Bank Security: 4 things you really need to know.


Whether your balance sheet is thin, or you’re the co-founder of Twitter, if you get a bank loan, it will be a loan like any other loan. And that means granting the bank security. While its all pretty standard stuff, it’s often not very understandable stuff. But if you’re buying and selling real estate, you’ll be dealing with loans virtually every time – so you better know at least this much:

1 Open and closed:

This has nothing to do with crazy bank hours. Did you know that the bank really doesn’t want their money back? Not unless they are guaranteed to make a good return off of you first. An open mortgage is a mortgage that can be paid out before its maturity date (end of the term) without notice, bonus or penalty payment. But banks don’t like that so it usually comes with a higher interest rate. A closed mortgage is one that is locked in for the term: to get out of it and pay it out early requires the payment of a penalty. This is where it gets scary: investigate this! Some penalties are equivalent to three months of interest – substantial, but not crazy. But some also state that it could be the greater of that amount or something called the ‘interest rate differential’. It’s a bit complex- and many bank commitment letters spend pages showing how to calculate that amount – but generally it means the amount the bank would lose if they put the principal amount back into the market at interest rates then applicable. I’ve seen these as high as $20,000.00.

Don’t miss the importance of this. If you plan to hold the property for the length of the term then it doesn’t matter. But if you have even a remote chance of selling before the term expires, then consider an open mortgage even if rates are higher.

2. High ratio:

If you can’t put at least 20% equity into the property being purchased then you will need a high ratio mortgage. Two nasty things flow from this: First, you’ll be charged a fee for the cost of the required insurance that covers the lending bank. That’s right, you pay the premium for someone else’s insurance coverage. What a deal! And it will be significant (usually between 2-5% of the loan amount)

Second, you will personally be liable for the loan. The bank’s remedies are not (unlike conventional loans) limited to the land (i.e. foreclosure). They can come after the borrower for the difference if the foreclosure sale doesn’t net enough to fully payout the loan.

So while your potential return on investment is significantly higher the less cash you inject into the deal, the potential costs and risks are higher too.

3 Linus’ blanket:

A mortgage is just the 'security blanket' that banks need to feel good about giving you a loan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by clients that they don’t have a mortgage on their property – yet they do. Why? They have a line of credit loan and mistakenly believe a mortgage is a different type of loan. It’s not. It’s security for a loan. A mortgage can secure a traditional loan that contemplates principal and interest payments over a specific term at a specific rate. (i.e. what most people think of when they think of a ‘mortgage’). But a mortgage can secure any type of loan – including a line of credit or a HELOC. Evidence for a loan is a loan agreement or a promissory note. Security for a loan can be several things:

- A Mortgage registered against title to Real Property

- A General Security Agreement registered against Personal Property

- Guarantees given by individuals or corporations to back the loan

- And other fun stuff like hypothecation of shares.

4 Property Taxes:

A bank will usually want to get their security blanket – I mean mortgage – registered on title as a first position financial charge. That means that nobody else has a higher priority than they do. If you sell that place they get first dibs on the money. But those nasty politicians have complicated things a bit. Even without a registration on title, the government has a supra-priority interest to the extent there are any outstanding taxes. So do you think the bank cares? You bet they do! Nobody is going to step ahead of them!

So your mortgage requires you to pay property taxes when due. You have basically three options:

  • Pay Once: you can pay June 30th (usually) for that year’s property taxes;