It’s the first and only thing anyone usually asks when you talk about your mortgage: What’s your rate? While everyone can recall their rate off the top of their head, it’s the only detail of the mortgage they remember or care to know. Though the rate is obviously important, your mortgage is so much more than a rate, and if you’re not paying close attention, it can cost you money.
Before we dive deeper, let’s talk fixed rate vs. a variable rate and which one is better. Well, that all depends. First-time homebuyers and older homebuyers typically love the stability of a fixed rate. Keep in mind, seven-in-ten fixed mortgages are broken before the term ends. A fixed rate for five years is fine as long as you stick with a lender that’s going to calculate the penalty if you break your mortgage on the contract rate versus the Benchmark rate. That’s because the Benchmark rate, or as it’s sometimes called the Bank of Canada rate, is higher than your contract rate. Typically a credit union or monoline is the right choice for this mortgage.
Variable rates are great with any lender as it just comes down to who offers the best discounted variable rate. There’s a pretty simple way to decide whether a variable or fixed makes sense, based on rate alone. It’s called the 50-basis point rule. Basically, take the best fixed rate out there and the best variable rate out there and subtract the two. If the number is less than 50 basis points, there is strong argument to go for a fixed rate. However, if the difference is more than 50 basis points, there’s a solid case to go with a variable.
Pretty simple right? What’s not as simple is the personality of your mortgage. It may not seem like it, but yes, your mortgage has a personality. Think of it like a shiny sports car. It may look amazing when it rolls off the lot, but as the years go on, does it meet your daily needs? Besides your mortgage rate, you need to consider portability, and whether it can be blended and extended and how penalties for breaking the mortgage are calculated. When people start looking for a mortgage, they’re usually getting advice from friends or their parents, and the only question they’re asking is, what’s the rate? But if they don’t know the details of the mortgage like the ones listed above, you can tell them to stick their head in the sand, because they’re giving you bad advice. And if a mortgage broker is only fixated on the rate, you’re working with the wrong one.
Life happens and our circumstances change. You really want to make sure the mortgage will work for you in the future before you sign on the dotted line.