That’s the takeaway from a national survey released this week by RATESDOTCA, which found half of Canadians aren’t aware of the mortgage options available to them.
Not only that, but Canadians are lacking in some other basic mortgage trivia, with an astounding 9 out of 10 respondents not knowing that mortgage interest is charged semi-annually:
28% think interest is compounded monthly;
17% think it’s bi-weekly;
17% think it’s annually;
28% just have no idea.
Should we be concerned?
Dustan Woodhouse, President of Mortgage Architects, and a former active broker who has written multiple educational mortgage books, thinks so.
“Sounds about right. We know about what we pay attention to, i.e., The Kardashians,” he wrote to CMT. “The material concern in this is how easy it makes it for the government to over-regulate the industry, with clients blaming the banks—rather than the appropriate parties. This disconnect is deeply concerning.”
Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that only four out of 10 Canadians (39%) know they can avoid paying default insurance on their mortgage if they make a down payment of 20% or more.
With default insurance running anywhere from 4–5.85% of the mortgage value, we’re talking some serious dinero being spent—potentially unknowingly and unnecessarily.
So, what can be done? Woodhouse admits there are no simple answers, but says making mortgages more tangible to borrowers would be a good place to start.
“The root issue is making mortgages interesting and relevant to clients more often than when they need one,” he said. “It needs to be all about housing, not simply mortgages.”
Paul Taylor, President and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada, agrees.
“Unless you deal in mortgages, you only talk about them, generally, once every five years,” he said. “I’m sure at the time of signing, the borrowers understood what their payment obligations were and the schedule; after that, the rest of the information provided was likely filed under ‘nice to know but not relevant enough to me to retain.'”
Making the Case for Mortgage Brokers
With a growing trend towards “do-it-yourself” online mortgage shopping, we wondered if these survey results reinforce the need for mortgage brokers in guiding uninformed borrowers about their mortgage options.
“Big time…more than ever brokers are required,” Woodhouse said.
Taylor added that the stats “clearly demonstrate the need for professional and impartial advice at the time of purchase/renewal/refinance. And while some may suggest they are comfortable purchasing online without counsel, I think we can see that is inadvisable in almost all cases.”
Taylor pointed to the UK as an example. Following the crash of 2008, he noted the country adopted several policies by 2014, including disallowing borrowers to be able to self-declare income, and requiring mortgage consumers to be provided mandatory advice on mortgage products.
“The last point, I think, would likely begin to receive international discussion/attention if online sales begin to increase too quickly given the data this survey demonstrates,” Taylor said. “Given the size of these loans, the personal liability and the potential interest-cost difference for as little as a quarter-point in interest, I expect there may be some scrutiny on consumer outcomes for these self-serve options.”
Additional Survey Tidbits
The Rates.ca survey revealed some additional interesting findings about Canadians’ knowledge gap when it comes to financial products, including:
Nearly 7 out of 10 Canadians (68%) aren’t aware that interest on credit cards is calculated daily.
30% admitted they are unlikely or somewhat unlikely to make the minimum monthly payments on their credit cards.
40% of respondents admitted to not knowing their credit score.
43% said they felt comfortable negotiating their mortgage over the internet.
And 94% believe schools should place greater emphasis on teaching financial literacy.