Fixed-Rate Mortgage Penalties: Larger Than Ever!

math for IRD calculations

Many people are unaware the Big-6 banks, and all the banks you can walk into, calculate the payout penalties at much higher amounts than mortgage broker lenders.

The cost of how penalties are calculated is even more concerning when fixed-mortgage rates stay flat or rise slightly over an extended period – exactly what is happening right now.

Summary:

  • You could be looking at an extra $7,000 in penalty cost on a $250,000 mortgage, or an extra $11,200 on a $400,000 mortgage, that is broken two years early with any Big-6 lender.
  • Mortgage broker lenders still calculate the payout “the old way” – to your advantage!

Short Version:

Fixed-rate mortgage penalties are almost always calculated based on “the greater of three months interest or interest-rate differential (IRD)”. But there are key differences in the actual rates lenders use to calculate your IRD.

  • These differences are magnified in a flat or slightly rising interest-rate environment.
  • This is a big deal as the IRD calculations used by the banks below can trigger a penalty that is more than 5 times what you would be charged at a wide range of other lenders.

Long Version – hold on this is MATH!

Let’s say your current mortgage balance is $250,000 on a five-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.59%. We’ll also assume that you are three years into your term (with two years remaining) and that interest rates are the same when you break your mortgage as they were when you first got your loan.

First, we calculate the cost of three month’s interest, which we can quickly determine is $1,619.

Here is the formula we use to arrive at that number:

2.59% x $250,000 x 3/12 = $1,619

We then compare this cost to the cost of your IRD penalty, which will almost always be calculated using one of three methods: Standard, Discounted or Posted.

 

  1. The Standard IRD Penalty (used by Mortgage Broker Banks)

When using a standard IRD penalty calculation, your lender starts by taking the difference between your contract rate (2.59%) and their current rate that most closely matches your remaining term. Since you have two years left on your mortgage,  that would be the lender’s two-year fixed rate (we’ll use 2.29%, which is widely available today). The difference between these two rates is 0.30%.

The lender multiplies this difference (0.30%) by your mortgage balance ($250,000) and the time remaining on your mortgage (expressed as the number of months remaining on your mortgage divided by twelve).

Here is the complete formula:     (3.29% – 2.99%) x $250,000 x (24/12) = $1,500

And here is a table which explains where each number in the formula came from:

Standard IRD Calculation

2.59% = Your contract rate

2.29% = current rate the most closely matches your remaining term

$250,000 = remaining mortgage balance

24 = months remaining

$1,500 = IRD Penalty charged

That’s it; the standard IRD calculation. It is used by a wide range of lenders who compete with each other to offer borrowers the best mortgage rates available.

In this case the cost of three months’ interest ($1,619) is greater than the lender’s Standard IRD calculation ($1,500), so you would have to pay $1,619 to break your mortgage.

AND here is where the differences are: well-known lenders have tweaked their IRD calculations to skew the interest rates used in their formulas heavily in their favour, and as you will now see, that can have a huge impact on the size of your penalty.

 

  1. The Discounted Rate IRD Penalty (Used by RBC, BMO, TD, Scotia and National Bank)

When using the Discounted Rate Penalty, the lender takes your contract rate and compares it to the posted rate that most closely matches your remaining term MINUS the original discount you got off of their five-year posted rate (which in this case is 2.05%). Here is the contract wording taken straight from TD’s website. Key section is underlined:

{Your contract rate will be reduced by] the current interest rate that we can now charge for a mortgage term offered by us with the term closest to your remaining term. The interest rate will be our posted interest rate for the term minus the most recent discount you received.}

In other words, this lender will take the discount they gave you off of their five-year posted rate and apply that same discount to the posted two-year rate they use in your penalty calculation.

This tweak makes a big difference to the cost of your penalty and is blatantly one-sided because lenders don’t discount shorter-term fixed-rate mortgages nearly as deeply as they do their five-year terms (.30% vs. 2.05% using this same lender’s rate sheet as of today).

The table below shows you the key numbers used to calculate the Discounted Rate IRD penalty:

Discounted –Rate IRD Calculation

2.59% = Your contract rate

2.84% = current rate the most closely matches your remaining term

2.05% = discount you received on your original Contract Rate

0.79% = 2-year rate used to calculate your penalty

$250,000 = remaining mortgage balance

24 = months remaining

$9,000 = IRD Penalty charged

Yes, Ouch!

But fasten your seat belt because other major lenders dig even deeper into your wallet. The Grand Daddy of them all is the Posted Rate IRD Penalty.

 

  1. The Posted Rate IRD Penaltythe Real Pain (Used by CIBC)

Here is a breakdown of CIBC’s posted-rate penalty calculation:

In this variation, the lender calculates your IRD penalty using the five-year posted rate that they were offering when you got your mortgage. Here is a sample of the wording used to explain how the penalty is calculated (taken from CIBC’s website). Underlined, key sections:

The interest rate differential amount is the difference between the Interest on the Prepaid Amount for the remainder of the term at the posted rate at the time you took out the mortgage, and interest on the Prepaid Amount for the Remainder of the Term using a Comparable Posted Rate. Interest is calculated at the interest rate posted by [the lender] for a mortgage product similar to your mortgage product on the date the payout statement is prepared.

Now CIBC’s defence of this tactic is that they substitute posted rates for both your original rate and the rate that most closely matches your remaining term. But as we have already outlined above, this is a terrible trade that no informed person would make because Big-6 lenders must make huge discounts to their five-year posted rates to make them competitive with market five-year fixed rates, and those same discounts shrink dramatically on shorter fixed-rate terms.

If we used the same rates in this example that we used in the discounted-rate method outlined above, the posted-rate method would yield the same sized penalty. But CIBC’s posted rates tend to be higher (which they were at the time this post was written), and for that reason, their penalties earn the moniker of “The Grand Daddy of Them All”.

Here is what that small change to the wording in your contract does to your penalty:

Posted-Rate IRD Calculation

4.79% = 5-year posted rate that was offered when you got your mortgage

2.84% = current rate the most closely matches your remaining term

$250,000 = remaining mortgage balance

24 = months remaining

$9,750 = IRD Penalty charged

 

Long Summary – thanks for getting this far!

Don’t be Surprised. These inflated mortgage penalties generate substantial profits for the lenders who use them and when uninformed borrowers choose to negotiate directly with their lender, is it that hard to imagine that some of those lenders would word the fine print to their advantage.

To be clear, there is not a problem with mortgage penalties in principle. When you break a mortgage contract, your lender incurs costs when they unwind agreements related to your loan (these agreements can relate to hedging, servicing, secularization etc.). The penalty charged is supposed to cover these costs while also recouping part of the lender’s lost profit. Fair enough. That’s why they’re called “closed mortgages”. But is it fair for some lenders to use these early terminations as “gotcha” moments?

There is no way on earth that the average Canadian mortgage borrower has any idea that there are significant differences in the way fixed-rate mortgage penalties are calculated, and the largest Canadian lenders, who have milked that lack of awareness to their advantage for years, have been in no hurry to explain it to them.

Summary: a conscientious and well informed independent mortgage planner should be able to explain how penalties are charged by any lender they are recommending.

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