Collateral Mortgages Part II: Why Banks Like You to Have Them.

Collateral mortgages: Why banks like them

Collateral mortgage can be a great product for homeowners who want extra borrowing ability along with their mortgage. But compared to a conventional mortgage, it is harder to transfer to another bank at the end of your term.Collateral mortgage can be a great product for homeowners who use their homes to borrow and invest. But compared to a conventional mortgage, it is harder to transfer to another bank at the end of your term.

If you’re buying a house and are shopping for a mortgage this spring you may come across something called a collateral mortgage. This home financing tool has been around for a while, but mainly in the background. Now it’s going mainstream with both TD Bank and no-frills ING Direct abandoning the conventional mortgage in favour of this type of financing exclusively. Other big banks make collateral mortgages available, but for now offer both kinds.

Many consumers hunting for a mortgage would be hard pressed to explain the difference between the two, but here it is:

With a conventional mortgage, you and your lender agree on how much you can borrow, the length of the term and the interest rate. As an example, say the house you’re buying is worth $200,000. With 20 per cent down you would borrow $160,000. You might select a fixed-rate, five-year term, which this week is between 3 and 4 per cent.

With a collateral mortgage, you still have an agreed interest rate and term, but the bank registers a charge of up to 125 per cent the value of your home, provided you have at least 20 per cent equity in it. In this example the charge would be $200,000 plus up to another $50,000.

That’s because a collateral agreement assumes you will want to borrow more in the future and so makes this extra amount available now. As long as you maintain 20 per cent equity in your home, you borrow up to 80 per cent of its value.

So a collateral mortgage can be a great product for homeowners who want that extra borrowing ability along with their mortgage. Doing all the paperwork while applying for the mortgage saves fees that would apply later if a homeowner tried to apply for a credit line.

Related: Beware the pitfalls of collateral mortgages

The advantage to the bank is that a collateral agreement makes it harder for you to leave because it interlocks your lending. As Toronto real estate lawyer Mark Weisleder, a Moneyville columnist, points out, a collateral mortgage secures all debt held with that lender under one agreement. So a line of credit, a credit card, car loan or any personal loan will all be secured by the same agreement.

Most banks do not allow transfers of collateral mortgages because they are tied to other consumer loans. This means that at the end of your five-year term, you have to pay discharge fees to get out of one mortgage and additional fees to register a new one at another financial institution. On the other hand, a conventional mortgage is easy to transfer when the term is up.

Another difference is that in a conventional agreement your rate cannot be increased during the term, even if you default or fall into arrears with your payments.

With a collateral mortgage, if you go into arrears or default, the bank has the right to raise your interest rate by up to 10 percentage points.

This is because a collateral mortgage is registered at a charge of prime plus 10 per cent. Senior TD Bank mortgage official Farhaneh Haque says the this higher rate is charged to protect customers from incurring more legal and administration fees when they want to borrow more. Without this, the bank would have to reregister the loan when you want to borrow more. Since the loan is already registered at this higher rate, when you qualify, the bank can offer it to you with no questions asked, even if the loan is 10 points higher.

Tom Hamza, president of Investor Education Fund, a consumer agency funded by the Ontario Securities Commission, says it’s clear why collateral agreements are attractive to the banks.

“The fact that people can access money more easily and the fact that they won’t leave are two pretty compelling reasons for financial institutions to offer these,” he says.

Hamza says collateral mortgages are good for homeowners who have a lot of debt in a lot of different places, or those who “frequently need to access to cash”. But for all others it may not be the right product.

If you don’t want the extra money and want the freedom to move your business elsewhere when the mortgage matures, a collateral agreement is probably not the best option. It’s a classic case of buyer beware, before you sign up for a collateral agreement make sure it’s the product that suits you and your lifestyle.