Sep 12 | 2017

5 Terms Every Property Owner Should Know When Refinancing

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Whether 5 Terms Every Property Owner Should Know When Refinancingyou’re looking for more cash flow, want to lock in a good interest rate or just change the terms of your loan, you may be considering refinancing your home. One thing to keep in mind is that unless you’re already at the end of your loan term, there will likely be additional costs involved in the process. Before you move forward, make sure you’ve done all the calculations to check if the penalties and fees make the refinance worthwhile.

Once you’ve decided that refinancing is the best choice for you, it’s time to sit down with your mortgage broker or financial institution and go over your options. To prepare for your meeting, it’s important for you to understand the following terms and how they will affect you*:

1. Amortization period: This is the number of years it will take to pay off your new mortgage. While amortization periods can go up to 35 years, you should remember that even though your monthly payments are lower with a longer period, you’re paying more interest in the long run. It’s important to pay attention to this because if the Bank of Canada increases their rate, your lender may increase your amortization period in order to accommodate it.  Amortization period is often confused with the term of your loan, which is the period in which you commit to the interest rate and other conditions related to your mortgage with a specific lender – usually for about 5 years.

2. Debt-to-income ratio: To determine what products and services you may qualify for, a lender will check your debt-to-income ratio. This figure calculates your monthly expenses versus your monthly income and the resulting percentage is your ratio. It tells the lender how much more debt you can afford to take on. If you have a low debt-to-income ratio, you’re less of a risk to the lender.

3. Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio: This percentage refers to the amount of the mortgage divided by the value of the home. The maximum LTV ratio that lenders require to qualify for a mortgage/refinance is usually 80%. It determines whether you or your lender will need extra protection like mortgage insurance.

4. Portability: If you’re planning to move before your mortgage is fully paid off or you’re just not sure how much longer you’ll be staying, look out for the portability feature of your mortgage. It allows you to move your mortgage with the same interest rate and conditions to a new property with no penalty.

5. Prepayment penalties: With any mortgage, you will likely face a penalty if you pay it off before the term is up. It varies between lenders and depends on whether you have a fixed or variable rate. For instance, the penalty may be 3 months interest on a variable rate term but might be higher for a fixed term.  It’s important to find out the prepayment penalties before choosing a lender as some may have stricter rules and higher costs that make it harder to pay off.

Refinancing your home is not as simple as finding the best interest rate. The lowest rate doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the best product. It’s important to evaluate all the other conditions that come with your new mortgage carefully before making a decision.

If you have questions about refinancing, you can always talk to your mortgage broker or lender.

*This is meant to provide a general overview only. Speak to your lending professional for more information.

 

Aug 1 | 2017

Is Your Cottage or Investment Property Vulnerable to Fraud?

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Is your cottage or investment property vulnerable to fraud?While people may see the value of getting title insurance for their homes, it is equally important to title insure any property you own – a cottage, summer home or even an investment.

Fraudsters may target properties that appear vacant or are rented out, especially ones that are mortgage free, and can either illegally transfer the deed to themselves and sell it out from under you or take out a mortgage on it and escape with the proceeds.

In one instance, a young man decided to use some of his savings and invest in real estate. He purchased an investment property for $204,500.00, as well as an FCT homeowner title insurance policy. Two years after the purchase, he received a notice stating that the mortgage was in default and that the lender would be taking possession of the property. Confused, he went to a lawyer as he knew that his mortgage was in good standing. An investigation revealed that though the man’s original mortgage was not discharged, the title was fraudulently transferred from the insured homeowner and a mortgage in the amount of $165,000 had been registered on the title. Mortgage funds were paid to the fraudster, who was now nowhere to be found.

Luckily for the young man, he was protected by an FCT title insurance policy. We coordinated and retained a lawyer on his behalf, and ultimately paid out $12,548.09 in legal fees to remove the fraudulent mortgage from title and rightfully transfer title back. The young man was able to keep his investment property, while being spared the time, expense and hassle of having to defend himself against the fraud.

While it’s not feasible to prevent fraud from taking place, the easiest way to protect yourself is to purchase title insurance. It will ensure that you are able to defend and retain the title to your property without experiencing all the stress and the costs associated with it, in addition to protecting you from a host of other title and non-title issues.

Have any questions about fraud protection? Share it with us in the comments section!

Jul 14 | 2017

Why Jack Smith* was Glad he had E&O Extra® with Protection+

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E&O InsuranceWhen Jack’s clients were slapped with a $47,000 development charge, they were astounded. Jack made an honest mistake in failing to advise them about this charge and that there was no cap on it.

To maintain their reputation and keep their clients happy, the law firm was able to negotiate with the builder to reduce it to $10,000. Looking at a reasonable industry standard, the purchaser of a new home could expect to pay $7,500 in development charges so the firm covered $2,500 from their own pocket and the clients paid the remaining amount.

Luckily for Jack, he was protected by his E&O Extra** with Protection+ insurance. He submitted a claim to FCT and was reimbursed for the $2,500 paid to smooth things over with the client.

If you were in a similar situation, would you have been protected?

FCT understands that mistakes happen. We offer insurance products to complement your mandatory E&O insurance. We provide reimbursement for losses resulting from claims against your mandatory E&O insurance for residential and commercial real estate transactions. This includes your standard deductible payment and any increase in premium***.

For additional coverage, like Jack’s, you can add Protection+ to your E&O Extra policy for a minimal fee.  It offers you the ability to settle smaller claims directly with your client and avoid going through your mandatory E&O coverage. It covers up to $10,000 per policy year or a maximum of three claims (whichever comes first).

Contact us to learn the different ways we can protect you and your reputation.

 

*The name has been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.
** E&O Extra does not cover dishonest, fraudulent or criminal acts of omissions.
*** Standard deductibles, premiums and coverage amounts vary by region.
Insurance by FCT Insurance Company Ltd. This material is intended to provide general information only. For specific coverage and exclusions, refer to the applicable policy.
Jun 28 | 2017

Strata Plan vs Title Insurance: Which One Do You Really Need?

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Strata plan vs title insuranceDarren* applied to change the use of his commercial condo unit to a medical one, but his request was denied. He was told by the municipality that the site plan agreement had not been complied with as the condo corporation required another 97 parking spaces to be added. The municipality then issued a Notice of Violation of the Site Plan Agreement due to the lack of parking spaces. The condo corporation has to decide whether it will add the parking to comply or try to change this requirement in the site plan agreement. This may mean an increase in common expenses or a special assessment to be paid by Darren and the other unit owners. Because Darren had a commercial title insurance policy from FCT, we are paying for the legal costs to defend him in dealing with the Notice of Violation.

In Darren’s case, the Site Plan Agreement would have needed to be compared with the Strata Plan to make sure they matched. However, having a strata plan would have provided no protection as it would not have covered his legal expenses or potential loss of value to his property if he can’t use it as he planned to.

A strata or condominium plan, like a survey, is created by a surveyor and it documents unit sizes and structures as well as what is common and exclusive use property. It also includes any parking or lockers that are part of the unit. However, if there’s an error in the strata plan or the structure does not match the plans – it’s the owner who may be responsible for part or all of the costs associated with remedying the issue.

A legal professional can provide an opinion on title based on the accuracy of information provided to them and an up-to-date or existing strata plan or survey. However, without a title insurance policy, a strata plan by itself offers no protection for the property owner or legal professional in case of incorrect information or discrepancies.

With an FCT title insurance policy, we protect both the legal professional and owner by providing loss of value coverage, duty to defend, funds to fix most municipal enforcements, fraud protection and more. It benefits lawyers by shifting the risk and liability associated with the title and strata/condo plan to us. Our condo endorsement also covers lack of disclosure in a Status Certificate, if the condo corporation has not been properly created and it results in a title defect. A Status Certificate is not always necessary for a loan policy depending on the insured amount.

While both a strata plan and title insurance are important in a condo or bare land purchase, choosing the one that offers you more protection is a safe bet!

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.

Jun 21 | 2017

What’s Happening in FinTech?

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Top FinTech LearningsThe spring season brings a lot of activity to the financial services space in Canada. It’s one of the busiest times of the year for typical “money out” campaigns from our banks and coincides with strong activity in listings, transactions, and ultimately closings.

More recently the spring season has also come to signal the start of FinTech conference season across Canada. The size and scale of these events continue to grow while our own homegrown talent is taking center stage. With over 250+ FinTech companies across Canada and $1BN in cumulative venture capital investments, Canada is well on its way to solidifying itself as a global center for financial innovation.

As Head of Product at FCT, one of my primary responsibilities is understanding how the needs of our lenders are going to be changing over the next 3-5 years. Internally, we’ve been aggressively transforming our own product portfolio and expanding our focus on hybrid solutions that leverage the best of our financial technology, business process outsourcing (BPO) capabilities, and insurance expertise. As I have been working through the process of how we align our own product roadmaps to these opportunities, I wanted to share more broadly what I’ve learned on the conference circuit throughout the year.

Developments in FinTech

Opening up financial services data:

  • The European Union is already well ahead of North America when it comes to FinTech penetration. In an unusual role reversal, we actually see governments across the globe leading the charge to create an environment that is conducive to FinTech growth and innovation.
  • Initiatives like the European Union PSD2 open banking API, where by 2018 all lenders will be required to open up transactional data (with user permission) to enable third parties to build new types of financial services is one important example. While Canada is definitely lagging in this area, there are several opportunities to target key data as a starting point and use that information to re-engineer how financial services are delivered to customers across all segments.

While cash flow will always be king, managing identity in the digital age is close behind:

  • Online identity is the next cycle of the internet and as we see more and more digital lending platforms that don’t require in-person interaction, there is more of a need for identity management applications that simplify and perfect authentication/verification, early detection of fraud, and are adaptable.
  • Contextual commerce is the next major area of growth in the financial service space. This area deals with making payments through internet connected devices that are not a smartphone or laptop but rather devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Oculus Rift, and even your connected car. Thinking through the connected car example, how would you know the driver of the car is the right driver to offer a service?

Homegrown products will find greater product-market fit than global imports:

  • Canadian built and managed FinTech solutions will have the advantage over more global or regional efforts that try to ‘Canadianize.’ Rethinking financial solutions from the ground up will provide another advantage. The underlying point here is a true need to take a product-driven approach to building new financial services as opposed to a clone strategy from other markets.
  • For example, at FCT we believe understanding your customer segmentation in FinTech is critical. Existing companies overly rely on safety, security, legacy as the bread and butter of their solutions. Those features are table stakes but do not do enough in isolation to capture the wallets of the millennial, and eventually Gen Z segments. Great user interface and user experience, smart use of data, and transparency are at the top of the decision matrix for these segments and are causing radical reinvestments in technology talent across existing companies of all sizes.

This is the year of blockchain….or maybe its Ethereum… but it’s time to see RESULTS

  • By now everyone has heard of blockchain and the power of the underlying technology in financial services, but the conversation is FINALLY shifting to the business opportunities and that will be the catalyst for blockchain-infused products to gain traction. Experiments like Project ‘Jasper’ which is a Bank of Canada + Big 5 proof of concept with blockchain to reduce reconciliation efforts in payments systems are examples of the results and value of using distributed public networks.

We strongly believe that we are less than 12 months way from seeing the first mainstream pilot for tools like smart contracts and we are even bigger believers in the truly disruptive nature of these technologies.

I’m incredibly interested in your opinions and welcome comments. If you are passionate about thinking differently in the financial services space, I’d love to chat and can be reached at rlambert (at) fct dot com or through LinkedIn.

Jun 16 | 2017

Title Insurance: What Every Homeowner Needs to Know

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Title Insurance: What every homeowner needs to knowYou combed through websites, apps, maybe even the papers and visited dozens of places until finally! You found the perfect house! Your biggest achievement, your biggest asset – how do you keep it safe? Or like in this case, how can you even make sure that it’s all yours?

Before you purchased your home, the property may have changed hands several times leaving room for mistakes like an incorrect survey, a non-existent permit or title-related issues. Even with a new build, somewhere along the way there may have been an error that could affect your ability to sell, mortgage, or lease your property in the future. These are the types of things that a title insurance policy can protect you against.

What exactly is title insurance?

Title insurance is a unique form of insurance. Unlike home insurance where you are insuring the structure and contents, title insurance protects you, the homeowner, against losses related to the title (ownership) and other defects relating to your property. Plus, it may cover fixing issues or legally defending your ownership, which can be very costly and stressful.

Do you automatically get a title insurance policy when you purchase property?

It’s a common misconception that homeowners automatically get a residential title insurance policy when buying property. While a lender policy is required on every purchase, a homeowner policy is not. It’s up to you to make sure that you have the protection available to you through title insurance.

Does the lender or loan policy cover you?

No, a lender aka loan policy covers lenders only  and protects their interests when it comes to priority and enforceability of your mortgage, title and survey defects, municipal issues and title fraud.

What does a homeowner title insurance policy cover?

A typical title insurance policy covers common issues that may have happened both before and after you’ve purchased your home. This is sometimes referred to as pre- and post-policy because the day you take ownership of your home is generally also the effective date of the policy.

The main areas of coverage in the Homeowner Policy are:

  • Fraud — a person fraudulently transfers your property without your knowledge or consent.
  • Forgery — someone forges your signature on a registered document, which allows them to sell or mortgage your property.
  • Encroachments — if a structure built by a previous owner sits outside the property’s boundaries or if a neighbour builds a structure that is partially on your property after you purchase your policy.
  • Lack of building permits — if a previous owner completed work to your property without the required building permits, you could be forced by your municipality to remove or fix the structure.
  • Duty to defend — if you have to protect and restore your title as a result of a covered title risk, FCT will pay for the legal fees and costs associated with it.

How much does a policy cost?

  • For a low one-time premium, you can ensure that you have the protection you need for as long as you own your home. Your lawyer can provide you with a quote within minutes.

Don’t put yourself at risk. For a free quote, visit fct.ca today!

This is provided as general information only. For further details regarding coverage, please review your policy.

 

Jun 9 | 2017

What Can Buyers do to Avoid Surprises and Delays in Closing?

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Tips for closing successfullyWith rising prices and stricter controls on mortgages, housing affordability is getting more challenging. And once you finally obtain funding (after squeezing out every last drop of your savings for a down payment), it’s still not a done deal till the closing date. A number of unexpected issues can come up that may kill or delay a deal.

Here’s a checklist that will help you get to the finish line successfully:

  • Don’t start spending big – Now that you’ve secured funding for your house, you might think that it’s time to start buying furniture for your new home. Try not to spend large sums of money, whether cash or credit, as it will affect your standing with the lender. Your financial status will be checked a few days prior to closing and any major changes from your initial evaluation will need to be reassessed to ensure you still have the ability to pay off your mortgage.
  • Be wary of changing jobs – While it might seem like a great idea to take a higher paying job before your closing date, it may affect your lender’s decision to close as scheduled. They may want a few months of pay stubs from your new position to prove that you have stable income. While it may not be a deal breaker for your lender, it may delay the closing date.
  • Provide documents on time – Your closing date can be anywhere from 30-90 days after signing the agreement of purchase and sale. You do have some time to provide your mortgage broker and lawyer with the documents that they require, but don’t delay! The sooner you provide all the paperwork necessary, the sooner your team will be able to handle any unexpected findings or issues that may arise.
  • Try not to skip the home inspection – With the hot market and multiple offer scenarios nowadays, a lot of homes are being sold without conditions. While presenting a clean offer may win you the home of your dreams, it can also end up costing you more than you expected. When you’re mortgaged to the max, you can’t afford costly surprises like leaks or repairs that you come across when you finally move in.
  • Keep extra funds on hand – Buyers often put as much money as they can into their down payment. However, you should always keep extra money on hand to prepare for closing costs like land transfer fees, legal fees and any bills the sellers may have prepaid, such as property taxes or utilities. You may also need to put down a larger down payment if the lender appraisal values your house at a significantly lower price than you paid for it.
  • Don’t forget the title insurance – Make sure you’re protected by asking your lawyer to purchase title insurance for you. It not only allows you to close fast even in the absence of a survey and provides gap coverage, but it also protects you from paying any liens or debts the previous owners left behind.

Have you encountered unexpected issues before closing? Share your stories in the comment section below!

May 10 | 2017

How to Respond to the Transitioning Real Estate Industry

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How to respond to the real estate industryDeath and taxes, according to Benjamin Franklin, were the only certainties in this world. For all his wit and wisdom, he missed one obvious thing – change.

As pioneers of the title insurance industry in Canada, FCT constantly responds to change with its own innovation. This ability to adapt is even more important in the current real estate market. New regulations are in effect that are throwing the market into chaos. That’s what this blog post will address – how to respond to change and chaos.

For the past year, we have interacted with some of the most compelling personalities in Canadian financial services. We went deep with ‎Fisgard Capital’s Hali Strundlund-Noble, our former president, Pat Chetcuti, Dominion Lending Centres’ Jay Seabrook and Paradigm’s Kathy Gregory—original minds all— and we like to think we got gold. Most of all, we discovered some remarkable commonalities.

Reflecting upon the shared intuitions from our trailblazers, this is what we learned:

1) It is important to stay resilient and responsive to ensure we can deal with business threats.

2) Intuition plays a key role in decision making – where intuition relies on and emotions and expertise-based analysis of data.

3) The benefits of adopting a startup strategy – rapid response, great team chemistry and staff retention.

That’s not all. Researchers have confirmed “that the more unstable an organization’s environment is, executives reported the reliance on their intuition, and their organizations’ performance was better than the industry average when they did so.”

Takeaway? Chaos is good. Instability inspires creativity and entrepreneurial behaviour. And, recognizing a good decision right now is better than a perfect decision next week. This is good because odds are we’re going to see more chaos this year—not necessarily more than usual but almost certainly in new forms.

So: the Canadian mortgage industry has cracks all over it—our trailblazers shared this truth time and time again.

Why? There are deficits in client education, in process innovation, and in responding to regulatory change. There are gaps when reading the fog that lies ahead. Or when there’s technological disruption that drives big banks into agile best practices. In addition, there is more potential disruption with upcoming regulatory changes, FinTech, blockchain, peer-to-peer lending among a myriad of allegiances for financial service businesses to navigate.

What’s going on in the industry?

  • Increased CMHC mortgage loan insurance premiums
  • More rigorous stress tests for property buyers
  • Capital gains reporting changes
  • Portfolio insurance changes
  • Tax on foreign buyers
  • Expanding rent control, and more

 

How will this play out? 

From broker to lender, people begin to worry. But as it turns out, worrying is actually good for us.

This year, the mortgage marketplace will reward not just those capable of seeing beyond the numbers to the stories beneath and then pivoting, but also to those who can use the anxiety.  And we all experience anxiety when change hits us right between the eyes.

Here’s the paradox.

It’s not the worrying that freezes us. It’s our inability to get past the moment the worry does freeze us. This is the moment when powerlessness wins and we’re no longer open. What freezes us is not surrendering to the anxiety—the paradox is that worry is actually doing something.

In fact, research shows that worry motivates us and makes us better planners. A crew of enterprising researchers looked at rumination and discovered that people who sat with their anxiety tended to have far higher verbal intelligence than those who don’t.

The ability to apply that intelligence is quite likely the recipe for success. And here’s how you can do that:

  • Use worry as a mindfulness tool: Worry is often based on expecting something to happen in the future. The cues of feeling the physical tension of worry or noticing that you’re spiraling into despair can bring you into the present. When worry surfaces, allow yourself a set time to stew in it, and then start a distracting activity.
  • Plan ahead: Essentially, worry helps to prepare us. Once we decide on the different actions we can take in various scenarios, the need to worry is eliminated. When you worry about a particular situation, balancing the negative with a positive action plan will help you set your fears aside.
  • Create a support system: Fear and worry can leave you feeling isolated. However, when we feel a sense of connection and support, our fears can be calmed. Based on the plan you create, build a support team to help you action your plan or just to share the worrisome moment with you and hold you accountable.

 

How are you responding to the changing real estate industry? Share it with us in the comments!

Apr 19 | 2017

How can you Mitigate Real Estate Fraud?

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real estate fraudMortgage fraud has quickly become the fastest growing crime in North America, most often affecting the institutions that lend money to individuals purchasing property.

The most common form of mortgage fraud involves fraudsters who acquire property and then artificially increase its value through a series of sales between themselves and an accomplice. A mortgage is then secured on the property based on the falsely inflated price.

FCT is dedicated to helping our valued lending partners protect themselves against losses inflicted by fraudsters. Since 2012, FCT has identified more than $401 million in suspicious mortgage transactions. A title insurance lender policy from FCT provides the ultimate protection and allows a financial institution:

  • the ability to protect its financial interests
  • to safeguard its reputation and business by easily mitigating risk associated with claims

We have created a list of fraud flags and tips to help you mitigate your risk of becoming a victim of mortgage fraud. Whether you are a bank branch lender, credit union lender, a mortgage broker or a mortgage specialist, these tips can help inform you of what to look for when processing a mortgage transaction.

For more information about how to protect you and your customers against mortgage fraud, please visit www.fct.ca or contact your dedicated Business Development Manager.

Apr 5 | 2017

Introducing a Better Way to Sell Homes

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17-119_SM_CRH_BlogPost_03-17_2XCertified Resale Home launches in Ontario

Owning a home is the largest financial commitment most Canadians will make, so it’s understandable that both the buyer and the seller will approach a transaction with caution. In an effort to alleviate some of the stress involved, FCT partnered with AmeriSpec Inspection Services to create Certified Resale Home (CRH).

CRH is a simple, cost-effective way to differentiate your listing in the market and reduce anxiety for the seller and the buyer. It includes a pre-listing home inspection combined with a $20,000 18-month warranty* on key components of the home, such as the cooling and heating systems, roof and foundation. The inspection provides an impartial, honest and expert assessment of the home backed by a warranty on items that are considered ‘blind spots’ for a home inspector.

After spending a number of years testing the waters and gathering key customer feedback, we are proud to launch Certified Resale Home throughout Ontario. This service leverages FCT’s core competencies of process optimization, risk management and customer experience.

In today’s hot market, when buyers are going in with no conditions, you might be wondering why this product is even relevant.

Here’s how it helps all parties:

Realtors:

  • Provides a superior full-service listing experience
  • Enhances client satisfaction and generates referrals
  • Offers a proactive approach to handling issues for the client
  • Closes listings faster

Sellers:

  • Gets the best possible offers faster
  • Provides detailed information on the home before listing to avoid surprises that can kill the deal
  • Differentiates the property to make it stand out
  • Removes the probability of a condition of sale

Buyers:

  • Reduces anxiety and promotes a cleaner offer
  • Reduces the “Buyer Beware” mentality
  • Builds trust by offering information through two leading brands – FCT and AmeriSpec Inspection Services
  • Optimized for a multiple offer scenario

For more information on our brand new offering, visit thecertifiedresalehome.ca

*Assumes standard inspection and warranty coverage. Optional swimming pool equipment coverage is an additional $30; optional septic tank system coverage is an additional $20. The warranty commences the day of the inspection, applies during the listing and transfers automatically to the buyer on closing.

Warranty Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited
® Registered Trademark of AmeriSpec Inspection Services.