general condition of your home and compares your home to other similar homes which have recently sold in order to define a comparable market value for your home.

Here are 7½ tips that can help you get top current market value.

Short version – Prepare your home as if it was going to be sold!!

Long version… If a picture is worth a thousand words, think what kind of story the pictures from your home are telling?

In the world of mortgages, lenders seldom set foot on the property before making a loan decision.

Instead, they rely on their trusted list of approved appraisers. All a lender usually gets is the appraiser’s pictures of your property and their comments about how your home was appraised.

Tip #1 – Clean up. The appraiser is basing the value of your property on how good it looks. Before the appraisal, prepare your home as if you’re selling it. Clean and declutter every room, vacuum, and scrub. Do whatever you can to make your home as presentable as possible.
Tip #2 – Pay attention to curb appeal. An appraisal is all about first impressions. And the very first one the appraiser gets is when they walk up to your property. Spend an hour or two making sure the outside of your house, townhouse or condo is warm and welcoming.

Tip #3 – The appraiser must be able to see every room of the home, no exceptions. Refusal to allow an appraiser to see any room will be noted in the appraisal can be a game stopper. There are times when it is not appropriate for the appraiser to take pictures of certain things and appraisers and lenders understand this, but refusal to grant access could kill your deal.

Tip #4 – Make a list of upgrades and features. It’s important that the appraiser is made aware of any updates you’ve made, especially those which are hidden, like new plumbing and electrical. If possible, give the appraiser this list. That way they have a reference as to what has been updated and how recent or professional that work was done.

Tip #5 – If you need to spend to update, be prudent. Many people think “bathrooms and kitchens” are the answer for getting high prices on home value. They aren’t. First, consider that kitchen and bathroom remodels can be some of the priciest reno costs. For that reason, it may be more prudent to spend a bit of money, for just a bit of updating. Paint, new flooring, new light or plumbing fixtures don’t break the bank, but can provide a dramatic impact and improve your home’s value.

Tip #6 – You know your neighbourhood better than your appraiser does. Find out what similar homes in your neighbourhood have sold for. Your property might look like one down the street, but if you believe the value of your property is worth more, let them know why.

Tip #7 – Lock up your pets. I’m sure most appraisers like pets, but some may be put off by your cat rubbing against their leg or the dog barking or following them around.

Tip #7½ – One last tip – don’t annoy the appraiser with questions and comments and follow them around. Instead, simply be prepared to answer any of their questions and, if you do have concerns or queries, wait until they’ve completed their viewing of the property, then ask.

Mortgages are complicated, but they don’t have to be… Engage a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage expert!

Written by Kelly Hudson

23 Aug

STRESS TEST RATE & RECENT DECREASE

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

Currently, all borrowers in Canada need to qualify for a new mortgage at the current Bank of Canada Benchmark Qualifying Rate or at their approved mortgage interest rate plus 2.0%, whichever is higher.

For more than a year, this Bank of Canada Benchmark Qualifying Rate has been 5.34%. Now, for the first time in 3-years, the Bank of Canada has decreased that Qualifying Rate to 5.19%, a 0.15% decrease.

What does this mean?

Well, this Bank of Canada Qualifying Rate is essentially a bank’s Stress Test Rate. If a borrower has an annual gross income of $60,000, they can qualify for a $265,000 purchase price with a 10% down payment at a 5.34% qualifying rate.

Change that qualifying rate to 5.19%, that same borrower qualifies for a $269,000 purchase price at 10% down payment. This is a $3,700 increase in borrowing ability.

A borrower with $80,000 of gross annual income and a 20% down payment qualifies for a $455,000 purchase price at a 5.34% Bank of Canada Qualifying Rate. Change it to 5.19%, it increases to $462,000. A $5,600 increase in borrowing ability.

1.5%. That is the increase borrowers now have in their borrowing ability.

Ironic part of all these calculations, the stress test was implemented to protect consumers against rising interest rates. Their concern was that borrowers would not be able to cover their monthly payments when they came up for renewal.

Highest 5-year interest rate since January 2010? 3.79%.

Highest 5-year fixed interest rate in the past 5-years? 3.24%.

Last time someone had to pay an interest rate above 5%? For one month in 2009 and before that, summer of 2008.

Food for thought! If you have any other questions regarding the Bank of Canada and mortgage Stress Test rules, please reach out to Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional today.

Written by Ryan Oake

15 Aug

WHAT IS A MORTGAGE BROKER?

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

You may have noticed that there are many different terms for those of us who work in the mortgage industry besides “broker”.
Mortgage: specialist, expert, advisor, associate, officer, etc. I just want to clear up some potential confusion with all these monikers.
There are 2 main categories that these fall in to. Those that work for a bank to sell mortgage products available from that bank.
The other is for those like myself that work within a mortgage brokerage that has no direct affiliation with any one bank.
Each mortgage brokerage has agreements in place with multiple banks and mortgage lenders to be able to submit mortgage applications for consideration.
There are of course obvious differences between these but some may not be quite so apparent.

Mortgage Brokerage
All those working in the mortgage brokerage industry must be licensed by a provincial government agency, in Saskatchewan it’s called the Financial & Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA).
While every province has their own set of guidelines, there are 3 different types of licenses offered by FCAA: mortgage associate, mortgage broker & principal broker.
The mortgage associate and broker are very similar as both advertise themselves to obtain clientele, work directly with the clients, mortgage lenders, mortgage insurers, realtors and lawyers in the service of their clients. The key difference is that an associate must work under a supervising mortgage broker to ensure they remain in compliance with FCAA regulations.
Each mortgage brokerage will have a principal broker (aka: broker of record) that oversees the operations of the brokerage as well as all the associates and brokers within the brokerage.
Most all those working in the mortgage broker industry are commission based. Our income is derived from the mortgage lenders that we submit mortgage applications to.

In order to apply for a license as a mortgage associate, applicants must complete an approved mortgage associate education course and provide a current criminal record check along with the required application documents.

Application for a license as a mortgage broker are the same as for an associate with the addition of a previous experience requirement.
The applicant must have been licensed as a mortgage associate for at least 24 of the previous 36 months.

In addition to annual applications for renewal, licensees must also:

  • Purchase and remain in good standing with professional errors and omissions insurance
  • Complete FCAA approved annual continuing education courses
  • Provide FCAA auditors access to mortgage files for review whenever requested
  • Advise FCAA of any changes to brokerage or contact information
  • Immediately advise FCAA of any offences under the criminal code (other that traffic offenses)

Bank Branch Mortgage
Those that work in mortgage lending for a bank are normally paid by the hour or are salaried and may have a performance bonus structure.
Entry level positions do not require any education beyond high school. Training is provided on the job by the employer with supervision by the branch manager and more experienced staff.
There are no licensing requirements by any provincial or federal governing body and errors and omissions insurance is not required.
Many banks have mobile mortgage staff that may or may not conduct business within the branch and are often paid on a commission basis rather than hourly or salary.

If you have any questions, contact your Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Broker near you.

Written by Kevin Carlson

31 Jul

CREDIT REPORTS: YOU’VE SCORED! BUT ARE YOU PLAYING THE GAME?

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

For most people, your personal credit score and how a credit score is calculated are complete mysteries. How can you be expected to play and be successful if you aren’t even told the rules of the game? There are things borrowers can do to improve their score so they can access better mortgage products and save thousands of dollars, or qualify for their wonderful home when they otherwise might have trouble. Let’s stick handle through just some of the key things you should know about managing your credit score.

Amount owed and utilization accounts for 30% of your score. There are a lot of people that end up with high balances on their credits cards and struggle to meet the payments each month. If they manage to pay off their credit cards without seeing a mortgage broker to consolidate their debts, often the immediate response is to close the accounts. A better response is to cut up the cards and delete the numbers from your computer and devices and keep the accounts open. You want any remaining outstanding balances to be less than 75% of your total combined credit available, and if they are less than 35%, even better, because this keeps your utilization of available credit low and increases your credit score. Types of credit and the number of different credit products accounts for 10% of the score, so this is another reason you want to keep those accounts open. Cell phone providers are now reporting to the agencies that publish credit scores as well.

In some parts of the world where credit products are not well established, a borrower’s credit is evaluated based solely on how they have managed payments on their cell phone bills. It’s important to pay your cell phone bills on time; we’re all busy, so setup automatic payments to ensure a payment is not missed. My last word of advice for today is to monitor your credit score by purchasing your own credit report each year for about $25 so you know your score and to ensure the report is accurate. This will help you stay within the boundaries of the game.

There is a lot more to managing a credit score than I can get into in this short blog. If you would like to know more, contact me or your local Dominion Lending mortgage broker. We can provide advice to help you manage your credit score and put you in a better position to qualify for a mortgage with better rates. Know the rules of the game, plan ahead for your home financing, and play SMART.

Written by:  Todd Skene

26 Jul

4 WEIRD THINGS LENDERS ASK FOR

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

25 JUL 2019

A number of times I have had people who wonder why they need to provide so much documentation when it comes to arranging a mortgage. Besides an employment letter, you are usually asked to provide a pay stub and your most recent Notice of Assessment (NOA) to prove income. “Why do they need all 3, doesn’t the employment letter satisfy this condition?” I am often asked. No, is the short answer.

A pay stub shows your current income and shows how much you have made year to date. This will also show overtime or any special allowances you receive such as a northern living allowance. This confirms or sometimes does not agree with your employment letter. The employment letter shows what you are going to make this year and your NOA shows what you made in the past. It also shows that you do not owe taxes to the government. This is important to lenders because they don’t want the government to put a lien on your property ahead of their mortgage claim on title.

Your realtor will provide an offer to purchase and sale agreement, so why do they ask for a MLS listing sheet? While the purchase agreement shows the financial agreement and what is included with the house, the MLS describes the size of the house and lot as well as the amount paid for municipal taxes and the size of each room. This allows the lender to establish whether you have a fair market price for your new home.

Finally, a lender will ask for a 90-day bank statement to show your down payment money. The reason they ask for this is due to Canadian money laundering laws which need to show the source for all funds and that you have been saving the funds over the past 3 months. If you get an inheritance, you will need to show documentation that this is the source of your sudden wealth.
Be sure to contact your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional before making an offer on a home. He/She can tell you exactly what documents you will need in advance and make the home buying process go much easier.

Written by David Cooke

19 Jul

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN A HOME PURCHASE AGREEMENT

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Posted by: Patti MacLennan

While a home purchase agreement may seem simple and straight forward, there are many differences that you can encounter that can be a big surprise to first-time homebuyers. While you expect the date of possession and the full purchase price to be outlined in the agreement, there are items that you may not be aware should be included.

New builds vs existing homes

If you are buying a newly constructed home, there are quite a few differences between what you get in an existing home.
Legal fees – often home builders will include the legal fees in the purchase price. You should be aware that the law firm that will provide the service is the builder’s lawyer. Should a legal dispute develop, they will take the side of the builder and you will have to find your own independent legal counsel. In fact, if you can afford it, you should consider getting your own lawyer. The $1,200 savings could end up costing you more in the long run.
You should be aware that the show home that you have visited usually has numerous upgrades. I know that when I purchased my first new home I assumed that the bathroom rough-ins in the basement were standard, only to find out later that this was an upgrade. Retro fitting plumbing pipes is a costly venture.
You should also be aware that landscaping, fences and window coverings are not usually not included in the purchase price. Double check to see if the triple-pane windows on the show home are standard or an upgrade. Hardwood floors and basement development are usually an upgrade as well.

Existing homes

When you are buying an existing home, you will find that the window coverings, fences and landscaping are included in most cases. The window coverings should be included in the offer to purchase contract.
Something that may look like it’s supposed to be there but the seller may want to take with them is the hot tub and storage shed. Don’t assume that these items are included. The legal fees are never covered in an existing home sale.

Finally, from a mortgage standpoint, you should be aware that if you are purchasing an acreage or a large property with several outbuildings, your mortgage lender will cover the cost of the home plus one out building and up to three acres of land. If there’s a garage , barn and workshop usually the garage will be included in what the mortgage company will cover but not the smaller out buildings. Check with your Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional before you make an offer on a property like this.

Written by David Cooke