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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.

Bank of Canada suggests rate hikes soon…

The Bank of Canada met on Tuesday for the 3rd of eight scheduled meetings this year to set the Bank of Canada rate.  As expected, no rate change… But there were some language in the meeting that suggests we could start to see rates go up as early as this year…. here’s an article from The Star and reaction from TD’s Economist.

In short, it appears and I stress the word, appears, as though Mr. Carney is warning us that interest rates will be rising sometime soon.   But Economists aren’t buying into that warning just yet.   There is still too much uncertainly about the global, U.S. and domestic economies.    And as long as these concerns persist, then interest rates should remain low.

SOME EXPERTS DON’T BELIEVE ALL THE DOOM AND GLOOM STORIES

It’s true, we have experienced emergency interest rates for over 3 years now…  It’s no secret the govt is concerned about Canadians get into too much debt.  You’ve heard the figures.  The average Canadians owes around 153% of their annual income…. concerns about a housing bubble.   But how does that compare with the rest of the world?  Here’s an interesting article from the Financial Post’s Andrew Coyne, which says there are other countries that carry 200% and 300% of their annual income in personal debt… there doesn’t seem to be the level of concern about their economies.  So why are we in such a panic?

It appears we are at a point where rates could go up but a lot of things would have to fall into place before that happens… it could take 6, 9 months or even a few years before that happens… maybe longer…?   Any rate increase is sure to be slow….  Don’t panic… if you see an opportunity where you can benefit from these low rates, then act on it… don’t let the media scare you into inaction or lack of action…..

And as always, speak with a professional that can discuss and explain the different mortgage products and trends… make an informed choice.

Flaherty is, isn’t, is, isn’t changing mortgage rules?

So which report do you want to believe….?  2 separate reports… both from April 10, 2012.     We have Reuter’s reporting that Canada’s Finance Minister Flaherty, isn’t making any changes to mortgage rules….  Click here for their report.   Here’s a quote from the article “I have no present plans to intervene in the housing market in Canada,” Flaherty told reporters in New York.

And here’s another report from Bloomberg.com entitled “Flaherty Says He’s Planning Changes on CMHC Rules.” Click here for their report.   Are you confused yet?    Well, you’re not alone.   The mixed messages are everywhere today.   Bank of Canada Carney warning about record high Personal Debt Levels…. you’ve seen this one, I’m sure.   We have too much personal debt… and then another report says Canadians are ready to tackle their debt level… and yet another one that say the economy is very fragile and is at risk of slowing down…

It’s hard to know which report is correct.   One thing is certain… today’s mortgage rates are at historical lows.   The govt and the BANKS don’t want them to last.     If you have a house and some debt, or if you are considering buying a house, then why wouldn’t you take advantage of these low rates…?   I’m NOT saying to go out and borrow more money for a TV or new car or other luxury items…  If you have high interest debt, or higher interest debt than today’s 3.00%+ interest rates, then take action and restructure your finances…   Today’s record low rates won’t last…  You can still benefit from these historically low interest rates.

 

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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