Bank of Montreal Chief Executive Officer Bill Downe is saying there are ‘legitimate’ concerns about house prices being over inflated and coming down, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver. He is now calling for the fabled ‘soft landing’ to swoop in and fix the problem:
“We took a long, hard look at the Canadian housing market and concluded … there was a legitimate concern that house prices – particularly in the largest cities – had been rising at a rate that was simply unsustainable,” Mr. Downe said.
“With growing concerns over household debt, a soft landing in housing is in the best interests of our customers and the national economy.”
For those that are curious, yes this is the same BMO that kicked off a rate war with competitors over a special 2.99% mortgage deal. If you’re wondering why a bank would offer credit crack and then tell the addict they should cut back I think Patriotz puts it very clearly:
Because he runs a business and it’s his responsibility to the shareholders to make money. It’s either lend at 2.9% or give the mortgage business to someone else.
Banks like every other business have a responsibility to obey the law and that’s what they are doing. If you don’t like the parameters that the government has established, blame them not the banks.
This is why you’ve been hearing more call from the banks for the government to tighten lending standards. No single bank can cut out a huge percentage of the market just because they’re concerned about over-debt households. The banks can’t even get together and agree that they’ll adjust their lending standards themselves, because that would be collusion and illegal.
It’s all up to Flaherty now.
Wow, it seems like it was just a few days ago we were talking about newly introduced teaser-level mortgage rates offered by Canadian banks.
… oh, it was just a few days ago.
BMO kicked off the competition and TD, Scotia and CIBC jumped in with competing lowball offers.
Well it looks like Scotiabank blinked first. Their special offer didn’t even last a week. Canadian Mortgage Trends is reporting that Scotiabank has pulled their special offer for a 2.99% rate. Guess we’ll have to wait to see if the other banks will follow.
And speaking of mortgages, Canadian Mortgage Trends also has some interesting analysis of the OSFI recommendations for underwriting practices and how it’s about to lead to mortgages that are a bit tougher to get.
After reading through 18 pages of changes in detail, our immediate reaction was frankly, concern.
That’s not because the guidelines are greatly imprudent. Some are unnecessarily rigid, but most are sound policy.
It’s because OSFI risks tightening too much, too fast.
Real professional posted an updated housing sentiment indicator over at Vancouverpeak.com
This is an excerpt from the housing bubble chart book produced by Pacifica Partners.
If you’re sharp-eyed you may have noticed some ‘special offers’ on 5 year fixed rates. BMO kicked off another low-rate war by once again offering a rock-bottom 5 year fixed rate of 2.99% and a new 10 year fixed at 3.99%.
Nobody wants to be left out of fun like that, so TD, CIBC and Scotiabank quickly followed suit and started offering a 2.99% rate as well.
How are customers responding?
Techar said reaction to BMO’s previous offer was fantastic. “We saw an increase in volume almost immediately and it continued for the whole two-week period.”
These deals are temporary and expire in a few weeks. You’d almost think something was about to happen March 29th, but who knows? Rumour has it more changes are coming to insured mortgage rules in Canada whether it’s higher down payment requirements or shorter amortization terms.
So is this a deal too good to refuse, or a trap for the gullible?
If rates start to rise, could it be a benefit to buy a home now? Would these ridiculously low rates offset a drop in prices at a higher interest rate?
What about in markets whose prices have fallen for the last few years? There are many of these across BC – The Okanagan has seen prices collapse by more than 30% so already.
And what does Mark Carney have to say about all of this?
“Canadian household spending is expected to remain high relative to GDP as households add to their debt burden, which remains the biggest domestic risk,” Carney said Thursday as he held the bank’s trend-setting rate to 1 per cent.
It seems that everywhere around the world that house prices lept up quickly there was always someone predicting a ‘plateau’. The idea that even if the market is overpriced the correction won’t come in the form of a crash, but instead property prices will stay flat and wait for income and rents to catch up. This prediction is of course being applied to the Canadian real estate market as well:
Matthieu Arseneau, a senior economist with the National Bank, likes mortgage payments as the best yardstick. That’s because the evidence tells him that the rise of interest rates from today’s bargain-basement levels will be moderate. Based on this, he thinks it’s silly to foresee a housing crash, since monthly payments won’t get into distress territory even by the time rates peak in about three years.
That’s why Arseneau dismisses apocalyptic talk about a housing crash in Canada. As a cautious analyst, he doesn’t rule out any scenario absolutely, but Arseneau said Monday that this one is awfully unlikely: “I think there will be no collapse unless there’s a worldwide recession and credit crisis.”
Of course these comments regard the Canadian real estate market, not the Vancouver market specifically. Can anyone name any real estate markets that have reached Vancouver levels and then gone flat?
Full article at the Ottawa Citizen.