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.

Getting a Mortgage Pre-Approval

General Kris Krawiec 16 Jun

If you are looking for a new home, be sure you are pre-approved. With a mortgage pre-approval, Kris Krawiec mortgage professional can do a more complete verification prior to sending you shopping for a home, and with that done, the dollar figure you are going shopping with is actually what you can spend.

Getting pre-approved will let you know for certain what you can afford based on lender and insurer criteria, and what your payments on a specific mortgage will be.

Licensed mortgage professionals can lock-in an interest rate for you for anywhere from 60 – 120 days while you shop for your perfect home. By locking in an interest rate, you are guaranteed to get a mortgage for at least that rate or better. If interest rates drop, your locked-in rate will drop as well. However, if the interest rates go up, your locked-in interest rate will not, ensuring you get the best rate throughout the mortgage pre-approval process.

In order to get pre-approved for a mortgage, a mortgage professional requires a short list of information that will allow them to determine your buying power. Kris Krawiec a Mortgage Agent will explain to you the benefits of shorter or longer mortgage terms, the latest programs available, which mortgage products they believe will most likely meet your needs the best, plus they will review all of the other costs involved with purchasing a home.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is something every potential home buyer should do before going shopping for a new home. A pre-approval will give you the confidence of knowing that financing is available, and it can put you in a very positive negotiation position against other home buyers who aren’t pre-approved.

Call Kris Krawiec your mortgage professional to get a pre-approved, 416-845-3745 or kkrawiec@dominionlending.ca

Using Home Equity to Your Advantage

General Kris Krawiec 16 Jun

Canadians purchase homes for a variety of reasons. Some want the stability of owning their own home, while others also look at home ownership as an investment vehicle. No matter what the reason, the truth is that home ownership has proven itself to be a good stable investment over time, and one which many Canadians are profiting from.

While many people have chosen to purchase their first home during these times of lower interest rates, there has also been a large movement to refinance home loans and pull out equity for home improvements, investments, college expenses, and even high interest debt consolidation. Canadians have been borrowing against their home’s equity in record numbers, taking out billions of dollars in cash each year.

In years past, many saw their homes as a shelter of safety, yet today, they are more than ever before willing to borrow against the equity owned in their homes to further their investment portfolios, get out of debt, send their children to university, make improvements to their home, or even boost their RRSP contributions. Where home equity was once sat upon, today it is something to be tapped out and used to one’s advantage.

While tapping the equity in your home can be a good idea, you should do so with caution and understand any of the possible consequences. The best thing you can do is consult a licensed mortgage professional and financial planner to discuss opportunities to make your home’s equity work for you.

Moving to Canada? Plan Ahead for Homeownership

General Kris Krawiec 9 Jun

If you have a job awaiting you on Canadian soil, it’s possible to also secure the purchase of a home if you plan ahead and connect with professionals before you even begin packing.

The main reason you’ll want to get in touch with the right professionals before you start to pack is to find out what important paperwork you’ll need to set aside to ensure smooth sailing through the home financing and purchasing processes.

Your first step should be to get in touch with me an experienced mortgage professional. In doing so, you can set the home financing process in motion by securing a mortgage rate guarantee and pre-approval, and figuring out what supporting paperwork you need to provide to purchase a home in Canada.

The services of mortgage professionals are typically free – they are paid by lenders for bringing in new business. Mortgage professionals have access to multiple lenders – including banks, credit unions and trust companies – where they can compare products and rates, and find the ideal mortgage to meet your unique needs.

In most cases, Canadian mortgage lenders and insurers want to see employment letters that prove your offer of employment and salary in Canada. You must also have at least a 5% down payment for the home from your own resources – which means it has to be your own money, not borrowed or gifted. So, for instance, if you’re selling your home in another country and using some of the proceeds as a down payment on a home in Canada, you must be able to prove this.

Lenders and insurers also want to see that you have a solid credit history. Although requirements for this proof varies based on which insurer and lender your mortgage is funded through, your mortgage professional will be able to tell you exactly what documents you’ll need to provide. Often, an international credit bureau is sufficient to prove your credit history. If this is not available, you can also provide 12 months’ worth of bank statements, mortgage or rental payment receipts, utility or telephone bills, and so on. Again, there are several options from which to choose and your mortgage professional will be able to specifically tell you what a particular lender and insurer want to see.

You must also apply for landed immigrant status to get the ball rolling on securing your social insurance number (SIN), which is required before you begin working in Canada.

By securing mortgage financing prior to moving to Canada, all you have to do when you arrive is find a home. This will be an easier task when you already know exactly how much you can spend thanks to your pre-approval.

And since your mortgage professional can put you in touch with a trusted real estate agent prior to your move, you will also be able to research homes before you arrive in Canada. Again, real estate agents do not typically charge a fee to find you a home to purchase.

By planning ahead before making your move, you truly can save yourself a lot of hassle and stress when it comes to securing mortgage financing and purchasing a home.

And if you’re already living in Canada, many of the available New to Canada mortgage products apply to new immigrants who have been in the country for up to 36 months.

Paperwork to gather/set aside before packing:

  • Proof of employment and salary in Canada
  • Proof of at least 5% down payment from your own sources
  • Government proof of residency application
  • Copy of your immigration papers
  • Copy of your passport
  • Credit report
  • Mortgage or rental payment receipts for the past 12 months
  • Bank statements for the past 12 months
  • Utility and phone bill payments for the past 12 months

Have you considered refinancing to pay off debt?

General Kris Krawiec 9 Jun

By talking to mortgage professional, you may find that taking equity out of your home to pay off high-interest debt associated with credit card balances can put more money in your bank account each month.

And since interest rates are at a 40-year low, switching to a lower rate may save you a lot of money – possibly thousands of dollars per year.

There are penalties for paying your mortgage loan out prior to renewal, but these could be offset by the extra money you could acquire through a refinance.

With access to more money, you will be better able to manage your debt. Refinancing your first mortgage and taking some existing equity out could also enable you to make investments, go on vacation, do some renovations or even invest in your children’s education.

Keep in mind, however, that by refinancing you may extend the time it will take to pay off your mortgage. That said, there are many ways to pay down your mortgage sooner to save you thousands of dollars. Most mortgage products, for instance, include prepayment privileges that enable you to pay up to 20% of the principal (the true value of your mortgage minus the interest payments) per calendar year. This will also help reduce your amortization period (the length of your mortgage), which, in turn, saves you money.

If homeowners fail to take the time to thoroughly research their options through a mortgage professional and, instead, simply sign renewal offers received from their bank, credit union or other lender, they could end up paying thousands of dollars more per year in interest. Simply by shopping your mortgage with a qualified mortgage professional, you can access the banks as well as other lenders that you may not have considered, but which can often offer interest rate specials or other attractive terms.

In the current credit-crunched lending environment, now more than ever it’s important to take the time to contact a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage professional to find out your options.

By refinancing now and paying off your debt, you can put yourself and your family in a better financial position. It’s very important to not rack up your credit cards after refinancing, however, so set your goals and budgets, and stick to them!