Tag Archives: home equity

To Downsize Or Not?

Here’s a great question from a listener that’s worth sharing and thinking about for any of us within 10 to 15 years of retirement:

“I enjoy listening to you on 1150 AM on my way to work.  I was wondering if you could give your opinion on which direction my husband and I should take?   At what point does it make sense to sell your home and downsize? Financially, we are sitting home with an outstanding mortgage of $300,000. Our home value is about $725,000. We are both in our 50s and will be relying on the equity made on our home to fund our retirement. I will have a small monthly company pension and my husband will not. My question for you is, do we try and sell our house now and pay off half our mortgage/credit line? Or would it be financially better to remain in our home for another 10 years or so, and chip away at our mortgage?

Sadly, the answer is: I don’t know. I can’t answer that for you because the critical part is the answer to what the value of your house will be in 2027. If anyone claims to know that, they’re lying to you. I can’t even get more than three lottery numbers right so I’m not the one to ask.

You need to remember that I only ever answer questions, or talk about stuff, in terms of what I would do because I don’t ever have all the information. In my case, I don’t have any pensions and my house is up for sale in order to downsize significantly.

Half the world would ride it out and hope for a much higher value. The other half more conservative and risk averse group would downsize and reduce the debt, the interest that’s needed to carry it, and lock in the guaranteed $725 value by selling.

But lots of that depends on what degree of downsize. Using your math, it’d be about $1500,000 on the new condo, house, etc. Would that, divided by 10 years, be workable? Would those payments guarantee that you’ll be debt free in 10 years when retiring? If so, that’d be a huge saving.

After all, whether you make more income in retirement or have LESS debt to pay, it amounts to the same thing…actually it’d be more valuable as income is taxable, paying off debt isn’t. That’d be like an extra $1500 in retirement that’s not going to the mortgage!

Gamble the house is $850,000 in a decade and that any correction comes and goes in that cycle, that there’ll be no correction, or take the money and run? That’s entirely up to you two and your comfort zone.

I do know that you can’t eat your equity. In other words, the equity isn’t something you can use unless and until you do sell. So the day will come…but when?

Is There A Point In Paying Down Your Mortgage?

I recently received an email from a lady asking if there is still a point in paying down her mortgage when house prices don’t seem to be increasing.

It’s a very good question. However, she’s confusing the mortgage with the value of her house. They really aren’t connected. The mortgage is the DEBT owed – the value (up or down) is what it can be sold for. The difference is what comes out in cash equity when it’s sold. In a perfect world, the mortgage is tiny – the value is high. So what’s cashed out on sale is huge equity. Or if the mortgage balance is still high and the value hasn’t gone up much – the difference between the two is a much smaller amount of equity.

The value is what you can sell the house for. The mortgage balance determines the cheque you’ll actually get if you sell.

The difference between owing and value is your equity. If you pay down the mortgage – the equity increases. That takes work and money. If you just pay the regular mortgage, equity builds slower. On the “value” side of the house – that is a second increase, but one you can’t control much, as it’s the market and what a buyer is prepared to pay.

All of us, hopefully, will pay off the mortgage. It’s just a question of whether it’s double or triple the original amount when interest is added for 25 years, or whether it’s much quicker and thus, much less interest, by paying weekly payments (that takes about seven years off) or adding a lump sum whenever  you can.

She’s right in that it’s the last debt that should be paid as it’s the lowest interest rate. It shouldn’t even happen before paying off a car or credit card. But for someone that’s debt free, except the house, it then becomes a choice. Invest extra money, or pay off the house – or both.

For over six years now we’ve heard that there’s an imminent massive housing price correction. I guess all these ‘predictors’ will eventually be right if you just keep saying it every year. In 2014, prices increased an average of 6% while the Bank of Canada predicted a 30% correction. In 2010, the Economist warned of a 25% reduction but prices increased 6.8%.

Predicting the housing market is a game you’re bound to lose, just like trying to time the stock market. Pay down your mortgage and invest a little money each and every month. If you’re not retiring today, or not selling your house this week – watch all those investment shows for entertainment value, and not specific advice to your financial situation.

The Power of Marketing

This morning, I’m not making a shot at the mega-bank managers, but just want to look at their marketing department and advertisements.

Scotiabank says you’re richer than you think. Now THAT is something I like to hear. But I believe that kind of optimism leads us into debt and most people are actually poorer than they think with not enough retirement savings or even an emergency account. Now if they want to make me richer, how about a lower credit card rate and dropping some of those service charges and fees? And their ad on the ATM machines say: Get ahead with good borrowing choices. Now that’s a no-brainer oxymoron isn’t it? If I’m richer than I think, how come there are so many ads wanting me to borrow? Does that help me get richer?

The Royal has ads that say they have the answers to questions I’ll have next week. Oh really? One says: yes, Gerry in Georgtown, you can afford that variable rate mortgage. Hmm…you have no clue who I am, what I make or what my credit score is, but you’re telling me I’m approved AND that I should get a variable rate? That sounds exactly like what happened in the U.S with their mortgage mess, adjustable mortgages and everyone qualified, doesn’t it?

Posters all over the BMO branches promote shoulda, woulda, coulda with the line: you can, with a homeowner readiline. Should, could go into debt with a line of credit secured by their clients’ home? How about should save, could get out of debt and WOULD if they wouldn’t market debt so heavily!

The CIBC says deal with them “for what matters.” But what matters to you and me versus the bank is probably quite different. That’s their slogan and now they’re promoting getting a free fridge. Yes, if you move your mortgage to them AND get a line of credit – so up your home debt beyond just your mortgage they’ll give you a major appliance. I can assure you if I were to walk you through the math it’s NOT a free appliance, honest!
The TD has a cash-back mortgage. Sign a 7-year loan and they’ll give me 7% cash back. So I can walk out with $14,000 if I sign a 7-year mortgage for $200,000? If that sounds like free money you need to give your head a shake because it’s a much higher rate.

I’ll put the math on the web site under tip of the week, but the bottom line is that your payment on this cash-back mortgage will now be $201 higher and at the end of that seven years, your balance will also be over $5,000 higher. With some simple math, that $14,000 free money works out to paying just under 14% for it. Not exactly free because a line of credit would cost you about a third of that interest.

$200,000 mortgage on a 7-year fixed term:
Cash-back rate is 7.95 so the payment will be $1,520
Balance at the end of 7 years: $175,865
Special rate mortgage would be 6.33% at $1,319
With a balance at the end of $170,805
So it’s $201 more a month times 7 years times 12 months a year or $16,884 more
And the balance is higher by $5,060.

That makes it $5,060 higher balance + $16,884 more in payments for $21,994 to get the $14000 up front, translating to a 13.85% interest charge on that money.

But here’s the winner of the most stupid financing ad: It’s an investment firm that wants you to re-mortgage your home so you can invest with them. And their tag line in the ad: “Don’t let all your equity stagnate.” Stagnate? Sounds like three week old bananas or moldy bread. I thought equity was a good thing and the goal was to get the biggest equity in the world – that’s called a paid off home. Here’s some firm doing whatever they can to have to finance more and more.

THAT qualifies for the stupid award – hands down!