I have observed recently that both first time home buyers and seasoned owners alike struggle to understand CMHC insurance. From a borrower’s perspective the insurance premium paid up front for the benefit of a mortgage lender seems heavy handed and unfair. However, without CMHC you wouldn’t be able to buy or refinance your homes unless you had 20%, or more for the down payment. Even if a lender would entertain financing, without insurance, a mortgage lender would make you pay for their exposed risk through much higher interest rates.
Let’s just review why and what mortgage insurance is?
In Canada, it’s because of CMHC that lenders are willing to lend to borrowers who buy without large down payments. In the not to distant past (CMHC history), Canadian homebuyers had to purchase with much larger down payments. This is still the reality in many other countries today where there is no insurance available. Home buyers need to purchase with a 25% to sometimes 50% down payment making home ownership difficult.
CMHC insurance is a one time premium that is added up front to your required mortgage amount (you do not have to pay for it out of pocket) and insures the lender if default occurs. Although it seems like real estate is a forever increasing asset this is not always true. Markets can turn very quickly, as we recently saw in the U.S.. After legal fees, real estate fees and market corrections a lender can easily lose money if there is not enough equity or down payment.
The insurance premium is determined by a table depending on how much downpayment you bring to the purchase. You can find the rates here.
5% down- 2.75% premium
10% down – 2.00% premium
15% down -1.75% premium
In addition, there’s a 0.2% premium that is added for each additional 5 years of amortization above the traditional 25 year amortization. You should also be aware that included in your closing costs there is PST at 8% on the insurance premium.
It does seem a little discouraging and frustrating to have to pay this premium on top of all the other fees that you incur as a homebuyer. However, it serves a very important purpose to keep the mortgage interest rate low and give you the opportunity to own a home with less than 20% down. The couple thousand dollars that gets added on top of the mortgage makes a difference of about $20 each monthly payment. In retrospect it is a small price to pay for the satisfaction and pride of owning your own home.
So, there’s a snapshot on the CMHC insurance. Of course, every situation is different and requires a full analysis. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to hear from you.
Chris Molder – Toronto mortgage broker