Category Archives: CMHC Insurance

Everything you need to know about CMHC’s First-Time Home Buyer Incentive

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The federal government wants to make home ownership more affordable for young people and to do that it’s introducing the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) this September. The $1.25 billion program, announced as part of the March federal budget, involves the government buying equity stakes in homes purchased by qualified home buyers, allowing for smaller mortgages that will keep monthly payments lower.

But how will the plan work? Below, we break down all the key details and take a look at who this new program is right for.

How the FTHBI works

The program will be administered by Canada’s housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), which will pay 5% of the purchase price for an existing home, and up to 10% for the value of a new home, in exchange for an equity stake. Once the homeowner sells, they’re obligated to repay the CMHC.

The fine print includes the following:

  • To qualify, you must be a first-time home buyer.
  • Buyers must have a down payment of at least 5% of the total purchase price, up to 20%.
  • The household’s income must be under $120,000, and the mortgage and incentive amount together can’t be more than four times the household income.
  • Only insured mortgages will be eligible, meaning this will be restricted to those with a down payment worth less than 20% of the purchase price.
  • Buyers will not be exempt from federal “stress test” regulations (a mandatory mortgage qualification using the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada or the customer’s mortgage interest rate plus 2%)

Who is this for?

The program is for purchasers looking for a starter home but aren’t able to afford the monthly payments needed for a mortgage below $500,000. To qualify for mortgages in the $400,000 – $500,000 range, the household income would have to be close to six figures. Buyers would have to be willing to give up at least 5% of the value of their home to the federal government in exchange for lower monthly payments.

As an example, a couple earning up to the household income cap of $120,000 with a down payment of 5% on a new home would be entitled to an additional $48,000 provided by CMHC, as below:

Couple earning $120,000
$480,000 total purchase
-$24,000 down payment
-$48,000 matched by CMHC (10% for a new home)
= $408,000 mortgage

As both the household income and total purchase price are capped under the program, it’s worth noting that buyers with good credit and low debt might actually be able to borrow more money than the FTHBI would allow.

In this scenario, “the program forces you to buy less home than you otherwise would be able to. Whether consumers are disciplined enough to take part of that or not is the real question,” says Paul Taylor, president and CEO of Mortgage Professionals of Canada.

Buyers in the program will also want to consider the future value of their home over time. Is the neighborhood likely to increase in value? With a 5-10% equity stake in the home, CMHC will be along for the ride, both in the case of depreciation or appreciated value of the home.

“Vancouver North Shore is a great example. Now, it’s very much an outlier but if you bought the home in 1986 for $250,000 it’s probably worth $4 million now,” says Taylor.

Comparing markets

The most expensive home you can buy would be about $565,000 a government official told the CBC, which all but disqualifies purchases of detached homes or upscale condos in downtown Vancouver and Toronto. For example, the average home price in the Greater Toronto Area as of May 2019 was $838,540, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

CMHC acknowledged earlier this year that the average home in these markets won’t be within reach.

“It may not be a condo in Yaletown or a house in Riverdale, but there are options in both metropolitan areas to accommodate this program,” CMHC said in a press release in April. “In fact, around 23% of transactions in Toronto are for homes under $500,000 and 10% in Vancouver.”

This means that potential buyers will want to be comfortable living in the outer suburbs like Langley or Surrey in Vancouver, or Brampton and Mississauga in Toronto.

Recent residential listings for $472,000 (the average price for a home in Canada) 
*Compiled using listings found on during the week of May 26th

Downtown Toronto Less than 30 listings
Downtown Vancouver Less than 100 listings
Calgary More than 600 listings
Winnipeg More than 2,000 listings

The program would seem to favour first-time buyers in smaller cities across Canada, at least when comparing options for buyers that tend to want to live in large cities downtown.

What you get for $490,000-$505,000

While this program can get you property up to $565,000 if you put the maximum down payment allowed for an insured mortgage (about 19.99%), we expect many who use this program will have the minimum 5% down payment and are looking to get into the property market sooner with help from the CMHC.

Based on that idea, we’ve compiled a look at some properties you can get in four major housing markets in Canada in the $490,000 to $505,000 price range. Take a look.

In Toronto: No houses listed but one-bedroom condos are available, typically 600-1,000 sq feet. Condos have more rooms and additional bathrooms as you get away from the city core. There is almost no supply below $300,000.

Here’s an example of what you might be able to get in the downtown core (one bedroom) in that price range.



In Vancouver: No houses listed but one-bedroom condos are available, typically 600-1,000 sq feet. More rooms and additional bathrooms as you get away from the city core.

Here’s an example of what you might be able to get (one bedroom).

In Calgary: You can find listings for two-bedroom bungalow houses downtown, along with two-bedroom condos over 900 square feet.

Here’s an example.

In Winnipeg: Limited supply at this price range. Detached houses are available however, with two-plus stories and multiple rooms. Large condos over 1,000 sq feet are available closer to a $300,00 price point.

Here’s an example.

Listing photos courtesy of

Source – –  Mike Winters on June 17, 2019

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Commentary: CMHC hike a much-needed first step in moderating price growth

Commentary: CMHC hike a much-needed first step in moderating price growth

While real estate professionals have expressed worry that the CMHC’s mortgage insurance premium hike will make purchasing more difficult for hopeful home owners, a long-time industry analyst stated that the decision is an important first step towards ensuring better affordability.

Last week, the CMHC increased the premiums on the mortgage default insurance that home buyers have to service if they put in less than 20 per cent for down payment.

In a recent column for The Globe and Mail, markets observer Rob Carrick described the housing industry’s response to the move as an attempt to score brownie points with the first-time buyer demographic.

“Expect this increase to be added to the grievance list of people who work in the real estate-industrial complex – agents and mortgage brokers, plus others who make a living from home sales. They are working hard to portray first-time buyers as martyrs to government policies designed to cool down the housing market,” Carrick wrote.

Carrick argued that the government, and not the industry’s self-interest, is better situated to effectively deal with the long-running affordability crisis.

“The wrong approach is to offer cosmetic, politically expedient help to young buyers that fails to address the reality that it’s way more of a burden to own a house than it is to buy one.”


“[These] measures are not just necessary – they may also help to make houses more affordable by containing price increases or causing them to fall,” he added. “CMHC is increasing premiums to boost funds available in case there’s an economic shock of some sort and mortgage defaults soar. High house prices increase this risk because people must stretch their finances to get into the market and then afford the full array of costs as a homeowner.”

Carrick castigated provincial governments for engaging in misguided—and ultimately, harmful—policy responses.

“Ontario is offering a limited break on land-transfer tax, while the B.C. government is offering loans to first-time buyers to help them put together a down payment on homes costing up to $750,000,” Carrick explained.

“Measures like these incrementally support more home buying, which in turns pushes prices higher. Worse, we end up helping people get into the market while ignoring the much more important question of how they’ll be able to afford their mortgage over the long term.”

Source: – by Ephraim Vecina | 23 Jan 2017
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New program will help first-time homebuyers in BC, but is it a good idea?

first-time buyers bc


New program will help first-time homebuyers in BC, but is it a good idea?

It looks like Christmas has come early, at least for some BC house hunters. The BC government has revealed plans to launch a new program for first-time buyers, and it’s expected to help as many as 42,000 households in the province enter the market.

Announced December 15th, the BC Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership program will see the BC government match the amount of money first-time buyers put toward their down payment, to a maximum of $37,500. Loans will be interest free for five years, and recipients won’t have to start paying the money back during that time. Once five years have passed, they will be expected to begin making monthly payments at current interest rates.

“We believe every British Columbian deserves a place to call home,” Premier Christy Clark said in a press release. “We’ve invested in affordable rental housing, we’ve invested in transitional and emergency housing, and now we’re partnering with first-time buyers to make the purchase of their first home more affordable.”

The news came the same day that the BC Real Estate Association released its latest data on residential real estate sales and prices. While it shows that in November the average MLS price for a home in the province fell 6.4 per cent year-over-year to reach $625,871, that’s still out of reach for many first-time buyers.

First-time buyers hoping to participate in the program will have to meet a number of requirements in order to be eligible. For starters, applicants must be planning to buy a home for $750,000 or less and have total annual household income of $150,000 or less; they must also be preapproved for a high-ratio insured mortgage. Other requirements include being a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for at least five years, and living in BC for at least one year.

Reactions to the program have been mixed. While some have taken to Twitterto voice optimism about it, many people, including several key BC housing market commentators, have expressed concerns.

Speaking to The Times Colonist, Tom Davidoff of UBC’s Sauder School of Economics said that making it easier for people to buy homes when the province’s ability to increase housing supply is limited may drive up home prices. “I just think it’s lousy economics,” he said. NDP housing critic David Eby also pointed out that if interest rates are higher in five years, those who participate in the program will be at an increased risk of defaulting on their mortgages.

The program will start accepting applications on January 16th, 2017, and the BC government plans to invest about $703 million in it over the next three years. As there is no cap on the initiative it could eventually be expanded.

Sources: BuzzBuzzHome 

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Maple Bank Siezed by OSFI and Cut Off by CMHC

Maple Bank

Maple Bank, a niche securitization player in Canada’s mortgage market, looks like it’s going down.

Banking regulator OSFI has taken control of the bank’s Canadian operations according to the Financial Post, which quotes OSFI Superintendent Jeremy Rudin as saying, “We are guided by our mandate, which is to protect the depositors and creditors of the Canadian branch and have taken this step to safeguard their interests.”

On top of that, CMHC has terminated Maple as an approved issuer of mortgage-backed securities (MBS). CMHC made this statement:

Effective immediately, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has suspended Maple Bank GmbH – Toronto Branch as an Approved Issuer of National Housing Act Mortgage-Backed Securities (NHA MBS). The suspension is the result of restrictions placed on the operations of Maple Bank GmbH by Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) that affect its ability to fulfill its obligations as an Approved Issuer.

CMHC provides a timely payment guarantee of interest and principal to NHA MBS investors. CMHC’s guarantee of NHA MBS issued by Maple Bank GmbH – Toronto Branch are not impacted by the suspension.

Here is a good summary from Handelsblatt about what triggered Maple’s woes → Link.


maple bank chart

Maple Bank is probably not coming back. National Bank has already written off its 25% stake. That’s disappointing for the mortgage market because, while Maple was a small player in the MBS market, it was still a player. And in a market where MBS spreads have widened significantly in the last year, the market needs all the liquidity it can get. (MBS spreads refer to the extra yield that mortgage investors demand on top of safe government bonds.)

According to sources, Maple bought mortgages from a handful of non-bank lenders. It also provided warehouse facilities (i.e., short-term capital to fund mortgages until they’re sold to investors). Lenders would take funded mortgages, package them up, sell them to Maple and then Maple (as a former CMHC-approved issuer) would issue MBS and/or sell those mortgage pools into the Canada Mortgage Bond (CMB) program. This provided cheaper funding for lenders than simply selling their mortgage commitments to big institutional buyers.

Based on CMHC data, Maple was ranked 21st out of 82 MBS issuers in terms of market share, with $3.49 billion of MBS outstanding out of $441 billion industry-wide.

“Losing any funder is never good,” said one lender executive who preferred not to be quoted. “All of their mortgages were originated in the broker space.” That leaves big securities firms like TD Securities, RBC Dominion Securities, National Bank Financial and Merrill Lynch as the main buyers of broker-originated mortgages. “If it’s just big players left, it’s not positive for consumers,” he added, noting that less competition raises funding costs for bank challengers.

Side story: On an unrelated positive note, we hear that Laurentian Bank is now going to be a player in the securitization space. That is very welcome news for broker lenders. More from Bloomberg.

None of this should cause investors in Canada’s MBS market to lose confidence. What sunk Maple Bank was unrelated to Canada’s housing or securitization markets. CMHC is now managing its MBS to ensure investors get paid as expected. The housing agency sent CMT this statement today:

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) guarantee of NHA MBS issued by Maple Bank GmbH – Toronto Branch is not impacted by the suspension, therefore there is no impact on MBS investors.  Furthermore, this suspension will have no impact on homeowners or mortgage holders.

CMHC has taken control of the NHA MBS and related mortgage cash flows and provides a timely payment guarantee of interest and principal to NHA MBS investors.

CMHC has previously had four issuer defaults in the early 1990s. No MBS payments to investors were ever missed and CMHC did not incur any losses on these previous issuer defaults.

We’re told by other sources that CMHC has never lost money by guaranteeing NHA MBS, even when issuers default. That’s thanks in part to the excess spread that’s earned between the mortgage interest (paid by borrowers) and the MBS interest (paid to investors). 

“The [MBS] trades themselves are fine; but with Maple now essentially closed for business…whoever was using them will have to find alternative funding…” said one capital markets pro we spoke with. Fortunately, all lenders who relied on Maple have backup funders, we’re told.

As for small Canadian depositors, the fallout is limited. Maple’s latest annual report notes: “The Toronto branch specializes in lending businesses, in particular the acquisition of mortgage loans for securitization, and deposit taking.” According to OSFI, however, Maple Bank is a foreign bank “authorized under the Bank Act to establish branches in Canada to carry on banking business in Canada.” Foreign banks cannot generally “accept deposits of less than $150,000” in Canada.

Maple’s last report noted that its “securitization business grew significantly” through 2014. And now it’s gone; just like that.

Source: Canadian Mortgage Trends  February 10, 2016  Robert McLister  

Maple Bank

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Condo sales with no cash down payment proposed by B.C. developer

Townline wants to sell condos in The Strand development in Port Moody, B.C., to buyers who don't have the cash for a down payment.

Buyers would get a discount, which would become a virtual down payment

A B.C. developer wants to sell condos in Metro Vancouver’s red-hot real estate market to first-time buyers without the cash for a down payment, but not everyone is sure it’s a good idea.

“It’s just a different spin on, ‘How do we provide an affordable home ownership option to buyers who otherwise can’t get into the market?'” says Townline vice-president of marketing Chris Colbeck.

The company is proposing that buyers on limited incomes be allowed to purchase a unit in its Port Moody development for eight per cent less than the appraised market value.

The appraisal would be done by an independent third party, allowing the eight per cent to be used as a virtual down payment for a mortgage.

That would mean the bank would be financing 100 per cent of the cost for the buyer, says Colbeck.

The idea has already been approved by B.C. Housing, says Colbeck, and Townline is hoping the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) will approve the program as well.

“It’s a partnership we’ve made with B.C. Housing that’s providing us the ability to do this affordability program that hasn’t been done before. They’re the ones that have structured this program,” he says.

Under review by CMHC

Townline’s proposal is still under review, said CMHC spokeswoman Karine LeBlanc.

Normally home buyers are required to put down a minimum of five per cent to qualify for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation insurance, and 10 per cent for homes costing more than $500,000. It is protection that banks and other lenders insist on when providing a mortgage worth more than 80 per cent of a home’s value.

In this case the CMHC may grant an exception under its flexibilities for affordable housing program, says LeBlanc, but she stops short of saying buyers could be able to buy a home without a down payment.

“Under this program, CMHC will accept a broader range of down payment sources — that means alternatives to cash from borrowers. This could include sweat equity, grants, borrowed down payments or rent-to-own payments. This is not the same thing as requiring no down payment,” says LeBlanc in a statement.

Raising the risk?

UBC Sauder School of Business associate professor Thomas Davidoff says the program may help the developer sell the units quickly while the buyers save some cash, but he still has concerns about who is carrying the risk if the property values fall.

“CMHC normally requires some sort of down payment from the buyer because they want to know if the property value falls, the buyer will still have some equity and not default on the loan,” says Davidoff.

“Otherwise CMHC has to pay the difference to the lender upon a default.… If there is a large price decline CMHC is in a first loss position.”

Davidoff notes buyers without down payments have not demonstrated the ability to save, something that left many banks in deep trouble during the U.S. housing crash of 2008.

“As the U.S. housing market did better and better in the early 2000s, we saw people believe it was impossible for prices to fall. And when you believe it is impossible for prices to fall, you get into creative debt financing products that look bad in retrospect.”

“Lenders don’t have an upside in price volatility. They only have a downside, and we are in a very volatile price environment, and I would think lenders and their insurers would want to keep that in mind.”

Fine print

Colbeck notes the proposal would not create a second mortgage, and the eight per cent discount recognized as a down payment would not need to be repaid, but there would be other restrictions on buyers.

“The program is registered on title by a restrictive covenant to ensure that it has to be for an end user, a principal resident. You must live in the home as your principal residence for a minimum of two years. And after that two years you’re free to sell your home with no restrictions at market value.”

“To qualify you have to be a qualified household income. A qualified purchaser is defined as somebody with a family income that must be $65,850 or more for a one-bedroom or a one-bedroom and den,  or $92,430 for a two-bedroom.”

Townline is eventually hoping to offer 84 condos for pre-sale this spring, if the program is approved.

“At the moment, we are simply doing an information session,” he says.

Source: CBC News Posted: Jan 12, 2016 9:33 AM PT

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Household debt still rising, but most Canadians in decent shape: experts Bank of Canada worries some Canadian households may be over their heads

Most Canadians handle debt well, but a small minority have so much, they might everntually be in trouble.

Canadian households will close out 2015 carrying thicker layers of debt after worrisome gains over the past 12 months — extra padding that’s expected to get even fatter in the new year.

But even with the borrowing binges, many experts still believe the finances of most Canadians remain in decent shape.

This assessment comes as the country shows worrisome signs linked to consumer spending. It has a record-high debt-to-income ratio and the central bank has called rising household debt as a growing weak spot in Canada’s entire financial system.

One big bank economist, who has closely studied household debt, said any negative fallout from the debt situation would likely depend on whether Canada sustains an unlikely economic shock.

But trouble could also hinge on how quickly interest rates eventually rise, said CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal.

Low rates helped build debt

Economic shocks remain difficult to predict and, for at least the next year, Tal doesn’t expect rates to climb at a hazardous speed for those who may have overindulged on debt.

“As a society, there is no question that we are more sensitive to the risk of higher interest rates than in any other time in history,” Tal said. “On its way up, it’s extremely powerful.”

Persistently low interest rates have been a major contributor to rising household debt. Borrowing became even cheaper in 2015 after the Bank of Canada twice dropped its benchmark rate to help cushion the blow of the oil slump.

Households, meanwhile, have dined on debt since the financial crisis and provided spending that has helped the economy recover.

If interest rates rise slowly over the next two to three years, Tal predicts the impact is more likely to curb consumer spending rather than harm their ability to pay down their debt. He doesn’t foresee a wave of defaults if rates make an expected, gradual climb.

“It will be an issue a year from now,” said Tal, who expects the steady climb of household debt to continue. “I think that interest rates will not be rising quick enough to derail … the story.”

Many of the debt numbers, however, have painted a disquieting picture.

Debt-to-income on the rise

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released data that showed the amount of Canadians’ household debt compared with disposable income rose to 163.7 per cent in the third quarter. It means the average household had nearly $1.64 in debt for every dollar of disposable income.

That was a record high.

The Bank of Canada has described the country’s mounting household debt level the most-important vulnerability in the financial system — a susceptibility that continues to grow.

Governor Stephen Poloz recently said most of that exposure is concentrated among 720,000 households that could struggle to make debt payments in a significant economic downturn.

The proportion of households holding debt higher than 350 per cent of their gross income — a high-risk category — has doubled to about eight per cent since the 2008 financial crisis, the bank found.

They tend to be younger Canadians under 45 years old who usually earn less money, people Poloz has said are part of “emerging pockets of concern.”

But while the bank says income growth has failed to keep up with rising mortgage credit, it argues the chances household debt becomes a serious problem remains low and is likely to fade as the economy strengthens.


So far, the bank says there’s been little evidence of significant increases in delinquency rates.

But the Royal Bank of Canada and the Equifax consumer credit monitoring firm have pointed to early signs of trouble in oil-producing regions like Alberta, where unemployment has climbed following the oil-price slide. They have detected slight increases in auto and credit-card delinquencies.

Most debt, however, is concentrated in mortgages, particularly following the recent ascension of real-estate prices.

In 1999, only three per cent of Canadians held a mortgage that was 500 per cent or more of their income, said economist Craig Alexander, vice-president of economic analysis for the C.D. Howe Institute think tank.

Today, that number is 11 per cent, he added.

Households at risk

“That’s not the bulk of Canadians, but it is half a million households,” said Alexander, who co-authored a recent report titled “Mortgaged to the Hilt: Risks From The Distribution of Household Mortgage Debt.”

“It’s not an insignificant number. There’s a pool of individuals that have leveraged themselves up.”

Still, while Alexander thinks there are risks associated with the amount of debt Canadians are shouldering, he doesn’t believe a majority of them have “behaved irresponsibly.”

In fact, delinquency rates on mortgages are near record lows, said Sherry Cooper, chief economist for Dominion Lending Centres.

“If people were stretched, you would expect that there would be an increase in delayed mortgage payments — and we’ve seen none of that,” Cooper said.

“We’re all assuming that there’s a huge problem here because debt-to-income ratios for households are at record highs. But the reason they’re at record highs is because interest rates are at record lows. So, people, in fact, can afford to take larger mortgages than historically.”

Tighter mortgage rules

The new federal government has already tightened mortgage rules, a move expected to slightly cool off the hot housing market and have a small dampening effect on Canadians’ tendency to pile on debt.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that starting Feb. 15, 2016, homebuyers will have to put a 10 per cent down payment on the portion of the price of a home above $500,000. Anything under $500,000 will still only require a five per cent down payment.

Morneau has said he has no immediate plans to make additional changes to address growing debt loads, but added he would continue to monitor the issue closely in the new year.

“It’s obviously something that, you know, people when they go home over the holidays they’re going to be worried about their situation, and this is the time of year when people tend to spend money,” Morneau said.

Source:  Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press Posted: Dec 30, 2015 

To rent or to buy? 8 questions Canadians should ask before taking the plunge

Tips for first-timers on buying a new home

Conventional wisdom suggests it’s a no-brainer – buying real estate is a worthwhile investment with a high return.

Despite record low interest rates,  the sky high prices and carrying costs are causing many to rethink the allure of home ownership.

When you factor in the costs of repair, maintenance and other expenses associated with owning a home, Toronto-based financial planner Shannon Simmons argues that renting and putting saved money into another investment – such as a stock portfolio – could earn more in the long run.

Simmons gives new clients a questionnaire asking where they see themselves in 10 years. Many answer “buying a house.”

“Then we meet in person, and they say, ‘Oh I don’t really care if I buy a house, but shouldn’t I want to?’”

Based on advice from financial planners—both independent and those employed by banks—Global News has compiled a list of questions (and some context) to help you decide whether buying or renting is the right move for you.

1) Do you have 10-20 per cent of the home’s purchase price saved for the down payment?

While it’s possible to purchase a home with as little as five per cent down in Canada, big banks prefer first-time home buyers to have an average of 10 per cent.

“If this is the property of your dreams and it’s a really good buy, and you don’t have the full 20 per cent down,” says Royal Bank of Canada’s Rachel Wihby, it may make sense to pay the mortgage loan insurance charged to anyone who doesn’t put 20 per cent or more down on the home.

But “the less you put down, the higher the amount that you’re actually being charged,” Simmons said. That could mean you end up paying an additional $10,000 or more.

2) Do you have another 1.5-5 per cent saved for closing costs?

First-time home buyers don’t have to pay realtor fees, but there’s a number of other closing costs that need to be taken into account.

Depending where you live, land transfer taxes can carry a “significant” price tag, said Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice for TD Canada Trust.

“Lawyer fees, seller/buyer property tax adjustment, appraisal fees, home inspection fees, even just your moving costs,” Haque said.

David Stafford, Scotiabank’s managing director of real estate secured lending, added fire and loss insurance to the list, suggesting $50-$100 per month as a ballpark figure.

Stafford also stressed the value of a building inspection, particularly for first-time home buyers, who may be easily impressed by granite countertops and hardwood floors but miss such other details as an old furnace, a leaky roof, or electrical wiring that’s in need of repair.

“Given you’re contemplating a multi-hundred thousand dollar purchase, a building inspection for a couple hundred dollars isn’t a bad idea.”

READ MORE: Why this Calgary tenant has no plans to buy

3) Can you keep debt servicing below 40 per cent of your income?

Your total debt service ratio measures the percentage of your gross annual income needed to cover housing payments (principal, interest, property taxes and heat, known as “PITH”) plus registered debts like car loans, personal loans and credit cards if applicable. Simmons says this 40 per cent rule is “specifically to please the bank” and is the general eligibility criteria when applying for your mortgage at most financial institutions.

So if you add it all up, housing payments and other debts should be between 35 and 40 per cent of your gross annual income.

4) Are your monthly fixed costs at 50-60 per cent of your after-tax income?

These “fixed costs” include housing and transportation, groceries, toiletries, and “everything you have to pay every month whether you like it or not,” Simmons said.

“When the money hits your bank account, if more than 60 per cent is tied up in things that you can’t get out of every single month, then you have no room after that for spending money which is not a fixed cost – things like going out for dinner, going out with friends, weddings, anything else that’s not just a bill.”

Keeping this ratio under control ensures you have enough money left over to keep saving, and avoid becoming “house poor.”

“Once you buy a house, it’s not like retirement’s done; you still have to save for other things,” Simmons added. “You also want to make sure that you have enough cash flow every single month that you don’t have to go into credit card debt – and that’s what I see: house broke, all the time.”


5) Can you save 1-2 per cent of your income in a “housing maintenance fee” each year?

The top mistake Canadian homebuyers make? Underestimating “significant renovations needed to the property,” according to a recent RBC poll.

Stafford suggests asking your realtor, and getting a home inspection.

“Even if it’s in pretty good shape, most homes of any age, there’s something you’ve got to do every year…and you need to factor that into your cash flows,” he said.

Simmons advises setting aside 1-2 per cent of your after-tax income each year to what she calls a “house maintenance fund” to avoid going into debt.

“When there’s not that extra cash sitting in an emergency fund, if there’s a $10,000 renovation or if you get cockroaches … It has to go on debt, because you’re not going to live in a place with cockroaches,” she said. “That can take a long time to pay off if you don’t have flexibility with your cash flow.”

6) Do you plan to stay in your home for at least three years?

Haque said TD advises clients to think about their life in three- to five-year chunks when considering purchasing a home.

A young couple buying a condo, for example, should consider how soon they’ll need a bigger space if they want children in the near future.

Wihby suggests regarding a home as a long-term investment – it might not be worth it if you buy a home and sell it a year later.

READ MORE: Haunted house-hunting in Toronto

7) Is your job stable?

Are you planning to stay in your field? What would happen if your income decreased?

These are some of the questions RBC planners ask clients to determine how monthly payments and lifestyle would change as a result of job fluctuations.

“So you need to think of things like, will you be on a single income household instead of two?” Wihby said. “Maybe that means you won’t be taking those trips you thought you’d be taking or maybe you won’t be going to the gym as often.”

8) Are you emotionally ready to own a home?

It may sound hokey. But this is a big lifestyle leap to take.

“A lot of people heard that it was almost a no-brainer to go into property, especially when we saw property prices rising like we did in the past,” Wihby said. “But I think a lot of people got into purchasing a home before they were ready emotionally.”

The impact of what Stafford calls the “single biggest financial commitment for most people” includes the mental shock of going from a tenant to a homeowner.

When you’re a tenant, the month that cheque goes out, it clears your account, and then you don’t think about it for the next 30 days,” Haque explained. “But when you’re a homeowner, you have those multiple payments like home insurance, maintenance fee, utilities, property taxes, that you have to account for on an ongoing basis. And sometimes it’s very much a shock to your system.”

Simmons emphasizes that homeownership is a personal choice, and isn’t the imperative it was 30 or 40 years ago.

“I know a lot of professionals who just don’t want to be bothered cutting the grass on Saturday, and doing the gardening. … They would much prefer to rent and save a bunch of money, so they can travel every weekend,” she said. “If you’re not actually going to enjoy the house, what’s the point in buying it?”


To see if you qalify for your first home mortgage, contact the Ray McMillan Mortgage Team or visit


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Budget touches on portfolio insurance

Mortgage Broker News

by Justin da Rosa | 21 Apr 2015
The Conservative government released its yearly budget Tuesday, and in it mentioned its continual monitoring of the housing market to ensure stability. And while mortgage rules came away untouched, the bulk insurance monolines and banks use to cover their conventional mortgage lending was referenced.

The government’s pledge on that subject wasn’t part of the budget speech, but made in the 500-plus pages Finance Minister Joe Oliver tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday.

“The Government will implement regulatory measures that limit the extension of portfolio insurance through the substitution of mortgages in insured pools, tie the use of portfolio insurance to CMHC securitization vehicles, and prohibit the use of government-backed insured mortgages as collateral in securitization vehicles that are not sponsored by CMHC,” the 2015 Federal budget states. “The Government continues to closely monitor the housing market and assess measures to further reduce taxpayer exposure and risks to the long-term stability of the sector.”

In 2012, CMHC’s announcement that it would restrict lender access to its own portfolio insurance fund ultimately prompted private insurers Genworth and Canada Guaranty to step up and grow their books on that business. It remains to be seen how any further limits on the use of bulk insurance would play out.

Tuesday’s budget, Joe Oliver’s first, is balanced with a projected surplus of $1.4 billion this year. The government expects that surplus to increase to $4.8 billion in 2019-2020.

The government has implemented a number of safeguards in a bid to “reinforce the housing finance framework,” including a number of changes and reviews to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

“The Government has recently made improvements to the housing finance framework to restrain the growth of taxpayer-backed mortgage insurance and securitization and enhance stability,” the budget states. “These include increasing fees on National Housing Act Mortgage-backed Securities and Canada Mortgage Bonds, and capping annual issuance on new guarantees under these programs.”