Category Archives: Canada

Canada house price crash a certainty

Happy day after the new mortgage rules come into effect!

Even before these rules were announced we saw a ‘softening’ in the Vancouver real estate market.

Prices have drifted down as of late and sales are at an all-time-low and inventory keeps growing.

..Yet there are still those that believe ‘it’s different here’.

We saw housing bubbles grow all around the world and pop one by one, but we went through the same steps of pumping up cheap credit to build the house of cards higher.

Check out this post on Alphahunt about Why a Crash in Canadian House Prices is Certain.

What’s amplified our current RE cycle is that credit was steadily made cheaper & easier throughout the boom period – and especially when the RE market suffered in 2008. After finally waking up and seeing the monster they helped create, the Gov’t is making lending rules stricter. Lending practices should not have been made so loose to begin with. And their meddling in 2008 only delayed the inevitable bust.

Today, we’re still at extreme unaffordability and there is no such thing as a ‘soft landing’ or ‘small correction’ for Vancouver RE. Any asset that has seen a price rise of at least two standard deviations above long-term valuation ratios has always mean reverted. If the Vancouver RE market did not return to the normal multiple of income and rent, it will be the first time in history. You can’t binge drink and avoid the hangover. Timing the start of the hangover is always challenging, but what we know with high probability is that there will be a hangover.

 

We want a nice housing bubble

I’m so sick of hearing realtors and mortgage brokers complain about the new CMHC rules.

The government isn’t really bringing in some tough new restrictions, they’re simply rolling back some of their bubble incentives.

The Feds clearly wanted to juice housing and that’s what they got.

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney says the No. 1 risk to the Canadian economy is a housing bubble. Good grief! How on earth did rock-stable, good-banking, solid-regulating Canada end up on the edge of a possible real estate crisis? Simple. In Canada as elsewhere, housing is a political business policymakers find irresistible. There’s always some government policy — low interest rates, first-time home-buyer incentives, high-ratio mortgages, mortgage insurance, capital gains exemptions, interest deductibility — available to government agencies to bolster the feel-good business of home ownership.

It’s a global phenomenon, from Ireland to Spain, from Britain to the United States. Housing bubbles — rocketing prices following by plummeting prices — are not new to the world economy. The last decade, however, has left an unprecedented trail of housing price chaos and disaster. The similarities from one country to another are unmistakable.

We saw what was happening in the states, and still the government moved amorts from 30 to 40 years and flooded the housing market with money. Where did they expect this to lead?

No more 30 year mortgages.

..well that headline is a little misleading, you’ll still be able to get a 30 year mortgage but you better have a big down payment. No more 30 year mortgages for CMHC insured mortgages.

The country’s biggest banks were caught off guard on Wednesday night as the Department of Finance prepared to clamp down on mortgages by reducing the maximum amortization for a government-insured mortgage to 25 years from 30.

Ottawa will also limit the amount of equity that can be borrowed against a home to 80 per cent of the property’s value, down from 85 per cent.

The moves are designed to cool the housing market and limit the record levels of personal debt Canadians have amassed in recent years. Figures from Statistics Canada show the average ratio of debt-to-disposable income climbed to 152 per cent, up from 150.6 per cent at the end of 2011. A rise in interest rates or further job losses could put some households at financial risk, endangering any economic recovery.

So we’ve come circle with mortgages going from 25 year, cranked all the way up to US bubble style zero-down 40 year mortgages and then ramped back down over the last few years to a maximum 25 year amort. It will be very interesting to see what this does to some of Canadas overpriced markets.

The new lending guidelines

Those new OSFI guidelines for CMHC mortgages are still ‘coming soon’, but the Vancouver Sun has an article up outlining the current state of the guidelines and predicting they will be announced in the next few weeks.

They’ve softened some since the first concepts floated out there by OSFI, but as a batch of changes that occur all at once they still stand to have a marked impact on the market.

Here’s the list of predicted new guidelines:

. Home Equity Line of Credit mortgages reduced from 80-per-cent financing to 65-per-cent financing.

. Lines of credit to be either amortized, or amortized after a specified period of time (no more never-never plans).

. More stringent income requirements for self-employed borrowers.

. All mortgages to be reviewed upon renewal (currently as long as payments are made, it is unlikely for a bank not to offer a renewal to a client).

. Funds from cashback mort-gages are not allowed as a source of down payment (currently only a handful of lenders allow this, but it does mean that “zero down” mortgages are technically avail-able, but with some restrictions.)

. Use of the five-year posted “benchmark” to qualify uninsured terms of one to four years and all variable terms (currently most lenders use a three-year posted or a lower rate to qualify uninsured mortgage.)

. More limits on underwriting exceptions (many recent applications don’t fit the ever shrinking “boxes” with the banks, which means fewer common-sense deals will get approved.)

. Home insurance to be included in debt-servicing ratios (it is currently not included.)

. More public disclosure of statistics pertaining to institutions’ mortgage practices.

. More accountability from management to ensure lenders are adhering to their underwriting guidelines.

If these changes are implemented I guess we’re going to find out how much of our real estate market is supported by those who are stretching beyond their means.

One bubble down, one to go

The Vancouver real estate slow down is making news all over and people are now wringing their hands over Toronto.

This Financial Post article talks about our bloating inventory and collapsing sales while pointing out that Toronto sales are up 11% year over year.

..and yes, there’s yet another warning from the Bank of Canada:

“Although economic growth in Canada was slightly slower than expected in the first quarter, underlying economic momentum appears largely consistent with expectations. However, the composition of growth is less balanced. In particular, housing activity has been stronger than expected, and households continue to add to their debt burden in an environment of modest income growth.”

The warning is apt. Rosenberg said if the Bank of Canada felt the need to re-establish parity between short-term rates and its inflation target it would have to raise the rate 100 basis points.

“That wouldn’t cause a recession, but it sure would be painful for many households,” leading to more loan defaults and less spending growth.

If you can’t afford a 100 basis point increase in rates you probably shouldn’t be taking on too much debt.