High Ratio Mortgages: Advantages and Risks

High ratio mortgages have surfaced as a valuable financing option for aspiring homeowners. These mortgages allow buyers to secure a home loan with a down payment of less than 20% of the home’s purchasing price. there are also many private mortgage lenders that offer these mortgages.

Understanding High Ratio Mortgages

High-ratio mortgages, also known as down payment mortgages, enable borrowers to purchase a property with a smaller down payment compared to conventional mortgages.

It is typically required for borrowers to put down a down payment of 20% in conventional mortgages. However, high-ratio mortgages offer flexibility by accepting down payments as low as 5%.

What is Loan-to-Value Ratio?

The loan-to-value ratio or LTV ratio represents the percentage of the property’s value that the lender is willing to finance. LTV is a crucial factor in high-ratio mortgages.

For instance, if the LTV ratio is 95%, the lender provides a loan covering 95% of the property’s value, while the remaining 5% is covered by the borrower’s down payment.

Advantages of High Ratio Mortgages

Accessible Home Ownership

Home ownership is more possible because high-ratio mortgages won’t require you to put down a large down payment. It allows individuals who have limited savings to enter the housing market.

Lower Initial Cost

It allows borrowers with limited savings to enter the housing market, freeing up the funds for other purposes such as investments, renovations, or debt reduction.

Investment Opportunity

Home buyers can diversify their overall financial portfolio by using a high-ratio mortgage to move their saved money to different investments that could generate higher returns.

Flexibility and Financial Planning

High-ratio mortgages provide borrowers greater financial flexibility, allowing them to allocate their saved funds towards other financial goals or emergencies. It can also enable them to take advantage of rising property values and build equity.

Mortgage Insurance

High-ratio mortgages will require you to purchase mortgage insurance which protects the lenders in Canada from default risks. The insurance will serve as an added security for lenders, which can also lead to more favourable terms for borrowers.

Risks of High Ratio Mortgages

Higher Mortgage Insurance Premiums

The need for mortgage insurance is one of the key challenges with high-ratio mortgages. The premiums must be paid by borrowers, which may increase their total monthly mortgage payments. These extra expenses may make borrowing expensive and burden the borrower’s finances.

Increased Monthly Payments

A smaller down payment means you have more borrowed money. With the small down payment, it is obvious that you will also have a higher monthly payment in the future. It can put a strain on the borrower’s financial stability and budgeting. Especially if their income or financial situation changes.

Potential Negative Equity

Negative equity, where the outstanding mortgage balance exceeds the property’s market value, is more likely with high-ratio mortgages. Suppose the borrower needs to sell the property or refinance. In that case, they can run into problems if property values drop or if they sell the property before accumulating a sizable amount of equity.

Limited Equity Accumulation

Due to the smaller down payment, building equity in a high-ratio mortgage takes longer. This can delay the borrower’s ability to access the benefits of home ownership, such as utilizing home equity for future financial needs.

Stricter Qualification Requirements

Higher credit score requirements and stricter debt-to-income ratios are two examples of the more restrictive eligibility requirements for high-ratio mortgages. Some borrowers may need help to qualify for this kind of mortgage.

Refinancing Options for High Ratio Mortgages

Conventional Refinance

Refinancing your high-ratio mortgage into a conventional refinance is one choice. Usually, it would help to qualify for at least 20% equity in your property.

You can avoid paying mortgage insurance payments by switching to a traditional mortgage, and you can also get a cheaper interest rate, which will save you money in the long run.

Streamlined Refinance

If you have a high ratio mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you may be eligible for a streamlined refinance program.

These programs, such as FHA Streamline Refinance or VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL), offer simplified processes with reduced documentation requirements. They aim to lower your interest rate and monthly payments without a significant reassessment of your financial situation.

Cash-out Refinance

You can refinance your high-ratio mortgage for a higher amount than you presently owe via a cash-out refinance, using the equity difference as cash you can use for other things.

It may benefit from debt relief, house improvements, or other financial requirements. But be aware that it can lengthen your payback period and raise the total cost of the loan.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

Getting a HELOC is another refinancing choice for high-ratio mortgages. You can borrow money from this line of credit whenever you need it because it is secured by the equity in your property.

You can draw on some of your home equity with a HELOC while keeping your current mortgage in place. However, it’s crucial to consider the conditions, interest rates, and repayment demands related to a HELOC.

Rate and Term Refinance

In a rate and term refinance, your high-ratio mortgage is refinanced to change the interest rate and/or repayment duration.

You may get a reduced interest rate as a result, which could cut your monthly payments or shorten the loan term so that you can pay off your mortgage more quickly. It doesn’t entail getting access to more money like a cash-out refinance.


High-ratio mortgages offer accessible home ownership with lower initial costs but with higher mortgage insurance premiums, increased monthly payments, and the risk of negative equity.

To maximize the benefits, consider factors like creditworthiness, budgeting for insurance premiums, and exploring refinancing options. Homeowners can navigate high-ratio mortgages successfully by evaluating the pros and cons, consulting professionals, and practicing responsible financial management.

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