Money & Career

How to negotiate lower bills

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

How to negotiate lower bills

Renewing your mortgage
What you need to know:
• What kind of business you are to the bank. A good customer pays her bills (especially her mortgage) on time, doesn't miss payments and doesn't bounce cheques. Being able to negotiate the best possible deals with your bank -- the lowest interest rate or the best terms, including prepayment options -- assumes you're a good customer, otherwise why would the banks be interested in keeping you on?

• What kind of mortgage you need -- a fixed or variable rate, an open or closed term, prepayment options, etc. -- and what the going rate is for that product. 

• Your lender's interests are not yours. When your mortgage term is up, the bank will send you renewal forms. Don't just automatically sign the papers and mail them back. Chances are what they're offering is not going to be the best deal for you.

What you need to do:
• Check your credit report so you'll know how lenders will see your business. The better your credit rating, the more desirable you are as a customer.

• Make friends with your bank manager -- and not just before mortgage renewal time. If she knows your face and likes you, she may be more flexible. Branch managers have discretion and influence when it comes to setting your interest rate.

• Visit a mortgage broker. She has access to specialized lenders you probably have never heard of, plus her service is free because fees are paid by the lender who gives you your mortgage. 

• Offer to consolidate your assets (RRSPs, RESP, unregistered investments, etc.) with them. The more business you can offer the bank, the better.

What you need to say:
• To a mortgage broker: "I'm shopping this mortgage around. What can you get me?"

• To your original banker: "I've been comparison shopping. I need your best deal." Then be specific, as in "I want a half per cent off my current rate. Can you do it?" If she already has all your business and isn't prepared to cut you a better deal, tell her you are prepared to take it elsewhere.

Page 1 of 3 -- Learn tips on negotiating a selling price for your home, straight from the experts, on page 2

Selling your house
What you need to know:

• What kind of market you're in. In a seller's market, you may decide to consider offers only with no conditions and to engage in bidding wars. In a buyer's market, you can't be so picky.

• One of the things real estate agents build in to their commissions is the length of time it could take to sell your house. Remember that they want to sell your house as fast as possible, so, for example, the more disrepair it is in (and therefore harder to sell), the more likely they are to set -- and stick with -- a higher rate.

• Both your agent and the buyer's agent split a percentage of the sale price of your home. Between three and five per cent is common.

What you need to do:
• Decide how much you want out of the deal and tell your agent that number. Then let her negotiate with you. (If you're also buying a house with this agent, she may be more willing to negotiate.)

Most people can't afford to buy before they sell. If you're in this position (and need the sale money to finance any subsequent purchase), sell first and buy later, or make your purchase conditional on the sale of your home.

What you need to say:
• "What percentage of the commission do you have to split with the company that employs you?" You need to know how much she'll make on the sale because that's the amount that's negotiable.

• "Tell me the things you want done, such as painting, odd jobs and staging, and I will do them, but I want you to take them into account when setting the sale price of the house."

• "If you can't change the commission percentage, can you commit to more open houses?" (Hosting open houses is work for the agent, but the more you have, the better your odds of selling your home.)

Page 2 of 3 -- Get the best deals on home and car insurance with our expert advice on page 3

Getting or renewing home and car insurance
What you need to know:
• It's a highly competitive market. There are 130 companies that offer car policies and 120 that write home policies.

• The price is flexible.

What you need to do:
• Shop around. Get quotes from several companies (the major insurance providers and many brokers offer free online quotes).

Get a broker. He deals with more than one company and knows the policies cold. He can tell you what's missing from one you are considering or if there are any special exclusions that might make it less than ideal for you.

• Raise your deductible. It's foolish to make a claim against car or home insurance for anything under $1,000; a claim will increase your premiums and make you less desirable to another insurer should you decide to switch providers down the road.

• Offer to combine your home and car policies (and cottage if you have one) with the same company -- you're likely to get a better deal.

• If you're looking to insure an older home, make repairs, such as fix rickety railings and steps, replace knob-and-tube wiring, and install alarms.

• If you have an old car, drop your collision coverage.

What you need to say:
• "What can I do to lower the price of this policy?" Paying annually rather than monthly, for example, might shave off as much as one month's premiums.

• "Why is this the price?" Your address, for example, affects the price of your home policy. Knowing why you're being quoted the amount you are helps you research the best deal. Are there factors you can change (repairs and security systems) or are the factors things that aren't so simple (your claim history, for example)?

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