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Personal Debt level concerns are overblown according to Equifax stats.

Equifaxdebt amination So here we go again.. More stats that show our personal debt levels aren’t out of control… That’s right, I said ‘aren’t’ out of control.  Equifax Canada says our defaults are at record low levels and we are paying off our debts faster.   This doesn’t come as any surprise to me.   Anyone that’s followed my posts knows that I have questioned all the popular articles telling us we are not managing our debts responsibly.

You’ve seen the reports… ‘Personal debts at record high levels’…..’Personal Debt crisis’.     We’ve been hammered with the same headlines for the past few years.  I just wasn’t seeing this with my readers or my clients… I kept seeing consumers wanting  to take advantage of these record low interest rates to invest or improve their homes (why is that a bad thing?).   That’s not bad debt in my opinion… that’s good debt.. And now we have some stats to back up what I have experienced. Continue reading “Personal Debt level concerns are overblown according to Equifax stats.”

Genworth Financial $50billion increase is good for Consumers

Genworth Financial CanadaThe Federal govt controls hi-ratio mortgage lending…. (mortgages that are greater than 80% loan to value)…  There is a $600 billion limit for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC… a federal corp).   And a $250 billion limit for Genworth Financial Canada (a private corp).

Last year, the govt reported CMHC was fast approaching it’s $600 billion limit and that it had no intentions of increasing that limit.  Then last month, the federal govt announced they would increase Genworth’s limit to $300 billon.  This gives Canada’s mortgage lenders some breathing room as it now appears as though there is enough room to cover mortgages for a few years…

WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION Continue reading “Genworth Financial $50billion increase is good for Consumers”

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

CMHC under OSFI control…. another kick in the rear to Canadians.

CMHC’s MOVE TO OSFI CONTROL WILL BE A KICK IN THE BUTT TO ALL CANADIAN HOMEOWNERS.

Is this what CMHC staff and Canadian homeowners are thinking?….   That’s right, it could be OSFI head, Julie Dickson on one end, and that’s you and I on the receiving end!

You’ve seen the headlines lately….  “OSFI proposes radical changes under Draft Bill B-20” which was up for discussion until May 1st.    But weeks earlier, Julie Dickson, the head of OSFI made a surprise remark at speech in Toronto’s Board of Trade…(some were calling it an ‘oops’, or a ‘slip-up’ ) where she stated that the proposed HELOC changes were a done deal…  this was on April 7th… well before the May 1st discussion deadline…

And more recently, we saw more questionable remarks from OSFI…. this time from Vlasios Melassanakis, Manager of Policy Development.   “Are the banks equipped to handle a 40% drop (what occurred in Toronto market in early 1990’s)? Need to stress test to find out.”    Is Melassanakis for real?   40% drop??  where is he getting that number from??    Absurd..! and unsubstantiated!   That’s my response.

What’s going on here, you might ask??

Mortgage arrears are low, affordability is high, property values have declined or remained flat across the country except a few pockets including GTA…   So why all these drastic changes?

I was contacted for my opinion by some business writers from our national media.   We were trying to read the fine print… to understand what it all this meant…. and why it had to be done so quickly…  Why do we have move CMHC, a Crown corporation that’s been around for over 50 yrs and making $billion profits for Canada…why do we need to move them under OSFI control?

The dust hasn’t settled yet, but here are some of the changes and my thoughts on what seems to be happening.

  • introduce a limit on secured lines of credit to 65% of the value of your home… down from 80%… this move makes no sense…  this will limit your ability to draw on the equity in your home to invest, access cheap money to run a business (the self-employed are an understated segment of the population that will really suffer), pay for your kids education, or just access funds for personal use…   the govt wants to mandate this product for the first time in history…  and by the way, it’s always been harder to qualify for these products than a regular mortgage.
  • re-underwrite your mortgage at renewal... they propose to reapprove your income, credit, get a new property appraisal at time of renewal… regardless if you made all your payments on time…  where’s the logic?  what’s the point?  Would any lender really tell someone their mortgage won’t be renewed even though they paid fine?  Will they ask you to pay down your mortgage if a new appraisal says your house is worth less?
  • they have even suggested they want to change our long running standard underwriting debt servicing ratios… these have been around for over 30 yrs and have served us well… why the change?
  • OSFI is a regulatory body that provides regulation and supervision to 152 Banks, Trust companies and other Lenders.   They are auditors….  Where is their motive to provide access to mortgage money for prospective homeowner?   This move to push CMHC under OSFI is the biggest change in decades and it’s very risky given that Canada is looked upon as a stable country with a stable banking system…  why would the govt make all these changes?  and why now?
  • let’s not forget some of the comments from Minister of Finance Flaherty.. he suggested CMHC may not even be necessary in the future…  a bold statement.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF THESE CHANGES

It’s clear these changes will effect us all….. here are some of the early results of the changes:

  • we have already been informed that CMHC has tightened their lending policies… there was an official communique released last month that stated, more applications will get referred to underwriters for full review….
  • several banks have amended or cut their business for self mortgage programs… end result is higher cost to obtain funding… guess that’s good for who?? not the consumer…
  • less access to the equity in your homes will mean less money towards investments… we have  huge segment of our population that borrows to invest in stocks, properties, etc..  they will have less to access now….  resulting in less money in the economy.
  • we may achieve  a lower personal debt level… but will that help the economy?…
  • less money flowing into the economy can’t be a good thing…  if we wanted to slow things, the Bank of Canada would have raised their Target Rate long ago…. instead, it has remained unchanged since Sept 2010.
  • there will be more..

We’ve heard that a review of CMHC by OSFI will be  completed by June… but the results won’t be published… so we can only guess and speculate as to what changes these auditors at OSFI will be proposing….  We’ll be watching and reporting…..Let’s hope they don’t fix something that isn’t broken.

As always, if there is something you need help with, let me know… I’m happy to help.!


A complete overhaul of Mortgage Lending in Canada?

  FED GOVT KEEPS TALKING ABOUT TIGHTENING MORTGAGE LENDING POLICIES

But why?  Why does the govt believe there is a need for all this change?  That’s the question most industry insiders are asking.  Here are some facts with my thoughts mixed in….  tell me if you see some contradiction between the different branches of the govt or a lack of consistency:

  • Surprise…we don’t have a mortgage default problem… Mortgage arrears in Canada are 0.38% as of January 2012.   In Ontario, the housing hot spot, arrears are only 0.28%.   These figures are very low by anyone’s standards.
  • The average resale price dropped 0.5% nationally.  But resale prices in Toronto, are up around 7.3% in a year-over-year comparison.  But that trend is cooling according to The Canadian Real Estate Association.
  • Inflation isn’t a problem… it’s hovering at 1.9%, well within acceptable levels.
  • Housing affordability hasn’t really changed in 10 yrs according to the RBC housing affordability index and it actually improved in Q4 of 2011 (it’s probably even better this year as interest rates are even lower).
  • Personal household debt is around 153% of income.  That’s a record high number, it’s true, but what are Canadians borrowing for?  Studies tell us it’s not for big screen TVs or trips to Bahamas…  We’re actually investing… in stocks, mutual funds, real estate here and in the U.S.  In fact, we are the biggest foreign buyers in Florida and we are also buying in Phoenix, Arizona in record numbers…. Is buying a second home a bad investment?
  • Did you know that 1/3rd of Personal Debt is non-mortgage debt including high interest credit cards, loans and unsecured lines of credit…. yet, there is little to no regulation for these products…
  • Speaking of credit cards… the arrears rate is just over 1.00%... that’s around triple what mortgage arrears are!  Why isn’t the govt clamping down on these credit products?
  • Record-low interest rates were brought in to stimulate the economy.  Haven’t Canadians played their role to kick-start the economy?  Why does the govt want to punish homeowners now with tougher qualifying rules?  OSFI has even proposed you re-qualify for your mortgage at renewal time!!   How absurd is that?
  • The Bank of Canada wants to raise rates to slow our personal debt growth…   but can’t for fear of slowing the economy…
  • The Federal Minister of Finance, Flaherty, wants to tighten mortgage lending to slow the housing market and reduce the amount of mortgage debt we take on.
  • The housing market accounts for up to 40% of this country’s GDP… all these changes will affect our economy.
  • Business for Self mortgage programs have been eliminated by some banks and other Lenders… making borrowing more expensive for this segment of our population…. by the way, they are paying their mortgages just fine.. there is no evidence suggesting Business for Self borrowers have repayment problems…
  • CMHC opted out of rental property mortgages last year in an attempt to slow real estate investment… so you must come up with 20% down or use equity from other sources for the down payment..

FED GOVT’S LATEST MOVE IS TO PUSH CMHC UNDER OSFI CONTROL

  • OSFI will assume control over CMHC, the country’s national housing agency…. You will have an audit dept overseeing a social program… hmm, I wonder what will happen to CMHC??  The possibilities frighten me and should frighten most Canadians… (more on this later).
  • Minister Flaherty made a comment that maybe the govt should consider selling CMHC…  say goodbye to a business that nets over $1billion a year.. $16billion since 2002.   Here’s an idea…why not split CMHC into 2 business… bulk insurance business and the traditional low down payment business… wouldn’t that keep the Canadian dream of home ownership alive and also satisfy the auditors, like OSFI??
  • OSFI wants to limit Secured Lines of Credit to 65% loan to value from today’s 80% loan to value…  This one makes no sense and has received harsh criticism from Financial Experts…. scares me to think that it’s even gone from thought to paper to print… what other changes were they considering that didn’t make it to print??

MY SUMMARY OF IT ALL…

In short, the govt wants to keep the economy stable but they are going to make it harder for you and I to qualify for a mortgage….  Yet, there are no changes coming for the most expensive of debts… Credit cards, loans and unsecured lines of credit rules either don’t exist or will not change…  For some reason, the govt thinks it’s okay to borrow at 7% , 8% for unsecured lines of credit and pay 18% to 20% on credit cards, but please don’t borrow for a home, at 3% and 4%??

If we continue to make it harder for Canadians to get a mortgage, then we will have fewer home sales.. Fewer home sales will affect ALL HOME VALUES and slow the economy.  It’s really that simple…  this affects the biggest asset that most of us will own… our home!

Let’s hope the govt thinks like a carpenter… measure twice and cut once… !

If you’re a homeowner and aren’t sure how these and other changes might affect you, feel free to contact me anytime.   I’d be happy to help.

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