4 top tips for landing the best mortgage rates

If you’re caught up in the thrill of buying a home, it’s easy not to think too hard about your mortgage rate. Does a 1% difference even mater? You might be surprised. Let’s say you bought a home for $499,000, put 20% ($99,800) down and snagged a five-year, fixed-rate mortgage […]

If you’re caught up in the thrill of buying a home, it’s easy not to think too hard about your mortgage rate. Does a 1% difference even mater?

You might be surprised.

Let’s say you bought a home for $499,000, put 20% ($99,800) down and snagged a five-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 2.80% APR. A mortgage calculator will show that you’ll be paying $194,176 in interest over the life of the loan.

But if you settled instead for a loan at 3.80% APR, you’ll be looking at interest charges totalling $272,306 — $78,130 more.

Don’t get trapped with an unfavourable loan. Here are four tips for getting the best possible mortgage.

1. Look your best as a borrower



a close up of a man wearing a suit and tie: katalinks / Shutterstock Spiff up your credit before you borrow.


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katalinks / Shutterstock Spiff up your credit before you borrow.

You’ll score a low rate if you can convince a lender that you’re low risk.

So, check your credit score and take steps to raise it, such as paying down your debts to give yourself a lower debt-to-income ratio.

A mortgage lender wants to know it will be repaid. If you can make the lender feel comfortable, with a credit score above 700 or 750, you will get a sweeter deal.

2. Look your best as an earner



a woman holding a sign: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock You'll look better to a lender if you're an employee, not an entrepreneur.


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Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock You’ll look better to a lender if you’re an employee, not an entrepreneur.

Gallery: Want to refinance into a record-low mortgage rate? Do these 6 things (MoneyWise Canada)

It’s best not to apply for a mortgage until you’ve had the same employer for two years or more.

Know that lenders favour borrowers who are employed by businesses, versus the self-employed and freelancers.

If you work for yourself but your spouse works for a company, you might get a much better mortgage rate if the loan is taken out only in your spouse’s name.

3. Put more money down



a piece of paper: m-agention / Shutterstock Low-down-payment options are available, but they won't get you the best rate.


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m-agention / Shutterstock Low-down-payment options are available, but they won’t get you the best rate.

Sure, there are mortgages that require just a small down payment, sometimes as low as 5% for properties worth $500,000 or less.

But if you put down at least 20% of the cost of the home, you can land a lower interest rate.

If your down payment is less than 20%, your interest rate may be higher and you will be required to pay for mortgage default insurance (also known as CMHC insurance), increasing your total cost.

4. Weigh your options



a woman sitting in front of a laptop: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock Comparison-shop and look at other loan types if you want to be sure you're getting the lowest possible rate.


© Provided by MoneyWise Canada
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock Comparison-shop and look at other loan types if you want to be sure you’re getting the lowest possible rate.

Shop, shop, shop around and compare rates. Don’t just grab a loan from the very first company you talk to. Just make sure you don’t make more than one application, since each application counts as a hard pull on your credit score.

That’s why it can sometimes pay off to speak to a mortgage broker or use an online broker. Mortgage brokers are able to browse multiple rates from multiple lenders, helping you get the best deal, and your credit history only gets pulled once.

Be aware that interest rates vary across loan types. Variable-rate mortgages have lower rates than fixed-rate loans, and shorter-term mortgages beat 10-year loans.

Your mortgage interest rate is a choice that could be with you for years. Make a wise decision for maximum savings over that time.

Or better yet, get the online brokerage Homewise to work the market for you. Homewise will negotiate on your behalf with more than 30 big banks and other lenders, completely free, and it only takes five minutes to apply.

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