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Why it’s harder for self-employed to get a mortgage – Contact a Vancouver Mortgage Broker

May 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Recent News

Why it’s harder for self-employed to get a mortgage

Self employment is more common, but banks are more cautious about giving mortgages to people who fall into this category.
By:  Staff Reporter., Published on Fri May 10 2013
Adil Virani Vancouver Mortgage BrokerVick Vij knows all about the challenges self-employed folks face when they try to get a mortgage.

The Markham-based chartered accountant went through the arduous process a few years back. He also regularly deals with self-employed clients looking to purchase a home. “It can definitely be more complicated for them,” he says.

Where mortgage applicants with steady, salaried jobs can document their annual income with a T4 slip, the self-employed — entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelance professionals with a changing clientele and no regular paycheque — are assessed based on stated income, or the amount the borrower claims to earn, which they must prove with tax returns, contracts and financial statements.

“They don’t have a lot of verifiable pieces of paper that substantiate their income,” Vij says. “So the bank or mortgage broker is going to have to do more due diligence to gain comfort about their numbers.”

Self employment is becoming more common these days as economic upheaval leads to job losses and career reinventions. Banks, nevertheless, approach these customers with caution.

“You’ve got a riskier proposition with the self-employed, compared with somebody who has a regular paycheque,” acknowledges Farhaneh Haque, a mortgage specialist with TD Canada Trust.

Before the federal government tightened up mortgage rules last year, Haque notes, lenders would assess the risk level of a self-employed borrower based on that person’s credit-rating and the size of their down-payment. They’d also factor in the applicant’s savings, debt repayment history and whether their business had healthy cash-flow. “If it all made sense and sat well in my gut, I would move forward with the file,” Haque says.

New mortgage rules mean the assessment of a self-employed applicant’s income has become far more rigorous. Lenders will now analyze the average income for the industry a self-employed applicant works in, and study the person’s employment history and earnings in the field. “(Their stated income) should be reasonable, based on the industry sector, the type of busines and the length of time the operation has been in business,” says Jennifer Bissonnette, an RBC mortgage specialist.

Banks are scrutinizing the tax documents of self-employed applicants more carefully, and focussing more closely on the expenses being written off — the cost of a vehicle or of advertising, for example — and how this might explain discrepancies between the applicant’s stated income and how much they end up reporting to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). “We’re now required to say, ‘Help us, Mr. Customer, understand how your income shifts from, say, $80,000 to $40,000 (on your tax return)? Provide us with your business financials to show what you’re writing off,’ ” Haque notes.

Although there may be more people self-employed these days, it doesn’t mean lenders will be making it any easier for them to secure a mortgage. “I don’t blame the banks,” says Vick Vij. “They just haven’t figured out a system on their end to help them navigate through (self-employed peoples’) issues.”

Tips for applying

Applying for a mortgage is no picnic for the self-employed. Here are a few tips to ensure the process goes smoothly:

Get your finances in order. Pay down debt. Debt-service ratios are a major factor in a loan-approval assessment. Maintain good credit. “You don’t want to be an avid credit-seeker taking on every credit card under the sun,” says Jennifer Bissonnette, an RBC mortgage specialist. Consider bumping up your savings to make a larger down-payment. “Maybe a self-employed person has liquid assets in the bank that they’re keeping for a rainy day,” she says. Now might be the time to use them. If you run into difficulty, having someone co-sign for your mortgage might help sway the lender. Just remember: a co-signer gets title ownership to the property as well.

Prepare supporting documentation. Have on hand two to three years’ worth of notices of (tax) assessment, which show your reported income, how much tax you owe and what you’ve written off. Provide three years of T1 General tax returns. You’ll also need your business licence, articles of incorporation and financial statements that (ideally) show a steady flow of cash into your business. Use client contracts and work-orders to demonstrate sources of revenue.

Stay consistent. Lenders prefer that self-employed folks who work in a business that’s tried and tested, and have expertise in the field. “We want to see that they aren’t just throwing themselves into one kind of employment, because it’s the flavour of the day and then that doesn’t work out and they reinvent themselves elsewhere,” says Haque. The same goes for residential history; it doesn’t look good to lenders if you’ve lived in 10 different places over the past two years. “You need to show consistency and stability. That helps us offset and mitigate risk . . . .”

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