Mortgage Glossary

Curious about some of the terms that are used in the mortgage process? Below is a list of commonly used mortgage industry terms with helpful explanations.

Mortgage Types

Closed Mortgage

This type of mortgage must usually remain unchanged for whatever term you agree to. Prepayment costs will apply if you payout, renegotiate, or refinance before the end of term.

Convertible Mortgage

This mortgage offers the same security as a closed mortgage, but can be converted to a longer, closed mortgage at any time without prepayment costs. Convertible mortgages are typically associated with fixed rate mortgages.

High-Ratio Mortgage

This mortgage is obtained when you have less than 20% of the total purchase price to use as a down payment. This type of mortgage must be insured (through sources such as CMHC or Genworth Financial Canada).

Open Mortgage

This mortgage may be repaid, in part or in full, at any time during the term without any prepayment costs.

Rate Types

Fixed Rate Mortgage

An interest rate that does not change during the entire mortgage term.

Variable Rate Mortgage

An interest rate that will fluctuate in accordance with the prevailing market prime rate during the mortgage term.

Mortgage Rate

The percentage of interest that you pay on top of the loan principal. For example, you may take out a mortgage of $100,000 at a rate of 5%. Your monthly payments will consist of a portion of the original $100,000, plus 5% interest.

Closing Costs


The process of determining the lending value of a property. There is typically a fee to have an appraisal completed.

Interest Rate Adjustment

The amount of interest due between the date your mortgage starts and the date the first mortgage payment is calculated from. Sometimes there is a gap between the closing date of your home purchase and the first payment date of your mortgage. Let’s say that the closing date on your new house is August 10th – but your mortgage payments are on the 15th of each month (so your first payment is calculated from August 15th and paid on September 15th). That leaves five days (August 10th to 14th) that aren’t accounted for in your first mortgage payment. You will need  to make an extra payment to make up for these five days; this payment is generally due on your closing date. You can elect to avoid this by arranging to make your first mortgage payment exactly one payment period (e.g., one month) after your closing date.

Land Transfer Tax

A tax that is levied (in some provinces) on any property that changes hands.

Legal Fees and Disbursements

There will be legal costs associated with the sale or purchase of a property. It’s in your best interest to engage the services of a real estate lawyer (or a notary in Quebec).

Prepaid Property Tax and Utility Adjustments

The amount you will owe if the person selling you the home has prepaid any property taxes or utility bills. The amount to reimburse them will be calculated based on the closing date.

Property Survey

A legal description of your property, its location, and dimensions. An up-to-date survey is generally required by your mortgage lender. If it is not available from the vendor, your lawyer can obtain the property survey for a fee.

Sales Taxes

Taxes applied to the purchase cost of a property. Some properties are sales tax exempt (GST and/or PST), and some are not. For instance, residential resale properties are usually GST exempt, while new properties require GST. Always ask before signing an offer.

General Mortgage Terms


The number of years that it takes to fully pay off your mortgage (not the same as your mortgage term). Amortization periods are often 15, 20, or 25 years long.

Assuming a Mortgage

Taking over the obligations of the previous owner’s (or builder’s) mortgage when you buy a property.

Buy Down Rate

The portion of the interest rate on a buyer’s mortgage that you assume when they buy your home. If you’re selling your home and the prospective buyer doesn’t like the interest rate on their mortgage, you can offer to add a certain percentage of it onto your existing mortgage. You can add a maximum of 3%.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

A Crown corporation that administers the National Housing Act for the federal government and encourages the improvement of housing and living conditions for all Canadians. The CMHC is  a potential provider of mortgage insurance for high-ratio mortgages.

Closing Costs

Costs that are in addition to the purchase price of a property and which are payable on the closing date. Examples include legal fees, land transfer taxes, and disbursements.

Closing Date

The date on which the sale of a property becomes final and the buyer takes possession of the property.

Down Payment

The money that you pay upfront for a house. Down payments typically range from 5%-20% of the total value of the home.

Genworth Financial Canada

A private mortgage insurance company. One potential provider of mortgage insurance for high-ratio mortgages.

Home Insurance

Insurance to cover both your home and its contents (also referred to as property insurance). This is different from mortgage life insurance, which pays the outstanding balance of your mortgage in full on your death.


The process of having a qualified home inspector cost out potential repairs and identify areas of concern with the property you are interested in purchasing.

Lump Sum Payment

An extra payment that you make to reduce the amount of your mortgage principal.


A loan that you take out in order to buy property. The collateral is the property itself.

Mortgage Life Insurance

This form of insurance pays the outstanding balance of your mortgage in full upon your death. This is different from home or property insurance, which insures your home and its contents.

Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

A computerized listing of the properties available in your area, including information and photos of each property.

Pre-Approved Mortgage Certificate

A written agreement that you will receive a mortgage for a determined amount of money at a determined interest rate.

Offer to Purchase

A legally-binding agreement between you and the person who owns the house you want to buy. It includes the price you are offering, what you expect to be included with the house, and the financial conditions of sale (your financing arrangements, the closing date, etc.).


Transferring an existing mortgage from one home to a new home when you move. This is known as a ‘portable’ mortgage.


Repaying part of your mortgage ahead of schedule. Depending on your mortgage agreement, there may be a prepayment cost for prepaying.


The process of paying out the existing mortgage for purposes of establishing a new mortgage on the same property under new terms and conditions. This is typically happens when a client requires additional funds. The client may be subject to a prepayment cost.


Once the original term of your mortgage expires, you will have the option of renewing it with the original lender or paying off all of the outstanding balance.


The length of time during which you pay a specific rate on the mortgage loan (i.e., the number of years in your mortgage contract). This is different than the amortization period. A mortgage is usually amortized over 20-25 years, with a shorter term (typically 6 months to 5 years). After the term expires, the interest rate is typically renegotiated with the lender (your bank, for example).

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