Sep 162019
 

One advantage of owning real estate is being able to access the value of the underlying asset for financial gains. The more properties we own, the more equity we can use to buy additional properties. This is why it’s often easier for homeowners to grow their net worths, but harder for renters. One of the best reasons to refinance is to lower the interest rate on your existing mortgage. Historically, many lenders agree that refinancing is a good idea if you can reduce your interest rate by at least 1.00%.

As we know, a mortgage balance gets paid down slowly over time. In the beginning you might have a $300,000 mortgage. But maybe after the first 5 year term is over, your balance is only $250,000. When you go to renew your mortgage you’ll likely have a couple of options. One is to continue paying down the $250,000 balance. Assuming interest rates haven’t changed, your monthly mortgage payments would also be unchanged, because that’s how mortgages are designed. But the other option is to refinance at a higher balance so your total loan amount is increased. By refinancing, you can access up to 80% of your home’s value less any outstanding mortgages. So if the value of your property is now higher than when you bought it, you could potentially borrow more than your initial mortgage amount against your home. 🙂 But your monthly payments would go up in this scenario because you have more debt.

In order to figure out when is a good time to use one method or the other, we need to consider the following factors.

  • How tight is your budget? 
    If you are already struggling to make ends meet, then it’s usually not a good idea to refinance at a higher balance. Just keep to the lowest amount until your income and spending situation improves.
  • Are there any investment opportunities out there?
    If you expect a good return on a potential investment, then it may be worth it to borrow more money against your home. For example, the Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAR.UN) has performed somewhat predictably over the years. Its 1-Year, 3-Year, 5-Year, 10-Year, and even 15-Year returns have all averaged over 10% per year. If my mortgage rate is 3% then that’s a 7% gap minimum, before taxes. It’s reasonable to assume that a margin of safety of 7% is a low level of risk, considering the stability of Canadian real estate.
  • Do you have any other debts?
    Using home equity is a great way to pay out higher interest debt through a refinance. For example, let’s say you have outstanding car loans, student loans, and credit card balances that combine to equal $50,000. Chances are these are all charging a higher interest rate than your mortgage. So instead of refinancing at $250,000 you could simply grow your mortgage debt to $300,000. And use the extra $50,000 to pay off your other debts, saving interest expenses over time.

In terms of how to get more equity out of your home, you could either take on a home equity line of credit, or blend and extend your current mortgage with your lender. Please be aware there are costs associated with refinancing. If you want to refinance in the middle of your term to access equity or lower your interest rate your lender will charge you a penalty. For fixed mortgage rates this penalty is the greater of 3 months interest or the interest rate differential payment (IRD). For variable mortgage rates this is simply 3 months interest. There may also be lawyer fees involved with a refinance. You can also have multiple mortgages from different lenders at the same time, but a 2nd or 3rd mortgage will often come with a higher interest rate and may not be worth it. So it’s important to consider which type of refinance you need before renewing your mortgage. 🙂

 

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Random Useless Fact:

Jul 042018
 

Five years ago I acquired a variable rate mortgage from CIBC. It was the cheapest rate I could find at the time. I was quite pleased with the rate but that mortgage term expired a couple of months ago. So I shopped around to see if I can find another good deal.

I expected my mortgage to become more expensive. Surely rates would have climbed over the last 5 years right?

But no. To my surprise I found a lender that offered me an interest rate that’s lower than my previous mortgage by 43 basis points. 😀 CIBC was not able to match this offer so I switched. The new financial institution I am with is not one of the big 5 banks in Canada. It is a lesser known company called National Bank.

I was paying 3.05% with CIBC. This was a variable rate 5 year mortgage at prime minus 0.40%. This was the best CIBC could do.
But my new mortgage with National Bank is only 2.62%. This is also a variable rate 5 year mortgage term. Except the rate is Prime minus 0.83%

A 0.43% difference in interest rates doesn’t sound like a lot. But my mortgage balance is around $193,000. So I will be saving roughly $4,000 over the next 5 years because I switched to a cheaper mortgage provider.

However there are costs associated with changing lenders. Appraisal costs $600, and legal documents from a notary public was $800 in my case. Luckily National Bank has a $750 rebate program for transferring over an existing mortgage. 🙂

In the end the cost of changing banks was worth the extra savings in my case.

Even though most Canadians are choosing fixed rate mortgage I still believe that variable rate is the way to go if you want to save money. The increase in fixed rate mortgages locked in by most home buyers this year is “seen as a response to rate hikes, and fear of higher rates in the future.” But critics have been calling for higher rates for over a decade. Yet rates haven’t actually gone up much. In fact, mortgage rates have dropped over the past 5 years as shown in my post today. That’s why we have to be informed of economic conditions so we can make our own financial decisions, instead of following others. 🙂

I have been a homeowner for almost 10 years. During this time my mortgage interest rates fluctuated from 2.3% to 3.2%. It doesn’t look like rates will climb significantly any time soon. Until we see increasing mortgage rates, I would expect Canadian housing prices to climb even higher.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

30 years ago only 5% of the population admitted to being chronic procrastinators compared to 25% today. Some believe technological advances is the main cause of this change.

Sep 192016
 

The Effects of Debt on Your Health

According to a Globe and Mail article I recently read, people have gotten sick and depressed thinking about their debts. “Researchers and health professionals are making the case for treating personal debt as a public health problem.” Oh no. 🙁 Dr. Donna Ferguson, a psychologist in Toronto says, “I think that it’s a major crisis. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The average consumer debt in Canada is only about $21,000. Personally I don’t think that’s a whole lot. Yet psychologists are calling this a “major crisis.” 😠 People are blaming debt for making them feel physically ill. But I have much more debt than they ever will. So if having a healthy relationship with debt is their primary goal, then they should do something to keep their stress under control. 🙂

Luckily I have a solution to help those consumers. If we want them to get better we have to address the root of the issue. The problem is with individual psychology, not with debt. Instead of creating more health problems for borrowers and increase the burden on our public healthcare system, like what Dr. Ferguson suggests, let’s try to educate people about the truth so we can prevent people from feeling ill in the first place.

So here’s my simple yet effective tip to help anyone who may have debt anxiety:

If you don’t think you can handle the debt, then don’t borrow the money. 😀

Sometimes the negative consequences of debt are blown out of proportion. The ASA, a financial support organization, has even made a horror video to show the trepidation and paranoia that comes with having student loan debt, which further supports the common narrative.

16-09-allow-debt-ruin-lives-meme

Some people have this irrational fear that if we have debt then somehow it will come to get us like the boogeyman. 😆 But the reality is nothing bad will happen as long as we make the payments on our debt.

Missing a Debt Payment is No Big Deal

The consequences for delinquent debt are very lenient towards borrowers. The bank can’t just take our house away as soon as we stop making mortgage payments. In my neck of the woods for example, the bank has to first draft up a foreclosure petition if a mortgage payment is 3 months late. Then the court hearing will be a month later. And then the property goes into a redemption period for up to 6 more months. So we have plenty of time throughout this entire process to get our payments back on track. We can even sell our house if it’s worth more than the mortgage balance.

For other types of debt, if money becomes tight we can enter into consumer proposal or apply for other debt relief options. We’re usually given at least 3 months to catch up on our payments before it goes to a collections agency. Despite the scary rumors, consumer debt cannot physically harm us. We won’t be assaulted or locked up if we’re late on our credit card payments. Nobody will drag us to jail because we failed to make a car payment, lol. The worst they can do to us is take the car away and tarnish our credit score. But I think that’s only fair. Our vehicle is being repossessed only because we broke the debtor/creditor agreement first.

So there’s no reason to get all worried and stressed out over a reasonable amount of debt. 🙂 We just have to be smart and not borrow too much.

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Random Useless Fact:

If the original Power Rangers series were made today in 2016, it would probably offend too many people and be banned from airing in most countries.

16-09-power-rangers-pose-faces

The yellow ranger was Asian. The red ranger was Native American. The pink ranger was portrayed as a ditsy white girl. The black ranger was black. And in later episodes they introduced the white power ranger who was the strongest.

Mar 242016
 

Gradual Change

According to the U.S. government, the country only grew 1% in Q4 of 2015. But that’s still better than Canada. Our GDP up here only increased 0.8%.  It doesn’t feel like the economy in either country is going to pick up any time soon. Personally I don’t mind slowing down or even contraction. Slow economic times is a natural part of the market cycle because it helps with the price discovery mechanism and prevents bubbles from becoming too big. But of course politicians want to encourage more growth all the time which means investors have to be smarter and more cautious about where to deploy capital.

One concern that affects everyone in the world is an aging global population. Japan is leading the charge on this one. Many Japanese couples grow fruit trees and live to a ripe old age. According to the World Bank, Japan has the oldest demographic with 26% of its population being age 65 or older. We all know what happened in Japan for the last 20 years. It’s GDP is basically unchanged from 1995 to 2015. Same goes for Japan’s stock market. Any money thrown into the Nikkei 225 index 20 years ago would have produced virtually no gains as of now. The couch potato method of index investing doesn’t always work for everyone.

The percentage of Canadians who are 65 or older is about 17% today. In the U.S. it’s about 15% of the population. We are still a long way off from Japan’s 26%, but it’s worth noting that 17% of Japan’s population was 65 years or older in the late 1990s.

16-03-old-people-meme-technology

I would continue to invest in large, profitable companies. But high quality stocks have been bid up so much that there isn’t much room for them to go higher in the short term based on fundamentals. This is why I look at alternative places to invest as well.

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Oct 102015
 

New Purchase: Royal Bank of Canada Stock

September has historically been a bad month for the stock market, and this year was no exception. This is why I didn’t invest aggressively last month. However now that it’s October, I decided to get back into buying more equities. 🙂

15-10-historical-stock-market-returns-months

So after looking through my watch list of different companies, I’ve decided to invest in shares of Royal Bank of Canada. 😀 I usually don’t keep disposable cash lying around so last week I borrowed $4,000 from my TD margin account and transferred the money into my TFSA to buy 55 Royal Bank shares (RY.TO) at $71.30 each.

15-10-royal-bank-purchase

I know purchasing about $4K worth of stocks with no money down sounds a bit risky, but I think I’ve made the right decision here. 😀 The stock pays me a 4.43% dividend yield, which happens to be more than the 4.25% interest I’m being charged for the margin loan. As long as I plan to hold the stock until my retirement and can service the cost of the loan, then I don’t see any downsides to financing this entire purchase with debt. 🙂

Royal Bank Stock Analysis

15-10-royal-bank-logo-sign-rbc-stock

After doing some research and analysis on this company here are some reason why I chose to buy this stock.

  • It can print currency. Due to fractional-reserve banking, all chartered banks can create new money through lending. This license to manipulate the money supply in the market has many unique advantages.
  • Safety and stability. RBC is currently the largest company in the country, worth $106 billion by market capitalization. An economy of scale offers RY a competitive edge against smaller rivals. Even if Canadian banks run into solvency problems in the far future, the CMHC or other Crown corporations will probably step in to bail them out. In the U.S. the government’s TARP program in 2008 transferred $431 billion to struggling U.S. banks.
  • Growing profits. Royal Bank continues to deliver earnings growth year after year. According to stock analysts the estimated earnings in 2017 will be around $7.35 per share, which would make RBC 19% more profitable than last year’s actual earnings.15-10-royal-bank-stock-earnings-growth
  • Attractive valuation, relative to historical averages. The P/E ratio is used to determine how much investors are willing to pay for a stock. A high ratio signals that buyers are willing to pay a premium for the shares. But lately the trailing P/E ratio of Royal Bank (Blue line below) is at the lowest it’s been in years! This P/E compression won’t last forever so right now looks like a good time to start accumulating a position.15-10-ry-royal-bank-price-to-earnings-ratio-historical
  • Growing dividends. According to its investor’s relations, RY has increased dividends by more than 400% since the year 2000. It increased dividends almost every year, except during the financial crisis period.
  • Protection against rising interest rates. RBC holds about $463 billion in net loans. If it can charge even 0.25% more interest on average, then that’s an additional $1.16 billion of revenue every year, minus loan lost provisions. A rising interest rate environment benefits all banks. The more interest homeowners pay for their existing mortgages over the next 25 years, the more money Royal Bank can make from those loans. 🙂
  • Potential split soon. The stock tends to split 2:1 when each share reaches around $80 to $90. The most recent split was in 2006, and then in 2000 before that. The share price is currently around $74 today. Stocks splits create more demand since each share becomes more affordable to own for new investors.

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