One of the best parts about life is that it is ever-changing. This is one of the reasons that mortgages are available on short-term contracts (such as the standard 5-year) so that you can adjust your mortgage over time to best suit your needs. However, in some cases you cannot wait until the term is up. In fact, roughly six out of ten homeowners with the standard five-year fixed rate mortgage break their terms within three years.
There are a variety of reasons to refinance your mortgage such as wanting to leverage large increases in property value or get equity out of the home for renovations. In some cases, you may be unable to wait until the term is up due to life events such as divorce, a new relationship, kids going off to college or needing to consolidate debt.
Before you refinance, it is important to understand that if you do this during your term you will be breaking your mortgage agreement and there are penalties that come with that. If at all possible, it is best to wait until the end of the mortgage term before refinancing.
If you cannot wait, it is important to understand how your lender is going to calculate the penalty if you break a fixed-rate mortgage. Canada’s big banks calculate mortgage penalties based on the discount you were given from the posted rate at the time that you signed your mortgage agreement. The bank firstly takes their new posted rate for whatever time you have left in your mortgage – if you break a five year contract on year three, this would be two years – and apply the same discount they first gave you. The difference between the two shows them the amount of interest they would lose for the rest of the term based on your current balance. This is what then becomes the penalty for breaking your fixed-year term and, in many cases, can be quite hefty. Other lenders such as credit unions and monolines will use the interest rate differential or a flat three-month interest penalty.
Beyond the penalties, there are a few other points to consider before refinancing:
- You can tap into 80 per cent of the value of your home
- You cannot qualify for default insurance which can limit your lender choice
- You would have to re-qualify under the current rates and rules – including passing the “stress test” again
So what can you do? There is an option to sign a fixed rate for a shorter term, such as three years, or you can also consider a variable rate as the penalties for breaking these mortgages are much lower.
Talking to a mortgage broker about refinancing can provide you access to even greater rates and mortgage plans to best suit your needs and what you are trying to accomplish through your refinancing strategy.
BENEFITS OF REFINANCING
Regardless of why you are looking to refinance, it can come with a host of great benefits when done properly!
1. A Lower Interest Rate
Depending on where you are in your mortgage term, you could refinance to get a better rate – especially when done through a mortgage broker. On average, a mortgage broker has access to 90 lenders and is able to find you the best rate versus traditional banks which only have access to their own rate.
2. Consolidating Your Debt
When it comes to debt, there are many different types from credit cards to lines of credit to school loans to mortgages. However, many types of consumer debt have much higher interest rates than those you would pay on a mortgage. Refinancing can free up cash to help you pay out these debts. While it may increase your mortgage, your overall payments could be far lower and would be a single payment versus multiple sources. Keep in mind, you need at least 20 percent equity in your home to qualify.
3. Modifying Your Mortgage
The beauty of life is that it is ever-changing and sometimes you need to pay off your mortgage faster or change your mortgage type. Maybe you came into some extra money and want to put it towards your mortgage or maybe you are weary of the market and want to lock in at a fixed-rate for security. It is always best to do this when your mortgage term is up, but talk to a mortgage specialist about potential penalties if waiting is not possible.
4. Utilize Your Home Equity
One of the biggest reasons to buy in the first place is to build up equity in your home. Consider your home equity as the difference between your property’s market value and the balance of your mortgage. If you need funds, you can refinance your mortgage to access up to 80% of your home’s appraised value in cash!
If you are considering refinancing your home, or wondering if it is the best option for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for expert advice!