6 tips to help you renew your mortgage

Before you go ahead and re-sign with your mortgage lender, it's important to consider these six tips to help you.

How to shop for a better mortgage rate
©iStockphoto.com/Steve Debenport
The biggest monthly expense for most Canadians is their mortgage payment.

Yet according to an Angus Reid survey, almost 27 per cent of households automatically renew their mortgages when the term is up instead of trying to find a better deal.

Here are six tips to help you lower your payments come renewal time.

Get going early

Start shopping around for a better rate four to six months before your mortgage is up for renewal.

That's the longest lenders will guarantee a discounted rate, says Vancouver's Robert McLister, editor of Canadian MortgageTrends.com. "If [your current lender's] rates rise, you've got your guaranteed rate to fall back on. If they drop, you simply renegotiate a lower rate."

Do your homework

Before negotiating a lower rate from your bank, find out what other lenders are offering. Plenty of websites post current rates from all the banks (canadamortgage.com is a good one), which can vary widely.

For example, at press time, Scotiabank's rate for a five-year closed-term fixed rate mortgage was 5.29 per cent, while ING Direct's was 3.59 per cent.

Never accept the bank's posted rate

"You might as well hand your wallet over to the lender," says McLister. If you determine that your current lender has the best mortgage features, advice and policies, ask your bank to match a competitor's lower rate.

"If you don't come right out and ask for a better rate, you won't get one," says Alan Silverstein, a real estate lawyer in Toronto and author of The Perfect Mortgage: Cutting the Cost of Home Ownership (Stoddart, 1995). He also notes that banks may be more willing to lower your rate if you transfer over other accounts or investments, such as an RRSP.

Negotiate on other available options

Don't just fixate on the interest rate. The amortization period, the rate type (fixed or variable) and the flexibility of the payment schedule can be crucial to lowering your costs.

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