Mortgage FAQs

Mortgage FAQ, Mortgage frequently asked questions

Our Mortgage FAQs

Whether buying or selling a home, you need to understand the ins and the outs of mortgages. Since the majority of people who buy a home will need a mortgage, having an understanding of the most frequently asked questions can greatly reduce the confusion that usually comes along with getting one. There are numerous questions regarding mortgages that are asked every day. There is no such thing as a “dumb question” when it comes to asking a question about mortgages, and there are some more frequently asked than others. Below we have compiled some of our mortgage FAQs, so browse the questions, and click to read the answer and feel free to contact me if you have more questions, I’d love to hear from you!

Mortgage Questions

To determine what is “affordable” first identify what your taxable income is then determine what your typical monthly payments come to.

Assuming it is your principal residence you are purchasing:

  • First, calculate 34% of your income for use toward a mortgage payment, property taxes and utility costs. kAdd in half of your condominium fees, if applicable.
  • Second, calculate 42% of your taxable income and deduct all of your monthly payments, including car loans, credit cards, and lines of credit payments.

Generally, you would use the calculation producing the smaller result to get an idea how much of your income will be used towards your mortgage and related housing payments.

These calculations are based on lenders’ usual guidelines. In addition to considering what these results say you can afford, make sure you calculate how much you think you can afford. If the payment amount you are comfortable with is less than 34% of your income you may want to settle for the lower amount rather than stretch yourself financially. Make sure you don’t leave yourself house poor. Structure your payments so that you can still afford simple luxuries.

Down payment

First and foremost, you have to make sure you have enough money for a down payment – the portion of the purchase price that you furnish yourself. To qualify for a conventional mortgage you will need a down payment of 20% or more. However, you can qualify for a low down payment insured mortgage with a down payment as low as 5%.

Closing Costs

Secondly, you will require money for closing costs (up to 1.5%) of the basic purchase If you want to have the home inspected by a professional building inspector – which we highly recommend – you will need to pay an inspection fee. The inspection may bring to light areas where repairs or maintenance are required and will assure you that the house is structurally sound. Usually the inspector will provide you with a written report. If they don’t, then ask for one.

Legal Fees

You will be responsible for paying the fees and disbursements for the lawyer or notary acting for you in the purchase of your home. We suggest you shop around before making your decision on who you are going to use, because fees for these services may vary significantly.

Miscellaneous Fees

There are closing and adjustment costs, interest adjustment costs between buyer and seller and (depending on where you live) land transfer tax – a one-time tax based on a percentage of the purchase price of the property and/or mortgage amount.

Before closing

Finally, you will be required to have property insurance in place by the closing date. And you will be responsible for the cost of moving.

AFTER closing

Remember, there will be all kinds of things you’ll have to purchase early on – appliances, garden tools, cleaning materials etc. So factor these expenses into your initial costs.

What is a down payment?

Very few home buyers have the cash available to buy a home outright. Most of us will turn to a financial institution for a mortgage the first step in a potentially longstanding relationship. But even with a mortgage, you will need to raise the money for a down payment.

The down payment is that portion of the purchase price you furnish yourself. The amount of the down payment (which represents your financial stake, or the equity in your new home) should be determined well before you start house hunting. The larger the down payment, the less your home costs in the long run. With a smaller mortgage, interest costs will be lower and over time this will add up to significant savings.

How can I pay it?

  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP’s may be used as a down payment up to a maximum amount of 20,000 and is not subject to income tax if repaid within a specific time period)
  • Gift from immediate family
  • Accumulated savings
  • Sale of existing home
  • Sweat equity

 

Usually the minimum down payment of 5% is required to purchase a home, subject to certain maximum price restrictions, (a purchase price in excess of $250,000 requires a minimum of 10% as a down payment). There is an exception to this rule for qualified borrowers. With exceptional credit and strong employment you may qualify for “zero down”.

In addition to the down payment, you must also be able to show that you can cover the applicable closing costs (i.e. legal fees and disbursements, appraisal fees and a survey certificate, where applicable). 1.5% of the purchase price is the recommended savings to cover closing and this must be from your own resources, cannot be borrowed or gifted.

Yes, lenders will generally accept a gift from a family member as an acceptable down payment provided a letter stating it is a true gift, not a loan, is signed by the donor. Where the mortgage loan insurance is provided by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the gift money must be in your possession before the application is sent in to CMHC for approval. Where mortgage loan insurance is provided by GE Capital or AIG this is not a requirement.

Regardless of the amount of your down payment, at least 5% of it must be from your own cash resources or a gift from a family member. It cannot be borrowed.

Mortgage loan insurance helps protect lenders against mortgage default, and enables consumers to purchase homes with a minimum down payment starting at 5%, with interest rates comparable to those with a 20% down payment. To obtain mortgage loan insurance, lenders pay an insurance premium. This insurance is required by law to insure lenders against default on mortgages with a loan to value ratio greater than 80%. Premiums, ranging from .50% to 3.75%, are paid by the borrower and can be added directly onto the mortgage amount. This is not the same as mortgage life insurance.

Mortgage loan insurance is provided by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a crown corporation, or GE Capital Mortgage Insurance Company or AIG, both approved private corporations.

NOTE: Insurance premiums can be higher for self employed borrowers who cannot prove their income.

Subject to qualification, yes. In fact, even purchasers with 5% down may qualify to buy a home and make improvements to it. For high-ratio financing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, GE Capital and AIG, insured mortgages are available to cover the purchase price of a home as well as an amount to pay for immediate major renovations or improvements that the purchaser may wish to make to the property. This option eliminates the need to finance the renovations or improvements separately. Some conditions apply.

Where the improvements are cosmetic, the mortgage loan insurance premium is unchanged from the standard schedule. Where the improvements are deemed to be structural, the mortgage loan insurance premium is increased by .50% over the standard schedule. For information on mortgage loan insurance premiums see highratio home mortgage financing.

Lenders will often guarantee an interest rate to you as much as 90 days before your mortgage matures. And, as long as you are not increasing your mortgage, they will cover the costs of transferring your mortgage too. This means a rate promised well in advance of your maturity date, thus eliminating any worries of higher rates. And if rates drop before the actual maturity rate, the new lender will usually adjust your interest rate lower as well.

Most lenders send out their mortgage renewal notices offering existing clients their posted interest rates. The rate you are being offered is usually not the best one. Always investigate the possibility of a lower interest rate with the lender or another lender. If you don’t you may end up paying a much higher interest rate on your renewing mortgage than you need to.

Most lenders now offer insured mortgages for both new and resale homes with lower down payment requirements than conventional mortgages – as low as 5%. Low down payment mortgages must be insured to cover potential default of payment, and their carrying costs are therefore higher than a conventional mortgage because they include the insurance premium.

With all low down payment insured mortgages, you are responsible for:

  • Appraisal and legal fees
  • Insurance application fee
  • Mortgage default insurance premium payment (although the amount of the premium may be added to the mortgage amount)

How can you pay off your mortgage sooner? There are ways to reduce the number of years to pay down your mortgage. You’ll enjoy significant savings by:

  • Selecting a non-monthly or accelerated payment schedul
  • Increasing your payment frequency schedule
  • Making principal prepayments
  • Making double-up payments
  • Selecting a shorter amortization at renewal
Today, about 50% of first-time home buyers use their RRSP savings to help finance a down payment. With the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan, you can use up to $25,000 in RRSP savings ($50,000 for a couple) to help pay for your down payment on your first home. You then have 15 years to repay your RRSP.

To qualify, the RRSP funds you’re using must be on deposit for at least 90 days. You’ll also need a signed agreement to buy a qualifying home.

Even if you have already saved for your down payment, it may make good financial sense to access your savings through the Home Buyers’ Plan. For example, if you had already saved $25,000 for down payment – and assuming you still had enough “contribution room” in your RRSP for a contribution of that amount you could move your savings into a registered investment at least 90 days before your closing date. Then, simply withdraw the money through the Home Buyers’ Plan.

The advantage? Your $25,000 RRSP contribution will count as a tax deduction this year. Use any tax refund you receive to repay the RRSP or other expenses related to buying your home.

While using your RRSP for a down payment may help you buy a home sooner, it can also mean missing out on some tax-sheltered growth. So be sure to ask your financial planner whether this strategy makes sense for you, given your personal financial situation.

The length of mortgage terms varies widely – from six months right up to 25 years. As a rule of thumb, the shorter the term, the lower the interest rate the longer the term, the higher the rate.

While four or five year mortgages are what most home buyers typically choose, you may consider a short-term mortgage if you have a higher tolerance for risk, if you have time to watch rates or are not prepared to make a long-term commitment right now.

Before selecting your mortgage term, we suggest you answer the following questions:

  1. Do you plan to sell your house in the short-term without buying another? If so, a short mortgage term may be the best option.
  2. Do you believe that interest rates have bottomed out and are not likely to drop more? If that’s the case, a long mortgage term may be the right choice for you. Similarly, if you think rates are currently high, you may want to opt for a short to medium length mortgage term hoping that rates drop by the time your term expires.
  3. Are you looking for security as a first-time home buyer? Then you may prefer a longer mortgage term, so that you can budget for and manage your monthly expenses.
  4. Are you willing to follow interest rates closely and risk their being increased mortgage payments following a renewal? If that’s the case, a short mortgage term may best suit your needs.

Mortgage Types

A conventional mortgage is usually one where the down payment is equal to 20% or more of the purchase price, a loan to value of or less than 80%, and does not normally require mortgage loan insurance.
A pre-approved mortgage provides an interest rate guarantee from a lender for a specified period of time (usually 60 to 90 days) and for a set amount of money. The pre-approval is calculated based on information provided by you and is generally subject to certain conditions being met before the mortgage is finalized. Conditions would usually be things like ‘written employment and income confirmation’ and ‘down payment from your own resources’, for example.

Most successful real estate professionals will want to ensure you have a preapproved mortgage in place before they take you out looking for a home. This is to ensure that they are showing you property within your affordable price range. In summary, a pre-approved mortgage is one of the first steps a home buyer should take before beginning the buying process. However, it is important to remember this is more of a “rate hold” than confirmation you will be approved for a mortgage. A good mortgage broker will want to review all of your income and down payment confirmation before advising you have been “pre-approved”.

A mortgage in which payments are fixed for a period of one to two years although interest rates may fluctuate from month to month depending on market conditions. If interest rates go down, more of the payment goes towards reducing the principal; if rates go up, a larger portion of the monthly payment goes towards covering the interest.
The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage is set for a pre-determined term – usually between 6 months to 25 years. This offers the security of knowing what you will be paying for the term selected.

Subject to qualification, yes. In fact, even purchasers with 5% down may qualify to buy a home and make improvements to it. For high-ratio financing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, GE Capital and AIG, insured mortgages are available to cover the purchase price of a home as well as an amount to pay for immediate major renovations or improvements that the purchaser may wish to make to the property. This option eliminates the need to finance the renovations or improvements separately. Some conditions apply.

Where the improvements are cosmetic, the mortgage loan insurance premium is unchanged from the standard schedule. Where the improvements are deemed to be structural, the mortgage loan insurance premium is increased by .50% over the standard schedule. For information on mortgage loan insurance premiums see high-ratio home mortgage financing.

A longer-term mortgage is worth considering if you have a busy life and don’t have time to watch mortgage rates. Our 4,5 and 1 O-year mortgages let you take advantage of today’s rates, while enjoying long-term security knowing the rate you sign up for is a sure thing.

If you want to keep your mortgage flexible right now, you can explore a shorter-term mortgage that usually allows you to take advantage of lower rates and save.

Qualifying for a Mortgage

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your bankruptcy, generally some lenders would consider providing mortgage financing 2 years after you have been discharged providing you have satisfactory re-established credit.

Where child support and alimony are paid by you to another person, generally the amount paid out is deducted from your total income before determining the size of mortgage you will qualify for.

Where child support and alimony are received by you from another person, generally the amount paid may be added to your total income before determining the size of mortgage you will qualify for, provided proof of regular receipt is available for a period of time determined by the lender. Some lenders will also take into consideration Child Tax Credit as income providing the child or children are 12 years or younger.

Miscellaneous Questions

Subject to qualification, yes. In fact, even purchasers with 5% down may qualify to buy a home and make improvements to it. For high-ratio financing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, GE Capital and AIG, insured mortgages are available to cover the purchase price of a home as well as an amount to pay for immediate major renovations or improvements that the purchaser may wish to make to the property. This option eliminates the need to finance the renovations or improvements separately. Some conditions apply.

Where the improvements are cosmetic, the mortgage loan insurance premium is unchanged from the standard schedule. Where the improvements are deemed to be structural, the mortgage loan insurance premium is increased by .50% over the standard schedule. For information on mortgage loan insurance premiums see high-ratio home mortgage financing.

A pre-purchase or pre-sale home inspection is a visual examination of the property to determine the overall condition of the home. In the process, the inspector should be checking all major components (roofs, ceilings, walls, floors, foundations, crawl spaces, attics, retaining walls, etc.) and systems (electrical, heating, plumbing, drainage, exterior weather proofing, etc.). The results of the inspection should be provided to the home purchaser or home seller in written form, in detail, generally within 24 hours of the inspection. A pre-purchase home inspection can add peace of mind and make a difficult purchasing decision much easier. It may indicate that the home needs major structural repairs which can be factored into your buying decision. A home inspection helps remove a number of unknowns and with a positive report, increases the likelihood of a successful sale or purchase.
Lenders will often guarantee an interest rate to you as much as 90 days before your mortgage matures. And, as long as you are not increasing your mortgage, they will cover the costs of transferring your mortgage too. This means a rate promised well in advance of your maturity date, thus eliminating any worries of higher rates. And if rates drop before the actual maturity rate, the new lender will usually adjust your interest rate lower as well.

Most lenders send out their mortgage renewal notices offering existing clients their posted interest rates. The rate you are being offered is usually not the best one. Always investigate the possibility of a lower interest rate with the lender or another lender. If you don’t you may end up paying a much higher interest rate on your renewing mortgage than you need to.

The length of mortgage terms varies widely – from six months right up to 25 years. As a rule of thumb, the shorter the term, the lower the interest rate the longer the term, the higher the rate.

While four or five year mortgages are what most home buyers typically choose, you may consider a short-term mortgage if you have a higher tolerance for risk, if you have time to watch rates or are not prepared to make a long-term commitment right now.

Before selecting your mortgage term, we suggest you answer the following questions:

  1. Do you plan to sell your house in the short-term without buying another? If so, a short mortgage term may be the best option.
  2. Do you believe that interest rates have bottomed out and are not likely to drop more? If that’s the case, a long mortgage term may be the right choice for you. Similarly, if you think rates are currently high, you may want to opt for a short to medium length mortgage term hoping that rates drop by the time your term expires.
  3. Are you looking for security as a first-time home buyer? Then you may prefer a longer mortgage term, so that you can budget for and manage your monthly expenses.
  4. Are you willing to follow interest rates closely and risk their being increased mortgage payments following a renewal? If that’s the case, a short mortgage term may best suit your needs.
Needless to say, you’ll have financial responsibilities as a home owner. Some of them, like taxes, may not be billed monthly, so do the calculations to break them down into monthly costs. Below you will find a list of these expenses.

The Mortgage Payment

For most home buyers, this is the largest monthly expense. The actual amount of the mortgage payment can vary widely since it is based on a number of variables, such as mortgage term or amortization.

Property Taxes

Property tax can be paid in two ways – remitted directly to the municipality by you, in which case you may be required to periodically show proof of payment to your financial institution; or paid as part of your monthly mortgage payment.

School Taxes

In some municipalities, these taxes are integrated into the property taxes. In others, they are collected separately and are payable in a single lump sum, usually due at the end of the current school year.

Utilities

As a home owner, you’ll be responsible for all utility bills including heating, gas, electricity, water, telephone and cable.

Maintenance and Upkeep

You will also have to cover the cost of painting, roof repairs, electrical and plumbing, walks and driveway, lawn care and snow removal. A well-maintained property helps to preserve your home’s market value, enhances the neighbourhood and, depending on the kind of renovations you make could add to the worth of your property.