What does a “Rate Hike” actually mean?

TD Bank has just increased it’s posted rates and RBC will also on Monday. This increase, from 5.14% to 5.59% at TD, is the “biggest move in years.” The change came because of the bond yields increasing. We do expect every other lender to follow suit.

But, actual interest rates have not changed… so what exactly is going on?

The banks have specifically increased something called the “posted” rate.

A “posted” rate is used for three purposes:

  1. Fools clients into thinking rates are higher than they are by being displayed in the “Rates” section of a bank’s website.
  2. A ~5% decrease in affordability for many borrowers. The posted rate is the benchmark rate that lenders use for qualifying a mortgage (a bank’s “stress test”). 
  3. It is used to calculate the bank’s mortgage penalty.

First, let’s address the clients who renew their mortgages when the banks send out renewal letters…

Did you know that 80% of homeowners renew with their current mortgage lender? Did you also know that the Bank of Canada published a study that says:

“lenders have improved their ability to price discriminate… offering discount rates to different sets of consumers, based on their willingness to pay.”

Lenders know that at renewal, most clients do not shop around as they did when they obtained their initial mortgage, and are therefore less likely to offer their best rate to current borrowers.

So, this higher rate is for people who don’t know better. Please remember that the banks are not there for your client. A recent CBC article shows that the banks are there to make money first and provide advice second.

Second, for qualification, the lenders go by their “posted rate” to qualify a mortgage. If a client gets a variable at 3%, the lender is required to qualify them at the higher rate of posted/benchmark and 2% above their contract rate (in this case, 3%). However, with lenders increasing their posted rates, the client will have to be approved at 5.59% instead of 5.14%. This will affect home buyers and decrease affordability by about 5%.

Third, banks use the posted rate for their penalty calculations. The higher the posted rate, the higher someone’s potential penalty is when they pay out their mortgage. This increase in the posted rate will increase people’s penalties quite substantially for Bank Interest Rate Differential (IRD) penalties. This is definitely not in the clients’ best interests. A borrower could do much better by going with a variable rate penalty or a monoline IRD penalty. Here is an article we wrote on the 4 penalty types.


BONUS: OK, so we now know that the Posted Rates have increased. What we don’t know is why…

The first reason for a lender to increase their rates would be when the bond yields increase. We have seen a slight increase but not that much, and definitely not enough to warrant such a high increase in a bank’s posted rate. Generally, when the bond market changes, the discounted rates will change. Discounted rates are the rates that clients actually see when they get their mortgages.

One sentiment is that TD and RBC are trying to warn people to lock in now so they can make more money and have greater “spreads” between the bond yields and mortgage rates.

If I had a crystal ball, or if I was a portfolio manager, I may have more info for you here… Alas, this is all I can say on this matter.