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Canadian mortgages just got a little less stressful

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Canadian mortgages just got a little less stressful

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The mortgages landscape just got a little friendlier toward homebuyers – particularly first-timers – and could get even more favourable in the coming months. The Bank of Canada recently announced a decrease of the five-year benchmark mortgage rate 15 basis points, from 5.34 to 5.19 per cent, as a result of the big banks dropping their five-year posted rates.

The move is significant because BoC’s five-year benchmark is the rate against which Canadian borrowers are stress-tested when applying for a mortgage. Borrowers with a down payment of less than 20 per cent must qualify for a mortgage at the Bank’s posted rate, now 5.19 per cent. Borrowers with a down payment that’s greater than 20 per cent are stress-tested against the higher of either their mortgage rate plus two per cent, or the BoC’s posted rate.

“The change in the Bank of Canada five-year benchmark rate now means Canadians can qualify for more home today compared to earlier this year and 2018,” says James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and president of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage. “This decrease alleviates some of the pressure on first-time homebuyers, who are the most financially strained Canadians entering the housing market.”

Improving affordability

According to ratehub.ca, a borrower with an annual household income of $100,000 with a 20-per-cent down payment and a five-year fixed mortgage of 2.70 per cent amortized over 25 years, would have qualified for a home valued at $589,000 at the previous benchmark rate of 5.34 per cent.

With the new qualifying rate of 5.19 per cent, they can now afford home valued at $597,000 – a difference of $8,000, or 1.4 per cent more home.

More rate cuts on the horizon?

When the Bank of Canada held its influential overnight lending rate at 1.75 per cent on July 10 – where it has been since October 2018 – few economists were surprised. After all, the Bank cites, Canada is still dealing with economic weakness from late 2018 and early 2019.

Hardly time for a rate hike.

“The Bank continues to monitor the Canadian energy sector, as well as the impact of international trade conflicts on the global economic outlook,” says Laird. “On a positive note, the Bank is pleased by indications of strong economic growth including a healthy labour market and stabilizing housing market. The Bank recognizes the positive impact that low long-term mortgage rates have had on housing activity.”

There are other factors besides BoC’s overnight rate that influence mortgage rates, but generally speaking, Canada’s major lenders typically follow the Bank’s lead in raising or lowering rates.

The announcement was welcome news for Canadians considering a variable rate mortgage, as BoC has signaled the current interest rate remains appropriate. In the absence of major economic changes, the Bank seems intent to maintain this policy in the near future.

Expecting a decrease

But should there have been a decrease on July 10? And since there wasn’t, is one on the horizon for the next rate announcement on Sept. 4?

According to a report from financial advice organization Finder, assessing BoC’s July 10 decision, two Canadian economists thought there should have been a rate cut. The majority (62 per cent) of panelists predict the next rate change will be a decrease. Stephen Brown, senior economist at Capital Economics, who is among those who says the Bank should have cut the rate in July, foresees a decrease as early as Oct. 30 – and possibly a second reduction on Dec. 4.

For those looking to secure or renew a mortgage, this is all good news. You now have the peace of mind that rates likely won’t rise until next year, and might even decline in the next few months.

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Securing a mortgage

Looking to secure a mortgage? Now is the best time to negotiate

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Looking to secure a mortgage? Now is the best time to negotiate

 

Securing a mortgage

The Bank of Canada again held its influential overnight lending rate today at 1.75 per cent, signalling the continuation of a stable interest rate environment – and underlining that now may be the best time to negotiate a mortgage.

Why? We’ll get to that in a second.

First, the BoC held the rate for the fifth straight announcement – it’s been at 1.75 since October 2018 – citing growing evidence that the Canadian economic slowdown in late 2018 and early 2019 is now being followed by a pickup in the second quarter this year. Housing market indicators point to a more stable national market, albeit with continued weakness in some regions.

In addition, the Bank says, continued strong job growth suggests that businesses see the weakness in the past two quarters as temporary, with recent data supporting an increase in both consumer spending and exports in the second quarter, and it appears that overall growth in business investment has firmed.

“The Bank’s language indicates that things will need to change to the positive or negative in order to move from their current rate strategy,” says James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and president of CanWise Financial. “Therefore, Canadians can expect a stable rate environment for the foreseeable future.

“This announcement should bring peace of mind to consumers currently in a variable rate mortgage because it is unlikely that the prime rate will increase anytime soon,” he adds. “Going forward, a decrease seems as likely as an increase, which is also good news if you’re in a variable rate.”

Mortgage seasonality

Canadians may also be able to take advantage of seasonality in the mortgage industry to score the best deal on their lending rate. Just like spring is known as traditionally the busy season in real estate, it’s also a very good time of year to secure a mortgage.

Securing a mortgage to buy a condo in Toronto

Ratehub.ca, for example, analyzed historical rate data from 2016 to 2019 to identify the best times of year for Canadians to lock in to a rate, or refinance an existing mortgage.

According to Ratehub.ca’s historical data on the best five-year fixed and variable rates, Canadians have access to the lowest rates during the spring homebuying season – between April and July – every year. The second most competitive time period for mortgage rates occurs between October and December.

A similar story played out in 2017 when the average best five-year fixed rate fell to 2.4 per cent from 3.32 per cent, and the average variable rate dropped from 2.09 per cent to 2.04 per cent.

ALSO READ: Ontario releases plan to address housing affordability and supply issues

ALSO READ: Variable vs fixed mortgages? It’s complicated

A year later, 2018 proved that while a rising rate environment can override the benefits any spring mortgage deals, mortgage holders still benefited from certain promos. The average best five-year fixed rate increased from 2.94 per cent from January to March to 3.07 per cent, but the average best variable rate fell from 2.17 per cent to 1.96 per cent. Lenders actually slashed fixed rates over that period.

Spring promotions

“Lenders and mortgage providers come out with their strongest promotions during the busy spring and summer homebuying season,” Laird says. “Regardless of the interest rate environment, springtime is when lenders are willing to make the smallest margins in order to win business.”

During this period, many lenders will choose at least one rate and term to price very aggressively in order to attract attention to all of their mortgage products. Lenders also come out with special promotion offers to incentivize borrowers to lock in a rate. Consumers can expect to see cash-back deals to help with closing costs and refinance fees. Some lenders offer extra-long rate holds during this period. For example, BMO is currently offering a 130-day rate hold. The “30-day quick close rate” is another promotion many lenders opt for – this is a discounted rate that applies if your mortgage is closing in the next 30 to 45 days.

It’s crucial that lenders remain competitive through the spring market, Ratehub says, to hit their annual mortgage volume targets. In most cases, lenders will hit their targets during the second quarter (April to June) and, as a result, tend to be less competitive with promotions during the latter half of the year.

Consumers will typically see rates fall again in October, in the lead up to Oct. 31, when all of Canada’s major banks end their fiscal year. Lenders that want to get an early start on their targets for the following year often come out with promotions during this time period.

Bank results

Further benefiting the mortgage landscape for Canadians is that Canada’s big banks this week are reporting lower second quarter profits than expected.

“The poor results reported by Canada’s big banks in Q2 2019 could be good news for mortgage consumers,” Laird told Homes Publishing. “In light of these results, it would be unsurprising if the banks aggressively try to win mortgage business by offering lower rates to consumers or promotions to attract more business in the latter half of 2019.”

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Canadian interest rates

Fixed mortgage interest rates fall, but future hikes likely

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Fixed mortgage interest rates fall, but future hikes likely

Canadian interest rates

Well, that didn’t take long. We reported on Jan. 9 that mortgage interest rates might actually take a dip in the coming weeks.

“The (Bank of Canada’s) moderated outlook in the last two announcements has caused bond yields in Canada to drop lower than any point in 2018,” James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and President of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage, told HOMES Publishing. “However, we are yet to see a corresponding decrease in mortgage rates. We would advise consumers to keep a close eye on mortgage rates in coming weeks.”

RBC first to lower rates

And sure enough, a week or so later, RBC has done just that – lowering its posted five-year fixed rate to 3.74 per cent from 3.89 per cent. It was the first time RBC has lowered this rate since October 2017.

“RBC is the largest mortgage lender in Canada, so whenever they move their mortgage rates, we can expect that the other four banks will follow suit. We anticipate that the other big banks will soon have a publicly posted rate of 3.74 per cent as well.”

Experts have expected this move from lenders since bond yields dropped in December 2018, Laird says, after the BoC announcement stating that future rate hikes would be slower and less frequent. The most recent Bank on Jan. 9 announcement highlighted policymakers’ concerns with Canada’s energy and housing markets, which suggested that rates will be stable for a longer period of time than had previously been anticipated.

Deep discounts

The Bank of Canada held its target for the overnight rate at 1.75 per cent on Jan. 9, where it has been since October 2018, and is lowering its growth forecast this year for Canada and around the world.

Canadians who need a mortgage this year should frequently check rates and mortgage providers. As the spring homebuying market approaches, says Laird, many lenders will offer deep discounts and promotions in order to attract new customers.

“Anyone looking for a variable rate should act quickly, because the current stable interest rate environment is causing lenders to reduce the discounts being offered on variable rate mortgages,” he says.

Let’s explore a couple different scenarios.

 

Scenario 1: $400,000 mortgage 

According to Ratehub.ca’s mortgage payment calculator, a homeowner with a $400,000 mortgage and five-year fixed rate of 3.89 per cent will have monthly mortgage payments of $2,080.

Comparatively, a homeowner with a five-year fixed rate of 3.74 per cent would have monthly mortgage payments of $2,048.

A 0.15-per-cent difference in their mortgage rate would lower mortgage payments by $32 per month, or $384 per year.

 

Scenario 2: $800,000 mortgage 

A homeowner with an $800,000 mortgage and five-year fixed rate of 3.89 per cent will have monthly mortgage payments of $4,161.

Comparatively, a homeowner with a five-year fixed rate of 3.74 per cent would have monthly mortgage payments of $4,096.

A 0.15-per-cent difference in their mortgage rate would lower mortgage payments by $65 per month, or $780 per year.

 

Hikes likely to come

Personal finance guru and Homes Publishing columnist Rubina Ahmed-Haq says the Bank remains optimistic about Canada’s economy, noting it has performing well overall. In its statement, the Bank says, “Growth has been running close to potential, employment growth has been strong and unemployment is at a 40-year low.” But still not enough to raise rates at this time.

Still, consumers can expect rates to begin to inch higher in the coming months, she says. Forecasters are predicting two hikes this year, down from earlier predictions of as many as three increases in 2019.

 

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Bank of Canada

Bank of Canada holds interest rate for now, but hikes still to come

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Bank of Canada holds interest rate for now, but hikes still to come

 

Bank of Canada

The Bank of Canada held its target for the overnight rate at 1.75 per cent on Jan. 9, where it has been since October 2018, and is lowering its growth forecast this year for Canada and around the world.

After raising the rate three times last year, some experts expected the Bank would do so again, either in late 2018 or early this year.

So, what does this latest non-action mean, and what can Canadian consumers expect in the coming months?

“The Bank gave several reasons for its decision to keep rates steady,” says Rubina Ahmed-Haq, personal finance guru and Homes Publishing columnist. “This includes lower oil prices, a weaker outlook for the global economy and Canada’s economy slowing more than expected.

Weaker investment

“It was a surprise that market pessimism did not come up,” she adds. “Despite stock market volatility making headlines for the last two months, there was no mention of the wild swings investors have been experiencing. The Bank did talk about weaker consumer spending and housing investment. This could be because of Canadian investors watching their portfolios and not feeling as confident in their spending.”

Sill, Ahmed-Haq says, the Bank remains very rosy on Canada’s economy, noting it has performing well overall. In its statement, the Bank says, “Growth has been running close to potential, employment growth has been strong and unemployment is at a 40-year low.” But still not enough to raise rates at this time.

Energy sector a concern

“The energy sector has been a concern for the Bank for some time now, but there seems to be a new focus on the housing sector, especially on the impact of mortgage guidelines changes and the five rate increases that have happened in the past 18 months,” James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and President of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage, told Homes Publishing.

Ahmed-Haq and Laird agree we should still expect higher rates in the coming months.

“The policy interest rate will need to rise over time into a neutral range to achieve the inflation target,” says Ahmed-Haq.

Rate hikes to come

Forecasters are now predicting two rate hikes this year, down from earlier predictions of as many as three rates hikes in 2019.

“The Bank’s moderated outlook in the last two announcements has caused bond yields in Canada to drop lower than any point in 2018,” says Laird. “However, we are yet to see a corresponding decrease in mortgage rates. We would advise consumers to keep a close eye on mortgage rates in coming weeks.”

 

Highlights from the Bank’s announcement

  • Bank of Canada maintains target for overnight rate at 1.75 per cent
  • Canadian economy performing well overall
  • Employment growth strong
  • Unemployment rate at 40-year low
  • Canadian consumption spending and housing investment weaker than expected
  • Housing markets adjusting to municipal and provincial measures, new mortgage guidelines and higher interest rates
  • Household spending to be dampened by slow growth in oil-producing provinces
  • Real GDP growth forecast at 1.7 per cent for 2019
  • Growth of 2.1 per cent forecast for 2020

 

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Mortgage Rates web

Interest rate hikes may not cost you as much as you think

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Interest rate hikes may not cost you as much as you think

Mortgage Rates web

By Wayne Karl

When the Bank of Canada announced an interest rate hike  on Oct. 24 – and within hours all of Canada’s major banks followed suit in hiking their prime lending rates – consumers largely groaned.

All of CIBC, TD Canada Trust, Scotiabank, RBC Royal Bank and BMO Bank of Montreal almost immediately issued virtually the same statement, word for word: “(Insert bank name here) announced that it has increased its prime lending rate by 25 basis points from 3.70 per cent to 3.95 per cent, effective Oct. 25, 2018.”

Yes, the numbers, too, are identical.

BoC had already raised its influential overnight rate target three times since July 2017, to 1.5 per cent from 0.75 per cent, and now this most recent hike to 1.75 per cent, while hinting that further increases are likely.

For mortgage holders, though, the increases may not cost you as much as you fear.

Fixed rates

The majority of Canadian mortgage holders are on fixed-rate products, which is why a more moderate pace of rate increases likely won’t impact the market significantly, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC).

Nearly half of existing mortgages in Canada will come up for renewal in 2018, according to a data release from CIBC Capital Markets. However, despite having to renew their mortgage in a rising interest rate environment, a borrower with a five-year mortgage rate may be able to get a better deal on their mortgage renewal today than when they entered the housing market five years ago.

According to calculations from mortgage rate comparison website  Ratehub.ca:

The best five-year fixed rate in September 2013 was 3.29 per cent. With that rate, a borrower with a $400,000 mortgage amortized over 25 years would have had a monthly mortgage payment of $1,953 over the last five years.

If that same borrower renewed their mortgage at today’s best five-year fixed rate of 3.19 per cent, their monthly mortgage payment would decrease by $17 per month to $1,936.

“Canadians who require a new mortgage in coming months should lock in a fixed rate as soon as possible,” says James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and president of CanWise Financial. “This includes those who are purchasing a home, and homeowners whose mortgage is coming up for renewal.

“Remember that, on average, mortgage providers will offer their existing customers a discount of 0.25 per cent off their posted rate on a renewal. However, there may be more competitive rates out there. Be sure to shop around online or use a mortgage broker to negotiate the best rate for your renewal.”

Laird says borrowers should begin shopping around 120 days in advance of their renewal date in order to negotiate a competitive mortgage rate.

A rising interest rate environment could put downward pressure on home prices, he says, but upward pressure will come from predicted economic growth, lack of housing supply, immigration and first-time homebuyers.

Variable rates

“Borrowers should expect variable rates to perfectly correlate with Bank of Canada rate increases,” Laird says. “Variable rate mortgage holders should also be prepared for several increases to their interest rate in coming months and, with general interest rates in Canada on the rise, fixed rates will rise as well. However, those currently in fixed rates have nothing to worry about until their next mortgage renewal date.”

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GTA 2019

7 factors that will affect GTA housing in 2019 – and 5 reasons to consider buying NOW

Latest News


7 factors that will affect GTA housing in 2019 – and 5 reasons to consider buying NOW

GTA 2019

By Wayne Karl

GTA homebuyers, we have some good news and some bad news.

First, the good news: You live in one of the most desirable areas and housing markets in Canada – maybe even the world.

The bad news? That affordability challenge we’re all facing.

“The affordability issue is not going away,” PricewaterhouseCoopers says plainly, in its Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2019 report.

Why? See point number one.

“Potential homebuyers will need to alter their expectations and possibly delay entry into homeownership,” Dana Senagama, manager, market analysis for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), told Homes Publishing.

Not exactly the most hopeful outlook for those – especially first-timers – looking to buy a home in and around the GTA.

But it’s not all bad. Let’s look at what’s going on in the market, and what would-be buyers can do to help their cause.

1 Return to price growth

Following the introduction of the Ontario Fair Housing Plan in April 2017, recent interest rate hikes and other changes, sales and prices in the GTA have seen some moderation.

But the slowing will be short-lived, Senagama says. Key economic fundamentals such as population and employment growth will continue to drive housing market demand, but the supply of new homes is not being addressed. The result? A return to price growth.

“CMHC is working on data gaps like supply with many industry stakeholders and partners,” she says. “Currently, we are participating in a working group with the province of Ontario to find solutions and best practices.”

PwC says the region is feeling the effects of demographic shifts. Millennials have begun to compete with Baby Boomers for real estate, and over the next decade, almost 700,000 first-time buyers will target the GTA or Hamilton markets, according to a May 2018 report from the Ontario Real Estate Association.

2 Risk of overvaluation

Senagama cautions, however, that the Toronto market is still showing signs of overvaluation.

“This happens when house price growth is surpassing the population and income growth. So, despite some of the moderation you’re seeing, we’re still calling for a high degree of vulnerability in Toronto in the foreseeable future.”

3 Inelastic supply

The GTA housing market is characterized by inelastic supply. “Supply is slow to respond to any change in price, and we’re seeing that time and time again,” she says.

Recent research from CMHC and Altus Group, in fact, shows that of the lowrise new home projects that were started in 2016 and 2017, it took 15 years for those developments to go from the initial land purchase to product hitting the market.

Supply response
Source: CMHC

 

“We have a problem, in terms of supply.”

With very limited new home supply hitting the market, once buyers get used to temporary shocks to the system brought on by policy issues and rising interest rates, they return to buying homes, which in turn drives up prices.

4 Condo demand

With lowrise home prices enjoying spectacular growth in recent years, there was a compositional shift in demand toward less expensive product – namely condos – particular among first-time buyers.

But now, with price growth even in this category – with average condo prices rising 8.4 per cent year-over-year to $552,269 in the third quarter this year – and pre-construction units in the $700,000 range…

“These are not price points for first-time buyers,” Senagama says, “so we’re still looking at very high prices across the GTA.”

5 Mortgage rates

The Bank of Canada has already raised its influential overnight rate target three times since July 2017, to 1.5 per cent from 0.75 per cent. Experts expect at least one more increase this year, possibly as early as the next rate announcement on Oct. 24.

A more moderate pace of rate increases could impact the market, but not significantly since the majority of mortgage holders are on fixed-rate mortgages, CMHC research shows.

6 Rental market

Any discussion about affordability needs to include the rental market, Senagama says. “Much like the ownership segment, supply is a huge constraint in the Toronto rental market.”

Rental

With the average vacancy rate in the GTA 1.1 per cent, and 0.7 per cent for condo rentals, rental rate increases are picking up steam. “Because we have a supply problem. And because we don’t have enough supply of the purpose-built rental units, the gap has been filled in by the condo market.”

About 33 per cent of all condos in Toronto are being rented out by investors, according to CMHC. This results in renters paying a much higher premium to rent a condo versus a purpose-built apartment – on average 50 per cent more, for a two-bedroom unit.

“We talk about affordability, and this raises so many other concerns, especially in a market that is supply-strapped,” Senagama says.

7 Catch 22

investors are buying into the condo market to rent out their units, taking advantage of the tight rental market. But first-time buyers – who typically aren’t equity-rich or wealthy – have to compete for available condo product, which again drives up prices.

 

 

5 REASONS TO BUY A HOME NOW (OR AS SOON AS YOU CAN)

1 Affordability

More supply of new homes is a big part of the solution. But despite ongoing lobbying from the housing industry, and apparent increasing awareness of new elected municipal leaders, this problem won’t be solved overnight. It will take time. Lots of it. In the meantime, as PricewaterhouseCoopers says: The affordability issue is not going away. It might even get worse before it gets better.

2 Market moderation waning

With little relief on the supply side expected, price growth will continue to be strong, even if somewhat muted compared to the double-digit increases seen over the last few years. In short, the longer buyers wait, the more it could cost you.

3 Interest rates

Experts expect at least one more increase this year, possibly as early as the next rate announcement on Oct. 24. To protect yourself against a more moderate pace of rate increases, consider a fixed-rate mortgage product.

4 Pent-up demand

Buyers believe prices are going to increase, but not to the same degree we’ve seen in recent years. This will lead to pent-up demand, which when released over the next year, will contribute to increasing buying activity and rising prices. So, if you’re able to buy before then, you could beat the rush.

5 Rental market

If you’re a Millennial planning to move out of home and into the rental market, consider this: Toronto is the most expensive Canadian rental market, with average rates for one-bedroom units at slightly more than $1,900 per month (up 2.8 per cent from August to September); $2,374 for two-bedrooms (up 7.1 per cent). Try saving up for a down payment at those rates; maybe staying at home a little longer isn’t so bad after all.

Wayne Karl is Senior Digital Editor at Homes Publishing. wayne.karl@homesmag.com 

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