How to buy a home with CMHC’s mortgage loan insurance?

21 March 2024 by National Bank
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Thinking of buying a home, but have a down payment of less than 20%? Are you familiar with mortgage loan insurance? This solution could allow you to purchase a home with a down payment of at least 5% of the selling price. Here’s how it works.

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What is mortgage loan insurance?

It’s insurance that protects the lenders (the banks), while allowing buyers (that’s you) to purchase property even if they only have 5% of the selling price as a down payment.

Why does it exist? Because that way, if you’re unable to provide 20% or more of the property’s price as a down payment, banks can require your loan to be insured by a third party.

When you’re covered by mortgage loan insurance, your bank can recover the money they lent you should you ever default on your payments. This alleviates some of the risk when you apply for a mortgage.

Who offers mortgage loan insurance?

In Canada, the main mortgage loan insurance provider is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a company tied to the Government of Canada. But there are also private lenders that offer this kind of insurance policy, like Sagen (previously known as Genworth) and the Canada Guarantee Mortgage Insurance Company.

Who is this kind of insurance aimed at?

If you only have a 5% down payment, you may be eligible for this program, but there are other criteria to take into account to determine if you’re a good candidate.

The property price: The minimum down payment needed to benefit from mortgage loan insurance depends on the purchase price of your home.

  • For example, if the home costs $500,000 or less, it’s 5%.
  • If it costs more than $500,000, you’ll need a minimum down payment of 5% on the first $500,000 and 10% on the remainder.
  • Mortgage loan insurance is not available for homes that cost $1,000,000 or more.

Your credit score: To qualify, you need to have a minimum credit score, as determined by the CMHC. The eligibility criteria, including those tied to your credit score, can change quickly. That’s why we recommend doing your research before applying.

Your debt-to-income ratio: The CMHC has also lowered the ratios that help lenders determine the maximum amount they can lend you – meaning the gross debt service ratio (GDS), which is the percentage of your gross income that goes towards housing fees for the home you’re looking to buy – and the total debt service ratio (TDS), which are your future housing fees plus your other debts. Once again, you’re better off checking the criteria required by the organization, as they can change without notice.

Lastly, according to the new rules, future homeowners can no longer borrow money for their down payment using unsecured personal loans or lines of credit.

Thinking of buying rental property? Please note that the CMHC offers mortgage loan insurance for this kind of property too, whether you’re an owner-occupant or not.

What are the pros and cons of mortgage loan insurance?

If you’re a renter, mortgage loan insurance could help you go from renting to owning if that’s one of your goals, and it won’t impact your financial situation.

Plus, since it reduces the risk for banks, some of them may be able to offer you better borrowing conditions and better rates.

However, do the math before signing up for mortgage loan insurance and becoming a homeowner. There are many other fees that come with buying a home. On top of your mortgage, don’t underestimate setup costs and fixed expenses for the home. You’ll also have to make sure your budget makes sense and that you’ll still be able to save for other goals, emergencies, and your retirement.

How much does mortgage loan insurance cost?

Obviously, you’ll have to pay a premium for mortgage loan insurance. This premium is a percentage of the mortgage and is based on your down payment. The bigger it is, the lower your premiums will be.

For example, if you purchase your home for $375,000 and have a 5% down payment of $18,750, your mortgage loan insurance premium will be $14,250.

Similarly, with a 10% down payment of $37,500, the premium will be $10,463.

The important thing to remember is that this kind of insurance has a cost. Take that into consideration before going ahead and buying property. There are two ways to pay the premium:

  • You can pay it before the loan is disbursed.
  • It can be added to your loan amount. It would then be added to your payments.

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How do you minimize the costs for mortgage loan insurance? 

There’s only one way: you must increase your down payment by finding another source of financing, like if you receive a non-refundable amount of money as a cash donation from a loved one. 

If you’re a first-time buyer, you can also use the Home Buyers’ Plan to borrow money from your RRSP to increase your down payment. Alternatively, you can open an FHSA and save up to $40,000 as a down payment.

Tax credits can also reduce some of the costs of buying your first home at both the provincial and federal levels.

→ Learn more about the programs in place to support you in the purchase of your first home

What’s the difference between mortgage loan insurance and life, disability and critical illness insurance on a mortgage loan?

It’s important to differentiate mortgage loan insurance from mortgage life, mortgage disability and mortgage critical illness insurance. Those are the kinds of insurance policies to sign up for if you want to cover your loan in the event of death, disability or a critical illness. You can consider these solutions if you want to protect your quality of life and your loved ones (as well as yourself) if something preventing you from making your payments should occur.

What happens with a mortgage loan insurance if you sell or buy a new property?

It’s not unusual for a first-time buyer to decide after a few years to buy a new home because their family is growing, they get a job in another place, or they simply want to invest in real estate. Regardless, chances are that a new mortgage will be required. What would you do?

In most cases, mortgage loan insurance providers offer the option to transfer your premium to another mortgage loan. The eligibility criteria and your options after buying another property largely depend on your situation, your loan amount, your premium, and how much you’ve paid off. Organizations like the CMHC invite clients to call them for more information.

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TMSagen is a trademark of Genworth Financial Canada, the mortgage insurance company.

TMCanada Guaranty is a trademark of Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company.

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Image maison neuve

Getting ready to become a first-time homeowner

Ready to buy a home?
We’re here to help!