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CMHC flawed data? Or is this just a shock value article?

 The Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson and Tara Perkins wrote a shocking article entitled “Potentially flawed data used by banks and lenders bump up house prices”.   Wow, that headline is sure to get a lot of attention.  I mean that’s a really serious allegation. Let’s continue…

They claim to have documents that quote “confidential statements from banks, appraisers and mortgage insurers show rising worry over the use of a database operated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The documents suggest the data are flawed and help push home prices up.”

But keep reading this article… and tell me if you see any substance to this allegation.   The article goes on to explain that CMHC has been using an automated evaluation system called EMILI, since 1996 that can determine house values.   They also say CMHC will order appraisals when they deem necessary.   They even quoted an appraiser that says the system is flawed… So this article must be right… after all, it’s in the Globe and Mail!!

I read this article a few times over, to try and find any real facts to suggest that CMHC is using flawed data….  but I came up empty.   Did they make any mention of how many times the EMILI system was used over the past 16 years?  Or how many instances this system produced a wrong property valuation?  How about how many appraisals were required when EMILI couldn’t support a value?  What about the $$ losses that CMHC has incurred due to incorrect property valuation using EMILI?   NO.. no data provided… Just a reference to some document that raised concerns about the EMILI system.   My guess is that any losses were limited or we would have heard a lot more about it….

Folks, this article is another example the media using shock value to get you reading… This is the type of ‘water cooler talk’ that causes us to panic, to make mistakes.   We tend to flock to the negative… bad news travels faster than good news…it’s human nature.     Last night, when I saw this article, there were 62 comments…. as of this morning, when I wrote this article, there were over 300.

I want you to read these comments.… full of angry people… all celebrating the possible scandal of a flawed property valuation system…  Hooray!  There’s a scam…banks, and homeowners got ripped off!  Let’s celebrate!!… The attitudes were disturbing…  Hey, I want to associate with positive people.. not pessimists…  If this is the audience that the Globe is attracting, then maybe we should rethink where we get our information from.

Sensationalism is a dangerous thing.  Let’s continue to take emotion out of it… Let’s make sure we look at facts and clearly separate our opinions.   Buying a house for personal use or as an investment needs to be given careful consideration.   You’ve heard me say that real estate should be a 7 year investment.   History shows us that this is how long it takes to amortize the expenses involved with buying and selling a home.   It’s also how long it takes to go through an up and down economic cycle.    Real Estate isn’t about making a quick buck.

Interest rates are at historical, all-time lows… Have you seen any articles about this lately?   Not many… but that’s because it’s lost it’s shock value.  This won’t grab your attention. But’s true… and for most of us, it still makes good financial sense to buy a house.

Make decisions based on fact… based on your own personal circumstances… based on what works for you… based on what your goals are…based on professional advice…

As always, I welcome your comments and questions… If you have any questions about mortgages or mortgage related issues, please free to contact me.

Steve Garganis

416 224 0114

steve@mortgagenow.ca

Rent vs Own…which is better?

Rising house prices could make you rethink buying a home.. Could renting be better today?  With the average home price in Toronto around $500k and the National average at $356k, renting might look more attractive.  And for certain situations, like short-term accommodations and retirement living, it does make sense.  But I’m not convinced that renting is right for most of us.

Some simple rules of thumb to remember when buying real estate:

  • you should plan on owning the home for at least 7 years.  This will amortize or spread out any associated expenses with the purchase or sale of your home.
  • buying for investment should be a long term play.. again, 7 years is usually long enough to take us through any economic cycle of ups and downs.
  • forgot buying for a quick flip.  Unless you are a professional renovator with a deep pockets, don’t try to imitate people on HGTV (yes, it’s another 4 letter word we shouldn’t repeat in public).
  • don’t buy at your maximum debt servicing ratios…. stretching yourself thin when interest rates are at record lows isn’t smart.
  • speaking of interest rates…. make sure to qualify yourself with an interest rate of 5.00% or higher.. this is a more realistic rate than today’s 3.09%… just plan for rates to go up… when they do, you’ll be prepared…
  • we won’t get into buying a rental property here… it requires more explanation.. but for many, it’s an even better investment than buying your principal residence… a topic we will discuss at a later date.

Type in Rent vs Own or Rent vs Buy on google, and you’ll find several recent articles on the subject.   This one, from the Financial Post, stood out…. it’s against owning.   The article explains that you will be better off, financially, if you rent…  They even give an online calculator to prove the point…. Okay, let’s take a closer look at this calculator…   Ah, there’s where we have a difference of opinion…. Their calculator assumes you can earn an annual 7.00% Return on Investment outside of Real Estate…   And they are using annual house appreciation rate of 2.00%.

Hmmm, how many people have made an average annual return of 7.00% in stocks, bond, mutual funds over the past 5, 10, 15 or 20 years???   Most the people I know are still looking to match the stock market highs of 2000 or recover their investments from the 2008 crash.    And using a 2.00% annual appreciation rate for real estate?  Come on, let’s get real!   Try typing in more realistic numbers like 5.00% investment return and 5.00% house appreciation and see what you get…   And that 5.00% investment return is being generous.    Real Estate becomes the winning choice…

We also have to factor in the intangibles.   Not having to worry about moving because your landlord is selling… and not having to move the kids…. and just plain pride of ownership… There is something to be said for owning your home..  People tend to care a little more about the home they own.

Here’s another article from the Globe and Mail that isn’t against owning but is advocating you save up a larger down payment.   I like the philosophy.   Wait and save… but don’t wait for house prices to go down… that just hasn’t worked… Timing the market is always a tough thing to do…So even if house prices fall over the next few years, you’ll probably end up spending more on your mortgage as these record low interest rates are expected to go up over the next few years..    Here’s a calculator I found through The Star’s Moneyville.   I typed in some numbers using today’s averages… rents, house price, mortgage rate, inflation rate, etc…. the results showed buying would save you over $400,000 over a 25 year period.    Try it out.. see how it would fit your situation.

Let me know when I can help.

Steve Garganis steve@mortgagenow.ca

416 224 0114

‘Stock investing is dead’, says World’s largest Bond fund manager.

For those of you that have made little or negative returns on your mutual funds and stocks, this statement might sound familiar.  Bill Gross is a founder and managing director of PIMCO,  They manage over $1.7trillion of securities.  His latest Investment Outlook paper had some very strong statements.

He says the historic 6.6% return on the stock market is more of a ponzi scheme.   And we shouldn’t expect the stock market to keep up with the real cost of living.   WOW!… strong words, but coming from someone who manages more money than several countries GDP,  we should pay some attention.

So if stocks and mutual funds aren’t cutting it and aren’t going to cut in the future, where do we turn?   There was no clear answer given in Mr. Gross’ article.   But maybe it’s time to look elsewhere…  There is one investment that has proven to stand the test of time.  Real Estate.  Real estate doesn’t have to appreciate in value to generate a positive return…but of course, it usually does.  How’s that you say?  Well, let’s take a close, but simplified look.

If you bought a property for $300k and put a $60k or $70k down payment, rented the house out, and paid your mortgage off in 20 or 25 years (by the way, the average time to pay a mortgage in Canada is between 12 and 17 years), you would own a tangible asset worth $300k.   And let’s not forget the rental income that just keeps being generated each and every month, year after year…. We can use any number for this but a realistic rent on a $300k property would be in the $1300 to $1600/mth range.  But remember, rents go up with inflation… so we should also expect rents to increase with cost of living.  And if they don’t increase, then inflation isn’t an issue…

Yes, the first 5 years or so, may not see a positive cashflow.. maybe even a negative one… but any loss could be written off against your income… and eventually, you would be in a positive position as your mortgage balance decreases.

Real estate investments scare most of us.  We don’t understand what’s involved.  We imagine the worst… the possible tenant from hell, that doesn’t pay for 6 months or destroys your property….or buying the money pit and having major repair bills, or mortgage rates going up making our payments unaffordable.     But in reality, if you are careful with your property selection, put the time in to manage and watch your property, and are careful with tenant selection, you will be with the majority of investors that see their investment perform well… you will build equity in your property as the mortgage gets paid over time.    And hopefully, the value of your property will only go up…

Maybe it’s time to invest in something we can see, touch and take care of….  instead of a piece of paper like stocks shares or mutual funds.  There’s a growing number of Canadians that are fed up with the stock market and mutual funds… fed up with paying 2% management expense ratios or 6% deferred sales charges only to come out with a negative return….  How may of us have been forced into mutual funds or stocks because we’ve been told to invest into RRSPs to reduce our taxes and invest for retirement?   Has that formula really worked for anyone?  If you want to look at something different but certainly not new, then take a look at real estate… you may be pleasantly surprised.

If you need help with understanding mortgages and how financing an investment property works,  please feel free to contact me.  I’m always happy to help.

Steve Garganis

Real Estate Investments outperform stock market

Saw this article in the Financial Post over the weekend…  great stats about timing real estate investment…  There is a growing fear that interest rates will rise causing affordability to decline… Okay, for now, let’s say that we do except that the global and US economies will suddenly improve  and govts can then raise rates…. Should this stop you from buying real estate?   Is this a bad time to invest?

According to the stats in this article, the answer is NO.   From 1992 to 2011, the average house in GTA increased from $214k to $465k.  That’s 116% increase or a compounded annual return of 3.94%   But if you factor in just enough rental income to cover your costs, then your return jumps to 11.40%…. compared with the TSX index return of 8.69%.   And hey, we didn’t factor in any rent increases…rents have also climbed dramatically over the past 20 yrs…

But what if you bought during the peak of 1990, just before prices dropped….  well, your return would still outperform the TSX index with a 8.94% annualized return.    And now let’s really think about this for one second…. How many people out there have actually invested in the TSX index?   I mean, come on…  No stock broker or Investment Advisor I know has ever recommended that.. they never do.. they pick mutual funds, stocks, etc…  and guess what?  I’ve yet to hear from anyone out there that has made a good return in the last 20 yrs…  In fact, most people I hear from tell me they have lost or just broken even…

Now, combine this info with the fact that we are still enjoying RECORD LOW interest rates and it’s very easy for me to say, I’d rather buy property than ride the stock market roller coaster…

There are some things to consider before buying that rental property…  how long should you plan to buy and hold?  What are the possible negatives?  Can you deal with tenants?   etc… but this is just some fact-finding… the knowledge is out there… it really isn’t that hard to do… you just need to ask questions and get informed.. it is possible..   If you need some advice on buying rental properties, send me a note and I’ll be happy to share my advice and strategies.

EVEN AMANDA LANG……?

One more thought… I was watching Amanda Lang on CBC a few weeks ago… she’s well spoken and very bright… but I have to take exception with one of her comments….  It was during a round table discussion… I only caught a bit of it but she made reference to real estate not matching inflation over the long-term… she was advocating other options for us to invest….  Come on Amanda, really?   Do you want to take  poll and see how many people have lost money in stocks and mutual funds??    And then let’s compare with how many have made or lost with real estate?

I don’t know about you, but my stock and mutual fund performance has been an on-going roller coaster ride with my Financial Advisors giving me the same speech for 24 years.. you know the speech… it’s from the movie, the Boiler Room with Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi…   “don’t sell when it’s low…buy more, this stock is gonna come back….”  Last I checked, the most wealthiest people made their fortunes in real estate….   Sorry Amanda, I can’t agree with you on this one…

When opportunity knocks…open the door.

It’s March, 2012.   How will you look back at this month in 5 years time?    There are certain dates in history that stand out for all of us.   Some are more personal than others, like the birth of my son, the day I met my wife, my first trip overseas, NHL pro hockey camp, etc.

And then there are dates where I look back at missed opportunities.

-October 1984, I had a chance to buy a waterfront lot on Balsam Lake in Ontario’s cottage country, for $22,000…. now selling for $400,000.   There was a new condo in east Toronto for $82,000 in September 1987…. now selling for $392,000….(and yes, I think I was 5 years old…Lol!)..

-Or how about that semi-detached house at Danforth Ave and Woodbine, in Toronto, for $175,000 in 1990….now selling for $500,000.    More recently, I could have bought a house for $320,000 in 2005, near the water in Burlington, Ontario…..that same house sold for $800,000 last year.

The point it, I think we will look back at March 2012 as the month when the Banks declared mortgage war against each other…  Only in this war, there is a winner… YOU, the consumer, YOU the borrower, YOU the investor.   We are seeing record low mortgage rates.   And they won’t last forever.  In fact, this mortgage war is probably going to accelerate interest rate hikes…  almost like starting a campfire with gasoline soaked wood… It’s burning red hot but it won’t last for long.

With interest rates are record lows, isn’t this the time to borrow?    A $300,000 mortgage will carry for $1196/mth.. and that’s with a 5 year fixed rate term.  Bond yields are climbing… 5 yr bond yields are up to 1.71%.. that’s up 30bps in less than a month… 5 year fixed rates follow bond movement… i think it’s safe to say, we should expect rates to climb in the near future… and the reason they haven’t moved yet is because of the Mortgage wars…

We are hearing the cries by the govt and some bankers, telling us not to borrow too much.  Personal Debt level concerns are plastered all over the internet and media.   But we aren’t seeing many articles telling us how to borrow and invest wisely…. borrow when rates are low instead of borrowing when rates are high… borrow when you qualify instead of borrowing when you don’t… borrow when you don’t need the money…   Isn’t that when Banks want to lend you the money?

We have just seen a draft guideline, Bill B-20,  entered in for review with a May 1st decision date.   These new regulations are aimed at tightening lending rules even further.. and this time it’s targeting Home Equity Lines of Credit..   That’s right, they want to make it even harder to qualify for these products and possibly make the repayment terms more strict…

Opportunity is knocking… answer the door..

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