Category Archives: rates

Slumping into the Future

The economist Dave Madani is at it again.

He’s got nothing good to say about the Canadian real estate market.

According to Dave it’s a bit early to claim there will be a ‘soft landing‘.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has acted four times in the past five years to make mortgage-lending rules more restrictive amid concern that the Vancouver and Toronto markets were overheating. Flaherty has said he welcomes a slowdown of condominium construction in the two cities and has warned consumers, who have a record debt-to-disposable-income ratio of 165 percent, not to become overextended.

Madani, a former senior economist at the Bank of Canada, was the only person surveyed by Bloomberg News during the past two years who consistently predicted the central bank wouldn’t raise borrowing costs. Madani previously forecast home prices in the country would fall by 25 percent in the next few years.

Read the full article over at Bloomberg.

Learning from the neighbors

There’s another one of those semantics question articles in the Financial Post:

Canadian Housing: Bursting bubble or gentle landing?

Here’s one chunk of that article with a few asides that always seem to be missed:

Lewandowski believes Canada will not suffer a U.S.-style housing crash simply because policymakers had the benefit of watching it happen next door.

“What we experienced here in the U.S. with housing markets and regulators goes directly to the attitude and changes the minister of finance has made in Canada. A regulator who is being proactive is taking Step One in making sure the housing market doesn’t find itself in a bubble,” Lewandowski said.

So often it seems that ‘bubble’ is used as if it refers to the collapse in prices. It doesn’t. The ‘bubble’ is the inflation of prices beyond reason. By the time the collapse comes the damage is already baked in, falling prices are a correction of the problem, not the problem itself.

Both Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty have been on the march against a housing bubble for years, aware how low rates and loose lending standards in the United States ignited a boom and bust there.

Well, Carney and Flaherty have definitely been ‘warning’ of consumer debt levels for a while, but government policies like following the US into 40 year zero down mortgages didn’t help to prevent a housing bubble.

The central bank has held rates low since the global financial crisis because growth remains tepid and global woes weigh on Canada’s export market, and Canadians can find a five-year mortgage rate below 3%.

Meanwhile in the states you can lock in to a 30 year mortgage for 3.35%. In fact, while house prices in the US were correcting, interest rates were falling as well.

But the government’s gradual tightening of rules for borrowers — a firm admission that the market was hotter than anyone was comfortable with — has taken some steam out of the market, and economists, like Carney, seem to believe a soft landing may be at hand.

“We’re encouraged by the fact the level of housing starts has come down to slightly below demographic demand, as we see right now, there’s still more adjustments to go,” he said in testimony to Parliament last week. “We’re encouraged by the evolution of house prices in a number of markets. We’re on the path to a balanced evolution of the household sector and we all have to continue to be vigilant.”

Ok, we’ll continue to be vigilant then.

Playing it safe with a locked in decade

Interest rates are at historical lows and it doesn’t look like that’s due to change anytime soon.

Of course if you could predict future changes with accuracy you could become incredibly wealthy.

It’s the unknown that’s the challenge and that’s why some people chose to pay a premium to lock in todays low rates for many years.

Unfortunately you can’t get the incredibly low rates that US buyers enjoy on a 25 year term, but 10 year rates have fallen along with 5 year and variable rates.

Ten year products are growing in popularity recently with terms available as low as 3.6% according to this article in the Financial Post.

only about 1% of the market locks in for longer than 10 years, Bank of Montreal recently did away with an 18 year locked in mortgage:

“We had to shelve that. It wasn’t a very accepted product by customers,” said John Turner, director of mortgages at Bank of Montreal. “People have a problem getting their head around that long of a commitment.”

Manulife scolded by Flaherty, rescinds 5 year rate.

What is going on in the mortgage world?

Now Flaherty is personally calling up banks and asking them to raise their mortgage rates.

On Tuesday, Manulife Bank dropped its posted interest rate for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage to 2.89 per cent. That’s the lowest posted rate for that time frame the company has ever offered. But in an about-face later in the day, the company pulled the offering and reverted to its former rate above three per cent.

“After consulting with the Department of Finance, Manulife Bank has withdrawn the promotional campaign and reverted to our previous posted rate,” the company said in a statement.

Read the full article over at the CBC.

Are a few pips in mortgage rate really driving people to run out and overpay?

What first-time buyers really need

Mortgage Brokers have come to the defense of first-time buyers and are asking Ottawa to bring back the good ol’ days of 30 year mortgages and extra ‘help’.

The Globe and Mail asked first time buyers what would help them, and oddly enough the overwhelming response wasn’t ’30 year mortgages!’.

It was:

Affordable houses.

It appears that the price of a home has an impact on first time buyers:

“The biggest challenge I face is affordability,” said Dustin Strong, a 34-year-old Vancouver renter looking for a home in the $500,000 range. “I have spent several years saving up enough for a reasonable down payment, but have now determined that in the current market, it just makes more sense to rent.”

Ok, so the price of the home and the fear of losing your down payment and more as prices decline:

Market uncertainty and bubble-talk are also holding buyers back, said James Ellis, a 26-year-old looking for a house in Kingston, Ont., with a $250,000 budget. His biggest challenge, he said, is “determining if the value of a house now is inflated or not, and whether resale value in a few years will reflect the current value once the housing market equalizes.”

“Our main challenge is beating the fear of home prices falling on us,” added Joseph, a 28-year-old looking for a detached house in Calgary. “That is what has kept us renting.”

Read the full article here.