The “New Math” for Mortgages

If you know a child in school, you’ve probably heard what a lot of us adults call “new math.” Having taken math before, you’d think math would never change, and that’s exactly how Mortgage Brokers thought about mortgages. After all, the process of qualifying and calculate mortgage payments is really just “doing the math”.

Well, the math has changed for mortgages, mostly due to continuous rule and regulation changes from our government and within our industry. So, here’s a few lessons you might want to quickly sharpen up on:

RULE # 1:  5% DOWN ISN’T ALWAYS 5% DOWNConfused Kid

There was a time when our clients had to put 20% down unless they were a first-time home buyer. Then the rules changed for the better. Home buyers that were willing to pay insurance premiums could choose to put down less. With the most recent changes, regardless of whether you are a first-time home buyer or not, the first $500,000 requires five per cent down with the remainder requiring 10 per cent.

Question:  A client is buying a house for $650,000.  What is their minimum down payment?

Old Math:  $650,000 x 5% = $32,500

New Math:  $500,000 x 5% + $150,000 x 10% = $40,000


A million dollars is a lot of money and it also greatly affects your minimum down payment. Within the old regulations, you could put as little as five or 10 per cent down on a million-dollar purchase. Now, any home purchase above a million dollars is not eligible for the default insurance which means a 20 per cent down payment will be required.

Question: A family is buying a home for $1.1 million. What is the down payment required?

Old Math: $1,100,000 x 5% = $55,000

New Math: $1,100,000 x 20% = $220,000


Contract vs Qualifying Rate

This rule, by far, has had the most impact in the mortgage industry since the rule change on January 1, 2018. Let’s say you signed on to a five-year or greater fixed term mortgage in 2018. Before the rule change, borrowers qualified at the rate and the payment that they would actually be making (contract rate). However, as of 2018 (and still in 2019), almost all lenders now require borrowers to qualify at what is called a “Benchmark Rate”. The Benchmark Rate is the average of the Big 5 Banks’ “posted rate”, which is as much as two per cent above the discounted rates that Mortgage Brokers offer (currently sitting at 5.34%).

Question: A family wants to buy a $600,000 home and has 20% as a down payment.  What is the payment to be used to qualify? $600,000 – $120,000 (down payment) = $480,000 mortgage

Old Math: $480,000 @ 3.34% with a 25-year amortization

Payment = $2,356 per month

New Math: $480,000 @ 5.34% with a 25-year amortization

Payment = $2,885

So why does this fictional qualifying rate matter if you’re not actually paying that rate? 

Well, because it affects how much income is required to qualify for your mortgage. The difference in family income required with the new rules is about $20,000 in this example. So, the family that qualified for this $480,000 mortgage could have actually qualified for an additional $100,000 before the rule change. That’s a tremendous difference and this now not only affects qualifying for purchases but refinances and lender transfers as well.

For our new generations learning math, the techniques and strategies to calculate the answers have changed, but the answers remain the same. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about mortgages. Not only have our techniques changed, but the answers are also different as well. For more information on the new mortgage rules & qualifying rates, contact one of our qualified Mortgage Brokers in your area today.

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