Category Archives: Canada

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.

Heloc LTV going to 65%?

Canadian Mortgage Trends is saying that changes to HELOC loan to value (LTV) limits are a done deal.

If so this means the maximum HELOC you’ll be able will move from 80% to 65% of the total value of the property.

Read the original link for full details. Many commenters there seem to think this is too big a move.

Appraiser said…
65% is too much of a leap all at once.

I can’t understand why OSFI doesn’t ratchet the LTV ratio down a little more slowly (i.e., 5% at at a time and sit back to observe the consequences).

As has been noted lately, the previous three sets of mortgage tightening guidelines have been gradually working their way through the credit markets effectively.

You can kill an ant with a hand grenade, but it usually makes a hell of a mess.