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Looser Mortgage Standards Hit the UK! Is Canada Next?!

Home Finances

There’s nothing surprising about the loosening of mortgage standards to spur growth. In the last real housing bubble of 1990, banks and government brought in stricter lending rules, making it tougher for borrowers to get a mortgage.

Fast forward to the present. We’ve yet to see a housing bubble or market crash, but the government has taken drastic – perhaps even unheard of – precautions to slow the housing market.

In 1990, I was working for the largest trust company in Canada. I can tell you that it has never been harder to qualify for a mortgage than it is today!

Continue reading “Looser Mortgage Standards Hit the UK! Is Canada Next?!”

Yes, you can still buy a home in Canada… Keeping the dream alive

Homeownership Image, March 2018

Canada’s a nation of immigrants. It truly is the land of opportunity. Chances are, your parents, grandparents or great grandparents came here from another country.

There are many reasons why people left their homeland. Some left by choice to pursue a better life. Others had to leave for safety reasons. Whatever the reason, most of us have a common goal: A better life.

Homeownership has always been an important part of that dream. We want to own something. We want to plant roots. There’s a pile of statistics to support this claim. In my 28 years in the financial services industry, I can attest to this claim.

Continue reading “Yes, you can still buy a home in Canada… Keeping the dream alive”

Personal debt level concerns are overblown…!

record low ratesThere’s a lot of talk in the media about Canadians carrying too much debt.   We’re getting hammered with messages of ‘record high personal debt levels’.   It’s true.  Our mortgage balances are higher, car loans are higher, student loans are higher, personal loans and lines of credit balances are higher.

Is this a problem?  Are Canadians in trouble?  Is this a reason to panic?  Let’s try to answer…

Well, here’s one very interesting stat that might crush that statement once and for all.   Canadians, on average, spend 14% of after-tax income on personal debt. 

Did I surprise you?   I’ll bet most people thought that number would be way higher given all the negative reports in the media.  Continue reading “Personal debt level concerns are overblown…!”

News stats..Higher debt, but lower defaults

debt aminationSaw this article today about higher consumer debt levels BUT lower defaults.   Equifax Canada is quoted as saying that consumer debt rose by 7.2% in  the second quarter 2014 to $1.45 trillion ,compared with $1.35 trillion from a year ago. This includes credit cards, loans, lines of credits and mortgages.

The average Canadian now has $20,759 in personal debt, excluding mortgages.   That’s a 1.5% increase since last year.   So that means mortgage debt has risen by around 7%.    Here’s a heads up… you will see and hear articles sounding the panic alarm… again.

Well, before we hit that panic button, there was one more stat that we should pay attention to.   DEFAULTS.   Defaults are at their lowest level since 2008.  If higher consumer debt levels and lower defaults sound strange to you, it shouldn’t.    I’ll explain… Continue reading “News stats..Higher debt, but lower defaults”

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.”

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.

Major lender cuts out self-employed and new immigrant lending programs

THE SKY IS FALLING AT CIBC?

On Tuesday, CIBC’s wholesale lending arm, Firstline Mortgages, announced drastic changes to their lending policies.   They will no longer participate in self-employment and new-immigrant lending programs.  These programs made it possible for Canada’s growing self-employed and new-immigrants to get a mortgage at discounted interest rates.

click here for The Star’s report featuring some of own personal comments.

HERE’S WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

The move by Firstline seems to have come immediately after 2 recent reports…  First, CMHC said they are reaching their $600billion cap limit on the amount of mortgages CMHC can insure.   Currently sitting at $541billion, as of the end of 2001.  (I think this is the real reason for Firstline’s lending changes.. a more thorough explanation is below).   But next, a Bloomberg news report was released, earlier this week quoting a 152 page OSFI report (by the way, I searched OSFI and couldn’t find that report).   The article drew comparisons between the US sub-prime mortgage lending and Canada’s self-employed and new immigrant lending programs.

Let’s get something straight… Canadian lending policies are NOT like the US sub-prime policies.  Not even close!  The US sub-prime mortgages were granted to people with poor credit history, they lent up to 125% of the value of the home, amortizations went up to 50 years, they offered interest only payments, appraisals were not always required, they offered low interest teaser rates for 1 to 2 years, they offered Variable rate mortgages with no payment adjustment even if rates went up….  We don’t have theses features or options in Canada…. To suggest that our lending practices are similar is not accurate and has to be corrected…or proven… (there was time when similar mortgages were made available to Canadians this only lasted a few years from 2006-08 and this only accounted for less 5% of all mortgages during these years)

In Canada, we have much stricter lending policies that is in keeping with our conservative reputation….. And let’s not forget, the Fed govt has made 3 major changes in the past 3 yrs… making it tougher to qualify for a mortgage.

-maximum amortization reduced to 30 years maximum.  -refinances were cut to 85%  loan to value.  -business for self without traditional income confirmation will need to put 10% down payment, instead of 5%.

We really don’t need any more tightening.  The record low interest rates are helping to drive the real estate market.  Once rates go up, the values will level off and maybe even drop.

And by the way, if you think this is a small segment of the population, guess again.   The Canadians Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP), estimates that 13% of the country is self-employed.    (to further clarify, a self-employed person is anyone that is paid in full and then must deduct and pay their own income taxes.)   Being able to reduce your taxable income is part of the benefit of being self-employed…Remember, these people don’t have pension plans and usually don’t qualify for Unemployment insurance…  

New immigrants are a big part of what has made our country the best place in the world, to live in.   In 2010, there were over 250,000 new immigrants that came to Canada.   These are people, anxious to work, wanting a better life…..wanting to spend and borrow…helping our economy grow.   And as a former Senior Lending Manager with a major bank, I can attest to the fact that granting new immigrants a mortgage has always been considered a low risk loan.   Most new immigrants would give up their right arm, before not paying their mortgage.

BANKS HAVE TAPPED INTO CMCH PORTFOLIO INSURANCE FOR YEARS

You bought a house, you put down 20% or 25% and you didn’t have to pay CMHC or Genworth hi-ratio mortgage insurance.  Congrats…!  But did you know that your mortgage might still be CMHC or Genworth insured?   That’s right.  Banks and other financial institutions have been buying and paying for CMHC insurance through portfolio insurance.  This makes the mortgage a secure investment for the Banks.  If you default, the loan is guaranteed by CMHC, a Crown corporation.  Soveriegn debt.  You can’t get any more secure than than.   It also takes the mortgage off the Bank’s books and frees up more capital for other investments.

Here’s a thought… CMHC is a Crown corp that is there to help Canadians own a home… well, maybe they should take a look at the % of mortgages that are 85% loan to value or higher…this number isn’t as high as you might think.

Remember these stats from January 2011?

-there are 12.5million households in Canada…31% rent, 69% own..

-of the 69% that own, 39.9% have a mortgage and 28.9% have no mortgage.

-69% of homeowners with a mortgage have more than 20% equity in their homes… only 30% have less than 20% equity in their homes.

And we also know that last year, the total outstanding mortgage balance in Canada topped $1trillion for the first time in history….. You could say that CMHC has a very well secured book of business….

Come on CMHC, let’s make insurance available for those Canadians that need it…  it seems the Banks have found a way to eliminate all their risk when it comes to lending money…but we know they keep all the rewards and profits (how else do you explain $billion profits through the 2008-09 recession and beyond)   Maybe it’s time to increase that $600billion limit… There doesn’t appear to be any arrears problem with mortgages either… last I heard, we were at around 0.43% for mortgages in arrears more than 90 days.

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