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How does COVID-19 affect how you renew your mortgage?

COVID-19 has changed the way we do many things and renewing your mortgage during this time is no different. Thankfully, if you have a good relationship with your lender, the process is relatively seamless and easy to do while practicing social distancing.


Renewing your Mortgage during COVID-19

By law, lenders must give you 21 days’ notice of renewal before the term of your mortgage is up, but if you would like to plan ahead like I do, you should start thinking about the renewal process 120 days before that renewal date. Most lenders will send you their best offer 30 days before the renewal date but starting early gives you some time to really determine what might work best for you and your family. Whether you are looking for a quick renewal of your current mortgage or you are interested in shopping around for the best rate – there are a few things you should keep in mind to set you up for the next 1-5-10 years of home ownership.

How does money affect the mortgage?

If COVID-19 has had an impact on you financially, it might be time to re-visit your household budget. If you took your mortgage over a 5-year term, a lot can change in that time so you should know what kind of flexibility you have in your monthly finances. Some things to consider:

  • What are your financial goals? For a lot of families, COVID-19 has increased the importance of setting up emergency savings. Keeping your mortgage payments small might help you set up that emergency savings in case of another pandemic or job disruption. If retirement is on the horizon and your investments fell during this time, it might be possible to increase your payments while you’re still working. This will allow you to pay the mortgage off faster so that you are mortgage free once you are on a fixed income.
  • Have you received a sum of money such as bonus or inheritance? Consider applying that to your mortgage principle at the same time. Not only could this reduce your payment, but this pays your mortgage off faster and saves you interest. The tricky part is not convincing yourself that this new windfall gain should be spent on a new vacation!
  • Are there some renovations or home improvements that you’ve got the time to accomplish? You could consider increasing the amount you renew your mortgage for to cover the costs of the shingles or finally heating your garage.

Choose the correct term length for you

One of the biggest considerations is the term of your mortgage. Mortgage terms can vary from 1-10 years with the average being 5 years. If you think that you might want to sell your house in the next 5 years, taking your mortgage over a shorter term will help you avoid any costly early-payout penalties from your lender.

Adjusting your payment frequency to match your financial situation is also a change you may want to consider. Bi-weekly payments that match your pay schedule can pay off your mortgage sooner and decreases the amount of interest that you pay in the long run. A monthly payment may make it easier for you to budget during the month. Each option is unique to you and what makes the most sense for your budget.

How COVID-19 has affected interest rates

If there is a bright side of COVID-19, interest rates have fallen significantly since March, making it a great time to renew your mortgage with a low interest rate. The Bank of Canada’s overnight rate is 1.75%*, allowing lenders to offer mortgages just above Prime at 2.89%* for a 5-year fixed rate mortgage.(as of June 9, 2020. Interest rates are based off of your credit score and may vary).

There are traditionally two types of interest rates, fixed and variable and what works best for you is largely based on your own situation:

Fixed: Most borrowers like the idea of having a fixed mortgage rate to limit any surprises in their budget. Especially if you are recovering from job disruption due to COVID-19, a fixed rate is probably your best option.

Variable: Variable rates are attractive because they are often lower than fixed rate mortgages. A variable rate is usually stable, but it is based off the Prime Rate. If the Bank of Canada increases the overnight rate, it pushes the prime rate up, thus increasing variable rates. If your budget can accommodate some flexibility, choosing a variable rate can save you some money over time.

Try shopping around

If you aren’t happy with your current lender, or see a low rate at another bank, renewing your mortgage is an opportunity to shop around. However, COVID-19 has impacted lives in many ways, so be sure to consider your personal situation before making the switch.

If you haven’t applied for a mortgage since October 2018, you are now required to pass the mortgage stress test when applying for a new mortgage or switching lenders. The stress test ensures that borrowers can afford the mortgage that they are applying for by qualifying them at a higher interest rate. The good news is, the Bank of Canada reduced the greater qualifying rate from 5.04% to 4.94% making it easier to qualify for financing. The greater qualifying rate is only to ensure that you can afford your mortgage, the interest rate you will pay are usually lower than this.

If you are considering switching lenders, there may also be some penalties that you have to pay to move your mortgage. Switching within the 120-day window should avoid early payout penalties. Some other fees to consider are appraisal fees, set-up fees for transferring your mortgage and other administration fees. Part of the power of shopping around is that you can ask for these fees to be covered from your new lender which will save you some cash.

How COVID-19 has affected mortgage applications

The pandemic has changed the way that lenders review applications and could make it harder to access funding when renewing your mortgage. Lenders are reviewing any applications under a microscope so it is important to have your documents in order prior to applying for financing. Income statements, business plans for self-employed applicants and personal net worth statements are some of the documentation that may be required.

If you’ve had to defer payments due to COVID-19, you may have to catch up on those payments before being able to switch lenders. This could come at a major one-time cost so be sure to talk to your current lender about what that cost may be.

Finally, the #1 thing that you can do to set yourself up for success while renewing your mortgage during COVID-19 is to reach out to your Financial Advisor. They can complete a review of your finances and your unique situation in order to give you advice on what the best route is for you.