Posts Tagged ‘mortgage’

Make this mistake and you’ll lose thousands when refinancing your mortgage

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

I had just borrowed about a quarter-million dollars and my question was simple: “How do I pay you back?”

The woman on the other end of the phone, however, couldn’t tell me. Ten days had passed since I signed the papers to refinance my home and, with the holidays approaching, I was worried my first payment would be late. She tried to soothe me with perhaps the most misunderstood phrase of the refinancing process: “Don’t worry. You get to skip a payment.”

Had I listened to her, it would have cost me thousands of dollars. And if you are one of the millions of homeowners who will refinance in 2013, it could cost you, too.

If your new year’s resolution is to save money or get control of the family budget, refinancing remains a really good option. But the idea that “skipping” the first payment can be pain free, financially speaking, is a myth, repeated over and over by loan officers like mine. Sometimes they are lying, sometimes they are misinformed and sometimes they are just trying to get an annoying borrower like me off the phone. But with rare exception, they are giving bad advice. (News flash: Whenever a bank seems to be doing you a favor, it probably has a hand in your wallet.)

Real estate transactions are already confusing enough. There are questions surrounding when you make your last payment on the old loan, when you make your first payment on the new loan, how many extra days of interest you pay toward both your old and your new loan, and when you are paying for both loans. We’ll get to those tricky issues in a moment, but the priciest mistake you might make in a refinance is also the simplest one to correct.

You’ve heard this before, but this time, it’s probably true: mortgage interest rates are at historic lows, and there may never be a better time to refinance. It’s hard to imagine rates going any lower than the 3 percent range they are at now, but it’s easy to imagine that, at the first signs of a real economic recovery or real inflation, they will climb sharply during 2013. The low interest rates that the Federal Reserve has imposed to boost the economy have been punishing for many, notably savers, who can barely earn 1 percent interest on their bank accounts and certificates of deposit. The one perk for consumers from the Fed’s interest rate policy is the ability to get cheap home and auto loans. If you haven’t refinanced your mortgage in the past 24 months or so, you are missing out.

Fortunately, many American homeowners have gotten the message. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage holders engaged in $1.3 trillion worth of refinancing in 2012. In fact, more than four out of five new mortgages in 2012 were refinanced loans, not home purchases.

I wish there were a way to know how many of those borrowers chose to skip that first payment.

‘Can I get that in writing?’ ‘No’
My loan officer was lazy, I believe, and — knowing that my loan had closed and all the commissions were guaranteed — just wanted me off the phone as soon as possible. My call was unusual. I am always overly cautious when I set up any kind of new loan payment, as the chances for error are great: a wrong loan number on a check, a bad address, etc. So I always make the first payment early to make sure nothing goes wrong. That good habit proved profitable this time.

When I signed my loan papers, there were no payment instructions in my closing documents (not terribly unusual). My loan officer said I would receive payment coupons later. But when 10 days passed, and I heard nothing, I called. She sent me to the bank’s customer service line, where I was informed that there was no record of my loan. (Did that mean I didn’t have to pay it back? Sadly, No.) Customer service transferred me back to my loan officer. She assured me that their computers would catch up to my urge to pay the loan, and I’d get payment information soon. Incredulous that they seemed not to want my money, I persisted. She tapped a few keys on her keyboard, made me wait a minute, then told me that my loan had funded on Dec. 5, so I didn’t have to make a payment until Feb. 1.

“But my documents say repayment begins Jan. 1,” I said. “So you’re saying there will be no late fees if I don’t pay Jan. 1?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Can I get that in writing.?”

“No. I can’t do that.”

At that point, I did what any mature consumer would do: I laughed. And then I muttered something about the 100 pieces of paper they just made me sign, with innocuous documents putting the finest point on everything you can imagine, like the form I initialed in multiple places agreeing that, yes, I am known by Bob, Robert, Bobby, Robby and various other nicknames. Yet I couldn’t get the bank to put something in writing saying when I should make my loan payment?

My loan officer didn’t laugh, but eventually she put me on the phone with a supervisor who sounded very grave. She’d done additional research, she said, and found out that the reason customer service couldn’t find my loan was because it had already been sold to another bank. We called that bank together and found out my loan actually funded on Nov. 30, so my first payment was indeed due on Jan. 1. And I would have been liable for about an $80 late fee if I had listened to my loan officer. The manager profusely apologized.

Steep penalty anyway
But I’m not writing to warn you about late fees. There’s a much bigger culprit here you have to worry about. Had I followed my loan officer’s advice and skipped a payment, even if the bank waived the late fee (which the manager said was likely), I would have paid a steep penalty anyway. You’ve probably guessed the punch line: there’s no such thing as skipping a payment. In reality, homeowners are borrowing that money and extending the loan term for an extra month. The payment will be tacked onto the end of the loan, with interest. How much? If it’s a conventional loan, that’s 30 years’ worth of interest. Effectively, you are borrowing one month’s payment for 30 years. Ouch!

“Skipping is a misnomer. A better description would be ‘deferring with additional interest added,'” said Jack Guttentag, a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania who also runs a consumer education website called MortgageProfessor.com.

Just how much extra interest can skipping that first payment cost you? There are too many variables to create a decent rule of thumb. But here’s an illustration from Guttentag’s site with deliberately round numbers. Skip the first payment of $500 on a $100,000 loan at 6 percent, and you will pay an additional $2,993 in interest during the 30 years.

Forget the $75 late fee. That’s real money. As Guttentag puts it, “a payment that is miniscule to one is a fortune to another.”

Some loan officers say they only won’t offer the “skip-a-payment” option unless the refinance closes toward the end of the month, when the homeowner might have trouble coming up with the extra cash for closing costs and a fresh mortgage payment close together. Others say they offer it all the time.

To be clear: Most borrowers don’t actually complete their 30-year loans before moving or refinancing, so few would end up paying that high a penalty. Also, it’s important to note that my bank didn’t even hold the loan, so they weren’t profiting from the “skip-a-payment” advice. I believe this is usually a lazy mistake, not a greedy one. Still, the basic truth holds. Don’t be tempted to skip a payment when you refinance unless you really, really need the cash for some unusual expense (Christmas credit card bills are probably not the best reason.)

Skipped payments are not to be confused with other loan closing related interest payments, including:

*Your last payment on the old loan. You can’t skip that, either. If your loan closes near the end of the month, you should still make the scheduled payment to your old bank. Why? Interest is actually paid in arrears, meaning you pay at the end of the month the cost of borrowing the money for that month. It’s confusing, because mortgage payments are really two payments at once — last month’s interest and next month’s principal. To keep it simple, if your loan closes on the Nov. 30, you will be paying November’s interest with your Dec. 1 payment, along with December’s principal. You won’t need to make the December principal payment if you refinance on Nov. 30, but most folks pay far more in interest than principal because they are early in their loan’s term, so the overpayment won’t be large. Just pay it to avoid late fees, and enjoy any refund that comes your way.

*Pre-paid interest. When your loan closes in the middle of the month, your new bank will make you pay up-front (as opposed to in arrears) daily interest for the remaining days of the month. If you close on the 20th, you’ll pay 10 more days of interest payments. That’s OK, it means you won’t owe the money on the back end of the loan.

*Money for nothing: The three-day (or more) overlap. There’s an odd quirk in most refinancing deals in which there are several days when the homeowner will be paying interest on the same loan to both banks. In most states, consumers have a three-day “right of rescission” after signing their refinancing papers, meaning they can cancel the new loan if they get buyer’s remorse. Such regret laws are very consumer-friendly and are necessary because of nefarious loan officers who tricked consumers into bad deals in the past. But, in this case, the consumer-friendly law is also costly, as it means both banks have liability for the loan during that rescission period, and are both entitled to collect interest. Note: The regret period is usually three business days, so if your closing stretches over a weekend, the double-interest period can be even more costly.

It’s important to keep all these quirky, refinance-related interest payments straight when talking to your loan officer, so you’ll know what to do when he or she suggests you can skip a payment. None of this should scare you away from refinancing, which is really the only way you can make the recession work for you.

But remember, you are refinancing to save money, and you probably shopped around trying to save $50 here or $100 there on closing costs; don’t lose thousands of dollars because of one false move after closing.

Source: http://redtape.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/01/16239394-make-this-mistake-and-youll-lose-thousands-when-refinancing-your-mortgage?lite

Banks bump up mortgage rates

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Mortgage rates have begun to rise from their record lows, with news Monday that several Canadian banks are increasing several fixed mortgage rates by up to 6/10ths of a percentage point.

The biggest jump is attached to the popular five-year fixed closed rate, which moves from 5.25 per cent to 5.85 per cent at Royal Bank, TD Canada Trust, and Laurentian Bank. That’s the posted rate, which is routinely discounted by the big banks.

RBC’s new discounted rate for the five-year term also rises 6/10ths of a percentage point to 4.59 per cent. TD’s rises the same amount to 4.55 per cent. The discounted rate at Laurentian moves up to 4.54 per cent.

How much difference will that make? A $200,000 mortgage amortized over 25 years costs $1,051 a month at a rate of 3.99 per cent. At 4.59 per cent, that jumps $66 a month to $1,117.

P.O.V.:

Mortgage rate increase: Is it time to lock in?

The banks also raised their three-year and four-year fixed closed rates. The posted three-year rate at Royal Bank and Laurentian climbs one-fifth of a percentage point to 4.35 per cent, while the posted rate at TD jumps 4/10ths of a point to 4.70 per cent.

The posted four-year rate at all three banks jumps 4/10ths of a percentage point to 5.34 per cent.

Other banks are expected to follow suit. The new rates, effective Tuesday, represent the first hike in Canadian mortgage rates since last October. The posted five-year rate is now back to where it was for much of last summer.

New mortgage rules that go into effect next month require borrowers to qualify at the five-year rate, rather than the old three-year standard, even if they are applying for a variable rate mortgage.

Variable rates expected to rise soon

Variable mortgage rates, which rise in tandem with the Bank of Canada’s key overnight lending rate, are not affected by Monday’s announcement. But they are likely to be heading up soon too.

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney warned last week that inflation was higher than expected. That had some market watchers forecasting that the central bank could move to raise its key lending rate as early as June. The possibility of an earlier rate hike sent bond yields up, and that appears to have prompted Monday’s mortgage increase. Fixed mortgage rates tend to move higher when long-term bond yields rise.

The key rate has been at a rock-bottom 0.25 per cent since April 2009 to help the economy recover.

A report out Monday from CIBC World Markets said rising rates shouldn’t be enough to derail the stock market rally — pointing out that the market is historically strong six months before and after rate increases.

A survey released last week by RBC found almost two-thirds of respondents expected the cost of servicing a mortgage to rise this year.

Government of Canada Makes a Few Changes & A pre-approval will hold all-time low rates for up to 120 days.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

The Short Version

The Federal Government has taken some steps to protect consumers buying homes now so they
will be able to make payments when rates go back to their long term average of about 6%.

Highlights – Not Much Has Changed:
1. All borrowers will qualify at the 5 year rate – from 3.79% to 4.09% – which is where we
have been qualifying buyers for the last 4 years anyway.
2. People refinancing can only withdraw a maximum of 90% of the appraised value of their
home. Most of our refi’s are at 80% so this does not affect most of our clients.
3. 20% down is now needed for investment properties that are not owner-occupied. Most
clients put 20% down anyway so this does not change much for investors either.
4. Amortization period and down payment remain unchanged at 35 years max and 5% down

The Detailed Version – Government of Canada Takes Action

“Canada’s housing market is healthy, stable and supported by our country’s solid economic
fundamentals,” said Minister Flaherty. “Our Government is acting to help prevent Canadian
households from getting overextended, and acting to help prevent lenders from facilitating it.”
The Government will therefore adjust the rules for government-backed insured mortgages
as follows, and are effective April 19, 2010:

1. Require that all borrowers meet the standards for a five-year fixed rate mortgage even if
they choose a mortgage with a lower interest rate and shorter term. This initiative will
help Canadians prepare for higher interest rates in the future.
2. Lower the maximum amount Canadians can withdraw in refinancing their mortgages to
90 per cent from 95 per cent of the value of their homes. This will help ensure home
ownership is a more effective way to save.
3. Require a minimum down payment of 20 per cent for government-backed mortgage
insurance on non-owner-occupied properties purchased for speculation.

Mark noted the above in the Calgary Sun a few weeks ago. See attached.
Rates
• 5-year, fixed rates now range between 3.79% and 4.09% – the lowest in about 70 years.
• Variable rates are Prime-0.35%, or 2.25% – .35% = 1.90% AND you can lock-in at best
bank rates before rates go up. Banks lock you in at Posted – 1% = 5.65% -1% = 4.65%!

Why Jim Flaherty’s mortgage rules won’t hurt homebuyers

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

This won’t hurt a bit, homebuyers.

The mortgage rule changes announced Tuesday by Financial Minister Jim Flaherty will weigh a bit on real estate speculators and heavily indebted people who want to fold their high-rate credit card debt into a lower-rate mortgage. But for rank and file homebuyers, the changes will barely be perceptible when they take effect on April 19.

“This should have a limited impact on what I see daily,” mortgage broker Peter Majthenyi said in an e-mail he fired off after Mr. Flaherty’s announcement. “I believe it’s more a message that ‘Big Brother’ is watching and cares.”

Olympics aside, the favourite Canadian diversion of the moment is to debate whether there is a bubble in the housing market. Those most worried about the housing market plunging have urged Mr. Flaherty to raise the minimum down payment for a home and reduce the maximum payback period.

But the 35-year amortization, favourite of first-time buyers across this land, remains. So does the 5-per-cent down payment, which is heavily relied upon in high-cost cities like Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

All the measures announced by Mr. Flaherty affect mortgages covered by government-backed mortgage insurance, where the buyer puts less than 20 per cent down. The key change for typical home buyers is that, regardless of what term or type of mortgage they choose, they’ll have to be able to afford the five-year rate.

This is a sensible way of building some slack into the system as we look ahead to a cycle of rising interest rates. If someone chooses a variable-rate mortgage, where the interest rate can be as low as 2 to 2.25 per cent today, they’ll have to be able to handle the payment at the current five-year rate. Right now, the posted rate at the big banks is 5.39 per cent.

You won’t have to actually make the higher payments required by the five-year mortgage. You’ll just have to theoretically be able to carry them and still remain within the limitations lenders set out on how much of your gross income can be consumed by debt (it’s 42 to 44 per cent, just so you know).

Mortgage brokers report that a lot of lenders were already ensuring clients could afford the payments on a three-year mortgage. So bumping up that up to a five-year term will only have a marginal effect.

“Are we going to see the odd borrower have to come up with more money or not buy they house they want? Absolutely,” Mr. Majthenyi said. “But will it have a dramatic effect? No.”

Another reason why the changes won’t be jarring is that a huge number of homebuyers are actually choosing five-year mortgages these days. A study issued by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals last month showed that fixed-rate mortgages accounted for 86 per cent of mortgages in set up in 2009 and, of those, 70 per cent were for a five-year term.

People who borrow to buy investment properties to either flip for a quick profit or to generate income are also affected by Tuesday’s announcement. If you buy a property you’re not going to live in, then you’ll have to put down a minimum 20 per cent to qualify for mortgage insurance. That’s up from 5 per cent.

But Mr. Majthenyi said not all lenders even require clients to have mortgage insurance if they put 20 per cent down. He also said that stiff mortgage insurance premiums already discouraged people from putting 5 per cent down on an investment property.

“In my office of 10 brokers, I don’t think I know of one client we’ve processed on a high-ratio rental property,” he said.

The final mortgage change restricts the ability of existing homeowners to refinance their mortgages to take on more debt. The new ceiling is 90 per cent of the value of your home, compared to the current 95 per cent.

Mortgage broker Jas Grewal said one group that will be affected by this is recent buyers who made a small down payment and are struggling with high credit card balances and other debts. By folding these debts into their mortgage, they can reduce their interest rate from as high as 19 per cent down to something closer to 3 or 4 per cent.

“Let’s say you put 10 per cent down – if we go from 95 to 90 per cent, you’re not going to be able refinance,” Mr. Grewal said. “You’re going to have to wait until your house value goes up and gives you some equity.”

Rob Carrick

Ottawa Globe and Mail

Update Published on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010 12:42PM EST

Last updated on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010 4:46PM EST

Flaherty tightens mortgage rules

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

OTTAWA — Amid warnings about Canadian household debt levels and a possible housing bubble, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday the federal government would make it tougher for people to get a mortgage.

He said at an early Tuesday morning media conference that Ottawa would require all borrowers meet standards for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage, even if the buyer wants a variable rate mortgage. That is the key move announced Tuesday. Other rule changes unveiled would affect people looking to refinance their mortgages — lowering the maximum amount that can be withdrawn to 90 per cent from 95 per cent — and place a 20 per cent minimum down payment for government-backed mortgage insurance on non-owner-occupied properties.

But the Minister said the changes were not meant to stop a possible housing bubble, as some warned was upon us.

“There’s no clear evidence of a housing bubble, but we’re taking proactive, prudent and cautious steps today to help prevent one,” Flaherty said. “Our government is acting to help prevent Canadian households from getting overextended.”

The decision to adopt new mortgage rules emerged after nearly a week of dire warnings from prominent Canadians — such as money manager Stephen Jarislowsky and former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge — that the housing market was on the verge of possible trouble, as price increases were not sustainable and present mortgage rules were too lax.

The Department of Finance in 2008 said Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. would limit amortizations to 35 years and offer loan insurance on only 95 per cent of the loan value. The government’s housing agency had offered mortgage insurance on loans worth as much as 100 per cent of the home value and amortization periods of as many as 40 years since 2006.

Canadian home prices and resales will grow to records this year, boosted by low interest rates, the Canadian Real Estate Association said in a report last week. Canadian new-home prices rose 0.4 per cent in December from November, the sixth straight gain, according to government figures.

As recently as two weeks ago Flaherty said there was “no substantial concern” about the emergence of a housing bubble after meeting with private-sector economists. And in an interview with the Financial Post in late December, he said there was “no evidence” of asset bubble in real estate.

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