9 Apr 2020
The Math on Mortgage Deferrals
The Real Costs. The Facts. The Myths.
There are opinions and articles circulating that say taking the 6 month mortgage deferral option could result in your payments increasing by $800 a month at the end of the deferral period. This is just not so. You’ve probably also heard that lenders will charge interest on top of interest and that this is going to cost you a fortune. Well it’s not going to cost you a fortune. Let’s do the real math here.
Let’s take a $400,000 mortgage at a 3.0% interest rate on a 5 year fixed term that originally had a 25 year amortization, meaning the life of the mortgage is 25 years. The monthly payment is about $1,900. Now let’s say the borrowers are two and a half years into their five year term and decide to take the 6 month deferral option. They will save $11,400 in cash flow over this 6 month deferral period by not paying principal and interest. Now it’s true that the lender will likely charge interest each month on the interest that was never paid. In technical terms, this is called monthly compounding.
At the end of the 6 month deferral period, the mortgage balance is now higher than it would have been by the principal that was never paid down and the additional interest costs. The additional interest costs amount to approximately $75 over the 6 month deferral period in this case. But the mortgage amount is now higher and there are 2 years left in the mortgage term and 22 years remaining in the life of the mortgage. Since the new payments of $1,960 per month are recalculated based on the remaining life of the mortgage, the additional interest cost over the next 2 years in the term is another $650, and the borrowers will also pay another $3,525 in interest over the final 20 years remaining in the life of the mortgage. The grand total in extra interest costs is about $4,250 over the next 22 years for the benefit of deferring $11,400 for 6 months, and the payments only went up by $60 per month.
How about another example looking at an $800,000 mortgage with a 3.0% interest rate on a 2 year fixed term and a remaining life of 15 years? This is a more aggressive mortgage situation. The monthly payment starts at $5,525 and the borrowers decide to take the 6 month deferral option with 1 year left in the term, saving $33,150 in cash flow over the deferral period. After the deferral period the new monthly payment goes up by $250 per month, not $800 per month, and the total additional interest cost for taking the deferral option is $7,450 spread over more than 13 years.
Different lenders have different methods for their deferral program, but this is generally what we are seeing from many lenders. Some lenders are keeping the same monthly payment amount until the end of the mortgage term, which means the interest cost will be slightly higher because the principal is not being paid down as fast, and the payment will go higher at renewal.
The deferral programs are meant to address those facing financial hardship and difficulties making payments, and each lender has its own policies on how much evidence they require to prove this. For those that are in this situation, there are certainly additional costs with taking the deferral option, as there should be. But they are certainly not as high as some of the perceptions and expectations out there that I’ve come across, which seem to be fear driving fiction rather than balancing the facts. There is a significant benefit of being able to save on cash flow during this difficult time period ahead and lenders have offered this program because they know it can help their clients. So from a purely mathematical point of view, if you can make your mortgage payments, make them and avoid the additional interest costs, but if you qualify for the deferral and need it, don’t fear it, it’s not as costly as some of the rumours and misguided advice out there. And you can always use your prepayment feature to bring the principal amount back down again once you have the funds to do so.
Todd Skene is a mortgage professional with DLC Clear Trust Mortgages in Vancouver, BC