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CategoryInterest rates

Is This the End of Rate Hikes?

The last few months have been tough to say the least. Variable rates are at their highest levels in 20 years. The prime rate has gone up 4.25% in less than 12 months. Every Bank of Canada announcement feels like it could be another 50 point jump. If you’re a homeowner, it’s seemingly never ending. The news certainly doesn’t help you feel otherwise. But if you take a look at what’s happened in the past, you’ll see that the time we’re in isn’t so unprecedented. We’ve been here before and we’ve gotten out of it – and I believe we’re doing it all over again.

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The News Says Home Prices Are Falling… But Are They?

At work, on Twitter, on the news – wherever you are, it seems like everyone is talking about home prices plummeting. That’s the big headline. It’s a neat and tidy story that seems to make sense on the surface: home prices skyrocketed. Then rates went up. Then home prices started slipping. It’s the kind of story that gets clicks and sells newspapers. But if you look beneath the surface you’ll see the full story – one that’s a lot more optimistic, and one that the media often fails to report.

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A Stand-Off Between the Bank of Canada and the Government of Canada

To start off, a bit of good news for once: the average 5-year fixed rate mortgage has fallen over the last two months. Some qualified borrowers are now able to secure a rate as low as 4.89%. But of course, it is good news, so you probably didn’t see it reported in the mainstream media. 

Here’s what you likely did see: the overnight rate went up by yet another 0.50% on December 7 to 4.25%. Another staggering increase at a time when most experts predicted rates would start levelling out. Not only is this rate hike significant – it’s actually record-breaking. A whopping 4.00% increase in just 9 months took us from some of the lowest rates of this century to the highest.

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A Broken Promise Leads To A Broken Economy

The Bank of Canada has always avoided forecasting rate hikes and rate cuts. It’s always been a closely guarded secret left to speculation – that is, of course, until July 2020. In what might have been the first announcement of its kind in the history of the BoC, Governor Tiff Macklem publicly stated that “interest rates are low and will stay low for a long time.”

The central bank didn’t anticipate having to raise rates until 2023 and for some reason made a choice to communicate that to Canadians. Naturally, Canadians made financial decisions accordingly. Big financial decisions. All on the basis of a promise made by a government institution they knew and trusted.

As we’re now learning, that promise was impossible to keep.

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Variable Rates Go Up, Fixed Rates Come Down

If you’re reading this, you probably know by now: the Bank of Canada has been raising their benchmark rate aggressively to battle inflation. And I mean aggressively. Their rate has gone up by 2.25% in 6 months which is absolutely – wait for it – unprecedented.

As a result, variable rates have shot up. Everyone expected fixed rates to follow suit – but interestingly enough, the opposite has happened. They’ve actually gone down. Yup, you read that right: while variable rates are going up, fixed rates are going down.

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