U.S. mortgage differences

Help with understanding the
differences between U.S. and
Canadian mortgages

Learning about the differences beforehand will help your home buying go more smoothly.

With today’s low interest rates and wide selection of U.S. properties available, this is an excellent time to consider purchasing real estate in the United States. A U.S. mortgage1 can give you significant benefits, including:

  • Mortgage interest may be deductible against taxes in the U.S.2
  • Mortgages are amortized over 30 years, which is longer than typical Canadian mortgages and may reduce your monthly payment.

With the benefits in mind, it’s also important to consider these major differences between U.S. and Canadian mortgages:

Timing
U.S. mortgage application
Documentation you provide
Down payment
Costs
Insurance
Mortgage Interest
Documentation you’ll receive

Timing

While it takes only a few days to secure a mortgage in Canada, in the U.S., loan processing typically takes around 45 days and begins when you have a sales contract and a completed mortgage application with all of the requested documentation provided.  

When you are shopping for a home, your real estate agent or the seller may request a pre-qualification letter. Pre-qualifying for a mortgage is a relatively quick process depending on your personal situation and helps you learn how much you can borrow and what your monthly payments might look like. When you pre-qualify, be sure to discuss with your lender your timeline for completing your purchase.

Typically, the mortgage application and approval process will include:

  • Completing a mortgage application
  • Accessing your Canadian and/or U.S. credit history
  • Gathering income and asset documents that you, as a buyer, provide
  • Ordering and getting documentation for an appraisal and for the title search
  • The credit loan review and approval
  • Preparation of closing documents 

U.S. mortgage application

You'll complete a standard application used by all U.S. financial institutions. It asks for information about your income, assets, liabilities, real estate you own (in all countries), and the type of property being purchased, plus a two-year history of your residency and employment. You should start the application process when you have a sales contract for the home.   

Documentation you provide

In the U.S., securing a mortgage requires more documentation than in Canada. Our convenient Mortgage Documentation Checklist shows you what you may need. The specific documents required will be communicated by your Cross-Border Mortgage Team.

Down payment

Typically, a down payment of at least 20% of the value of the home is required in the U.S., but the amount depends on whether you’ll use the property as your primary residence, second home, or investment property. You’ll be asked to provide information and documentation about the source of your down payment. To avoid delays, it’s critical that once you’ve deposited your down payment funds into your banking account and they’ve been verified, they remain in the account and not be moved.

Costs

The costs associated with a mortgage in the U.S. can be higher than in Canada, due largely to third party services that are required to complete the process. There are standard application and transaction settlement fees for required items such as the property appraisal, the title search, and flood certification. On average, you can expect to pay from 3% to 5% of the selling price in fees. Details about these fees will be included in the initial disclosure package you’ll receive once your application is completed. 

Insurance

U.S. mortgages or Home Equity Lines of Credit secured by your home require you to maintain homeowner’s insurance to protect the investment if the property is damaged or destroyed.  The coverage amount must cover any outstanding loans on the property or the replacement value, whichever is less.  Since policies are generally 12 months in length, your U.S. lender must receive verification each year that the home is covered.  If your property is a condo or townhouse covered by a Master Insurance Policy, a separate “walls-in” insurance policy is usually required.

RBC Bank recommends establishing an escrow account to ensure both your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance are paid on your behalf. This is common practice in the U.S. and is particularly convenient for borrowers north of the border.

Mortgage Interest

In the U.S., interest is accrued monthly, while in Canada interest is accrued semi-annually. In addition, mortgage interest may be deductible against taxes in the U.S.

Documentation you’ll receive

Once your completed mortgage application is submitted, you will receive the following within 3 business days:

  • Loan Estimate – This statement outlines the itemized estimated costs and features of the loan, including the loan amount, total monthly payment, cash to close, and other costs such as taxes and fees. A final estimate called a Closing Disclosure is also provided at least three days prior to your closing.
  • Guide to Settlement Costs – A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) publication, Your Home Loan Toolkit, which describes the settlement process and your rights and includes an item-by-item explanation of settlement services and costs.

1 All loans and lines of credit are subject to approval, including verification of acceptable income, creditworthiness, and property valuations. Minimum and maximum property values and maximum loan-to-value ratios apply. Homeowner’s insurance is required for all loans and lines, and flood insurance is required if property is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area. Escrows may be required. There are closing costs associated with these products.
2 Consult your financial, tax, legal, and other professional advisors prior to applying for a U.S. mortgage.