Construction mortgages & how they work

If you have been following our blog posts, you would have already virtually met Kyle Green from Mortgage Alliance.  I met Kyle years ago through the Real Estate Action Group  in Vancouver and have used him numerous times throughout the years.  Today, Kyle has given us some information on construction mortgages and how they work.  They are much different then a traditional home purchase, so its great to have some tips to share.  Enjoy!

Construction mortgages are much more difficult than your typical home purchase or refinance because of the inherit risks associated with lending on a home that during the construction, is significantly less marketable than your average home. They require much more capital than your typical 20% down because at each stage, the lender protects themselves and will only lend money based on the value of the home at that time, not the future value. Lenders call this a “Cost to Complete Basis”. This is why you may have heard that construction mortgages are structured in what is called a “draw” schedule. To help understand this concept, I will give you an example of how this may work. I will use the figures that you provided (about a $500,000 land value and $400,000 construction costs). This is how a draw schedule looks with most lenders; it is usually comprised of 4 draws:

–          First draw – land only. Typically 50% – 65% financing of the land value

–          2nd draw – Lockup stage, about 35% – 40% complete. Framing, doors and windows complete. Sometimes, lenders will allow a draw before this stage at around 15% completion once foundation has been completed.

–          3rd draw – 65% completion. Plumbing, electrical rough in complete

–          4th draw – 85% completion. Plumbing, electrical complete, drywall complete.

–          Final draw – 100%

So in your example, let’s take a look at what I like to call the “peak capital” required, which gives us an idea of how much capital is required to qualify for a construction loan and have enough cash to complete. Many lenders will also require a 10% lien holdback for new construction in BC, as well as about 10% for cost overruns. Assuming you qualify for a $900,000 mortgage I will use Scotiabank’s draw schedule in the below example:

Draw % Complete Total Advance to Date % of Remaining Construction

Cost to Complete Construction

Lien Holdback Required Available Advance Amount **
Start 0% $0.00


$400,000.00 $0.00 $0.00
1 0% $0.00


$400,000.00 $0.00 $520,000.00


$520,000.00 0% $240,000.00 $16,000.00 $124,000.00
3 65% $644,000.00 35% $140,000.00 $26,000.00 $90,000.00



15% $60,000.00 $34,000.00 $72,000.00



0% $0.00 $40,000.00 $54,000.00

Based on this graph, we can calculate the amount of capital required to reach each stage:

–          Draw 1 – land purchase. Capital required is $280,000 ($800,000 purchase minus $520,000 land draw). For the purposes of this discussion, I will exclude closing costs like Property Transfer Tax and legal fees.

–          Draw 2 – To get up to lockup, it will require an additional $160,000 (40% x $400,000), so now the capital output is $440,000. Once this stage has completed, you will receive $124,000 back (as they will hold back 10% of $140,000 for lien holdback).

–          Draw 3 – To get to 65% complete an additional $100,000 needs to be put in. Now the capital output is $440,000 – $124,000 (draw 2) + $100,000 = $416,000. After this phase is complete the lender will advance $90,000.

–          Draw 4 – An additional $80,000 in work is necessary to get to 85% complete. Total cash output is now $416,000 + $90,000 (draw 3) – $80,000 = $406,000. Lender advances $72,000.

–          Draw 5 – completion. Lender advances the remainder, for a total mortgage of $900,000 minus lien holdback amount of 10% of the construction cost, or $40,000.

Typically getting to lockup stage will be the most capital intensive phase, so most of the time if I don’t think my clients have enough cash I will do a quick analysis of how much cash is necessary to get to lockup to determine the peak capital required.

Keep in mind, that every lenders construction draw mortgage program varies. TD’s program tends to be a little more restrictive as they ask for the lien holdback and cost overruns upfront, whereas Scotiabank only holds back the lien amount as the draws go out, and don’t ask for cost overruns upfront.

As these mortgages are much more difficult thank your typical mortgage, it is important that you work with someone who understands how these work and which lenders do what, to find the best product available.


Leave a Reply

Contact Us

Jason Lorenz | Owner |

Squamish: 604 892 7652




Latest Post