Category Archives: debt

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?

Condo holes across Vancouver

Much has been made about the huge number of condo towers under construction in Toronto, but here in much tinier Vancouver we’re not doing so bad.

There are currently 16 towers in progress and 67 more in the works.

With population growth and prices on the retreat will there be enough buyers for all these new units or are we over-saturating the condo market?

Cameron Muir says don’t worry:

“Prices have been pretty flat since 2009,” Muir said. “There’s ample supply in the market place, but we are seeing prices at a steady pace.”

The fact more condos than single-detached homes are being built in Greater Vancouver is nothing new, said Muir, as condo starts have consistently made up about 75 per cent of all housing starts in the last several years. “It’s a function of land supply.”

Consumer demand during the last several months is trending on a 10 to 15 year average, he added.
One indicator, says Muir, of the demand-and-supply balance in the marketplace is the sales-to-new-listings ratio.

In Vancouver last month, the ratio, at 15.3 per cent, inched closer to a buyer’s market – but sits within the balanced range of between 15 to 20 per cent.

There hasn’t been a sustained buyer’s market since the recession hit, between late 2008 to early 2009.

..And of course it’s starting to smell like 08/09 again with the Eurocrisis and global economic sluggishness, but is it different this time?

Here’s one thing that’s different: Out in Burnaby yet another condo presale had a lineup, but what a waste of time for the participants according to VMD:

re: polygon’s “MODA” presale in Burnaby that opened today, with some people camping since Monday…

sold today: 138
total units: 249
ratio: 55%

yawn.

Wow. Can you imagine waiting in line for a week for something that sells only 55% of inventory?

Fizzle.

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.

TD: Toronto & Vancouver face 15% decline

It seems like one of these bank economist forecasts come out every week, but TD is calling for a 15% decline in house prices here and in Toronto over the next couple of years.

“There have been growing signs that the markets have been tilting towards excess supply of new multiples,” the bank said.

Indeed, condo prices in both cities have shown signs of slowing down much more than the price of single-family homes, the usual benchmark of a market’s overall health.

“In fact, looking at the trend in condo prices, you can see there has been essentially no increase in prices since the federal government first began tightening mortgage rules in mid-2008,” the economists said.

So if the average selling price on a Vancouver single family home is already down 12% year over year and the outlook for condos looks worse… maybe not the best time to buy a presale condo eh?