Tag Archives: mortgage

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Fixed vs. variable-rate mortgages: Which is right for you?

Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make.

But before you can pack up and move in, you’ll need to secure a mortgage. This is often a long-term commitment. The average Canadian expects to pay off their mortgage by age 59, so it’s important to do your research and choose the option that’s best suited to you.

Basically, when it comes to the mortgage interest rate you’ll pay, you have two ways to go, fixed or variable. Which is better? Well, that depends on your risk tolerance.

To help you think through your options, we’ve outlined the differences between fixed rate and variable rate mortgages:

Fixed-rate mortgages are predictable.

With a fixed-rate mortgage, the mortgage rate and payment you make each month (or whichever frequency you choose to pay) will stay constant for the term of your mortgage.

This means you’ll know exactly how much principal (the initial amount borrowed) and interest (the amount paid on the amount you borrowed) you’ll be paying on each scheduled mortgage payment throughout the term you select.

The downside? You won’t be able to tap into a lower interest rate — ensuring more of your payments go towards the principal and less to interest — if interest rates drop during the term of your mortgage.

What a fixed-rate mortgage offers:

  • Your “set it and forget it” choice
  • Doesn’t change if the bank’s prime lending rate goes up or down
  • Eases budgeting anxiety and increases predictability

The drawbacks:

  • You may pay a premium for the stability
  • You may miss out on potential interest rate drops

Tip: Interest rates vary widely depending on the term you choose. For example, the interest rate on a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage could be almost twice as much as the interest rate on a typical 3-year fixed rate mortgage.

Variable-rate mortgages will fluctuate.

With a variable-rate mortgage, the mortgage rate will change with the bank’s prime lending rate. In this case, your scheduled payments will remain the same, but the amount paid towards your principal will vary.

Cautious buyers often choose a fixed mortgage because it means they can budget for the length of their mortgage term without any surprises. Variable rates are more unpredictable, but could work to your advantage if you can handle a bit of risk and uncertainty.

What a variable-rate mortgage offers:

  • Your “let’s see what happens” choice
  • Costs will be less if interest rates drop
  • Offers the possibility to lock in a better rate down the road

The drawbacks:

  • Works against you if interest rates rise
  • May increase your financial uncertainty

Tip: If you’re the type of person that always buys the extended warranty, then a variable rate mortgage is probably not for you.

How to choose what’s right for you

How do you feel about risk? A fixed-rate mortgage means the lender takes the risk; a variable-rate mortgage means you do. While the interest rate may be higher on a fixed-rate mortgage, it will stay constant during your term so you can budget accordingly.

How do you feel about the current market? The difference between fixed and variable rates has narrowed considerably in the last few years, making fixed-rate mortgages more appealing. Interest rates have been at historical lows, and while opinions vary, few believe interest rates won’t rise over time — the question is more likely when.

Tip: It’s really difficult to successfully time interest rates. Going variable to save money in the short run — hoping to lock in a fixed rate “at the right time” — is really tough to do.

And what if interest rates rise? No matter which route you take, it’s crucial that you evaluate the impact of an increasing interest rate on your mortgage costs — a stress test, if you will. For example, if interest rates go up by two per cent, would you still be able to afford your monthly payment? It’s important to plan for the unexpected — you can start by building an emergency fund.

Not everyone prepares for a rise in interest rates. In fact, the main reason home-buyers offer for not considering a rise in interest rates is that they simply didn’t think of it (45 per cent) or didn’t realize it was something they should be doing (27 per cent). You can do better by preparing for multiple scenarios.

The next step

BMO mortgage specialists are here to work with you to help you make the right decision based on your needs and your lifestyle.

Looking for more information? Take our mortgage calculators for a spin, or view our latest rates and special offers.

 

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Renewing your mortgage?

Renewing your mortgage is an important step, and you should never underestimate the financial impact. Angela Iermieri, a financial planner with Desjardins Group, has a few ideas.

What’s right for you right now?

“Our financial, personal or professional situation often changes,” she says. “If your salary went up, you’re thinking about selling your home in the near future or you want to remodel your kitchen, this new information will have a significant impact on the type of mortgage that will be right for you.”

You also need to consider other factors, like current interest rates and how well you tolerate fluctuations.

Your personal finance advisor will take this information into account when recommending a personalized solution for you. Continue reading

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Fixed or variable rate: a question of monthly mortgage payments

Once you’ve settled the question of open or closed term, you will inevitably have to decide between a fixed and variable rate. Which is best for your situation?

When the time comes to choose your mortgage term, there are a number of elements to take into account, including your financial means, your risk tolerance and the economic situation. To demystify it all and equip you to make the best possible decision, here’s some information that will help you make an informed choice about your mortgage type.

Fixed- versus variable-rate: which is lower?

As a general rule, variable-rate mortgages tend to be lower than fixed-rates. To understand the difference, you need to look at how these rates are calculated. Essentially, a financial institution’s variable interest rate corresponds to its preferential rate. This is established based on the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. Add a certain percentage to this, and you have the variable rate.

As with fixed-rate mortgages, the monthly payment amount usually stays the same, but the ratio of interest to principal is subject to market fluctuations. There are also certain types of variable-rate mortgages where the monthly payment varies based on the fluctuation of market interest rates. With a fixed-rate mortgage on the other hand, you are guaranteed to always have the same amount dedicated to repaying your principal, regardless of what the market does. Continue reading

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How to Absorb the Interest Rate Hike

It was bound to happen one day. The Bank of Canada decided to raise its interest rates on July 12th for the first time in years. Every large bank followed suit the next day. It is now time to revise your budget accordingly.

This first hike does not mean there will be a second one on September 6th of this year, and that the interest rates will keep rising afterward. But, better be safe than sorry, especially given the fact that the total Canadian household debt has reached a record high.

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The Bank of Canada is anticipating an increase in the inflation rate. CIBC Bank economists, who issued the “Canadian Inflation: What’s Gone Wrong?” report, also believe the inflation rate will hike soon. Mortgage holders living on a tight budget should prepare accordingly. Continue reading