Category Archives: rates

Paying debt with debt

This Globe and Mail article starts like this:

A new poll suggests that most Canadians are quite comfortable with using debt as a financial strategy – at a time when debt loads have risen to alarming new highs.

Shouldn’t that be the other way around?  Canadians are quite comfortable using debt as a financial strategy and that has driven debt loads to alarming new highs.

The survey shows 9 out of 10 respondents would consider borrowing money to pay for an unexpected $2,000 cost.  Yeah, that’s right: $2k. These people appear to have little or no financial buffer.

While 55 per cent said they were extremely or very confident they could raise the cash, 92 per cent said they’d consider borrowing to come up with some of the cash.

Less than half – 45 per cent – said they’d never faced a debt problem.

The poll results come as Canadian debt-to-income ratios sit at a record 152 per cent and top officials issue warnings to start paying down debt before interest rates rise.

The findings suggest consumers have been unmoved by warnings that rates will inevitably rise and that the resulting financial burden could sink some households.

“It’s frightening to see that Canadians have become totally blasé about debt – it’s becoming their new ‘normal’ and they’re numb to this dangerous trend,” says Douglas Hoyes, a bankruptcy trustee with Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc.

“For many, the use of debt to not only pay for big ticket items like cars, but also to cover day-to-day living expenses, has become commonplace.”

Now compare this to the USA in 2006 where household debt grew at a record level, but a housing boom had also boosted networth.  Some were concerned about unsustainably high house prices, but Ben Bernanke said that he would not prick asset bubbles.

And he didn’t.

In fact the US government did everything in its power to prevent house prices from collapsing.  They pumped money into the system, drove down interest rates and came up with all sorts of programs to prevent people from losing their homes.

You may be surprised to find out what happened to house prices in the US since then, especially the ‘hot’ markets like Florida, Arizona, California and Nevada.

Can’t burst a bubble that isn’t there

Some people are freaking out about a housing bubble in Vancouver.

Relax.

Tsur Sommerville of the UBC CUER Sauder school of business says there is no bubble and I bet the developers who sponsor the school would agree.

So it’s unanimous, no bubble.

But if you want a giggle check the spelling on the URL.. Sponsers? well I guess they study economics, not spellonomics.

Anyways, Tsur says no bubble in Vancouver.

“You can’t burst a bubble that wasn’t there,” said Somerville. “But you can have prices above where they should be and it not be a ­bubble.

“A bubble isn’t just defined by high prices,” he said.

Somerville identified a housing “bubble” as conditions akin to what was happening in 2007.

“It didn’t matter what the condo looked like or what it’s going to look like or who was building it, people were lined up around the block and snapping it up,” he said. “They were saying, ‘I’ll take 12, please.’ That’s more of a bubble environment.”

So there you have it.  We had a ‘bubble environment’ in 2007, but right now there is no bubble because very little is selling so we’re safe from a bubble that could burst.  We have prices that are above what they should be, but no bubble.

Read the full article in The Province.

Mortgage rates rise at RBC, more to follow?

Looks like RBC just upped two of it’s mortgage rates by one fifth of a point.

What will we do without our record low mortgage rates?

It’s probably just a minor fluctuation, but other banks are expected to follow as bond yields have edged up in the last month.

So if you want to do a rate lock in now might be the time.

Helmut Pastrick of Central One Credit Union explains:

“Sentiment has improved with respect to Europe and the economic outlook,” Pastrick said. “The economic news was quite negative for a period of weeks and now it is somewhat less negative.”

RBC’s posted rate for a three-year, fixed-rate mortgage will go up 0.2 percentage points to 4.05 per cent. Meanwhile, an RBC special-offer rate for five-year closed mortgages rises to 3.69 per cent.

The rise in the cost of funds for banks will mean other lenders will probably also raise their rates, or absorb some of the cost increase to hold onto or gain market share,” Pastrick said.

Read the full article over at the Vancouver Sun.

 

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.

Days of ultra-cheap money coming to an end

..At least that’s what Mark Carney and other Bank of Canada officials have said according to this article, yet they’re refraining from being more specific.

Meanwhile the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD) is urging Canada to start raising interest rates in the fall and keep on raising them to stop an inflating housing bubble and reign in inflation.

The OECD, a high-powered economic research group backed by contributions from its 34 rich country members, offers a scenario: An increase in the benchmark rate of a quarter of a percentage point in the autumn, and similar increases each quarter through to the end of next year, leaving the benchmark overnight target at 2.25 per cent.

That still would be low by historical standards, yet, according to the OECD, likely a big enough increase to cause prospective homeowners to think twice before buying at current inflated prices. However, the OECD’s recommendation comes with a risk.

The Federal Reserve Board has made a conditional pledge to leave U.S. rates extremely low until the end of 2014. Following the OECD’s path could create an unprecedented spread between Canadian and U.S. interest rates, which would put upward pressure on a Canadian dollar that many say already is too strong.

Oh, and the OECD made this same recommendation a year ago and was ignored. So I wonder how Carney intends to bring the days of ultra-cheap money to an end?