The Trouble with Debit Cards

General Kris Krawiec 21 Jul

We live in a society of instant gratification. Unlike our parents or grandparents – who saved up for larger purchases – we are often tempted to splurge on bigger-ticket items simply because we have a debit card in hand when we head out “window shopping”.

And aside from overspending thanks to the advent of debit cards, consumers are also more likely to dip into overdraft, which ends up costing more thanks to fees and interest that banks charge whenever you spend more than you have in your account. 

Basically, a debit card works like a cheque. The only difference is that every time you use it, you’re immediately taking money out of your account. That’s why when you overdraw it’s like bouncing a cheque – only worse because, unlike cheques, you probably don’t keep a record of every debit card purchase you make.

You may even make a bunch of small purchases before you realize you’ve spent more than you have. So before you pay for that coffee or lunch purchase with your debit card, make sure you have enough money in your account to cover it. 

Revert to using cash for daily expenses

Cash controls spending, plain and simple. Using cash to pay for everyday purchases such as coffee, transit, lunch and magazines alerts you to the idea that you’re actually spending real money. You just don’t get the same cautionary sense when you haul out plastic, be it a debit or credit card.

There’s a distinct cognitive event that happens when you handle money – it’s called awareness. Over the counter goes the five dollar bill and back comes a loonie, a dime, two nickels and four pennies.

Did you just add up the change above to determine how much money you have left? Did you think about what that purchase could have been? You see, you are much more conscious of this imaginary purchase than if you had paid with plastic. 

Now, add in the awareness of the bills left in your wallet and you become attuned to your temporary wealth, or lack thereof. At the end of the day, what encourages or cautions many consumers about spending is knowing where you stand from a financial perspective. That’s why cash can help control spending. Using cash to pay for everyday purchases alerts you to the idea that you’re actually spending real money.

By allotting yourself a weekly cash allowance for entertainment and everyday expenses – such as that daily morning coffee or weekly movie – you are building a budget around what you can spend on these purchases. And once the money in your wallet has been spent, you have to ensure you fight the urge to withdraw more cash or resort back to using your debit card.

Be realistic about what you typically spend on these items in a week. If you routinely eat out for lunch or stop at Tim Hortons for coffee, count that as well. If you think you’re spending too much on these items, you can then decide to find a less expensive alternative, such as brown-bagging your lunch or making your own coffee.

Let’s say, for instance, that you start the week off with $50 in your wallet and you began to spend it on your purchases. You will see $50 turn into $40, $40 turn into $25, $25 turn into $15 and so on. Every time you look into your wallet, you will see what’s left over from your original $50 and be aware of how quickly your money is being spent. This alone can make you think twice before making a purchase.

If you have any questions concerning budgeting, contact me directly Kris Krawiec Mortgage Agent 416-845-3745 kkrawiec@dominionlending.ca

Understanding Your Credit Report

General Kris Krawiec 21 Jul

As credit has become more and more abundant in our society, your credit report, and thus your credit rating, has become more important in your daily life. Your credit rating affects all aspects of your financial activities when it comes to borrowing money. Your credit rating also has the ability to affect the job you get, the apartment you rent, and even the ability to open a bank account.

Your credit report itself is simply a listing of all of your mortgage and consumer debt. Here in Canada, the two main credit reporting agencies are Trans Union and Equifax. Both agencies have a credit history file on anyone who has ever borrowed money. Every time you borrow money, or make a payment on a loan or credit card, the lender then reports the information about the transaction to these two agencies. In addition to credit information, you will also find liens and judgments on your credit report as well as your address and possibly your work history. The accumulation of all of this information is called your credit report.

The information on your credit report varies based on your creditors and what they have reported about you. Potential lenders and others, such as employers, view your credit history as a reflection of your character. Whether we like it or not, our financial habits have a lot to say about the way in which we choose to live our lives.

The credit score, or beacon score, is a number which gives mortgage lenders an idea of your lending risk.

Credit scores range from 300 to 900, the higher your credit score the better. The mortgage products and interest rate that you will qualify for are often determined by your credit score.

One thing that many people do not know is that you have the legal right to obtain a copy of your credit report. A mortgage professional can help you obtain a copy of this report and go through it with you to verify that all of the information is true and correct.

The good news is that your credit report is a working document. This means that you have the ability over time, to repair any damaged credit and increase your credit score.

If you have any questions on how your credit score can affect your home purchase please give me a call for your free evaluation: Kris Krawiec Mortgage Agent 416-845-3745 kkrawiec@dominionlending.ca

Tips for Paying Off Your Mortgage Faster

General Kris Krawiec 10 Jul

Mortgages in Canada are generally amortized between 25 and 30 year terms. While this seems a long time, it does not have to take anyone that long to pay off their mortgage if they choose to do so in a shorter period of time.

With a little bit of thinking ahead, and a small bit of sacrifice, most people can manage to pay off their mortgage in a much shorter period of time by taking positive steps such as:

  • Making mortgage payments each week, or even every other week. Both options lower your interest paid over the term of your mortgage and can result in the equivalent of an extra month’s mortgage payment each year. Paying your mortgage in this way can take your mortgage from 25 years down to 21.
  • When your income increases, increase the amount of your mortgage payments. Let’s say you get a 5% raise each year at work. If you put that extra 5% of your income into your mortgage, your mortgage balance will drop much faster without feeling like you are changing your spending habits.
  • Mortgage lenders will also allow you to make extra payments on your mortgage balance each year. Just about everyone finds themselves with money they were not expecting at some point or another. Maybe you inherited some money from a distant relative or you received a nice holiday bonus at work. Apply this money to your mortgage lender as a lump-sum payment towards your mortgage and watch the results.

By applying these strategies consistently over time, you will save money, pay less interest and pay off your mortgage years earlier!

Transitioning from Renter to Homeowner

General Kris Krawiec 10 Jul

Transitioning from renter to homeowner is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make throughout your lifetime. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with a team of experts – including both a mortgage and real estate professional – to walk you through the steps to home ownership, answer all of your questions and concerns, help you decide what kind of home you can afford and get you pre-approved for a mortgage.

With interest rates still hovering around “emergency” levels – low rates never before seen by your parents and even your grandparents – now is an ideal time for first-time homebuyers to embark upon homeownership. 

Down payment

The main reason many renters feel they can’t afford to purchase a home has to do with saving for a down payment. But there are many solutions available today that can help first-time buyers with their down payments.

Many lenders will allow for a gifted or borrowed down payment. And of those lenders that will not provide this alternative, many offer cash-back options that can be used as a down payment.

Better yet, there are programs available from some financial institutions where they will offer a “free down payment” or a “flex down”. Of course, you will end up paying about 1% more in your interest rate, but the program will help you get in the homeownership door and start accumulating equity earlier. You must, however, stay with the original lender for the full initial five-year term or else you’ll have to pay the down payment back.

Last year, a $5,000 increase was made to the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan, meaning first-time homebuyers can now withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSPs for a down payment – tax- and interest-free.

And if you’re part of a couple making a home purchase together, you can each withdraw up to $25,000 from your RRSPs.

Educating and coaching

There’s an endless amount of information available to prospective homeowners – through the Internet, friends, family members and anyone willing to voice their opinion on a given subject. What you really need, therefore, is education and coaching as opposed to being bombarded with more information.

Speaking to a mortgage professional in order to obtain a pre-approval prior to setting out home shopping can help set your mind at ease, because many first-time buyers are overwhelmed by the financing and buying processes, and often don’t know what it truly costs to purchase a home. Real examples can go a long way in showing you what it costs to buy a home in your area versus what you’re currently paying in rent. For instance, if a renter is currently paying $800 per month, with that same payment (including taxes) they could afford to buy a $120,000 home. And assuming real estate values increase 2% per year over the next five years, the new homeowner would have accumulated $27,000 in equity in their home. If they continue renting, however, this $27,000 has generated equity in someone else’s home.

Tips to Keep in Mind Between Your Mortgage Approval and Funding Dates

General Kris Krawiec 2 Jul

In light of the new market realities and tightening of credit underwriting standards by both lenders and mortgage default insurers as of late,  keep in mind that now – more than ever – it’s important to be careful what you do between the time your mortgage is approved and when it funds. 

A few mortgage lenders and insurers have been doing something lately that they have not done in a long time – pulling new credit bureaus prior to funding, especially if there is a long period between the time of your approval and when the mortgage actually funds.

Following are eight tips to keep in mind between your mortgage approval and funding dates:

  1. Don’t buy a new car or trade-up to a more expensive lease.
  2. Don’t quit your job or change jobs. Even if it’s a better-paying job, you still are likely to be on a probationary period. If in doubt, call your mortgage professional and they can let you know if this may jeopardize your approval.
  3. Don’t change industries, decide to become self-employed or accept a contract position even if it’s within the same industry. Delay the start of your new job, self-employment or contract status until after the funding date of your mortgage.
  4. Don’t transfer large sums of money between bank accounts. Lenders get especially skittish about this one because it looks like you’re borrowing money. Be ready to document cash transactions or money movements.
  5. Don’t forget to pay your bills, even ones that you’re disputing. This can be a real deal-breaker. If the lender pulls your credit bureau prior to closing and sees a collection or a delinquent account, the best you can hope for is that they make you pay off the account before they will fund. You don’t want to have to scramble to pay off a debt at the last minute!
  6. Don’t open new credit cards. Again, just wait until after your funding date.
  7. Don’t accept a cash gift without properly documenting it – even if this is from proceeds of a wedding. If you have a bunch of cash to deposit before your funding date, give your mortgage professional a call before you deposit it.
  8. Don’t buy furniture on the “Do not pay for XX years plan” until after funding.  Even though you don’t have to pay now, it will still be reported on your credit bureau, and will become an issue – especially if your approval was tight to begin with.

While you may not risk losing your mortgage approval because you have broken one of these rules, it’s always best to talk to your mortgage professional before doing any of the above just to make sure!

Leasing or Buying a Vehicle Impacts Your Debt Ratios

General Kris Krawiec 2 Jul

The question of whether it’s better to lease or buy a vehicle is a common dilemma. And do you buy or lease a new or used vehicle? The answer depends on the specifics of your situation.

It’s important to realize that many consumers overburden themselves with car leases or loans they simply can’t afford. While most of us require a vehicle to get to and from many destinations throughout the course of any given week, we don’t need a high-end vehicle to serve this purpose.

The key to remember when you’re looking to purchase a home and obtain a mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage is that, if you overspend on a vehicle, it affects your debt ratios and may restrict or negate your mortgage financing ability. 

Leases and purchase loans are simply two different methods of automobile financing. One finances the use of a vehicle while the other finances the purchase of a vehicle. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

When making a lease-or-buy decision, you must, therefore, look at your financial abilities in terms of your debt ratios. And if you’re unsure about how leasing or purchasing a vehicle will affect your ratios, it’s best to speak to Kris Krawiec Mortgage Agent prior to making your decision.

When you buy, you pay for the entire cost of a vehicle, regardless of how many kilometres you drive. You typically make a down payment, pay sales taxes in cash or roll them into your loan, and pay an interest rate determined by your loan company based on your credit history. Later, you may decide to sell or trade the vehicle for its depreciated resale value.

When you lease, you pay for only a portion of a vehicle’s cost, which is the part that you “use up” during the time you’re driving it. You have the option of not making a down payment, you pay sales tax only on your monthly payments, and you pay a financial rate, called a money factor, which is similar to the interest on a loan. You may also be required to pay fees and a security deposit. At lease-end, you may either return the vehicle or purchase it for its depreciated resale value.

As an example, if you lease a $20,000 car that will have, say, an estimated resale value of $13,000 after 24  months, you pay for the $7,000 difference (this is called depreciation), plus finance charges and possible fees.

When you buy, you pay the entire $20,000, plus finance charges and possible fees. This is fundamentally why leasing offers significantly lower monthly payments than buying.

Lease payments are made up of two parts – a depreciation charge and a finance charge. The depreciation part of each monthly payment compensates the leasing company for the portion of the vehicle’s value that is lost during your lease. The finance part is interest on the money the lease company has tied up in the car while you’re driving it.

Loan payments also have two parts – a principal charge and a finance charge. The principal pays off the full vehicle purchase price, while the finance charge is loan interest. Since all vehicles depreciate in value by the same amount regardless of whether they’re leased or purchased, however, part of the principal charge of each loan payment can be considered as a depreciation charge. Just like with leasing, it’s money you never get back, even if you sell the vehicle in the future.

The remainder of each loan principal payment goes toward equity – or resale value – which is what remains of your car’s original value at the end of the loan after depreciation has taken its toll. The longer you own and drive a vehicle, the less equity you have.

With leasing, you may have the option of putting your monthly payment savings into more productive investments, such as your mortgage, an investment property or a vacation home, which will increase in value. In fact, many experts encourage this practice as one of the benefits of leasing.

How to Determine the Best Mortgage Term

General Kris Krawiec 2 Jul

Choosing the mortgage term that is right for you can be a challenging proposition for even the savviest of homebuyers. By understanding mortgage terms and what they mean in dollars and sense, you can save the most money and choose the term that is right for you.

The first consideration when comparing various mortgage terms is to understand that a longer term generally means a higher corresponding interest rate. And, a shorter term generally means a lower corresponding interest rate. While this generalization might lead you to believe that a shorter term is always the preferred option, this is not always the case. Sometimes there are other factors, either in the financial markets or in your own life, which you will also have to take into consideration when you select your mortgage term length.

If paying your mortgage each month places you close to the financial edge of your comfort zone, you may want to opt for a longer term mortgage, for instance ten years, so that you can ensure that you will be able to afford your mortgage payments should the interest rates increase. By the end of a ten year mortgage term, most buyers are in a better financial situation, have a lower principle balance due, and should interest rates have risen, will be able to afford higher mortgage payments.

If you are shopping for a mortgage for an investment property, you will likely want to consider choosing a longer mortgage term. This will allow you to know that the mortgage payments on the property will be steady for a long time and allow you to more accurately project your future income from the property.

Choosing the right mortgage term is a unique decision for each individual. By understanding your personal financial situation and your tolerance for risk, a mortgage professional can assist you in choosing the mortgage term which will work the best.

Call Kris Krawiec Mortgage Agent to help you determin the right term for your financial needs and plans.