There are four major components to any successful home buying A-Team: your mortgage professional, realtor, home inspector, and lawyer. Each of these individuals is important to various aspects of the home buying process.
While many people think a real estate agent is the most important person when it comes to buying a new home, your mortgage professional comes first. This is especially true for anyone looking to pre-qualify for a mortgage before searching for their forever home! Not only does pre-qualification help you establish your budget, but it can also lock in a low rate for you for up to 120 days while you search for your perfect home.
When it comes to choosing a mortgage professional, there has been a recent upward trend in using a mortgage professional to arrange mortgage financing. Many banks are cutting back on staff and centralizing operations to save money. While this doesn’t affect the day-to-day finances, it can create a headache when it comes time to discussing and finalizing a mortgage agreement.
You may not know much about mortgage professionals, but they are steadily gaining popularity due to providing top-notch service and unbiased advice. Also, unlike individual banking representatives who often move from one branch to another, mortgage specialists work to form lifelong relationships with their clients. The dedication of mortgage professionals to their clients and their unique position in the mortgage market often results in finding lower rates for their customers and providing the best possible plan to ensure their clients’ financial success.
One of the reasons mortgage professionals are able to find their clients such amazing deals when it comes to mortgage interest rates is that they operate independently of any single financial institution. Banks are only able to access their rates – no one else’s. Mortgage brokers, on the other hand, have access to MORE rates and lenders than the bank! In fact, a typical broker has access to over 90 lenders! This means they are able to shop around, on your behalf, to find the most affordable option thereby saving you tons of time and money in the long run.
So, not only can a mortgage professional shop around for you AND save you money on your interest rate, their services are almost always free to the homebuyer! This is because mortgage professionals get paid by the lenders directly! What else can you ask for? Better rates, personalized service, flexibility, and products at no cost to you. Some people may argue that the fee is built into the payment, but this is not so. It costs the banks approximately 40 percent less to generate a mortgage through an agent than a branch, as there is no overhead to pay if the bank doesn’t get a client’s business. Instead, the mortgage broker bears the entire cost of day-to-day business activity and the bank simply pays for the privilege of gaining you as a client.
Your mortgage professional has also developed relationships with numerous realtors and is also able to recommend a qualified realtor to help you through the home-buying process.
WHO CAN FUND YOUR MORTGAGE?
Mortgage professionals have access to a variety of lenders to ensure they find you the best rate, but who exactly are these lenders?
A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits, lends money and transfers funds. Banks are listed as public, licensed corporations and have declared earnings that are paid to stockholders and are regulated by the federal government’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Most Canadians know the five big banks: BMO, Scotiabank, CIBC, RBC, and TD Canada Trust. Big banks are great options for variable rate mortgages as they have smaller penalties if you have to break the mortgage for any reason. When it comes to fixed-rate mortgages however, the penalty can be quite large when compared to different types of lenders.
Credit unions also deposit, lend and transfer funds much like a bank, but beyond that there are some major differences between the two.
Credit Unions have an elected Board of Directors that consists of elected members from their community. They are local and community-based organizations and, unlike the banks, are provincially regulated versus federally.
One major advantage of getting your mortgage through a credit union versus a bank is that the credit unions are not subject to the recent “stress test” changes for uninsured mortgages (excluding Quebec). This is due to the fact that credit unions are provincially regulated and the stress test is a federal regulation. Of course, your ability to pay down your debt will still be tested, but not at the higher rate.
Another advantage of using a credit union is that the calculation for penalties when it comes to breaking a mortgage agreement are typically friendlier to the borrower, and, if there are credit issues, they tend to be more understanding than the big banks.
A monoline is a type of financial service that specialises in consumer credit, home mortgages or a sole class of insurance. While these businesses typically do not have branches and are mainly accessed through a mortgage professional, there are some advantages to the consumer when it comes to using a monoline lender.
The first is that monolines usually offer better discounted rates and how they calculate the penalties can be friendly to the client. The biggest strike against them is they’re just not as well-known or trusted as a bank. It should be noted, however, the major investors in monolines are the big banks, so there’s nothing really to fear.
If for any reason you are not able to get approved for a mortgage through traditional lender channels, there is another option – Plan B. In fact, these secondary lenders make up almost 10 percent of mortgage transaction volume! That said, there are a few things to know.
The first is that alternative lenders often provide higher interest rates than A-lenders as it is a more risky investment. In addition, most B-lenders will charge a one-time fee of 1% of the loan amount. However, if you have no other options this is still a viable way to get approved!
Mortgage professionals have access to a fair number of alternative mortgage lenders (B-lenders) who offer excellent solutions above and beyond the traditional branch-based options. When mortgages are arranged through an agent with an A-lender, the charge is covered by the lender directly. However it is important to note that there may be a fee when sourcing an alternative mortgage lender.
WHAT DOES A LENDER NEED TO KNOW?
Before a mortgage can be approved, there are a few things that your lender or mortgage professional needs to know.
INCOME AND JOB STABILITY
The first thing that your mortgage professional or lender will ask for is details surrounding your income and job stability.
Your income will determine how much money you can borrow. In most cases, 35 percent of your gross income for salaried, non-self-employed, or commissioned people is used to determine how much you can borrow to cover the cost of the mortgage payments, taxes and any applicable maintenance. All other debts (car loans, credit cards and lines of credit, etc) must not exceed an additional seven percent of your gross income.
It is also important to note that sticking with your employer while going through the home buying process is crucial. Any changes to your employment or income status can stop or greatly delay the mortgage approval process.
Your credit history and credit score are used to show that you pay your bills on time. A great credit score includes keeping a balance on credit cards at any given time that is below 30 percent of the total card limit – and paying it off monthly. A credit rating above 680 puts you in a good position to get financing while a score below will result in higher interest rates or a more challenging mortgage acquisition.
If you’re new to the world of credit, consider the 2-2-2 rule. Lenders want to see two forms of resolving credit (ie: credit cards) with limits no less than $2,000 and a clean payment history for two years.
WHAT DO YOU NEED ONCE YOUR OFFER IS ACCEPTED?
Once you have put in an offer on your dream home and it has been accepted, there are a few things you will need to finalize your mortgage agreement.
Supplying your income details to the lender for pre-approval helps to determine your budget and how much you can borrow. Once you are ready to finalize the mortgage, you will need to confirm this information. For salaried individuals, this can be done by submitting a letter of employment, your most recent pay stub, your last two years’ income, and Notices of Assessment from Revenue Canada.
DOWN PAYMENT CONFIRMATION
The lender will require that you prove the source of your down payment. You’ll have to send in bank statements, RRSP statements, stocks, etc that show the previous three-month history of your accounts. If there are any large lump-sum deposits, you’re likely to be asked to show where the deposit originated. You’ll also be asked to demonstrate that you have access to 1.5 percent of the purchase, in addition to the down payment, to ensure you are able to cover closing costs such as: legal fees, Title Insurance, property tax prepayment and Property Transfer Tax.
CONTRACT OF PURCHASE AND SALE
This is a copy of the accepted offer of the home you intend to purchase and a copy of the MLS listing sheet. The purchase contract will also be accompanied by a Property Disclosure Statement and a Strata Form B Disclosure if applicable.
REAL ESTATE AGENT
As you may already know, a real estate agent is one of the most vital members of your homebuying A-Team! In fact, in today’s competitive real estate market, it can be very difficult to acquire property WITHOUT the help of a realtor.
One of the reasons realtors are integral to the home buying process is that they can provide access to properties that never even make it to the MLS website. Realtors also gain access to information about homes that may come onto the market before a listing is even signed.
Most importantly though, a realtor understands the ins-and-outs of the home buying process and can tell you how to be successful in your endeavors to purchase a home by guiding you through the process from the first viewing to having your bid accepted.
While a competitive market can make a home inspection more difficult, it is a highly recommended part of the home buying process! Having a home inspection done is important to ensure that there are no hidden surprises which may crop up after the sale is finalized. A home inspector can determine what’s behind the walls and look for any signs of mold, leaks or old wiring that could cost you down the road. A good home inspector can often be recommended by your mortgage professional or realtor who may know of many reliable options for getting your inspection done.
While most people assume home inspections are just for the buyer, that’s not always the case. If you’re selling a home, you might want to consider a home inspection too! Any issues that come up during an inspection by a potential buyer can lead to delays and kill a deal all together but scheduling a certified inspection prior to putting the home on the market could save you time and ensure a smooth process once you do start getting offers!
LAWYERS AND NOTARIES
Once you are ready to finalize financing and purchase a home, you will need a lawyer or notary to draw up the documents and register them on file for you. Since the visit to your legal professional is the last step in the entire process, it’s extremely important that this be handled with care. Mortgage professionals can recommend a qualified lawyer or notary who specializes in real estate transactions that can help streamline this process.
If you are looking to get help with your mortgage, contact one of Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Professionals today for expert advice you can count on!
written by DLC Chief Economist Dr. Sherry Cooper