Mortgage options for the self-employed

General Kris Krawiec 26 May

If you’re self-employed, you may have a more difficult time obtaining financing for your real estate purchases than you encountered just a few years ago thanks to the recent recession. And as of April 9th, 2010, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) raised the required down payment amount, as well as decreased the percentage at which you can refinance an existing mortgage if you’re self-employed.

To add to the confusion, there are also new rules for those who have been self-employed for more than three years.

Still, if you can prove your income, show you’re up-to-date on your taxes and you have solid credit, your chances of being approved for a mortgage are greatly improved.

There are essentially two types of self-employed or business-for-self (BFS) borrowers – those who can prove their income and those who cannot, and must instead use a stated-income mortgage product. But, if you have been self-employed for more than three years, you can no longer use a stated-income product.

By providing the required documentation, you’re much more likely to be approved for a mortgage if you qualify based on your income. The trouble is that if you cannot prove your income, you pose a higher risk in the eyes of lenders.

CMHC currently offers default mortgage insurance for people who have been self-employed less than three years through a stated-income mortgage product up to 90% loan to value (LTV) – meaning the down payment can be as low as 10% of the purchase price. But prior to April 9th, 2010, the maximum LTV for self-employed individuals was 95% for purchases – meaning the down payment would have only been 5% instead of the current 10%.

And if a BFS individual wishes to refinance an existing mortgage, the maximum loan amount was reduced to 85% from the previous 90% of the home’s value.

Regardless of the maximum LTV, however, the income amount you are stating has to make sense based on your occupation. This is important, because the chances of finding lenders to fund this type of deal are significantly boosted if the mortgage is insured.

Lenders and insurers are well aware of the tax write-offs that BFS borrowers can leverage, but these deals are accepted or declined based on average incomes for specific fields, as well as your credit rating. It pretty much goes without saying that those with credit blemishes will have a tough time obtaining mortgage financing if they’re self-employed.

Getting pre-approved

While BFS mortgage financing is viewed on a case-by-case basis, if you work with a licensed mortgage professional to obtain a pre-approval, you can be confident you have access to mortgage financing and you will know how much you can spend before you head out shopping for a property.

It’s important to note, however, that there is a significant difference between being pre-approved and pre-qualified. In order to obtain a pre-approval, the lender fully underwrites the deal whereas, with a pre-qualification, only the most basic details are considered. Remember that many banks will only issue a pre-qualification.

Should a pre-approval and/or mortgage default insurance be unobtainable, the maximum mortgage amount you are likely to qualify for is between 50% and 75% – meaning you will need a much larger down payment.

Alternative financing

If you do not qualify for traditional financing all is not lost, since you may be eligible for alternative – or private – funding.

Mortgage professionals often have access to private investors who are willing to lend money to BFS individuals looking to obtain mortgages. Although you will pay a higher interest rate – on average about 12% – this route may enable you to acquire funds to purchase a home.

It’s also important to note that there are added fees involved with private funding because the deals involve a higher degree of risk. The combined lender/brokerage fee will depend on the specific deal and the risk it poses, but the figure will be disclosed upfront so you know exactly what you’ll be expected to pay for these services.

Another key point to consider is that private financing is equity based, meaning that the lender’s decision will be based on a specific piece of real estate. Private lenders want to know that the property is marketable and that they will be able to easily sell it should the mortgage go into foreclosure.

Mortgage Life Insurance Explained

General Kris Krawiec 15 May

Mortgage professionals can protect their clients’ families and their homes through a mortgage life insurance policy.

Mortgage life insurance is simply a life insurance policy on the homeowner which will allow their family or dependents to pay off the mortgage on their home should something tragic happen to them. This is not to be confused with mortgage default insurance, which lenders require to cover their own assets if you have less than 20% equity in your home. Mortgage life insurance is meant to protect the family of a homeowner and not the mortgage lender itself.

While it is nice to think that if you were to pass away your mortgage would be paid off, is it really necessary for you to pay for this service? If you already have an adequate amount of life insurance then the answer might be no.

If you are the primary breadwinner in your home and your death would leave your family without the means to pay for the mortgage, then mortgage life insurance might be a good option.

When looking at mortgage life insurance policies, it’s important to know if the policy that you choose is portable, and if it’s backed by a large organization. A mortgage professional will take you through the ins-and-outs of mortgage life insurance. By evaluating what you really need, and the differences in coverage and costs, you can make the best decisions for you and your loved ones.

If you have any questions please call me directly and I will be more then happy to answer all your questions Kris Krawiec Mortgage Agent 416-845-3745 or kkrawiec@dominionlending.ca

10 Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector

General Kris Krawiec 15 May

The purchase of a home is likely the largest financial expenditure you’ll ever make. And getting your home inspected is an essential step in the home-buying process. No one wants to buy a money pit – and once you have signed on the dotted line, there is no turning back.

The best way to ensure you use a professional home inspector is to seek referrals from your mortgage professional, real estate agent or friends. Since you want to be able to trust your home inspector’s judgement, you have to ensure they’re not part-time home inspectors just trying to make some extra cash on the side, or they aren’t only home inspecting so they can also offer to complete any work for you that you need done on the home. To ensure the job’s done right, after all, the home inspection must not be biased.

The purpose of a home inspection is for the inspector to be able to tell you everything you need to know about the home you’re going to purchase so that you can make an informed decision.

Following are 10 key questions you can ask your home inspector before they’re hired to ensure the inspection will be completed professionally and thoroughly:

  1. Can I see your licence/professional credentials and proof of insurance?
  2. How many years’ experience do you have as a home inspector? (Make sure they’re talking specifically about home inspection and not just how much experience they have in a single trade.)
  3. How many inspections have you personally completed?
  4. What qualifications and training do you have? Are you a member of a professional organization? What’s your background – construction, engineering, plumbing, etc?
  5. Can I see some references? (Make sure you also check the references.)
  6. What kind of report do you provide? Do you take pictures of the house and add them to your report?
  7. What kind of tools do you use during your inspection?
  8. Can you give me an idea of what kind of repairs the house may need? (Be wary if they offer to fix the issues themselves or can recommend someone else to complete the job cheap.)
  9. When do you do the inspection? (Let’s hope they don’t have a day job, and can only do them at night when it’s too dark to see the roof. It’s best to stay away from part-time inspectors.)
  10. How long do your inspections usually take?
If you have any questions or would like to be referred to a full time home inspector please call me Kris Krawiec Mortgage Agent at 416-845-3745 or email kkrawiec@dominionlending.ca.

Fixed Rate or Variable Rate

General Kris Krawiec 12 May

The decision to choose a fixed or variable rate is not always an easy one. It should depend on your tolerance for risk as well as your ability to withstand increases in mortgage payments. You can sometimes expect a financial reward for going with the variable rate, although the precise magnitude will ebb and flow depending on the economic environment.

Fixed rate mortgages often appeal to clients who want stability in their payments, manage a tight monthly budget, or are generally more conservative. For example, young couples with large mortgages relative to their income might be better off opting for the peace of mind that a fixed-rate brings.

A variable rate mortgage often allows the borrower to take advantage of lower rates — the interest rate is calculated on an ongoing basis at a lenders’ prime rate minus a set percentage. For example, if the prime mortgage rate is 3 percent, the holder of a prime minus 0.5 percent mortgage would pay a 2.50 percent variable interest rate.

As a consumer, the best option is to have a candid discussion with your mortgage professional to ensure you have a full understanding of the risks and rewards of each type of mortgage.

For more details call Kris Krawiec your mortgage specialist at 416-845-3745 or kkrawiec@dominionlending.ca

Examining No-Frills Mortgage Products

General Kris Krawiec 12 May

While No-Frills mortgage products typically offer a lower – or more discounted – interest rate when compared with many other available products, the lower rate is really their only perk.

This type of product will only seem ideal for you if you have no plans to take advantage of benefits that will help you pay off your mortgage faster – such as pre-payment privileges including lump-sum payments. 

Essentially, this product is only ideal for: first-time homebuyers who want fixed payments and have limited opportunities to make lump-sum payments during the first five years of their mortgage; and property investors who need a low fixed rate and are not concerned with making lump-sum payments.

No-Frills products also won’t let you take your mortgage with you if you purchase another property before your mortgage term is up – ie, portability is not an option with this product. Portability is an important option that could save you money over the long term if the home of your dreams is within your reach before your mortgage term is up and rates have risen, which they have a tendency to do over a five-year period. 

It’s understanding why these products may seem appealing. After all, during tougher economic times who has the extra cash to put down a huge lump-sum payment? And who needs a portable mortgage if they’re not planning on moving until the market picks up? But it’s important to remember that a lot can change over the course of five years – or whatever term you choose for your mortgage.

The thing is, you can still obtain great mortgage savings without giving up the perks of traditional mortgages. For starters, many lenders are willing to offer significant discounts if you opt for a 30-day “quick” close.

There are, however, other ways in which to earn your own discounts. For instance, by switching to weekly or bi-weekly mortgage payments, and by obtaining a variable-rate mortgage but increasing your payments to match those of the going five-year fixed rate, you’ll be ahead of the typical 0.1% discount of a No-Frills product within approximately three years.

No-Frills products represent a great example of why interest rates are not the only important factor to consider when deciding whether to opt for a particular mortgage product. Much like buying a car, you get what you pay for. If you don’t want a car with air conditioning, a stereo, a cup holder, and so on, then you can get the cheapest car going… but you’ll likely regret it later.

Call Kris Krawiec your mortgage specialist at 416-845-3745 or kkrawiec@dominionlending.ca

Deciding which type of home to purchase

General Kris Krawiec 5 May

There is an endless supply of different types of homes available for purchase – ranging from condos to townhouses to fully-detached homes. The key is to decide what you can afford and which amenities you prefer before heading out shopping for a new home.

Your best first step is to Kris Krawiec your mortgage professional and get pre-approved on a mortgage. That way, you already know what your price range is – and, therefore, which type of home you’re in the market for – before you begin shopping.

Budgeting is also an important part of preparing yourself for the purchase of a home. If you save for a down payment and up-front costs, such as closing costs and emergency reserves, much sooner, you’ll be sure to save enough to cover the many expenses facing a new homeowner, including moving, utility hook-ups, tools, maintenance supplies, window coverings, etcetera.

Once you have the money available to make your home purchase a reality, you should weigh the following options to help decide what type of home is right for you:

Condo

A condo makes a great first home because it typically costs less than a townhouse or a detached home, which translates into a smaller down payment. But there are, however, monthly maintenance fees you must take into consideration when budgeting for a condo.

Condos are also ideal for those who do not want to maintain a lawn or worry about clearing snow away from walkways and driveways. 

Townhouse

If the condo life is not your forte and you’re not looking for a big yard to maintain, a townhouse may be your best home purchase option.

A townhouse costs less than a fully-detached home and results in cheaper property taxes as well.

Many townhouses also come with monthly maintenance fees unless they are freehold townhouses. In situations where you pay a monthly fee, however, you won’t have to worry about outdoor maintenance or snow removal.

Detached Home

If it’s privacy you’re seeking as well as a larger yard, a detached home is your ideal choice. Still, prices can vary drastically based on such variables as whether you’re seeking a spot in the city, a place in the suburbs or a more rural location.

Other Considerations

The size of the home and property (if you decide not to opt for a condo) are also important things to consider before you head out shopping. While everyone has their dream home in mind, this is not always a practical purchase choice, especially if this is your first home purchase.

When it comes to location, think about in which area or neighbourhood you’d like to make your purchase, and which home features are absolutely essential – including what you can live without and what aspects are entirely out of the question.

Take a look at real estate ads for the area(s) you’re interested in to see what’s on the market and the price ranges. Also drive around a few neighbourhoods and see what’s for sale or visit Open Houses. This can help crystallize what you want or don’t want in a home.

By making your first purchase a modest and affordable ‘starter’ home, you will be putting money towards a mortgage that will build equity in that home. And once you’ve paid down a significant portion of that first home’s mortgage, you will then have more money to put towards an upgrade into your dream home.

Buying versus renting

General Kris Krawiec 5 May

At some point in their lives, most Canadians have probably asked themselves whether it is better to buy or rent a home. And purchasing a home is one of the biggest decisions most people ever make.

Ultimately, the decision is a personal choice, but it helps to look at the pros and cons of buying to determine whether home ownership is right for you.

Some advantages of buying a home

Owning a home is generally considered to be a sound, long-term investment that can provide satisfaction and security for you and your family.

Each month when you make your mortgage payment, you are building equity in your home.

Equity is the portion of the property that you actually build through your monthly payment versus the portion that you still owe the lender.

At the beginning of your mortgage, more of your payments go toward paying off the interest and less toward paying off the principal. But the longer you stay in your home and the more mortgage payments you make, the more principal you pay off and the more equity you accumulate.

Most mortgages also offer you the option of making additional monthly or annual payments to reduce your principal faster. Some prepayment privileges, for instance, enable you to pay up to 20% of the principal per calendar year. This will also help reduce your amortization period (the length of your mortgage), which, in turn, saves you money.

There is also a tax advantage. If your home is your principal residence, any profit you make when you sell it is tax-free. A home can appreciate – or increase in value – as time passes, building more equity. As you build up equity, it’s usually easier to upgrade to a more expensive home in the future thanks to the profit you’ll make when selling your current home.

As an owner, you can also decorate and improve your home any way you like. Ownership tends to give you a sense of pride and can offer you and your family stronger ties to the community.

If you do decide that home ownership is right for you, it’s important to choose a home you can afford. If you can’t afford to buy your dream home, purchasing a more modest home can be a great place to start building equity that one day may allow you to buy the home of your dreams.

Since we’re currently in a buyer’s real estate market and interest rates have been dropping, now may be an ideal time to enter into home ownership for the first time.

Some disadvantages of buying a home

Since it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a home, it’s important to remember that home ownership has some additional responsibilities as well.

For one thing, a home can be expensive. Chances are, your monthly payments will be more than what you are currently paying in rent when you factor in such things as your mortgage, property taxes, repairs and general maintenance.

Owning a home ties up some of your cash flow and is likely to reduce your flexibility to move to a new location or change jobs.

While your home might increase in value as time goes by, don’t expect to get a big return quickly. There are no guarantees that your home will increase in value, particularly during the first few years. In the beginning, you could actually lose money if you sell because your home may not have appreciated enough to cover the real estate fees, and moving, renovation and other selling costs.

Real estate is, however, usually considered a good investment over the long term.

When making the decision about whether to buy or rent, it’s important to carefully choose a home you can afford, and then weigh the pros and cons. Millions of people enjoy the rewards of home ownership but, ultimately, it’s a personal decision based on your own priorities.

If you’re thinking of buying your first home, Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professionals can answer all of your mortgage-related questions.