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You might think that the smartest route is going to your local bank and applying there - and that's what most of us do. But, will it get you the lowest possible interest rates and the terms you need? Increasingly, the answer is "no" .
Would it surprise you to know that Canadian homeowners are behind their peers around the world when it comes to applying for mortgages online - or even just using the internet to do some initial research to see what current rates might be? According to a survey conducted by HSBC, just under 40% of Canadians had ever switched lenders - compare that with 53% of American homeowners and 44% of mortgage holders worldwide - and only 50% of the Canadians surveyed had even looked at rates on bank or brokerage websites.
Monday, September 26th
Homewise is one of the newest mortgage referral services on the market, getting its start in 2019. They partner with more than 30 banks, credit unions and other financial institutions across Canada, to get home buyers the best possible mortgage rates and terms. Although, at the time of this review, Homewise was only directly available to borrowers in Ontario, their partner network allows them to co-broker mortgages throughout the nation.
High tech plus personal touch
How does Homewise help you get a mortgage? With one simple online application, you can put your own tech-powered mortgage experts to work, who will negotiate with top lenders on your behalf. Instead of filling out multiple applications and inquiries with Scotiabank, Desjardins, Canada Trust, Equitable Bank, and so on, you get one-stop mortgage shopping - which saves you time and hassle, and ultimately should also save you money by getting you the most competitive offers for funding your home purchase. Best of all, there's no charge for using Homewise's services: they make their money through referral fees paid by the lenders themselves. Does it get any easier?
5-minute application process
The process for getting started with Homewise should only take you about five minutes. First, you'll let them know if you're looking at homes and needing a mortgage preapproval, already found a home and needing approval for a mortgage, or refinancing or switching a current mortgage. Assuming you choose the first option, you'll then answer questions about the anticipated timeline for your home purchase, whether or not it's your first home purchase (in case you're eligible for the land transfer tax rebate), an address or approximate area of where you're looking for a home, the anticipated price of the home and how much you have for a down payment, how you'll use the property (e.g. primary residence, rental, second home), property type (e.g. condo, townhouse, single-family), and, finally, your contact information. That will create your Homewise account.
Clear explanations at every step
From there, you've got a few more questions to answer: about your current living situation, your job, anticipated future considerations like income increases, co-applicant information, assets and debts. There were two things in the application process that really impressed us: the helpful explanations available for each and every question we had to answer, plus the open-answer section at the very end that let us specify anything else we wanted our Homewise mortgage experts to consider as they helped us find the right home loan. This could include any preferences for mortgage features (like no prepayment penalties), where we currently bank (in case there are customer discounts available), and so on.
Quick connection with an account rep
Once you hit submit, you'll get a pop-up letting you know that you've completed the application and that you should hear from a Homewise rep within 48 hours. After a few seconds, that should disappear and then take you to your status page. You'll see some features of the type of mortgage that Homewise estimates you'll qualify for, along with the photo and contact information for the rep assigned to your account. Don't worry if some of the mortgage features shown on your status page aren't what you want: you'll discuss all of them with your Homewise account representative when he or she reaches out to you, and you can make changes as needed.
No negative reviews so far
Because Homewise is so new, comparatively speaking, it's more challenging to determine the company's reputation within the mortgage industry. The good news is that we found nothing negative among the reviews and customer comments we did track down: across the board, it seems that Homewise is delivering on its promises to "make the mortgage experience fast, transparent and simple...while saving users the most money possible" .
Committed to homeownership for all
Something that we personally love about Homewise is their commitment to helping all Canadians have a place to call home. They donate a portion of their lender revenue on every mortgage to Habitat for Humanity GTA (Greater Toronto Area), known as the "Home Karma" program. Their team also shows up to volunteer and help build these Habitat homes, giving back in both funds and hard work. We're impressed!
Best choice for mortgages in Canada
For all of these reasons, Homewise is our preferred choice for Canadians looking for a home mortgage. The online application is one of the most straightforward we've ever seen, and the company's reputation for competitive rates and excellent attention to customer service definitely caught our attention. We encourage you to make Homewise your first visit when deciding where to shop for a mortgage, because the company earns our highest recommendation.
RatesDotCa has been helping Canadians make better insurance and money decisions for more than 20 years. As a rebrand of Kanetix and RateSupermarket, this company may have even crossed your radar in the past if you've comparison-shopped for personal loans, car insurance or even credit cards before.
Rate quotes provided upfront
Of all of the Canadian mortgage sites we evaluated, RatesDotCa is, hands down, the most thorough. While most services require a fair amount of information before giving you anything even close to a rate quote, RatesDotCa puts it all out there - right on their main mortgage page! Use the dropdown boxes to indicate the province where you're buying a home, what rate type you prefer, the value of the home, the percentage or dollar amount of your down payment, and presto: quotes from specific lenders, including terms, more information about each, and a handy "get this rate" button if we were definitely interested.
Get quotes, then apply directly with lender(s)
Ready to apply? You'll need that "get this rate button" : you'll be taken directly to the lender's website to submit your application. That's a little different from many of the referral services and brokerages in our review, where you have to enter a lot of information at the outset and then get quotes specific to your particular needs. We can't vouch for how easy it is (or isn't) once you've clicked away from the RatesDotCa site, though.
Real-time best rates across Canada
Still looking for more possibilities? Keep scrolling down the RatesDotCa mortgage page and you'll find a rate matrix for today's best terms - nationwide, if you like, or choose your province. You'll see specific rates for various types of loans and circumstances (e.g. fixed and variable rates, insured, 80% or 65% LTV), along with some editor's tips about each one. And, even further down the page, be sure to check out RatesDotCa's 10 factors that are sure to influence your mortgage rates (click the dropdowns to get more details on each of them).
A+ rating, no complaints
RatesDotCa has an impressive "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau. Better yet, there were zero complaints filed against the company with the BBB at the time of this review. That's pretty unusual!
Slightly smaller lender network, still worth using
The only reason RatesDotCa just misses our first-place ranking is their slightly limited partner network. Where our top choice for home loans in Canada offers quotes from over 30 lenders, this platform only gets you quotes from a baker's dozen. You'll still have plenty of competitive options to choose from, just not quite as many as our preferred mortgage brokerage. (We did see, when we were getting our initial rate quotes, that RatesDotCa claimed to have compared "over 300 mortgage companies across Canada" , but our list still only consisted of 5 lenders and 10 quotes.) This is a terrific place to start the search for your home mortgage.
Breezeful is an online-only mortgage broker that partners with more than 30 different lenders, including big-name banks like Manulife and TD Bank as well as smaller financial institutions. Backed by investments from Y Combinator and Go Ahead Ventures, this company is new to the industry and off to a good start. With offices in Toronto, Breezeful is distinctly Canadian.
Fast online application process
The online application is very straightforward. First, you'll be asked whether you're buying or refinancing. Next, indicate where you are in the home-buying process: determining how much you qualify to borrow, looking for a pre-approval, making offers on homes, in possession of an accepted offer, or looking for a better rate on a current mortgage.
Assuming you're ready for a pre-approval letter, the next questions are about how you'll use the property (e.g. own residence, rental, second home), when you need the mortgage, and a property address. We thought that part was tricky: if you indicate you're in the preapproval stage, you might not even have a house in mind yet. You may have to enter an address in a general area you're considering. Finally, you'll enter how much you have for a down payment, your credit score, basic employment details, contact information, and anything else you'd like your lending experts to know about the kind of mortgage you want.
Book an advisor appointment
Here's where we found something novel: at this stage of the application, you can actually book an appointment with a Breezeful mortgage expert. When we looked at availability, there were plenty of appointments in the two upcoming weeks (Monday through Friday only). Be sure you specify your time zone in the dropdown at the bottom of the page, if it doesn't automatically default to it.
Upload your documents or wait for a call
That step is optional, though. You can always skip it and go to the next section: Documents. You can either start uploading documents, like your pay stub and valid government-issued ID, answer additional questions for your application (like number of dependents and current address), or wait until you hear from a Breezeful representative.
Not much customer feedback yet
Breezeful is fairly similar to our first-place mortgage brokerage company, so you might be wondering why they don't rank equally high. The answer is easy: we just couldn't find enough customer feedback to give this brokerage our top rating. Even on Breezeful's own website, where it said "see more reviews here" , we were taken to a generic search results page instead of any collection of customer feedback. We didn't find any negative buzz about Breezeful - but other than a handful of experts weighing in, we didn't see much of any commentary about how well the company handles mortgages in Canada.
A few glitches to work out
We also spotted a few glitches during the initial application process. In the additional questions section, we were told that our "credit sccore [sic] is bruised" . Not only was there that typo, but we also entered a sample (fake) profile that shouldn't have come up with any credit score, let alone a "bruised" one.
So far, so good
Does Breezeful have potential? Absolutely! Do we expect to hear good things about the brokerage going forward? Definitely! However, for now, we have to reserve our highest recommendations for services that have a little more feedback. Keep an eye on Breezeful, though.
Loans Canada is a comparison platform that helps you find a good home loan. Although they've only been in business for about 10 years, they've already earned accreditation and an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau: an excellent indicator that you're in trustworthy hands when trying to get a mortgage through this service.
Loads of information about mortgages
Some mortgage websites feel almost aggressive when you first visit, but not Loans Canada. Instead, you'll find a lot of information about how to choose a lender, general requirements to apply for mortgages, rules in Canada regarding down payments, FAQs and more. In fact, the site is so indirect about actually giving you mortgage quotes that you might miss the small "Apply Now" buttons on the left side and at the top of the page! (We think that's rather polite.)
Smaller financial institutions quoted here
We noticed that most of the big banks aren't included in Loans Canada's lender network. You won't find Scotiabank or Desjardins, but instead you'll see names like True North Mortgage, Bridgewater Bank, and over a dozen others. That's not necessarily a drawback - smaller lenders often give more competitive rates than the larger financial institutions - but it might catch you off guard if you don't see any mortgages from banks you recognize.
Connected to other lending platforms?
You might also wind up connected with yet another brokerage platform when using Loans Canada. For example, Mogo is listed as one of their lending network partners - but Mogo itself serves as a referral company. Using Loans Canada could feel a little bit like going down the rabbit hole, so keep track of your hops, skips and jumps as you click through potential mortgage offers here.
No rate quotes without complete, accurate personal info
Getting back to that "Apply Now" button, once you click it you'll be asked to indicate what type of mortgage you need: new, renewal, commercial, or reverse. From there, you'll enter your postal code to determine if they have lending partners in your area and, if so, you'll be asked for your name, phone number, address and email address. Unfortunately for our pretend resident of Ontario that we used to get a quote through Loans Canada, "she" was unable to be matched with a service provider. We were told that we should get our free credit score next, because our "credit report may contain errors that cause delays or declines" . We're not sure if that's why we weren't able to be matched, and it was a little disappointing to not even get a rough idea of possible loan types and rates in our area.
Beware of scammers
We're also a little cautious about using Loans Canada because of an alert posted to the BBB site. Apparently, there are a number of scammers impersonating the business and getting money from unsuspecting victims. That's not the fault of Loans Canada, of course - but in reading through the 200+ reviews of the company on one of their social media channels, many of them sounded like they were direct from the scammers' playbook! They looked pretty suspicious, with almost the exact same wording (and typos in the same places!), leaving us wondering why Loans Canada left them up on their business page. (We guess a 5-star review from a scammer is as good as one from a legitimate customer?)
Not the best, not the worst
Generally speaking, Loans Canada isn't a bad place to work on getting a mortgage in Canada - but it doesn't quite measure up to our highest expectations. There are a couple of services out there that might be a better choice as you start to comparison shop for your home loan.
Founded in Canada in 2003, Mogo is a fintech company headquartered in Vancouver, with offices in Winnipeg and Toronto. They offer a range of financial products, including free credit score monitoring, identity fraud protection, personal loans and mortgages, and even a bitcoin exchange. (You may even see Mogo come up on other mortgage brokerage sites, as one of their featured partners!)
Little disclosure about financial partners
Like many of the lenders in this review, Mogo serves as a brokerage that connects you with financial partners in their network. They're pretty tight-lipped about who those partners are; we couldn't find a list of banks or credit unions that they typically use to service their customers' mortgage needs.
There are some fairly significant limitations to Mogo's home mortgages. First, because they've "just launched" the MogoMortgage experience, they're limiting their lending to mortgages where the down payment (or existing equity) is less than 20% of the home's value. These high-ratio mortgages come with mortgage default insurance (or CMHC), which could be part of the way Mogo is making money from brokering loans.
Geographic limitations as well
Also, at the time of this review, only Canadians living in BC, AB, MB, ON, NB, NS, PE and NL were eligible to apply for a mortgage on Mogo. If you live in a province not listed, you'll need to use a different resource for getting a home mortgage.
Financial limitations too
And, don't forget Mogo's minimum eligibility requirements: a credit score of 640+, a minimum down payment of 5% (but not higher than 20%) of course), and proof of income sufficient to make your monthly payments. If you've got credit score problems or want to make a bigger down payment, you shouldn't use MogoMortgage.
Free Mogo account required
If you decide to use MogoMortgage, you'll have to start by signing up for a free Mogo account. That will enroll you in their free services, like getting your credit score and learning how to manage your finances. That's a great choice if you need help with getting on top of your credit cards, improving your credit score, or just want to understand your financial situation more clearly. On the other hand, if you just want to get a mortgage or you don't love the idea of managing your finances with a smartphone app, Mogo may not be your ideal fit as a lending service.
Good reputation - but not on loans
Overall, is this company trustworthy? The Better Business Bureau gives them an "A+, which is always a good sign. Customer reviews are somewhat mixed across all of the products that Mogo offers; we didn't spot any specific to mortgages, but we found quite a few complaints about their bitcoin platform and their personal loan offerings. Most of the positive comments were regarding Mogo's free credit score reports and monitoring. That makes us think that Mogo might not be ready for large-scale mortgage brokering just yet, since their loan products got so many of the negative remarks.
Not the best resource for mortgages yet
Looking for a way to get your credit score for free? Mogo's got that, no problem. And, if you're also in the market for a mortgage, it couldn't hurt to take a look at what they might have to offer. However, Mogo would not be our first choice for getting a home loan in Canada at this time - not when there are so many other options that are well-established and available to residents of all provinces.
Scotiabank is a leader in the financial industry, not just in Canada but also throughout the Americas. With over 90,000 employees and over $1 trillion in assets, it's easy to see why this mortgage lender is one of the most popular among Canadian homeowners.
100% online mortgage platform available
Scotiabank's newest product is their eHOME online mortgage hub. Do you like the idea of getting preapproved for a mortgage, searching for your new home, receiving mortgage approval, and sailing straight on through to getting keys in hand - all without ever having to set foot in a bank branch location? You'll get all of that and more here. (Though you will have to meet with the lawyer completing your home purchase, to sign documents and pick up your new house keys.)
Create an account to get rate quotes
To get started with eHOME, you'll need to view Scotiabank's privacy agreement first. (It's pretty standard.) You'll then go through a series of questions about your intended use of the property (i.e. primary residence vs. investment or vacation home), if you're applying with a guarantor, if you've had a bankruptcy in the last 7 years, and so forth. If you're eligible for the eHOME platform, you'll have to enter your name, address, and mobile number in order to create your account. Unfortunately, without taking the steps to make a Scotiabank eHOME account, you won't be able to get personalized rate quotes to see if they're competitive with any other mortgage offers you may have.
Traditional mortgage process also available
If you prefer a more traditional route to home ownership, Scotiabank has a wide variety of secure fixed-rate mortgages as well. At the time of this review, home buyers could choose Open Term mortgages of 6 months and 1 year, 6-month Flexible/Closed mortgages, and Closed Term mortgages ranging from 1-10 years. To find out more about these options, however, you'd have to call Scotiabank's toll-free number or get in contact with a Home Financing Advisor at a branch location near you.
Sample rates online - but special offers may be possible too
Digging around on the website, we were able to find a list of mortgage rates (under the Mortgages tab, as the very last link under the Resources heading). You can easily find both fixed and variable rates listed. However, your actual mortgage rate will probably differ: Scotiabank, like most lenders, has special offers, broker rates, and discretionary rates for well-qualified borrowers who do a significant amount of business with the bank.
Disappointing rating from the BBB
We were absolutely astonished to find out that Scotiabank has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau. That may be the first time we've seen a business with such a long history - almost 200 years, after all - with a failing grade. The reasons given for the BBB's low score were Scotiabank's failure to respond in any way to 7 complaints, as well as 19 complaints that got responses but the issues remained unresolved. However, in reading through some of the customer comments, we didn't find any that related specifically to home mortgages: they seemed to centre mostly around investment or general chequing/savings accounts.
Not the best mortgage rates or terms
But, even when you just consider Scotiabank's mortgage options, they still wind up towards the bottom of our rankings. As a large bank, they have very little need to be competitive with their rates - making it more likely that you'll find better rates and terms somewhere else. We also read comments describing higher fixed penalties with Scotiabank, like their prepayment charge if you break a fixed-rate mortgage early. Finally, watch out for Scotiabank's mortgage insurance: it may not be portable if you refinance with a new lender, leaving you in the position of having to buy new insurance that may come with higher premiums.
Better options out there
Scotiabank is an easy choice if you're already a customer, if you need the reassurance of having a local branch nearby should issues arise, or if you're just more comfortable getting a mortgage from a household name in the financial industry. However, for prospective home-buyers who want the best possible rates on their mortgage, Scotiabank should not be the main lender they consider.
Be a trendsetter: start your mortgage-hunting process online. Why? The big banks have zero reason to compete for your business, because millions of customers walk through their doors every year to get the money they need to buy their new homes. On the other hand, smaller banks, credit unions and other financial institutions are highly motivated to get your attention with lower rates, more favorable terms, and greater emphasis on customer service after the mortgage is put in place. Plus, if you're still interested in being a mortgage client of one of the bigger banks, you can easily get rate quotes online for those institutions as well - without having to go in person.
But, how can you determine which services are reputable and reliable? A mortgage is no small commitment, and you want to ensure that your financial information is protected and that your home loan is 100% above-board.
As you consider various canadian mortgage lending sites, here are several criteria that can guide your decision:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best online providers of home mortgages in Canada. We're confident that this information will help you get the loan you need to buy your "home sweet home" .
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