An HSBC mortgage interest rate of 0.99% made headlines in 2020. It was the first lender in Canadian history to post a mortgage rate under 1%. Since the pandemic, many Canadians have had difficulties finding a home that fits their budget. The cost of buying a house in Canada surged to all-time highs during the spring of 2022, forcing many Canadians to put their dreams of owning a home on the back burner.

With some of the lowest mortgage rates in Canada, it’s no wonder that HSBC’s mortgage plans are receiving so much attention. Canadians need affordable and stable rates, and it seems that HSBC Canada is delivering. Our HSBC mortgage review will shed some light on HSBC to see if the bank’s mortgage offerings live up to the hype. If you’re ready to compare HSBC rates to other lenders right away, our mortgage comparison tool will help get you started.

Who is HSBC?

An essential part of making big life decisions is trusting the other people involved. As one of the largest banks in the world with over 38 million customers, HSBC is a reputable financial institution. They have been operating in Canada for over 40 years, with branches in all provinces except PEI. HSBC’s international presence also means they are well-positioned to help newcomers and Canadian expats finance their international lifestyles.

Applying for an HSBC mortgage

You can apply for an HSBC mortgage online, over the phone, or at your local HSBC branch. There are a few requirements you must meet before applying for a mortgage:

  • Must be at least the age of majority (18 or 19 years depending on your province)
  • Must be a Canadian resident
  • Must provide personal details and gross annual income (pre-tax)
  • Must consent to HSBC obtaining a copy of your credit report

If you are applying for a joint mortgage, it is important to know that your co-applicant must also complete the application. If you have more than one co-applicant, you will need to discuss your situation directly with an HSBC agent. Your credit score will also be taken into consideration before approval.

Before applying, try using a mortgage calculator to determine what your options are and what a realistic goal may be for paying off your mortgage. Mortgage calculators are a great tool to help you visualize your monthly payments based on different down payments, interest rates, and amortization terms. HSBC has a simplified calculator on their site – or you can use our mortgage calculator to get an even more detailed breakdown.

Qualifying for an HSBC mortgage in Canada

Your first step in applying for a mortgage in Canada is to acquire a credit report. The most common service providers for credit reports in Canada are TransUnion and Equifax. This process is relatively simple and can be done entirely online. 

Your credit score

HSBC does not list the minimum credit score required to be accepted for a mortgage, but the generally accepted minimum credit score to qualify for an insured mortgage in Canada is 680. The minimum score was increased from 600 to 680 by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in July 2020.

This change means that if your credit score is below 680, you may have a more challenging time obtaining approval for a mortgage, no matter which institution you’re applying to. The higher your credit score, the more competitive rates you will be offered. If you have a low credit score but can secure a sizeable down payment on your mortgage, you may have more luck being approved.

Your budget

Being aware of your budget is also an essential factor. Mortgage lenders do a deep dive into your personal financial information to determine if you will be able to repay your loan. Your income, expenses (including utilities and living costs), debts, credit report, loans, amount you are borrowing, and how long you want to take the loan out for (amortization period) all play a role in determining your eligibility.

Knowing the budget for purchasing your home will help you narrow your options when house hunting and avoid disappointments when it comes time to apply for your mortgage. No one wants to find the house of their dreams only to realize they won’t be approved for the mortgage. Mortgage calculators and getting pre-approved can help you break down your budget.

The stress test

Every lender’s final step in determining your eligibility is the mortgage stress test. This test is performed to ensure that borrowers can afford payments even in the case of significant interest rate jumps. Therefore, banks use a higher interest rate to calculate your ability to pass the stress test than what is listed in your mortgage contract. Banks use an interest rate of 5.25% OR the interest rate in your agreement plus 2%, whichever is higher. You must pass the stress test when taking out a mortgage, refinancing your home, changing lenders, or taking out a home equity line of credit.

Pre-Approval

If you are ready to start your home-buying journey, getting pre-approved for an HSBC mortgage may help you understand how much you can afford to spend on your new home. HSBC Canada promises no-cost, no-obligation pre-approval letters that can break down your expenses in a way that is easy to understand. No one wants to be caught unprepared when putting in an offer on a home.

Getting pre-approved not only shows your real estate agent that you are very serious about buying but also gives you the knowledge to understand just how much your interest rate and monthly payments will be. For example, if you’re looking at a home listed for $400,000 and have already been pre-approved for $430,000, you can be confident making an offer knowing your mortgage has been pre-approved.

When you apply for pre-approval, an HSBC mortgage specialist will also contact you to help answer any questions you may have. HSBC’s pre-approval letters are valid for 120 days and can be easily renewed if you don’t find the house of your dreams in that time. Information required typically includes:

You must also be at least 18 years old, have a credit score of 680 or above, and have no history of bankruptcy. You can start the pre-approval process online, over the phone, or in-person at an HSBC location.

What sets an HSBC mortgage apart from the Big Six

Part of what gives HSBC a unique edge as a lender is the transparency in its advertised rates. Many of the Big Six banks offer discretionary rates. In other words, rates available to highly qualified applicants (usually with excellent credit scores) are lower than the rate advertised by the bank.

HSBC is different in that what you see is typically what you get. They are promoting their best possible rates in an effort to bring in new clients who aren’t interested in haggling for the discretionary rates from the Big Six. Similarly, the HSBC Bank of Canada’s head of mortgages and secured lending has said that HSBC does not offer different rates through brokers.

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Whether working with a mortgage broker or contacting HSBC directly, you’re guaranteed the same access to the best HSBC mortgage rates. This transparency also means that if your credit score is not competitive, you may not qualify for a mortgage through HSBC. Getting pre-qualified or speaking directly with an HSBC mortgage specialist or bank representative will help you better understand what options are available to you.

HSBC’s new seven-year fixed-rate term is also helping them stand out from the crowd. With interest rates rising, many homeowners are looking to lock in their current mortgage rates to avoid the instability of variable rates. HSBC has taken advantage of the uncertain future of the housing market by offering their five-year fixed closed-term mortgage for a seven-year term at the same rate. This offer is unique to HSBC and gives them an upper hand against the Big Six banks.

If interest rates continue to spike, homeowners with an HSBC mortgage may have some significant savings in store if they can lock in a lower rate for the next seven years. The bank has said that this offer is especially aimed at clients who plan on staying in their current home long-term and are looking for stability when paying off their mortgage. Try our mortgage comparison tool to see side-by-side comparisons on how HSBC mortgage terms and rates stack up against other lenders in Canada.

HSBC mortgage options in Canada

HSBC has several different options when it comes to choosing a mortgage. It’s essential to research each offer, as every homeowner’s situation is different. HSBC mortgage offerings include:

Traditional (Residential) Mortgage:

  • This mortgage is especially suited for first-time homebuyers looking to build equity in their home.
  • If your down payment options are limited, this mortgage gives you the flexibility to prepay up to 20% of the original mortgage amount or increase your payments to 20% each year. 
  • You can also make an extra payment and miss one later.
  • Borrowers can choose between a fixed and variable rate.
  • Amortization rates of up to 30 years are available.
  • Payments can be weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly.

Equity Power Mortgage

  • Combines the benefits of a Home Equity Line of Credit and a traditional mortgage.
  • Great for homeowners looking to make a big purchase, renovate, travel, etc.
  • This mortgage allows you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s appraised/purchased value.
  • It gives you the ability to consolidate high-interest debt to reduce interest costs.
  • A combination of fixed and variable terms may help you lower your interest rate
  • Amortization rates of up to 30 years are available.
  • Payments can be weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly.

HSBC mortgages are flexible with various term lengths, variable or fixed rates, and open or closed mortgage options. They also offer hybrid mortgages that combine fixed and variable rates to give you the best of both worlds. Keep an eye out for limited special offers like cash back incentives and even lower interest rates.

Always mention the special offer directly when speaking with a representative. Bonus: if you bank with HSBC and are part of the Rewards Program, you can use your Reward Points towards paying off your mortgage.

HSBC also makes it easy to learn more about mortgages. The Knowledge Centre on their website has handy links to their mortgage rates, prequalification information, mortgage calculators, and guides to answer all your mortgage questions.

HELOC

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – sometimes called a “second mortgage” – allows homeowners access to the equity they have already built in their home. HELOCs are helpful for anyone who already has a mortgage and wants to access the money they have already put towards paying off their mortgage. You only pay interest on the money you use, and some HELOC interest rates can be lower than credit card or personal loan rates. HSBC’s HELOC has some of the lowest interest rates in Canada, consistently beating out the prime rate set by the Big Six banks.

HSBC Prime Rate

Since HSBC is not part of Canada’s Big Six banks, it is not accounted for when setting the prime rate benchmark for the country. However, HSBC’s prime rate still closely follows the Big Six. It is usually the same or a bit lower than the Big Six.

Switching from an existing mortgage

Already have a mortgage through another bank? Not a problem! HSBC makes it easy to transfer your mortgage. With HSBC, clients may be able to keep their current amortization period from their existing lender. Changing your amortization period is also an option, along with flexible terms and pre-payment options that may help you pay off your mortgage faster than you thought.

Once again, being prepared pays off. Keep an eye out for when your current mortgage is up for renewal. Discussing your options with an HSBC advisor up to six months before your contract end date may help ensure a smooth transition while avoiding any penalties or fees from your current mortgage provider. 

Newcomers Program

As an international bank, HSBC has a strong global network to assist newcomers and expats. Their global reach may provide advantages that traditional Canadian banks can’t offer. In particular, HSBC helps newcomers keep their credit history, offers flexible account offerings, and allows you to set up some accounts before you even arrive in Canada.

Banking Reward Program

If you bank with HSBC, you may also qualify for special offers and rewards when you take out an HSBC mortgage. For example, Reward Points from your HSBC credit card can be put towards paying off your mortgage principal.

Premier clients (who have personal deposits/investments of $100,000 or more or have a mortgage with an original amount of $500,000 or greater) are assigned a Relationship Manager and given access to the latest offers and personal financial counselling.

Advance clients (who have personal deposits/investments of $5,000 or more or hold a mortgage with an original amount of $150,000 or more) also have access to exclusive rate discounts and support to reach their financial goals. If you want to keep things simple and have all your banking needs through one institution, HSBC could be the right choice.

HSBC mortgage reviews and their reputation

While it is challenging to find Canadian-based reviews for an HSBC mortgage, online anecdotes from customers seem to be mixed between people who are satisfied with their mortgage and those who had communication issues with their HSBC mortgage specialist. Remember that it may take several days to set up appointments with your representative, especially if you are in an area with limited HSBC branches.

HSBC Mortgage Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Some of the lowest interest rates in Canada
  • Flexibility in choosing the rate and term
  • Hybrid options that combine variable and fixed rates
  • Seven-year term mortgage with a five-year term interest rate
  • Incentives to connect your banking and mortgage through the HSBC Rewards Program
  • Flexibility to apply online, in-person, or over the phone
  • An established and secure bank you can trust

Cons:

  • Not many options for those with credit scores lower than 680
  • No branches in the Territories or PEI, limited branches on the East Coast
  • Some reports of poor customer service and long wait times to speak with an agent

Conclusion

While the country waits to see if housing prices will dip to more reasonable rates, it is crucial to remain informed about mortgage options. Those who have done their research before beginning their housing search will be in a much better position to secure their dream home. With the price of seemingly everything rising with inflation, Canadians are looking for solutions that will help them keep the most money possible in their pockets.

HSBC is rising to the challenge and offering competitive mortgage rates while consistently beating out the Big Six banks in terms of flexibility, savings, and rewards for banking with them. Their new seven-year term mortgage will surely entice many homeowners, so we will have to see if the Big Six respond with a similar option. Of course, taking out a mortgage is a big financial decision. You should always speak with lenders directly to decide what option is best for you.