Debt and debt settlement services

The debt-to-income ratio has hit the headlines again. This time the ratio rose to 167.3 % in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to 166.8% in the third quarter. That means for every dollar of disposable income, consumers owe $1.67. Approximately 63% of that debt is in mortgages.

While this increase worries some policy-makers, studies have shown that consumers have been able to pay their debt relatively easily. Low interest rates have allowed consumers to pay down more of their mortgage principal, with payments split almost evenly between interest and principal in the fourth quarter.

But for some, the debt load is unmanageable and they search for solutions. You are no doubt familiar with advertisements from debt settlement services that promise to settle a consumer’s outstanding debt, for a fee. The caveat is buyer beware. If you’re considering this option, make sure to do your research and find a reputable company to work with. Or, I may be able to refer you.

Before you pay upfront fees or service charges, I may be able to help. Much of what debt settlement services offer can overlap with the services of a licensed mortgage broker.

Here’s how it works. Mortgage brokers can arrange debt consolidation on a mortgage renewal or on a refinance. When arranging a consolidation mortgage loan on a refinance or renewal the amount of the mortgage principal may be increased to pay out the total debt amount. This becomes part of the mortgage commitment and a condition of the mortgage loan. On closing, your lawyer will disburse the funds to your creditors and register the new mortgage.

What you need to know
A refinance alters the terms and conditions of your mortgage; specifically you are increasing the amount of your mortgage to pay off debt. Your mortgage payment may or may not increase, depending on a number of factors, and you may incur a penalty to break your existing mortgage if you are refinancing midterm. Depending on your current mortgage you could be paying off the refinanced debt at a much lower interest rate, which could save you thousands of dollars in interest in the long run.

As with all renewals, it’s always a good idea to review your mortgage with a mortgage broker who can shop the rates for you and get you the best deal, tailored to your particular situation. And, if you decide to switch lenders, there are no penalties at renewal time.

One of these options may be the perfect solution if you’re struggling with debt. Call me today for more information.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at www.guythemortgageguy.com

The Four Types of Creditor Insurance

Home is more than a place you live. It’s your family’s haven from the world. But what if something happened to you? What would happen to the home you’ve invested so much in? You wouldn’t think about owning a home without insuring it, yet the odds of your house burning down is more remote compared to the odds of experiencing a life-changing event such as a job lay-off or a disabling accident.

Mortgage payments don’t stop when you’re unable to work so many home owners opt-in for mortgage creditor insurance. This type of mortgage protection insurance preserves ownership of your family’s home by making sure the mortgage keeps getting paid – even during the most difficult times.

Here are four types of mortgage insurance available:

Life Coverage: Mortgage life insurance provides security to both you and your insured co-borrower. If your co-borrower does not qualify for life insurance, you can still apply. Also known as mortgage insurance or creditor insurance, it’s offered by lending institutions and us. It is a life insurance policy that pays the balance of your mortgage to the lending institution if an insured person listed on the mortgage passes away.

Disability Coverage: This insurance is designed to pay a portion or all a homeowner’s mortgage payment if they become disabled — up to 24 months per occurrence. Individuals who opt to take advantage of this type of insurance need to take care to understand the policy completely. Determine the length of time the policy will pay mortgage payments during an episode of short-term or long-term disability. What dollar amount of the mortgage does the policy pay? Is there a waiting period associated with payment from the policy?

Critical Illness Coverage: What if it happens to you? When you survive a critical illness, you may not be able to return to work and your expenses could increase dramatically. If you are diagnosed with one of the 15 covered critical illnesses, based on our service provider’s criteria, which includes certain types of cancer, your mortgage payments are covered for 24 months, whether you return to work or not. Key questions to ask: What critical Illnesses are covered? What happens if I have an acute heart attack, recover in a few weeks or months, and return to work? Does my disability insurance cover me for living benefits? What cancers are covered? Do I need to take a medical examination? Mortgage Critical Illness Insurance is a benefit you enjoy while you are alive. It builds on your Mortgage Life Insurance to complete your protection.

Accidental Job Loss Coverage: If you are injured or are unable to work or become involuntarily unemployed, your monthly mortgage payments will be covered up to six months per occurrence.

If you don’t have any of these coverages now on your mortgage, we may be able to add them on.

Call me for more information.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at www.guythemortgageguy.com

Alternative lenders go mainstream

For some, getting a mortgage from a bank has become a bit more challenging – even if your credit score is good If you don’t qualify using the benchmark rate, regardless ofwhat mortgage rate and term you opt for – this has been called the” stresstest” — then you may be out of luck. With the introduction of new mortgagerules last year, the Government tightened mortgage lending guidelines inresponse to concerns that some markets in Canada are overheated and thatCanadian debt levels continue to increase.

The new mortgage rules have also had an impact on those who want to refinance their mortgage loan. And at renewal time, if you want to increase your existing loan, change your amortization or shop for a better rate, the rules may have an impact as well.

Despite the challenges, there are solutions. A bank is not the only option for a mortgage. The new mortgage rules have created an opportunity for a variety of specialized lenders to enter the market who are flexible and open to reviewing a variety of situations and has led to a growing pool of mortgage funds.

In a nutshell – they’ve gone mainstream
These lenders are not limited to private individuals with money to lend, either individually or as part of an investment pool. Mortgage brokers still have access to those funds; however, the market is also seeing an increase in the number of Mortgage Investment Corporations (MICs) as well as smaller lenders with products to fill the gap.

Many alternative lenders put more weight on the equity in a property, rather than on the work you do or on the credit challenges you may have.

Smaller institutional lenders in some regions across Canada, like credit unions, however, may offer specialized lending with affordable interest rates, reasonable lending fees and flexible underwriting.

A few benefits of specialized lending:

Quick closings: The key to a quick close is having your financing set up quickly — specialized lending can make that happen.
Terms of the loan: These loans are for short periods of time, usually no more than two or three years.
Great for investors: Because specialized lenders have flexibility, they will look at those fixer-upper rental properties with a keen eye and may fund both the purchase and the home improvements.
Diverse repayment options: This is especially helpful for entrepreneurs. Payments can be structured more creatively and may include interest-only payments and balloon payments at the end of the term or on closing of a sale.
Construction financing: Bank construction financing can be riddled with red tape. Private lending may get the borrower more money, and quicker access to construction draws, which in the end, could save time and money when building a home.

For more information and to find a lender who will meet your needs, call me today!

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at www.guythemortgageguy.com

Looking forward to 2017!

This past year we saw many challenges in the housing sector. There were the recent changes to the mortgage rules that included a “stress test” for all insured mortgages. This means that all insured mortgages must be qualified at the benchmark rate, which is currently 4.64%. This may affect home buyers with less than 20% down payment who are looking for a fixed rate mortgage.

We saw housing prices increase in some areas of the country while in other areas we saw a slowdown of housing activity, and yet other parts of the country are still feeling the effects of falling oil prices. We’ve also seen the fixed-rate on mortgages start to climb due to the upward pressure on bond yields and increases to the cost of funds.

The Canadian dollar is trading at approximately 74 cents to the US dollar (at the time of this writing) and there is concern about high consumer debt. The market is still jittery about the policies of the incoming US president. Yet Canadians are resilient. Despite gloomy predictions, despite increasing debt loads, despite all the changes we have endured, we continue to look on the bright side and consumer confidence is high.

While the housing market did slow somewhat in many parts of the country, there are signs of life. While there are still some issues surrounding affordability for first time home buyers, the market appears to be self-correcting, as many economists predicted it would.

The Canadian Real Estate Association’s prediction for 2017 is a mixed bag with sales easing slightly in some provinces and rising in others. The national average home price is expected to decline in 2017, easing affordability for first time home buyers. It seems the market is balancing itself with an increasing supply of listings to meet demand in some markets.

If you’re thinking of buying a new home, let’s do our own stress test. Too often, consumers focus on the total mortgage amount they qualify for instead of looking at their desired lifestyle and retirement goals. If you’re in the process of arranging a new mortgage, renewing a mortgage or refinancing an existing mortgage, then let’s stress test it.

Since we’re starting a new year, it’s also a good time to discuss any financial changes to your household and if and how that will affect your mortgage. Together, we will review your financial situation and tailor a solution that works for you. Call me today.

Wishing you health, happiness and prosperity in 2017.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at www.guythemortgageguy.com

Thinking of buying a vacation property?

When the weather in Canada turns cold and winter sets in, a lot of us think about a blue sky vacation, others think about buying a vacation property in the U.S. sunbelt or even in British Columbia where the weather is milder. Still others enjoy winter and look for a winter vacation property here or in the US.  While the allure of long beach walks, and the idea of hitting the ski hills just outside your chalet is attractive, the question is how to finance the dream. First do your research.

There are other considerations if buying in the U.S.

  • Your purchase could be subject to estate tax. That means, when you die, your heirs will not only have to shell out U.S. estate tax on the fair market value of that home, they would also be hit with Canadian income taxes.
  • Also, if you plan to rent out that property, then you’re subject to a whole host of issues.
  • Use a Realtor who is experienced with US property sales.

If the vacation property is in Canada, you still can refinance your existing home and purchase the property outright if you have the equity or you can use what you have as a down payment. The basic process of applying for and qualifying for a mortgage is the same as for your principle residence; however, lenders will look at many more variables when assessing a property.

Your strength as a borrower is important but equally as important is the property. Lenders will look at the location, its proximity to a major market, year-round access to the property, paved roads, etc.  Most lenders require at least 20% down. The rules changed in 2014 and they have just changed again. But don’t let that deter you if your dream is a vacation home.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at WWW.GUYTHEMORTGAGEGUY.COM

What the new mortgage changes may mean to you…

What the new mortgage changes may mean to you

Ottawa has announced new rules in response to concerns that some markets in Canada are overheated and that Canadian debt levels continue to increase. These changes are meant to alleviate risk in Canada’s housing market.

Here are the changes in a nutshell:

  • “A Mortgage Rate Stress Test” for all insured mortgages. This means that all insured mortgages will now be qualified at the Bank of Canada benchmark rate, currently at 4.64%, instead of the contract rate offered on their commitment.  For example, if you have a commitment for 2.49% on a five-year fixed rate, then you would have to qualify at the benchmark rate of 4.64%, rather than the commitment rate.  That does not mean your payments would increase to the higher amount, just that you would need to be able to afford the payments as if they were at that higher amount. This change is scheduled to come into effect on October 17, 2016.
  • “Safer Lending”. This means that mortgages insured through portfolio or bulk insurance must now meet the same criteria as those that are high ratio insured.  This change is scheduled to come into effect on November 30, 2016.
  • Closing “loopholes” on taxes. This refers to capital gains exemptions on principal residences that should apply only to residents of Canada.

The broader implications

We don’t know yet how this may affect the number of people who will no longer qualify, whether first time home buyers, those moving up or those who wish to refinance.  From what we know so far, those who already have mortgage insurance policies in place should continue to be qualified at the contract rate going forward and should have no problem at renewal.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at WWW.GUYTHEMORTGAGEGUY.COM

Department of Finance Housing Changes

Ottawa has announced new rules in response to concerns that some markets in Canada are overheated and that Canadian debt levels continue to increase. These changes are meant to alleviate risk in Canada’s housing market but may have a significant impact on the housing market, especially first time home buyers.

Here are the highlights:

Effective October 17th, all mortgages that require mortgage default insurance, which are typically those with less that 20% down payment, will now require borrowers prove they can qualify based on a higher mortgage rate set by the Bank of Canada called the “benchmark rate”. This measure was previously in place for mortgages with terms less than 5 years or variable rate mortgages, but will now apply to all mortgages, including 5-year fixed rate mortgages.
Effective October 3rd, a tax loophole that allowed non-residents to buy homes in Canada will be eliminated, and then get a tax exemption to avoid paying capital gains when they sell that home by claiming it as a principal residence. This increased scrutiny will ensure that the capital gain exemption is not abused, specifically by preventing non-residents from becoming residents then buying and selling a property in the same year.
The Government will continuously monitor the housing market to ensure that Canada’s housing finance system is healthy, competitive and stable by ensuring the market is balanced and appropriately reflects all parties’ abilities to share in the management of housing risks.

We are reviewing these changes for its deeper implications and will keep you informed. If you think that you may be impacted by these recent changes, please let me know so I can confirm that for you.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at WWW.GUYTHEMORTGAGEGUY.COM

Reduce Risk by Investing in Your Home

Many people have different ideas about how you should save for retirement. Some say you should max out your 401k. Others believe that you should speak to a financial advisor and carefully select a number of stocks and bonds to invest in. If you’re a home owner, the perfect investment may be right under your feet. After the economic collapse of 2008, many people are wary of investing in real estate. However, this may just be one of the best investments available to you. Let’s explore why.

Why Real Estate Is a Great Way to Save For Retirement
To put it simply, real estate is a very stable investment. The financial markets tend to go up and down on a yearly basis, but housing prices do not generally have massive spikes and pits that need to be avoided. Until recently, real estate was a difficult asset to liquidate. But thanks to creative financing techniques like reverse mortgages, your equity is easy to access after retirement.

Many people claim that mortgages are the lowest yearly interest rate available. In many ways they are right, the yearly interest is quite low. However, the interest over the duration of your payment period is extremely high. For most consumers, nearly 40% of their mortgage payments are going straight to interest. If you already own a home, the only way to reduce this interest is by paying off your home early.

Let’s say that that you are paying your mortgage, and contributing to an investment portfolio. If you were to take that same contribution you are already making and double your mortgage payment, you’d be able to reduce your interest liability by up to 70%, depending on the terms of your mortgage. After the house is paid off, your living expenses will plummet and you can focus on investing elsewhere.

If You’re Planning to Sell Your House, Consider Upgrades
Paying off your mortgage early isn’t the only way to invest in your home. If you’re considering selling the near future, you can consider putting in some upgrades. The general rule of thumb is that $1 invested in renovations raises that price of your home by $1.50. This isn’t always true, of course. But if your kitchen is looking a little dated or your bathrooms are bland, then some modern updates can really improve the appeal of your home to potential buyers.

Why Real Estate is Often Ignored
Up until a few years ago, your home was considered the most bulletproof investment anyone could make. The economic collapse of 2008 taught us that homes are not always guaranteed to go up in value. Fortunately, the goal of investing your extra income towards your homes equity does not rely on capital gain to be successful. The goal here is to simply reduce the amount of interest you are paying on your mortgage, and put your money in an investment that is easy to liquidate during your retirement. It’s important to look beyond the financial hype of financial investments and consider putting your money somewhere that hold long term value for you.

Renewing your mortgage? Let’s talk.

Consumers are becoming much more informed about mortgages and mortgage products before taking the plunge into home ownership. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) 2016 Consumer Survey, 72% of mortgage consumers did online research, 65% compared various mortgage products with professionals and 69% used a mortgage calculator.

Because consumers are highly engaged, they are more confident about their mortgage decisions, according to the survey. Still, with all that research, more than half contacted a mortgage broker to get further clarification. This is a good move, considering how much the mortgage rules have changed over the past few years.

The survey also found 83% of buyers were totally satisfied with the experience with their brokers and would most likely use that broker again. An overwhelming 75% would highly recommend their broker to family and friends.

Low mortgage rates have helped make owning a house affordable.  It’s likely that this low interest rate environment will go on for the next two years.

The biggest expense for most homeowners is a mortgage payment. Yet the CMHC survey found that 39% of households automatically renew their mortgages when the term is up instead of trying to find a better deal. When you’ve done your homework prior to purchasing a home, it only makes sense to do as much research at renewal time as you can. Quite often the renewal rate offered to you by your lender is higher than the market average.

There may also be material changes in your household. Perhaps you’ve started a family, or one of you has been promoted.  This is another good time to contact a mortgage broker to review your financial situation and see what makes sense for you to do.

Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the best mortgage product for you:

  • Get going early. Contact me four to six months ahead of renewal time. Most lenders will guarantee a discounted rate for four months but your renewal agreement is usually sent only 30 days ahead of your maturity date.
  • Do your homework. Let me shop the rates for you and get you the best deal, tailored to your particular situation. If you decide to switch lenders, there are no penalties at renewal time.
  • It’s not always about interest rate. Don’t fixate on rate. There are other options that may appeal to you such as changes to amortizations or changes to the rate type.
  • Let me negotiate on your behalf. If you don’t like negotiating and don’t have the time to do the research, I will do the legwork for you. Homeowners who use a broker at renewal time usually pay less than those who don’t use one.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at WWW.GUYTHEMORTGAGEGUY.COM

Behind on mortgage payments? I can help

There are times in our lives when the unexpected happens and we find it difficult to cope financially. It could be a job loss, an unexpected illness, the death of a loved one or separation and divorce. There may be enough money to get by for a few months, but soon many families find themselves overwhelmed as the bills start to mount and household finances begin to dwindle. Then households may start to miss payments to creditors, including a mortgage payment. While a one-time missed payment can easily be dealt with, long term problems may need a different approach. Consider the following:

  • Missing payments. If there are a few missed mortgage payments, it might be difficult to get a bank loan to pay the arrears. By missing payments it looks as if there might be an issue repaying the loan. There is a difference between a missed payment and a late payment. A missed payment is one that is completely missed and never made up. A late payment is one that’s not paid on time, but made up.
  • How a lender views arrears. Again, it might be a challenge to get a loan when in arrears, especially if you’re not working. Lenders may, however, work with clients on a plan to pay the arrears while keeping other payments current. This can be quite onerous and stressful since lenders usually want the arrears cleared up as quickly as possible.
  • Interest rate for arrears and/or default. Lenders will charge a default or penalty interest rate, which is normally charged on the overdue amount. If the lender proceeds with a Power of Sale or foreclosure, then legal costs are added on top of the penalties.  Remember, mortgage payments must stay current and paid when due along with payment for the arrears as per the repayment plan, which includes the penalties.
  • When will the lender take action? Generally, after two missed payments. Some lenders may take action sooner. It’s important to be proactive and speak to the lender to try to work with them.
  • What can the homeowner do? The longer it’s left, the more bank fees and legal fees get tacked on, which eats into the equity in the property.  There is help. A mortgage broker with experience in arrears refinancing has access to many lending solutions.
If you have an insured mortgage, the insurer may have an assistance program that offers a variety of solutions. Some common options include:
  • Capitalize arrears
  • Increase amortization period
  • Partial or shared payment plan
  • Deferred payments
  • Restructure mortgage
For a fast mortgage solution, call me today.
Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta) and can be contacted at WWW.GUYTHEMORTGAGEGUY.COM