Doomsday real estate prophecy….enough already!

This pic might best capture the image that comes to mind when I hear the phrase ‘real estate crash’.   Don’t adjust your screen.  This isn’t a hoax.   This 12 story building collapsed in 2009 shortly after it was completed.

Note how the building remained intact after it fell.   That is truly amazing.   Clearly, it was well-built.  But note the hollow concrete piers with no rebar.   This is a great example of how even the best built building will fall if it has a weak foundation.

Our U.S. neighbors to the south learned about weak foundations in 2008.   The U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis was caused by Banks offering mortgages to anyone with a pulse.   There was little to no qualifying for a mortgage.  You could buy or refinance up 110% of the value of the home!   Mortgages were being given to those that didn’t qualify.  This was the root of the U.S. housing crash.

HOW DOES CANADA STACK UP?

But is this what the future looks like for Canada’s housing market?    We keep hearing reports about the imminent Canadian housing bubble.  It’s coming… soon… no, really.   We’ve heard this continually for the last 5 years.   You just have to wake up and turn on the TV, radio or computer.   It’s full of Doomsday forecasters.   But reality is very different.   Listen to facts and forecasts from proven sources….  Take CMHC’s most recent report released in the 4th quarter of 2012.  They are calling for a stable housing market in 2013.  Average house prices will stop climbing and remain flat.  Rental vacancy rates will stay low.   Click here for CMHC’s Q4 report.

The forecast isn’t calling for any huge price drop as the media would have you believe.  It’s boring news… but that’s good news for us.  CMHC’s historical forecasts have been pretty accurate.  And they probably have more data at their fingertips than any other organization.   The Doomsday forecasters don’t seem to reference this report… but I suggest we give more consideration to accredited reports…

Speaking of Doomsday… I saw a good article in The Financial Post entitled ‘Are we worrying ourselves into a housing crash’?  A great question… and they quote 2 of my favorite Economists and Financial Experts, Moshe Milevsky and Benjamin Tal.   Both believe we won’t see a housing collapse like the U.S. had.  The fundamentals are very different.  But they think that if we keep talking about a crash, then it could  speed up and prolong any housing slowdown.

To me, Canada is like the 12 story building, strong and intact.   The U.S. was like the foundation…hollow and weak.   Let’s make sure understand the differences before we write off our housing market.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

Steve Garganis 416 224 0114 steve@mortgagenow.ca

 

O’Leary only wants Fixed rate mortgages…really?

CBC News did a report about Renting vs. Buying, earlier this week.. And it featured Kevin O’Leary and Amanda Lang, two well-known TV personalities….Ok, we covered Rent vs. Own in great detail just a few months ago…  And I also talked about using your home as a retirement fund, earlier this week in my Baby Boomer 10 year retirement plan article.. But this isn’t what I want to talk about…  I want to talk about some comments O’Leary made about Fixed Rates, during that report.

UNPOPULAR COMMENTS AGAINST O’LEARY

I’m taking a chance by speaking out against Kevin O’Leary.   But I must speak up regarding something as important as this…   So here it goes…

O’Leary is starting a new mortgage company….Congrats!  I’m sure he’ll do well.    He said his company would ONLY offer Fixed rate mortgages because Mr. O’Leary doesn’t believe ANYONE should be in a Variable Rate mortgage…. he went on to say that because Fixed Rates are so low, you would have to be insane to stay in a Variable Rate…Hmm.. well, if you are one of my clients then you know how absurd this statement is…

2008-09 MORTGAGE HISTORY LESSONS

Over 80% of my clients are, or have been in a Variable rate mortgage… Most of them enjoyed rates of Prime less 0.75% or better… some even had Prime less 0.90%..and for a while, they enjoyed rates as low at 1.35%!!!  During the 2008-09 recession, we were inundated with TV and Media personalities telling us to lock into a 5 year Fixed rate mortgage because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and stock market crash…  You remember that?  I do… and I recommended clients do the opposite..  take short-term mortgages until the dust settled on interest rates…  This WAS NOT the popular advice…  It was panic time…. but that’s when you need to remain calm and review the facts…

Fortunately, most of my clients didn’t listen to the media and followed my advice.   I recommended several different products… 6 months, 1 year, 2 year, 3 year and even the short-lived 3 yr Variable rate… In ALL cases, it was the right product choice…. It was the best option at the time for that particular client…My clients have saved $$thousands each and every year through my advice!

(historical fact… Variable rate mortgages have been a cheaper way to finance your home in over 88% of time…Professor Milevsky study.) 

TODAY’S STRATEGY

Unfortunately, new Variable rate products aren’t priced as well today…. This is probably that other 12% of the time….And although I am not recommending Variable rates today for most borrowers, it still might be the right product for some…  To say everyone should get out of their Variable rate is just bad advice!  The GOAL IS TO PAY THE LEAST AMOUNT OF MONEY TO OWN OUR HOMES!

My criteria for choosing Fixed over Variable depends on many factors but here are 3 things I pay close attention to:

1-Variable rate pricing not as attractive.. the best Variable rate today is Prime less 0.35% (3.00% less 0.35% = 2.65%)…..

2-Fixed rates are at historical lows (just over 3.00%).

3-the spread between 5 yr Fixed and Variable should be over 1.00%…today it’s less than 0.50%.

Add all of this up and it’s an easy choice today….I cannot recommend Variable Rate for most NEW mortgages….

THIS DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD GET OUT OF YOUR VARIABLE RATE!!!

If you have a Variable rate of Prime less 0.75%, I would stick with that… that’s 2.25%…  why start paying over 3.00%?   There is no forecast for immediate rate increases…   And this is where I am very concerned…. We have a very well known TV personality that comes out and says everyone should lock into a Fixed Rate mortgage…. I’m sure the BANKS would love to see you out of a 2.25% mortgage and into a 3.00%+ rate.   I completely disagree with O’Leary.    There is no ‘One size fits all’ mortgage.   Everyone is different and has different needs…   I’d be very careful about listening to anyone that wants to pigeon-hole all Canadians.

BEWARE THE TV EXPERTS…  Just a final note….  How many times have you heard ‘Rates are going up soon’ in the last 4 years.?  You must lock into a Fixed Rate…    I hear it everyday…. and if my clients listened to these ‘Experts’ they would have been out of their Prime less 0.75% Variable rate and into a 4.00%, 5.00% or even 6.00% fixed rate mortgage!   Those that have listened to the facts have done extremely well.   There isn’t a crystal ball… it’s not magic, it’s simply viewing the mortgage landscape, current economic trends, monitoring inflation rates and paying attention to govt and policy makers… I really don’t watch the news or listen to any media or TV personalities.   I just look at the facts and present them here.

As always, if you have any comments or questions or would like to know what strategy is best for you, give your mortgage broker a call.. or call me if you don’t have a broker.  I’d be happy to help.

Steve Garganis 416 224 0114 steve@mortgagenow.ca

 

Baby Boomers 10 yr real estate retirement plan

Last week, I was asked to comment on BMO’s Retirement Report  which pointed out that more Canadian Baby Boomers are using their home as their retirement fund.  The BMO study shows the baby boomer generation were not downsizing like many experts were thinking.  But instead, they are buying bigger, more expensive homes.   The thinking is that the higher priced homes will grow their retirement fund more quickly and more securely.

Several Financial Experts commented on this study…. mostly offering negative reviews about this retirement strategy….. including BMO… you know, eggs in one basket, diversification, that sort of thing…  there is merit in the statements but I really don’t agree with the negative spin….. Here’s a link to my quotes about the “10 year plan” in The Star.

The 10 year plan has grown in popularity over the last 5 years as we’ve seen the value of our RRSPs or other investment drop in value.   It’s capitalizing on real estate values going up over the long-term.    It’s really simple to understand….

THE 10 YEAR RETIREMENT PLAN

Here’s an example of what one couple did….Let’s say you’re between the ages of 35 and 55.

  • You own a home worth $500k.
  • You have a $300k mortgage., but you can afford to buy a $700k home.
  • Your new mortgage is $500k.
  • You are committed to keeping that home for 10 years….and you can afford the payments..
  • In that 10 years, the goal is to pay down your mortgage by at least half, if not more. (a realistic goal considering the average Canadian pays off their home in 12 to 17 years).
  • if your home goes up by 5% each year, on average (and this is probably a realistic number looking back at historical values), then your home should be worth $1.14million.  
  • the 10 year timeframe is critical… we want to give enough time to live through any up or down real estate market…

Using the example above, in 1o years you should have a mortgage of $350k or less and house worth $1.14millon… that’s $790,000 of equity in your home.   Oh, and it’s all Capital Gains Tax Free….

Does it sound too easy or too good to be true?   It’s really not… take any 10 year period in history…  work out your own stats… This is reality…

By the way, the couple I’m referring to are real… they are actual clients of mine.   They bought their home in 2007 for $850k… They have paid down their mortgage to $300k…this is way ahead of schedule…(the low interest rates have helped)….  The value of their home today is approximately $1.5million.  They have $1.2million in equity today.  They estimate the home will be worth $2million in 5 years…  but even if it isn’t, even if the property is only worth $1.2million 5 years from now, I’d say they’ve done pretty well, wouldn’t you agree?

And for those that prefer stocks and bonds, then stick with those investments…  There isn’t one good strategy…  This plan is less exciting and probably a little boring…  but I like boring when it comes to my money and my retirement…

This plan isn’t for everyone.  You need to be comfortable with debt and understand real estate…. and you need to commit to owning real estate for 10 yrs (it doesn’t have to be the same house.. you can move)…

If you need help with this plan or just want more info to help understand it, give me a call anytime.

Steve Garganis 416 224 0114 steve@mortgagenow.ca

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