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MonthJune 2012

Part 2 of OSFI’s new mortgage underwriting rules announced

Hot topics this week are all the govt changes to mortgage lending…  but before we get into the bad news, I thought I’d start with some positive news…  Interest rates are still at all time lows….  if you have a mortgage or will be getting one soon, today’s rates are lower than ever before…  That means more money in your pocket!   We don’t seem to hear enough about that…

Okay, now for the update…Remember, these changes will affect ALL Federally regulated financial institutions….BUT they won’t affect MOST CREDIT UNIONS and other Lenders..

Yesterday we got a double whammy…  First the Federal Department of Finance announced changes to CMHC insured mortgages.… And later that day, OSFI announced Part 2 of their changes to Residential Mortgage Underwriting Practices and Procedures, better known as RMUP… but I prefer RUMP because that’s exactly where most of us will be feeling the effects of these changes…

The timing of all this tightening puzzles most of us in the mortgage industry.   Canada has been the envy of the world when it comes to our mortgage underwriting practices… The govt seems to be getting more into credit underwriting and procedures than ever before… And yet they have not given us any true data or reason for these changes….

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep up to date as these changes will affect us all.  Part 1 of changes were announced earlier this month through a Draft update on June 6th..   And here are the details of the final changes which come into effect later this year… there is a lot of text in the final draft but we are only focusing on the changes that will have the greatest impact on us:

  • Credit checks should be done more often.. minimum credit scores should not solely relied up to determine a borrower’s credit worthiness.
  • Home Equity Lines of Credit will be limited to 65% loan to value, down from the current 80% loan to value. (still not sure if there will be any grandfathering of existing lines but my guess is no)
  • there is more wording with regards to Lender’s Senior Management having more minimum reporting… (this looked like make-work stuff to me as most Lenders have tons of reporting).
  • Cash-back mortgages are gone (no big deal here…. very few of these products were ever used by us ‘irresponsible Canadians’… )
  • Self-employed individuals will be required to provide and pass an ‘income reasonability’ test… (these already exist with most Lenders)
  • Lenders should use the 5 yr fixed contract rate or the Bank Posted rate when qualifying for Variable rate products…even conventional mortgages… (again, nothing new here.. most Lenders are doing this already….yawn)

Who can blame you if you if you’re having trouble keeping up with all these changes to mortgage rules and lending policies.  We must question the purpose of these changes… little to no proof has been presented with regards to why the govt feels these changes are needed… and the timing may come back to bite them in the RUMP!   Some experts are making the argument that the govt’s attempt to avert a major housing downturn, could actually be the cause of it…..let’s hope not.. only time will tell.

I question why the govt is so focused on the estimated $1trillion residential mortgage market, when we have little or no rules when it comes to the other $500billion of non-real estate debt such as credit cards, loans and lines of credit.   Why is it okay to buy a car with $0 money down or okay to make NO payments for 6 months or 1 year, with interest rates of 8%, 18% and 28%, but if you want to buy or refinance your home, you better be prepared to jump through several hoops?   Can you say, ‘I need to refocus my energy and efforts’?


Mortgage Brokers will be much busier with these new changes.   Your traditional Bank and ‘A’ Lender WILL NOT be able to provide the same financing as before…. BUT there are several other Lenders that are ready to fill the gap… including Credit Unions and other non-bank Lenders…..   We could see the small Lenders grow with these changes…  As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need clarification.

Steve Garganis

Fed govt tightens mortgage rules again… 4th time in 4 years.

The Harper govt and the Minister of Finance are making it even harder to qualify for a mortgage..  they are also cutting back on how much you can refinance your mortgage.   With the 4th set of major rule changes in as many years, the govt is acting like a big brother, looking over your shoulder when it comes to borrowing on a mortgage.   Yet, they don’t seem too concerned with Credit Card rules or unsecured lines of credit or other higher interest loans that are very easy to qualify for…

In fact, it’s common knowledge in credit and collections, that most defaults and losses occur on unsecured debts and credit cards.   That’s really easy to understand…  these debts carry 18% and 20% interest rates… they have little or no qualifying rules, and little or no security…. (we get in that in more detail further in this article).

So we must ask why the govt feels is necessary to impose so many changes and restrictions when it comes to borrowing for the roof over our heads?

THESE CHANGES ONLY AFFECT HI-RATIO MORTGAGES, FOR NOW…..OR THOSE MORTGAGES THAT ARE GREATER THAN 80% LOAN TO VALUE AND REQUIRE CMHC INSURANCE.   (Although these changes are specifically for hi-ratio insured mortgages, we know that historically, Banks and other Lenders have followed these rules for all mortgages… even for those that are less than 80% loan to value….  No word yet, if and when, the Banks will embrace these changes and make them standard practice for all mortgages…:

  1. The maximum amortization for insured mortgages or those with less than 20% down payment will be 25 years.
  2. Refinancing your mortgage just got a little tougher… the govt has cut back the maximum loan to value from 85% to 80%.  In other others, the govt is out of the insurance business when it comes to refinances sine you you can get a conventional mortgage up to 80% with no insurance.
  3. Fixed the qualifying Gross Debt Service Ratio (GDSR) to 39% and the Total Debt Service Ratio (TDSR) to 44%… no real changes here since very few lenders allowed anyone to go above 35% on the GDSR…
  4. Limit the maximum home value to $1million.   This one will affect very few of use since most home buyers in this price range have adequate resources to qualify.

Here’s a link to the Department of Finance website which announces the changes in more detail with a little political spin to make you feel good about the changes.


One of my client’s is also an executive with a Major Cable provider.  He encourages his staff to buy a home and get a mortgage.   His motives are simple.   If you own a house and have a mortgage, you will be motivated to work hard and perform.   You have more to lose.   This philosophy has served his staff well.  He tells me that those with more financial responsibility are also the ones that perform best.

If the govt is really concerned that we are getting in over our heads, because of the low interest rates… and they are truly concerned that we are taking on too much mortgage debt… and they don’t want us to suffer from interest rate shock, if and when interest rates do rise, then why not just make qualifying for a mortgage more difficult?   Why not make the qualifying rate as the Bank Posted rate for a 5 yr fixed rate product?    Today, that rate would be 5.24%… that’s a full 2.00% higher than the contract rate of a 5 yr fixed rate mortgage… If you can qualify for a mortgage that is 2.00% higher, then isn’t your risk of interest rate shock less?   Wouldn’t that solve the problem?  By the way, we already have to qualify at Bank Posted if you take a Variable rate or a Fixed rate if the term is shorter than 5 yrs.

Not high enough?  Make it Bank Posted plus 1.00%… That would resolve all concerns about interest rate shock…   but it would also allow qualified borrowers to leverage and take advantage of these historical low rates….  There are a great number of articles lately, being written by those with huge exposure in the stock market or mutual funds or pension funds, that want to see more money diverted back into the stock markets to protect their investments…

I’m not interested in building a stock portfolio…  I’m interested in building my own pension plan… my own investment and income stream… Real Estate is a proven winner.  It’s where the richest of the rich, make their fortunes… Even today, you will see pro athletes, rock stars, movie stars, or other wealthy individuals buy real estate… That’s because it’s regarded as a safe, long term investment…   We seem to be losing sight of that fact..


The Fed govt wants us to believe they are looking out for our best interests… they have repeatedly said we aren’t managing our finances properly… we need big brother to watch over us….does anyone really believe this?   Their actions aren’t helping us benefit from the lowest interest rates in history… and I have a problem with this… paying less interest is a good thing to me… paying less to own my home is a good thing…

The govt seems to be grouping all of us together…  It’s like throwing out the bath water with baby….. their concerns are with a small percentage of us.. the data doesn’t back up their claims...  the stats show our mortgage arrears are lower than ever.. affordability is as high as it’s ever been (yes, low interest rates are a huge reason why)….we are spending our money wisely, on investments, not just buying TVs or new cars…. and we are paying our mortgages off faster than ever before with a large percentage of us  (we can thank low interest rates)… 23% of us are making more than the minimum payment… 19% of us are making lump sum payments towards our mortgage…. Does this sounds like a nation in trouble?

The govt changes are only doing 2 things here… they are pushing us into higher interest rate products such as unsecured lines of credit or credit cards… and they are making it harder for us to access the capital in our homes..  The HELOC limit from 80% to 65% loan to value was probably the most ridiculous change ever… No data was given to back up this move…  It was already to tough to qualify for a HELOC… this was just unnecessary.


We need to question the timing of these changes… there really hasn’t been enough time to see what the true impact of all  will be… If you’re one of those people that fully trust our govt’s decision, then I only need point you to 2002 when the govt prematurely raised rates, only to slow the economy and reduce them just months later… it was a huge miscalculation.   We ended up lowering rates for several years to come…

By making it harder to qualify for a mortgage and by reducing how much we can leverage our homes for (HELOC’s to 65% maximum loan to value), we are taking money out of the market… out of the economy… I just don’t get it…

I for one, am fed up with all this negative news coming from the media.. the fear mongering has to end!   I keep seeing prudent and responsible people wanting to enter the housing market.   They want to invest in homes…..they don’t want to ride the stock market roller coaster.    We should support this segment of the population, not punish them.


We will keep you up to date with how this unfolds… and what options you will have in the future…   My sources tell me that some Lenders are already coming up with some options to assist responsible borrowers with some new products…. stay tuned for more info..

As always, I welcome your inquiries… We’re here to help… Feel free to contact me anytime.

Steve Garganis

Does this sound like your Bank?


It’s November 2008.  News of the U.S. Subprime mortgage crisis has just broken out.   Panic sets in around the world.  Stock Markets collapse.  Govt’s are scrambling to avoid an economic recession…. or possible depression.

Your Banker calls with some advice about how this will affect your mortgage. You’re concerned and don’t understand how these world events will affect you…. The Banker recommends you get out of your Variable Rate mortgage and into a Fixed Rate mortgage…. or they recommend an early renewal of your Fixed Rate and lock into a new 5 year term…

Back then, the best discounted Fixed rates were hovering at 5.95%.  You listen to the Banker’s advice… after all, they are supposed to look out for your best interests, right?

WRONG!  Time for a reality check…Your Banker’s advice was dead wrong…. when economic times are tough, interest rates don’t usually go up, they go down….  Anyone that is in the Financial Services industry should know this….  and yet, that’s exactly how this scenario played out for thousands of Canadian homeowners.

Some say it’s easy to look back and be critical… I agree… except I go on the record with my personal opinions…. Had you been one of my client’s, you would have received my warning to watch out for ‘special bank offers’ and not to lock into any lock term product….. here’s a link to my October 13, 2008 Market Trends report.


You want to take advantage of these record low rates that have been around for the past 12 months….. after all, if you had stayed in a Variable rate, (like 80% of my clients did), you would have enjoyed rates as low at 1.35% during that time..  Instead, your Banker hits you the infamous BIG SIX BANK penalty calculation and wants a penalty of $10,000.  OUCH!  How’s that for a double slap in the face?

Does this even sound possible?   Guess what… it’s not only possible but it happened….and it happened to thousands of Canadian borrowers….  In this example, the borrower has paid over $14,000 in extra interest charges, so far… We trusted the BIG BANKS because they are on every street corner.  They are on TV, in the media, and are so highly regarded in global banking communities…  But how does this help you, the individual person?  or the average family with a mortgage that’s trying to get ahead and benefit from these record low rates…

This isn’t about bank bashing… this is about Banker’s given too much respect and offering little or nothing in return…. Far too many borrowers have gone through  the scenarios described above… and it’s really unfortunate.   By the way, the mortgage balance for this client is only $118,000.… imagine what the loss would be if their mortgage balance was $200k or $300k or more!!


Yes, there is some good news… You don’t have to make the same mistake…  you can benefit from other people’s experiences…  Get yourself a Mortgage Broker working for you…  An independent expert with an unbiased opinion.   If you were a client of mine, you would have received numerous warnings about these so-called ‘special offers’…and to avoid them…doing so would have saved you around $7,500 per year on a $300k mortgage

It’s never too late…  Getting a great rate is important, but being in the right mortgage product is where you will truly save thousands… We’ve been helping Canadians do it successfully for years…….. Feel free to call me if you need help….

Steve Garganis

416 224 0114

Beware of your Bank’s ‘special’ renewal offer…. it could cost you dearly.

Spring is the home buying season.   Summer is the mortgage renewal season.    It’s been that way for as long as I can remember.   Most of us want to move in the summer months when it’s warmer and when kids are out of school.

Once again we’re seeing the BANKs calling borrowers ahead of their actual renewal date.    And once again, they’re counting on you believing they have your best interest at heart.   And once again, I’m here to warn you against signing those offers without having a discussion with your Mortgage Broker.   In most cases, if not all, those offers aren’t that ‘special’.

Here’s just one example of that trust costing this Scotiabank client $3,000.

Just this week, Scotiabank offered one of my clients a renewal at  3.49% for a 5 year fixed rate…Does sound familiar to anyone?  It sounded great to him.   But for some reason, the client didn’t return my calls, my emails or letters about their upcoming renewal.   And I can understand, sometimes life just gets in the way.   Besides, it’s Scotiabank…surely, they’ll have this repeat client’s best interest in mind?   Surely, they will offer him the absolute best rate?

Guess again…  By signing that renewal, and not calling me to verify how competitive the interest rate really was, the client will end up paying around $3,000 more in interest charges over the next 5 years… on a $200,000 mortgage balance.   Today’s best 5 yr fixed rates are hovering around 3.19%.   The real cost could actually end up being more than $3,000 if the client needs to refinance or pay the mortgage off before the 5 years is up.   That’s because Scotiabank, like the rest of the BIG SIX BANKs, uses a prepayment penalty calculation that has the client paying for the original discount given at the time of mortgage funding.    This method of calculating penalties is NOT used by all Lenders but it IS used by all of the BIG SIX BANKs.

But we need to also be aware of other Lenders that are offering those too good to be true deals… If you see lower rates, beware.. there’s probably a catch.   It could be a NO FRILLS mortgage or some sort of hidden exit fee or penalty.

Don’t take any chances….  Call your Mortgage Broker.  One phone call could have saved this client $3,000.   If you don’t have a broker, feel free to call me.  We’re here to help.

Steve Garganis

1 866 812 0516

OSFI announcement: HELOCs cut to 65%, partial re-qualifying for mortgages at renewal time..

The Office of The Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced some interim changes that will affect all mortgage borrowers and also those with Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC).    Draft Bill B-20 was introduced March 19, 2012… and somehow, in less than 3 months, the govt has been able to review the short and long term effects of the biggest changes ever put forward before this country.  Did they work efficiently or did they rush through this?

In the end, we saw 2 major changes announced that will affect all mortgage borrowers….  changes that I feel are completely uncalled for… To be blunt, I haven’t been able to find one piece of data or fact from OSFI or the govt to substantiate their call for change….  Let’s take a look at their changes…by the way, you can click here for the full version from OSFI’s website

1- Re-qualification at Renewal “Current practice regarding residential mortgage renewals has served (Federally-regulated Financial Institutions) FRFIs well.” … “FRFIs, however, will be expected to refresh the borrowers’ credit metrics periodically (not necessarily at renewal) so that FRFIs can effectively evaluate their credit risk.”   as per OSFI text.

Some good news here… I’m glad OSFI isn’t making us fully re-qualify for a mortgage at every renewal period… but obtaining a new credit report at the Lenders discretion should concern you…  If you think it’s all about making your payments on time, guess again… Your overall credit balances, your credit availability, you balances in proportion to your available credit, how recent you obtained credit….. All these things are factored in a mortgage approval decision…. and let’s not forget your credit score… If your credit score goes down or if the Lender changes their policy (we’ve seen that happen many times over the past 4 years), then you could be in jeopardy of not qualifying for a renewal…

Life is never perfect…. we all hit some speed bumps…. the character of a person isn’t measured when times are tough, but rather how they handled that rough patch in their life… If you default on your mortgage, there are existing remedies in place for the Lender to collect their funds…..Do we really need to arm Lenders with a weapon that allows them to cancel or call your mortgage if they think you MIGHT not be able to make future payments??    Are we guilty until proven innocent?  Thumbs down from me on this one…

2- Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) “…the HELOC component of a mortgage be restricted to a maximum loan-to-value ratio of 65 per cent.  HELOCs are inherently riskier products, given their revolving nature, persistence of debt balances and their ineligibility for mortgage insurance.  However, HELOCs at or below an LTV ratio of 65 per cent will not be required to be amortized….”  as per OSFI text.

We aren’t sure what this means… if you have a HELOC greater than 65% loan to value, will you need to amortized part of it?   The wording in OSFI’s announcement shows me just how out of touch with reality they are….  HELOCs are riskier but they are already much harder to qualify for.  Reality is that arrears or defaults are near all time lows….  Reality is that most HELOC borrowers use them for a large number of things… investments, home renos, business, etc….   The govt has not given us any data to back up their statements about higher risk… and industry stats show we are fine…  It was only a few years ago when CMHC was offering insured HELOCs up to 90% loan to value…?   We’ve gone from 90% to 65%…. Has the pendulum swung too far…?

These changes will come into effect soon…we’ll have to watch for the Final announcement on how they will be implemented…  And because the govt is putting the responsiblity back on the Lenders, we will see different interpretations of these new rules…No two Lenders are alike.

So what’s next, we can’t buy investment properties?   Oh yeah, CMHC stopped insuring rental properties last year…. almost forgot… BIG thumbs down from me on this move.

If you have a mortgage coming up for renewal or have a HELOC and aren’t sure how these changes will affect you, feel free to give me a contact me….


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