Mortgage Amount If you are a first-time homebuyer, the mortgage amount is the price of the home you intend to purchase, minus your down payment. If you are renewing or refinancing your mortgage, this is the value of your the mortgage.
       Term The mortgage term is the amount of time a home buyer commits to the rules, conditions and interest rate agreed upon with the lender. The term can be anywhere from six months to 10 years, with a 5-year mortgage term being the most common duration.
       Amortization The amortization period is the length of time it takes to pay off your mortgage in its entirety. The most common amortization period is 25 years, with the maximum set at 30 years for down payments less than 20%. Although longer amortization periods reduce your monthly payments, you will pay more interest over the life of your mortgage.

3-Year Variable Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rate
       Mortgage rate The rate of interest you will pay on the outstanding balance of your mortgage. This rate can be fixed for the duration of the term or variable, fluctuating with the prime rate. Fixed rates are most popular in Canada and represent 66% of all mortgages.
       Provider Mortgage providers include lenders and mortgage brokers. As the name suggests, lenders provide the funding for your mortgage. Mortgage brokers are licensed professionals with access to multiple lenders and products. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, mortgage brokers accounted for 38% of mortgage originations in 2009.
Rate hold
       Rate hold The rate hold is the time period, between 30-120 days, before your mortgage renewal date you are able to lock in the current mortgage rate. If rates go down further within this period, however, many lenders will honour the lower rate.
       Prepayment Prepayment options outline the flexibility you have to increase your monthly mortgage payments or make a lump sum outlay against your mortgage as a whole. According to the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP), 28% of mortgage holders used one or both prepayment privileges in 2010.
       Payment The monthly mortgage payment is calculated based on the mortgage amount, amortization period and the associated mortgage rate. A general affordability rule is that your monthly housing costs should not exceed 32% of your gross household monthly income.
Prime - 0.65
45 days Lump Sum: 20%
Monthly: 20%
Get this rate
Prime - 0.65
45 days Lump Sum: 20%
Monthly: 20%
Get this rate
Prime - 0.00
90 days Lump Sum: 15%
Monthly: 15%
Get this rate

3-year variable mortgage rate defined

Variable mortgage rates, sometimes referred to as adjustable mortgage rates, follow the prime lending rate, which is the rate at which banks lend to their most creditworthy customers. Variable mortgage rates are typically stated as a discount or premium (+/-) to prime. For instance, if the prime lending rate is 3% and a variable mortgage rate is stated as a .5% premium to prime, the effective rate will be 3.5%.

A 3-year variable mortgage rate will absorb changes in interest rates over a term of three years. The term is the length of time you are committed to this link with the prime rate and other contractual provisions with your lender. Generally, variable rates are lower than fixed mortgage rates of the same term because fixed rates buy you protection against interest rate instability.

Comparing 3-year variable mortgage rates

Variable mortgage rates expose you to changes in interest rates and, thus, in your mortgage payments. If market rates fluctuate, you will be charged the difference in interest applied to your mortgage principal. Further, if your mortgage payments are structured so you pay a fixed amount every month – with rate changes altering the interest and principal portions – then your mortgage payment schedule may also be affected.

On the other hand, variable mortgage rates have proven to be less expensive compared to fixed rates when examined historically, and they particularly make sense in falling interest rate environments.

The 3-year term is sensible if you foresee breaking your mortgage within a few years – like, if you were to upgrade your home, for instance. Opting for a 3-year term over, say, a 5-year term could save you a considerable amount in penalty costs.

Another point to consider is a variable rate’s relationship to prime: if you believe discounts to prime will become more favourable in the short-term, committing to a 3-year over a 5-year mortgage rate is also a sound strategy.

Popularity of the 3-year variable mortgage rates

20% of Canadians have a term between 2-4 years

Age group
18-34 35-54 55+ All ages
1 year term 5% 7% 6% 6%
2-4 year term 27% 18% 12% 20%
5 year term 66% 65% 69% 66%
6-10 year term 3% 9% 10% 7%
>10 year term 0 0 2% 1%
Source: CAAMP "Annual state of the Residential Mortgage Market in Canada" 2010

Around 20% of Canadians have mortgage terms between two and four years, with younger age groups supporting a slightly higher figure. Compared to older demographics which tend to be more risk averse, the younger demographic has a reduced urgency to lock in rates for longer periods.

Variable rates, at 29% of all mortgages, are not as popular as fixed mortgage rates in Canada predictably due to the uncertainty associated with fluctuating interest rates.

What drives changes in 3-year variable mortgage rates?

The Bank of Canada plays a key role in determining variable mortgage rates. The Bank of Canada sets the overnight rate, which is the base for lenders’ prime rate.

Variable mortgage rates, as you know, are quoted by lenders in terms of their relationship to the prime rate.

The premium or discount a lender applies to prime in calculating a variable mortgage rate is based on independent marketing strategy and general credit market conditions.

[1] CAAMP "Annual State of the Residential Mortgage Market in Canada" 2010