10 Money Saving Tips!

General Michael Distefano 6 Jun

When it comes to saving money, there are a lot of little things you can do that add up to make a big difference! 

Here are 10 of my favorite money-saving tips to help get you started today:

Automatic Savings are one of the most effective ways to save because you can’t spend what you can’t access! Instruct your employer to transfer a certain amount from your paycheck each pay period into an RRSP or savings account (or both) or set up automatic transfers in your banking account to coincide with your payday.

Consolidating Debt will result in a single monthly payment and lower interest costs! Many people don’t realize just how much money they are wasting on interest each month, especially if they have multiple loans or credit cards. Consolidating debt can help you gain control and maximize spend on the principal amounts to pay off loans faster.

Budget with Cash if you have trouble with overspending or find it too easy to use your card. After your bills are paid, take out the remaining cash (spending money) and only use that. Once the cash is gone, you’re out of money until the next payday! Having physical cash in hand can also help you think twice when making purchases.

Buying in Bulk is a great way to save a bit here and a bit there when doing your regular grocery shop or purchasing other items. Now you’ll need more? Stock up at once for bulk savings, which will help you in the long run!

Before Buying there are two things you should always do. The first is to wait at least 24 hours and the second is to shop around! If you still want to buy something the next day, make sure you get the best price available!

Plan Your Meals. Most of us don’t have time to make breakfast (let alone lunch!) before we fly out the door for work. But what if I told you that getting up an hour earlier could save you over $100 a week!? Just think about how much you spend going out for breakfast AND lunch each day. Groceries are a lot cheaper and you can even prep a few day’s worth of meals on Sunday while you get ready for the week.

Think in Hours versus Dollars every time you are looking to make a purchase, especially large ones to help you understand the TIME value of money. A new $24 Blu-Ray = 1 hour of work. A brand-new mattress = 41.67 hours of work. Understanding the time that went into earning money for a purchase can help with reconsidering frivolous items, or encourage you to look for the best deal on necessary products.

Utility Savings can help you save each month! Don’t blast your A/C with all the doors in your house open, don’t pump the heat without sealing cracks, and consider things like installing water-saving toilets and running cold-water wash cycles to save energy (and money!) every day.

Master DIY – While sometimes you can spend $120 to make a $20 item yourself, there are some things that do benefit from DIY, such as installing dimmer switches, that can help save you money in the long run.

Save Windfalls and Tax Refunds for a rainy day. A good rule of thumb is to put 50% of bonuses, tax refunds, or other windfalls into your savings account and put the rest against loans owing. While you might want to go on a shopping spree or plan a vacation, paying off your debt NOW will free you up in the future.

Michael Distefano
Mortgage Agent
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P: 905-357-5366 M: 905-246-5363
1-4687 Queen St Niagara Falls, ON, L2E 2L9

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Mortgage Tips Michael Distefano 19 Aug

Saving to buy a home is so much more than putting together a down payment. Down payments receive all the attention as you save to buy a property.

If you take some time to plan for other expenses related to closing on your property, you won’t be surprised by the actual amount you should have set aside, on top of your down payment. You’ll need your down payment plus 1.5% to 4% of the property purchase price for closing costs and other expenses. That’s a lot of extra money you may not have planned to spend.


There are some expenses that come up before you make the down payment.

Home inspection fee

When making an offer on a previously owned home, a home inspection is often a condition of the offer. A home inspector will go over the house and provide a report about the condition of the home. Costs for this service will vary but you should plan for $300 minimum.


You will need to give the seller a deposit when you make an offer on the property. Once the offer is accepted, the deposit is placed in trust until the closing of the sale and is applied toward the down payment. So, this isn’t additional money you need to save, but you will need to have the funds ready. Remember, making an offer is looked at as a contract of sorts. If you are the reason the sale fails to close, the seller may be entitled to keep the deposit as compensation.

Appraisal fee

An appraisal estimates the fair market value of a property. A financial institution may want an appraisal of the property to ensure the mortgage is not worth more than the property. An appraisal is not usually required for insured mortgages (those with a down payment of less than 20%), but, according to CMHC, a professional appraisal may be required if a more in-depth assessment of the value of the property is needed. An alternative lender, like Bridgewater Bank, specializes in uninsured alternative mortgages, which means you provide a minimum 20% down payment and an appraisal.

Closing costs are expenses that must be paid at the time the title of the property is transferred to you. Here are the typical closing costs you should be prepared for:

Legal Fees

You will need a lawyer to help finalize the sale, prepare the mortgage documents, and protect your interests. Fees will include the lawyer’s time and disbursements incurred during the transfer of the property.

Land transfer tax

Most provinces (besides Alberta and Manitoba) collect a land transfer tax, and the amount varies by province and the value of the property. You can use a land transfer tax calculator to estimate the amount you’ll need to set aside.

Title Insurance

The lender may require you to have title insurance as protection against losses of a property ownership dispute, should there be one.

Property Tax Adjustments

Both the buyer and seller are responsible for paying property taxes for the portion of the year that they own the property. If the seller has pre-paid taxes for any months after the sale date, you will need to reimburse the seller for those costs.

Interest Adjustments

Depending on the payment schedule for your mortgage, the closing date of the sale may not be the date of the first mortgage payment. Interest accrues on the mortgage principal from the date the mortgage funds are advanced to the date of the first payment date.

Most home buyers will have worked out a budget to pay for monthly expenses, such as their mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities. There may be costs such as homeowner association dues or septic tank testing and maintenance, which will vary according to the type of property and its location. There are also costs associated with moving, connection fees, renovations, landscaping, and purchases to maintain your home.

You may not be aware of the extra costs associated with things that tend to pop up right before possession or in that first month of homeownership. Here are two costs that you will need to be prepared for:

Mortgage Insurance

Mortgages with less than a 20% down payment must be insured through a high ratio mortgage insurance provider, such as Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) or Sagen (previously known as Genworth). You can opt to pay this money upfront or include it as part of the mortgage. Paying it upfront costs less over the long run because if it is added to the mortgage, you will pay interest on it. As a side note, if the purchase is in a province with PST, the PST on the insurance must be paid upfront.

Home Insurance

Lenders require that all mortgages be insured against fire and other damage. You will need to purchase home insurance and provide proof to the lender.

All of these extra costs can add up to thousands of dollars. Consider that 1.5% to 4% of a $400,000 property is $6,000 to $16,000. So, preparing for these costs will keep your stress lower, and you can plan for the amount you really need to save. This is especially true for first-time homebuyers who have never been through the mortgage process.

Your mortgage broker is there to support you and help you navigate the journey to homeownership. Please ask any questions you have so you feel you understand the steps in purchasing your property.

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Michael Distefano
Mortgage Agent and Manager of operations
DLC BTB Mortgage Solutions FSCO 12039
1-4687 Queen St Niagara Falls On L2E 2L9
T 905 357 5366 F 905 357 6654 C 905 246 5363


Don’t Fall into the Appraisal Trap and bidding war on your home purchase

Mortgage Tips Michael Distefano 31 Mar

Armed with a hard-earned down payment, pre-approval from a lender, and a wish-list of what you “must” have in your dream property, window shopping for homes can be an exciting experience.

And then it happens. You find the perfect place in your desired neighborhood. Unfortunately, there are 10 others who have also fallen in love with “your” new home. And so, the bidding war begins.

Let’s say you win that battle, with the final selling price magically within your pre-approved amount as set by your lender. It is at this stage that buyers believe the hard work is over, and it is only a matter of signing a few papers to close the mortgage so you can finally get the keys to your new home. But that is not the case for some.

If an appointed appraiser assesses that the property value is less than what you offered in a high-stakes bidding war, you could be in trouble. Should this happen, your lender will only loan you as much as the home is actually valued at (minus your down payment) – not what they’d originally offered in your pre-approval.

For example, a buyer has a $30,000 (5%) down payment and is approved for a mortgage of $570,000. He/She finds a property, with a $600,000 price tag. The appraiser, however, believes the property to be only worth $575,000.

What does this mean for the buyer?
The maximum mortgage amount that the lender will provide on this new appraised value is :
95% of $575,000 = $546,250

The total amount required to close this deal is: $600,000 – $546,250 = $53,750

Amount needed to close deal – buyer down payment = Additional funds required
$53,750,000 – $30,000 = $23,750

The buyer only intended to put down $30,000 but now needs an additional $23,750 to secure a mortgage for this transaction. At this point, you have two options: borrow money from someone, or be forced to walk away from the deal (and risk losing your deposit, in the process). Not having the resources in this situation is what we refer to as “appraisal risk”.

So, how can buyers avoid this nightmare?

First, you should avoid overpaying. But how can you do this in a competitive market? A good real estate agent should understand the “real” value of the property and the neighborhood you want to buy in.

Having a larger down payment can also reduce your risk in appraisal cases. You can put less money down and use the extra cash to make up the shortfall. However, on the flip side, this means you might have to pay a higher CMHC insurance premium (premiums are mandatory for down payments under 20% and are charged in 5% tiers).

The big trouble arises when a buyer only has a 5% down payment saved and makes a firm offer to buy because then there is little room to get extra funds from their own sources; this is when a buyer has an extreme appraisal risk.

For that reason, we would never recommend any buyer enter a bidding war with only a 5% down payment. And, if they do, we suggest having a financing condition within the deal. While this puts the buyer at a disadvantage to those with a “clean” (condition-free) offer in the bidding war, it is the risk they, unfortunately, have to take if they really want that property.

Even buyers at the 20% down payment threshold face appraisal risk in bidding wars. If an appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, the buyer then has to put down less in order to make up the shortfall, and purchase CMHC insurance when they otherwise would not have had to.

Your broker or agent cannot control what an independent appraiser values a property at. Neither can buyers. Knowing the risks before making a firm offer in a bidding war, however, can help you prepare and plan for every outcome.

Michael Distefano
Mortgage Agent and Manager of operations
DLC BTB Mortgage Solutions FSCO 12039
Niagara’s largest Mortgage Broker
1-4687 Queen St Niagara Falls On L2E 2L9
T 905 357 5366 F 905 357 6654 C 905 246 5363

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Self-employed increasingly turning to private lenders for mortgages

General Michael Distefano 25 Apr

by Canadian Press 25 Apr 2019

Self-employed increasingly turning to private lenders for mortgages

The self-employed are among the growing number of Canadians turning to private lenders in order to obtain a mortgage.
While many prospective homeowners are driven to alternate lenders because of government-mandated stress tests and poor credit scores, the self-employed often have additional burdens to overcome in proving their income.
“There’s more and more people seeking private loans than ever before and that’s a direct result of government making it more and more difficult to qualify,” says Dan Caird, a mortgage agent with Dominion Lending Centres.
According to the Bank of Canada, private lenders have doubled their share of the mortgage market since 2015, accounting for eight per cent of Canadian mortgages in 2018, and an even greater share in the hot real estate market of Toronto.
These lenders are less concerned about income and more focused on the property’s value in case they have to foreclose. The tradeoff is higher interest rates and fees.
Still, the option can be helpful for the self-employed who expense as much as they can in order to reduce their taxable income and who have a strategy to beef up their credit score with a goal of returning to a traditional lender.
Caird said it’s usually more financially advantageous to “expense the heck out your business” and show less income.
“Sure you’re going to pay a half a per cent, a per cent, sometimes two to three per cent 1/8more 3/8 on your mortgage but …they usually end up coming out ahead by claiming less income and just paying a bit more on the mortgage,” he said in an interview.
However, the writeoffs make it harder for lenders to obtain the 35 to 44 per cent debt-to-income ratio sought by traditional lenders.
Proving a sufficient track record of income to qualify for a mortgage can be the biggest challenge for people who work for themselves.
“Assuming a self-employed borrower had great credit and ample equity, we used to be able to simply state their income to the bank and show a notice of assessment to prove no taxes owing,” said Robert McLister, found of mortgage news website RateSpy.com
“Those days are long gone.”
The government now wants verifiable proof of true earnings while the stress test makes the hurdle even higher by requiring almost 20 per cent more provable income to qualify for the same mortgage available in 2017, he said.
That has pushed more people to alternate lenders.
“Self-employed mortgages without traditional proof of income are a different animal from your cookie cutter AAA bank mortgage,” McLister added.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is trying to ease the paperwork required to obtain mortgage loan insurance, said Carla Staresina, vice-president risk management, strategy and products.
It introduced changes last October that suggest additional factors lenders could consider if the borrower has been operating their business for less than two years, including having sufficient cash reserves, predictable earnings, acquisition of an established business and previous training and education. It is also encouraging acceptance of a broader ranger of documents.
“Our aspiration really is to make sure everyone in Canada has a home they can afford and that meets their needs,” Staresina said from Ottawa.
“We know self-employed Canadians make up about 15 per cent of Canada’s labour force and so we want to make sure that any difficulty that they have in qualifying for a mortgage is mitigated and that we’ve got some options for them.”
McLister said the program will help “at the margins,” particularly those who recently started a business or bought an established operation.
Caird said there’s been some other steps in the right direction. He pointed to a new product from the Bank of Nova Scotia that allows incorporated companies to use retained earnings in the business to help applicants qualify.
Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty also have programs to help self-employed borrowers, but require the business be open for at least two years.
The mortgage broker’s task is to convince lenders that the borrower is a good credit risk by adding back specific deducted expenses to net income to improve the debt-to-income calculation, said Caird.
While having a sound credit history is very helpful, mortgages can still be obtained for those with less-than-stellar records, for a cost.
Three essentials for borrowers are to have up-to-date taxes, be organized and consult a mortgage broker long before the mortgage is required.
“If your taxes aren’t up to date it’s going to be next to impossible to get a lender to give you a mortgage at any sort of reasonable rate or term.”

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