I used to think paying down debt and having a good credit rating would reward me.
Then I went to renegotiate my mortgage and was told that my five-year fixed mortgage rate would be 3.84 per cent. I thought that was pretty good until the neighbour’s 27-year-old kid told me the rate on his mortgage was 3.39 per cent for the same term.
How did that kid get such a great mortgage while I’m paying an extra 0.45 per cent a year?
The answer is that in 2018, he is a much better credit risk for the bank. This may not make sense on the surface, but let me explain how crazy our mortgage system has become. From the bank’s perspective, they would rather lend to someone who put down very little but had their loan guaranteed by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), than to someone borrowing $300,000 on a $1.5 million house with no insurance or guarantee on the payment of that mortgage.
Now, it is true that in order to qualify for the low mortgage rates you would have to pay a one-time insurance payment to CMHC or another Insurer. At the moment, this insurance cost is usually a little more than the mortgage rate benefit of getting a lower rate for a low down payment, although there have been times this year, when it was actually better to pay for the insurance and get a much cheaper mortgage.
To understand how we got here, let’s start with the concept of an insured mortgage, an insurable mortgage and an uninsurable mortgage. These terms are key in 2018 to understanding the mortgage-rate mayhem.
Today, an insured mortgage is one where the value of the home is under $1 million, the down payment is less than 20 per cent, the amortization period is at a maximum 25 years, and the home is not a rental property. A person in this scenario can get a rate as low as 3.39 per cent on a five-year fixed mortgage. The borrower pays the mortgage default insurance premium. Mortgage insurers in Canada are CMHC, Genworth and Canada Guaranty.
An insurable mortgage is one where the value of the home is under $1 million, the homeowner puts down more than 20 per cent of the purchase price and the amortization period must be a maximum of 25 years. This person can get a rate as low as 3.74 per cent on a five-year fixed mortgage. The rate is higher as most lenders are insuring these mortgages at the lender’s cost. In other words, the lender is paying the mortgage default insurance premium instead of the borrower.
An uninsurable mortgage covers everything else, but is often simply one where the value of the home is more than $1 million. It also includes refinancing an existing mortgage or equity takeouts (meaning borrowing more to take some cash out of your home), or an amortization period up to 30 years. This person can get a rate as low as 3.84 per cent on a five-year fixed mortgage. The rate is the highest of the three scenarios as the lender cannot acquire default insurance for these mortgages.