Test your mortgage knowledge
Mortgages are not a subject we learn about in high school, although I wish they were as credit, interest rates and qualifying for a mortgage are all things that will greatly affect your lifestyle going forward. Some hear about them through friends or family or the internet, though my concern with this is the mortgage market is a changing and evolving model and it can be a challenge to ensure you’re getting accurate information. I’ve been working in the mortgage industry for over 30 years and I still don’t know everything there is to know. Keep reading, as I believe this will greatly reduce the challenges facing future borrowers by separating the mortgage fact from fiction.
1. You can’t get a mortgage if you have a low credit score
FICTION: You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and neither should your lender. Your credit score is only a small piece of the mortgage approval puzzle. In addition to income, downpayment, assets, and property details, a potential lender also considers the contents of your credit report which includes debt levels and repayment history. While there are some lenders who have strict minimum credit score requirements you must meet in order to qualify with them, other lenders are not as demanding. Though do be aware if you have some credit issues you may be charged a higher interest rate or could be asked to make a larger downpayment to mitigate the risk of a credit challenge. Another option is to ask for family support in having a relative co-sign with you until such time as your credit improves enough for you to qualify on your own.
2. If you went bankrupt, you have to wait 2 years until you can apply for a mortgage
FICTION: Now that we know a low credit score won’t stop you, how about a bankruptcy? It is a common belief that if you have a prior bankruptcy or consumer proposal you have to wait for many years before you can qualify for a mortgage. We all know bad things happen to good people and as long as you do all of the right things after your discharge date there may be the option of qualifying at a good rate after only 2 years from date of discharge. Having said that, you would likely have to put a minimum of 10% down and you would have to demonstrate a minimum of 24 months of satisfactory rebuilt credit, good job stability and some pretty good savings habits. If you’re willing to put down a large downpayment and pay a slightly higher interest rate, you may even apply for a mortgage a day after you have been discharged from bankruptcy.
3. The maximum amortization available is 25 years
FICTION: The amortization is the time it could take to pay off your mortgage in full and the term you choose will determine the interest rate you will be charged and what your minimum required payment would be. A shorter amortization means a higher payment amount. Some lenders still offer a 30-year amortization as long as you have enough of a down payment to avoid the requirement of high ratio mortgage insurance. The longer amortizations will lower your mortgage payments and allow you to qualify for a higher mortgage amount, however, depending on the lender, those benefits could be offset by a higher rate so be sure to crunch the numbers before committing to the longer amortization.
4. My bank will give me the best mortgage rate because I have been with them for so many years
FICTION: Maybe they will, however, doesn’t hurt to have a look around. I have had a number of inquiries lately where someone will ask what my best rate is and could I put it in writing for them to take to their long time banker who told them they will match it. If it were me and I had been loyal to one bank for many years I would expect them to give me their lowest rate without making me spend my valuable time shopping around. If a low rate is your number one and only priority, compare the rate offerings of a few different sources before you start negotiations with your bank. Having said that, there are other features of mortgage financing that should be considered such as trusting the individual who you have chosen to work with.
5. I have to pay to use a mortgage broker
FICTION: The great news is you can benefit from our experience free of charge as we are paid a commission by the lender who we take you to for your mortgage. The only exception to that rule is when the services of a private lender are required due to some issue with your ability to qualify. A mortgage broker may charge a fee in that scenario as the private lender does not pay us a commission for our placement services.
6. You will be foreclosed on if you miss a mortgage payment
FICTION: The foreclosure process is a costly measure and most lenders will work with you to resolve mortgage repayment issues rather than foreclose. The important action is to do everything you possibly can to address the issue before it becomes a problem. Contact your mortgage lender as soon as possible if you think you may have trouble making your mortgage payments to see if some acceptable arrangements can be made for you.
7. I’m locked into my mortgage for the whole length of my term
FICTION: Some mortgages include unique payout restrictions in exchange for a deeply discounted interest rate that you should be aware of before you choose that term. The majority of mortgage products available these days do allow you to break your term early in exchange for paying a payout penalty. The penalty is based on the time left when you break your term and the remaining balance owing on your mortgage or simply a 90-day interest penalty. Talk to your existing lender to obtain a payout penalty figure.
8. It’s not worth it to refinance my mortgage if I have a payout penalty
FICTION: Refinancing your mortgage allows you to access equity in your home, lower your mortgage payments or reduce debt. Whatever your reason for a refinance, don’t let a pesky payout penalty keep you from looking further into it. Your favorite mortgage professional should be able to create a few amortization scenarios to determine if it is financially beneficial to include your payout penalty in your new mortgage amount and still come out ahead.
So there you have it, the truth about mortgages, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to know about credit, interest rates and mortgages, the best way to ensure you’re receiving accurate and current information is to speak with an experienced mortgage professional about your financing needs.