How to get a better rate when you renew your mortgage

By: Robb Engen on July 22, 2016

When it comes time to renew your mortgage do you blindly accept the first offer from your existing mortgage lender? Banks know that most homeowners don’t bother negotiating – or shopping around, for that matter. It’s likely the initial offer will be at a higher interest rate than what they’re authorized to give you.

It’s in your best interest to shop the market to find the best mortgage rate possible. Here are a few things to consider when renewing your mortgage:

  • How satisfied are you with your current lender?

  • Are you receiving other perks, such as free banking or preferred rates on savings accounts or GICs? If the answer is yes, determine the dollar value to make sure it’s worth staying put.

  • Has your financial situation changed and, if so, do you want to change your mortgage payment frequency or amount?

  • Can you handle increasing your payments to pay off your mortgage sooner?

  • Do you want the ability to make lump-sum payments directly to the principal? How much?

  • Would you like to consolidate credit card or other high interest debt?

  • Can you port your mortgage to another lender without paying a penalty?

Once you understand your situation and goals, you’re ready to look for the best deal to renew your mortgage.

How to negotiate a better deal when you renew your mortgage

The most straightforward approach to negotiating a better mortgage rate in Canada is to simply contact your current lender and ask for a better deal. Stress to them your history of making payments on time and being a good customer.

Ask about special promotions they’re offering new customers and if any of the deals apply to you. Research promotional offers from other lenders so you have something to compare. If you have time, take your renewal letter to a few banks for a quote.

Banks must provide a renewal statement at least 21 days before the end of your existing mortgage term, which gives you a bit of time to work with – but not a lot.

Contact a mortgage broker if you’re serious about switching lenders. Brokers don’t typically charge for their services and they have access to more lenders and better rates than you can find on your own. You can also go online to find a better deal to renew your mortgage. There are websites that offer you access to multiple lenders and quotes in a matter of minutes.

Start the process several months before your mortgage renewal date to get a good overview of the market. Look for lenders that will hold their rates for 90 to 120 days. A rate hold is the time before your mortgage renewal date in which you are able to lock in the current mortgage rate. Many lenders will honour the lower rate if interest rates go down within this period.

Find a better mortgage renewal deal

You can usually get a better rate on your mortgage renewal if you’re willing to forgo a few extras, such as the ability to make large lump sum payments or the option to break your mortgage early without penalty.

These deals entered the mainstream several years ago when BMO famously irked the federal government by offering a four-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.99% – an offer that came loaded with restrictions. Ironically, it’s now common to see lenders offering 5-year fixed rate mortgages at less than 2.5%.

Make sure your financial situation is stable and that you understand the mortgage terms before you renew. You don’t want to be stuck in a restrictive mortgage and face huge penalties if you’re forced to sell your home.

Mortgage renewal is a great time to revisit your payment terms. Do you want to keep on the same amortization schedule? Five years into a 25-year mortgage means that your amortization schedule should be set at 20 years upon renewal. Resetting it back to 25 years will save you a bit of money, but at what cost? You’re back to square one.

Alternatively you can accelerate your amortization by increasing your monthly payments or adjusting their frequency. Consider switching to bi-weekly payments instead of monthly or twice monthly. This approach effectively makes one extra monthly mortgage payment each year and can pay down your mortgage up to four years faster.

If you find the increased payments are too much to handle, some lenders will let you reduce the payments during your mortgage term. If you’re considering this option, make sure to discuss it with your lender or broker.

Bottom line

Always shop around and don’t accept the first offer from your bank. Take your time to compare lenders and consider your options. Give yourself a few months before your mortgage renewal date, knowing that you’ll get an offer from your current lender at least 21 days prior to the end of your term.

Many people make changes to their mortgage at least once during a five-year term. Keep this in mind when deciding what features you want to have in your mortgage terms. Remember that often the best rates come with restrictive terms.

Take a careful look at your financial situation and decide what changes, if any, you can afford to make to your mortgage this time around.

Finally, if all this sounds overwhelming then consider using a mortgage broker to help negotiate a the best rate when you renew your mortgage.