What is a High-Ratio Mortgage?

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High-ratio mortgages allow you to purchase a home with a down payment as little as 5%. A high-ratio mortgage is a mortgage for more than 80% of the value of the home. If you are buying a home and you make a down payment of less than 20%, then your mortgage will be a high-ratio mortgage.

On the other hand, a low-ratio mortgage, also known as a conventional mortgage, is for less than 80% of the value of the home. To be a low-ratio mortgage, a down payment greater than 20% is required.

A high-ratio mortgage means that you are borrowing more money compared to a low-ratio mortgage. This means that high-ratio mortgages are riskier for mortgage lenders. To make up for this, mortgage loan insurance is required for high-ratio mortgages from most mortgage lenders, such as banks and credit unions.

High-ratio Mortgage Flowchart

High-Ratio Mortgages and Loan-to-Value Ratios

Your mortgage’s loan-to-value ratio (LTV) is the amount that you are borrowing compared to the purchase price or appraised value of the home. For example, if you make a 10% down payment on a home, your mortgage’s LTV ratio will be 90%. Likewise, if you make a 20% down payment, your LTV ratio is 80%.

LTV Ratio Calculation

LTV Ratio =
(Home Price - Down Payment)
Home Price

If your mortgage’s LTV ratio is greater than 80%, then it is a high-ratio mortgage. The minimum required down payment in Canada is 5% for homes with a price less than $500,000. If you make a 5% down payment, then you will have the maximum allowed LTV ratio of 95%.

Table of Loan-to-Value Ratios for High-Ratio Mortgages

Down PaymentLoan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio

High-Ratio Mortgages vs. Conventional Mortgages

Mortgage loan insurance is required for high-ratio mortgages, but they are not required for conventional mortgages. Mortgage insurance is offered by the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) as well as other private insurers. CMHC mortgage insurance is not free. You will need to pay CMHC mortgage insurance premiums based on your mortgage’s loan-to-value ratio.

High-Ratio and Conventional Mortgage Comparison

High-Ratio MortgageConventional Mortgage
CMHC InsuranceRequiredNot Required
Maximum Amortization Period25 Years35 Years
Mortgage RatesLowerHigher
Maximum Home Price$1,000,000No Limit

Insurance Premiums

You will need to pay for CMHC insurance on high-ratio mortgages. This is in the form of an insurance premium that is charged as a percentage of your borrowing amount.

CMHC insurance is only available for properties with a purchase price or value under $1,000,000. This means that you cannot use a high-ratio mortgage if you are planning on purchasing a home that has a price greater than $1,000,000. Instead, to purchase a home that costs more than $1 million, you will need to make a down payment of 20% or more for a conventional mortgage.

Calculate your CMHC Insurance Premiums

Amortization Period

The maximum amortization period allowed for high-ratio mortgages is 25 years. If you would like a longer amortization period, then you would need to use a conventional mortgage. A longer amortization period allows for your mortgage payments to be spread out over a longer time period, resulting in smaller monthly mortgage payments. While the amount of your mortgage payments will be smaller, you will need to pay a larger down payment upfront in order to qualify for a conventional mortgage. A longer amortization period also means that you will be paying more interest over the lifetime of your loan.

Mortgage Rates

High-ratio mortgages are insured mortgages. Insured mortgages usually have lower mortgage rates than uninsured conventional mortgages. While you may be able to get lower mortgage rates with a high-ratio mortgage, you still have to pay for mortgage default insurance. However, in some cases, your mortgage interest savings may even outweigh the cost of mortgage insurance.

Current High-Ratio Mortgage Rates

Accurate as of May 15 2021
5-Year Fixed
5-Year Variable
*Rates subject to terms and conditions. Please contact our mortgage broker for more details.

CMHC High-Ratio Mortgage

CMHC insurance premiums are paid by you, not your mortgage lender. You can add CMHC premiums onto your mortgage amount or you can pay it upfront.

CMHC premiums are calculated as a percentage of the total amount of your mortgage. The premium will vary depending on the LTV ratio of your mortgage, with the premium increasing for higher LTV ratios. You can use a CMHC insurance premium calculator to estimate the premium payable for your mortgage.

Ontario Lic. #13115

High-Ratio Mortgage Calculation

You can calculate using a mortgage payment calculator to see whether or not you will be paying more or less with a high-ratio or low-ratio mortgage.

For example, let’s consider a home with a $500,000 purchase price. Using rates as of February 2021, the lowest rate for a 5-Year fixed insured mortgage was 1.28%. The lowest rate for a 5-Year fixed conventional mortgage was 1.49%.

High-Ratio Mortgages

With a 5% down payment, your mortgage amount would be $475,000, making it a high-ratio mortgage. The CMHC insurance premium on the mortgage would be $19,000, which is added onto the mortgage principal balance.

Using the lowest rate of 1.28%, with an amortization period of 25 years, your monthly payment would be $1,924. The total interest cost for the life of your high-ratio mortgage is $83,277. Compared to the principal, lifetime interest paid will account for 17.53% of your mortgage principal.

Conventional Mortgages

Let's consider the same scenario above, but you now make a 20% down payment on a $500,000 home.

Using the lowest rate for a conventional mortgage is 1.49%, your monthly payment would be $1,597, with no CMHC insurance premiums required. The total interest cost is $79,101, or 19.77% of the mortgage principal balance.

Is A High-Ratio Mortgage Cheaper than a Low-Ratio Mortgage?

The total interest paid over the lifetime of the mortgages are roughly the same, at $83,277 for a high-ratio mortgage and $79,101 for a low-ratio mortgage. What sets them apart is the interest as a proportion of the original mortgage principal amount. A conventional mortgage results in more interest paid compared to the principal, while a high-ratio mortgage has less interest paid. This is due to the lower interest rate found with high-ratio mortgages.

What the examples above assume is that interest rates will remain the same for the entire 25-year life of the mortgage. Mortgage rates change, and CMHC eligibility requirements and premiums can also change. The conventional mortgage also required a down payment that was $50,000 larger than the high-ratio mortgage, for a total interest savings of only $4,176 over 25 years.

Interest Costs - High-Ratio vs Low Ratio

High-Ratio (5%)High-Ratio (10%)High-Ratio (15%)Low-Ratio (20%)
5-Year Fixed Interest Rate1.28%1.28%1.28%1.49%
Down Payment$25,000$50,000$75,000$100,000
Mortgage Principal$475,000$450,000$425,000$400,000
CMHC Premium$19,000$13,950$11,900$0
Monthly Payment$1,972$1,852$1,744$1,597
Total Interest Costs$83,277$78,211$73,651$79,101
Interest (% of Principal)17.53%17.38%17.33%19.77%
Total Cost (Principal, Interest, and Down Payment)$583,277$578,211$573,651$579,101

Higher Required Down Payment

In the example above, the low-ratio mortgage required the highest down payment. If you can afford to make a large down payment, what if you opted to take a high-ratio mortgage instead and use the down payment saved to invest? The low-ratio mortgage had a down payment of $100,000. If you went for a high-ratio mortgage instead, with a $25,000 down payment, you would have $75,000 left over.

If you invested it at a rate of 2% compounded monthly, you would earn $48,602 on an $75,000 investment. However, this scenario works out because current mortgage rates are at historical lows. If mortgage rates increase over what you would otherwise earn from saving it, then a low-ratio mortgage would have a lower total cost.

Down Payment Savings - High-Ratio vs Low Ratio

High-Ratio (5%)High-Ratio (10%)High-Ratio (15%)Low-Ratio (20%)
Mortgage Principal$475,000$450,000$425,000$400,000
Original Down Payment$25,000$50,000$75,000$100,000
New Down Payment$25,000$25,000$25,000$25,000
Down Payment Savings (vs 5% Down Payment)$0$25,000$50,000$75,000
Interest Rate2%2%2%2%
Total Interest Earned$0$16,200$32,401$48,602
Mortgage Interest Cost$83,277$83,277$83,277$83,277
Total Cost (Principal, Interest, and Down Payment less Interest Earnings)$583,277$567,077$550,876$534,675
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