29 Dec

Is Your Mortgage Portable?

General

Posted by: Kris Krawiec

Selling your current home and moving into a new one can be stressful enough, let alone worrying about your current mortgage and whether you’re able to carry it over to your new home.

Porting enables you to move to another property without having to lose your existing interest rate, mortgage balance and term. And, better yet, the ability to port also saves you money by avoiding early discharge penalties.

It’s important to note, however, that not all mortgages are portable. When it comes to fixed-rate mortgage products, you usually have a portability option. Lenders often use a “blended” system where your current mortgage rate stays the same on the mortgage amount ported over to the new property and the new balance is calculated using the current interest rate.

With variable-rate mortgages, on the other hand, porting is usually not available. As such, upon breaking your existing mortgage, a three-month interest penalty will be charged. This charge – which can be a surprising $1,500-$4,000 penalty at closing – may or may not be reimbursed with your new mortgage.

Porting Conditions

While porting typically ensures no penalty will be charged when you sell your existing property and buy a new one, some conditions that may apply include:

  • Some lenders allow you to port your mortgage, but your sale and purchase have to happen on the same day. Other lenders offer a week to do this, some a month, and others up to three months.
  • Some lenders don’t allow a changed term or force you into a longer term as part of agreeing to port you mortgage.
  • Some lenders will, in fact, reimburse your entire penalty whether you are a fixed or variable borrower if you simply get a new mortgage with the same lender – replacing the one being discharged. Additionally, some lenders will even allow you to move into a brand new term of your choice and start fresh.
  • There are instances where it’s better to pay a penalty at the time of selling and get into a new term at a brand new rate that could save back your penalty over the course of the new term.

While this may sound like a complicated subject, your mortgage professional will be able to explain all of your options and help you select the right mortgage based on your own specific needs.

29 Dec

Making Your Mortgage Interest Tax Deductible

General

Posted by: Kris Krawiec

For US homeowners, mortgage interest is automatically tax deductible. But for Canadians, the write-off is not so straightforward. In order to make your mortgage interest tax deductible, homeowners must be able to prove that the money is being reinvested and is not being used for personal expenses.

A properly structured mortgage-centric tax strategy has several key elements – the most important of which is a multi-component, readvanceable mortgage or line of credit.

It’s best to have a single collateral charge with at least two components – usually a fixed-term mortgage and an open line of credit that can track and report interest independently. This is absolutely essential under Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules and guidelines.

Second, the strategy must employ conservative leverage-investment techniques – which is why a financial advisor must be involved in order to comply with federal regulations. The financial advisor should be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who is experienced in leveraged investing, and able to actively monitor a homeowner’s portfolio on an ongoing basis.

Homeowners who opt for a tax-deductible mortgage interest plan make their monthly or bimonthly mortgage payments the same way they would when making any type of mortgage payment. The payments go towards reducing the principal amount of the mortgage and are then moved over to the line of credit as the mortgage is paid down. But in order to be tax-deductible, the funds must then be transferred to an investment bank account, which can be done automatically by your CFP.

Once the money is in an investment bank account, it can be reinvested and the money becomes tax deductible. Essentially, the homeowner is borrowing from the paid portion of the mortgage for reinvestment purposes.

On average, a typical 25-year mortgage can become fully tax deductible in 22.5 years.

If you have a rental property, you can also use this tax-reduction strategy even further. When you receive your rent, you can then use the funds to help pay down your personal mortgage. Once paid, the rental funds move to the line of credit and are then transferred to the investment bank account. They are then used to pay down the mortgage on the rental property. Using this method, it is possible to have your mortgage interest become fully tax deductible in only 3.5 years.

The ideal client

Ideal borrowers for an advanced mortgage and tax strategy are typically professionals or other high-income earners who have a conventional mortgage (have at least 20% of the cost of the home to put towards a down payment) and have built up substantial equity.

As high-income earners, their total debt-servicing ratio will be quite low and they will have excellent credit (700+ Beacon scores). These borrowers are financially sophisticated homeowners that are keenly interested in establishing a secure financial future and comfortable retirement. They also have good investment knowledge.

The risks

The financial benefits of tax-deductible mortgage interest are indisputable and justify the risks to the right borrower. That said, a problem can arise if a homeowner spends the funds as opposed to reinvesting them. As well, any tax refunds have to flow through the investment cycle in order to realize the benefits of paying down the mortgage as quickly as possible – and making as much of the interest payment as possible tax deductible.

Short-term financial risk is liquidity risk (sometimes referred to as cash flow risk). Cash flow risk addresses the possibility that interest rates will sharply drive up the cost of borrowing at the same time as markets falter, resulting in a negative client monthly cash flow for a brief period of time.

This short-term risk is typically only prevalent in the first two to four years because, after this period of time, the homeowner has stockpiled enough equity through annual tax refunds that other liquidity options exist and the risk is fully mitigated.

Liquidity risk varies widely based on the balance sheet strength of the homeowner. Highly qualified homeowners are easy to manage as these borrowers have no difficulty meeting the short-term cash flow demand should the need arise.

3 Dec

Beware of Mortgage or Title Fraud

General

Posted by: Kris Krawiec

In a time where identity theft and Ponzi schemes are plastered across the daily news, the last thing you want to worry about is yet another way to lose your hard-earned money.

But as a homeowner, you need to be aware of crimes on the rise known as mortgage fraud and real estate title fraud.

Mortgage Fraud

The most common type of mortgage fraud involves a criminal obtaining a property, then increasing its value through a series of sales and resales involving the fraudster and someone working in cooperation with them. A mortgage is then secured for the property based on the inflated price.

Following are some red flags for mortgage fraud:

  • Someone offers you money to use your name and credit information to obtain a mortgage
  • You are encouraged to include false information on a mortgage application
  • You are asked to leave signature lines or other important areas of your mortgage application blank
  • The seller or investment advisor discourages you from seeing or inspecting the property you will be purchasing
  • The seller or developer rebates you money on closing, and you don’t disclose this to your lending institution

“Straw Buyer” Scheme

Because of the recession, more people are desperate and eager to find a way to hang onto their homes. A couple was recently arrested in Canada after duping 100 families looking for help to avoid foreclosure in the US.

Another term for mortgage fraud is the “straw” or “dummy” homebuyer scheme. For instance, a renter does not have a good credit rating or is self-employed and cannot get a mortgage, or doesn’t have a sufficient down payment, so he or she cannot purchase a home. He/she or an associate approaches someone else with solid credit. This person is offered a sum of money (can be as much as $10,000) to go through the motions of buying a property on the other person’s behalf – acting as a straw buyer. The person with good credit lends their name and credit rating to the person who cannot be approved for a mortgage for his or her purchase of a home.

Other types of criminal activity often dovetail with mortgage fraud or title fraud. For example, people who run “grow ops” or meth labs may use these forms of fraud to “purchase” their properties.

The Fallout for Lenders

Fortunately (for you, at least), mortgage fraud typically hurts the lender the most.

Canadian precedents have been set in which banks are held responsible for mortgage fraud. The BC Court of Appeals recently ruled that “the lender – not the rightful property owner – is the one out of luck in a fraudulent mortgage scheme” and that lenders “must ensure their mortgages are valid by taking steps to ensure that the registered owner obtained title to the property legally.” The same conclusion was made by the Ontario Courts a couple of years ago.

Banks, as you can imagine, aren’t too thrilled about this trend. Royal Bank of Canada recently sued a former bank employee over an alleged mortgage fraud scheme.

Title Fraud
Sadly, the only red flag for title fraud occurs when your mortgage mysteriously goes into default and the lender begins foreclosure proceedings. Even worse, as the homeowner, you are the one hurt by title fraud, rather than the lender, as is the case with mortgage fraud.

Unlike with mortgage fraud, during title fraud, you haven’t been approached or offered anything – this is a form of identity theft.

Here’s what happens with title fraud: A criminal – using false identification to pose as you – registers forged documents transferring your property to his/her name, then registers a forced discharge of your existing mortgage and gets a new mortgage against your property. Then the fraudster makes off with the new home loan money without making mortgage payments. The bank thinks you are the one defaulting – and your economic downfall begins.

Following are ways you can protect yourself from title fraud:

  • Always view the property you are purchasing in person
  • Check listings in the community where the property is located – compare features, size and location to establish if the asking price seems reasonable
  • Make sure your representative is a licensed real estate agent
  • Beware of a real estate agent or mortgage broker who has a financial interest in the transaction
  • Ask for a copy of the land title or go to a registry office and request a historical title search
  • In the offer to purchase, include the option to have the property appraised by a designated or accredited appraiser
  • Insist on a home inspection to guard against buying a home that has been cosmetically renovated or formerly used as a grow house or meth lab
  • Ask to see receipts for recent renovations
  • When you make a deposit, ensure your money is protected by being held “in trust”
  • Consider the purchase of title insurance

 

It’s important to remember that if something doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t – always follow your instincts when it comes to red flags during the home buying and mortgage processes.