Category Archives: female home buyers

Down Payment Assistance Programs Across Canada

Canadian down payment assistance programs help first-time home buyersSo many young people want to build home equity and get out from under their landlord’s thumb.

But they can’t. They don’t have the down payment to qualify for a mortgage.

For many modest-income Canadians, saving up the 5 percent minimum down payment (or 20 percent if you want to avoid CMHC insurance) can take years—many, many years.

While some are able to rely on gifts from parents/family (39% of first-time buyers according to a 2018 Mortgage Professionals Canada study) or loans from family (25%), or RRSP withdrawals (38%) to make their down payment, those options aren’t available to everyone.

That’s where government down payment programs come in. Scattered across Canada, these little-publicized municipal and provincial programs are helping first-time home buyers fund their down payments and make the transition from renter to owner.

Since most people don’t know about them, their uptake is typically low. When the B.C. government launched its program in 2017, for example, it thought 42,000 residents would participate in the first three years. After nine months, only 1,400 had done so.

To some onlookers, giving buyers government money to buy a house may seem a bit too socialist, but municipalities have an interest in transitioning financially stable renters from apartments to houses. Among other reasons, it frees up rental units and grows their property tax base.

To help homebuyers find such assistance, the Spy has rounded up some of the more popular programs. What follows are grant or loan programs that provide a portion of the down payment to qualified borrowers. Note that this list isn’t exhaustive and that the status of these programs change regularly. Moreover, once quotas are reached many such programs end, so contact the source for the latest info.

 

Alberta

Program: PEAK Housing Initiatives (formerly PEAK Program)
Provider: Joint initiative between Trico Residential, the Government of Alberta Municipal Affairs, CMHC and Habitat for Humanity
Details: PEAK housing units are priced at market value and recipients must be able to qualify for and hold a mortgage. Once approved for the program, PEAK provides a second mortgage for either a partial or full down payment up to a maximum of 5 percent of the purchase price. PEAK has so far helped 111 individuals and families purchase a home of their own.
How to apply: http://www.peakinitiative.ca/

Program: Attainable Homes (specific to Calgary only)
Provider: The City of Calgary
Details: This program has been in place since 2009 and is geared towards moderate-income Calgarians. Successful applicants must be able to contribute $2,000 towards the downpayment of their home, and the Attainable Homes program contributes the rest.  If and when the homeowner sells the home, the growth in the home’s value is split between the homeowner and the program, with that money reinvested to assist other homebuyers. The longer the homeowner remains in the house, the more their share of the appreciation increases.
How to apply: https://attainyourhome.com/

 

British Columbia

The province of B.C. ended its Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership on March 31, 2018. It has no widely available down payment assistance programs at this time.

 

Manitoba

Program: Rural Homeownership Program
Provider: Manitoba Housing
Details: This program is limited to those renting a home owned by Manitoba Housing in selected rural communities or those who would like to purchase a vacant home owned by Manitoba Housing. Applicants must have a maximum household income of $53,441 if they don’t have children, and $71,255 if there are children or dependents. The program has two components, a loan worth 10 percent of the purchase price, which is forgivable on a pro-rata basis over five years. Another 15 percent loan is forgivable after 15 years of continuous ownership and occupancy of the property.
How to apply: http://www.gov.mb.ca/housing/progs/homeownership.html

 

Saskatchewan

Program: 3% Down Payment Assistance Program
Provider: National Affordable Housing Corporation
Details: Provides Saskatchewan homebuyers with a 3 percent non-repayable down payment assistance grant towards the purchase of a home from one of the NAHC’s partner housing providers. Saskatchewan households with incomes less than $90,000 per year are eligible for financial support under this program.
How to apply: http://nahcorp.ca/assistance/nahc-3-down-payment-assistance-program/

Program: Mortgage Flexibilities Support Program
Provider: City of Saskatoon, CMHC and the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation
Details: This program is for designated projects in the city of Saskatoon and provides qualifying homebuyers with a 5 percent down payment grant for the purchase of a home. The household income limit must be less than $69,975 for one person and $74,640 for two people. Their maximum net worth must also be less than $25,000.
How to apply: https://www.saskatoon.ca/services-residents/housing-property/incentives-homebuyers

 

New Brunswick

Program: Home Ownership Program
Provider: Government of New Brunswick
Details: This program offers assistance in the form of a repayable loan worth up to 40 percent of the purchase price of an existing home, or a maximum of $75,000 for new builds. It’s available to those with household incomes below $40,000. Applicants must be first-time homebuyers or be living in a sub-standard housing unit; have been living in New Brunswick for at least one year prior to application; and have a good credit rating and meet all financial institution lending requirements for obtaining a first mortgage.
How to apply:http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/services/services_renderer.8315.Home_Ownership_Program.html

 

Newfoundland & Labrador

Program: Home Purchase Program (HPP)
Provider: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Details: This program will remain open over 2018/19 until funding has been fully committed to up to 330 homebuyers. Grants of $3,000 are available to qualifying individuals and families to assist with the down payment of a new home valued up to $400,000 (including HST).
How to apply: http://www.nlhc.nf.ca/programs/programsHpp.html

 

Nova Scotia

Program: Down Payment Assistance Program
Provider:
 Housing Nova Scotia (Government of Nova Scotia)
Details: This is a pilot program to assist Nova Scotians with a household income of $75k or less. The program offers an interest-free loan of up to 5 percent, to a maximum purchase price of $280,000 in the Halifax Regional Municipality and $150,000 elsewhere in the province. The loans will range from $7,500-$14,000 and must be repaid in 10 years. More than 150 first-time buyers benefitted from the program in its first year, and it will remain open until March 31, 2019.
How to apply: https://housing.novascotia.ca/downpayment

 

Ontario

Housing programs in Ontario are administered by municipalities based on the premise that they know their community’s needs best. Below is a selection of just several first-time homeowner assistance programs from some key municipalities.

Barrie (Simcoe County)

Program: Homeownership Program
Details: This program offers 10 percent down payment assistance in the form of a forgivable loan.
There is presently a waiting list, but applicants are still encouraged to apply. A percentage of available funding is designated for applicants currently living in Social Housing or those who self-identify as Aboriginal households.
More details: http://www.simcoe.ca/dpt/sh/apply-for-the-homeownership-program

Hamilton

Program: Homeownership Down Payment Assistance Program
Details: This program provides support to low- and moderate-income residents who qualify for a mortgage with a maximum home price of $375,000. To qualify, applicants must have a maximum household income of $80,000,
More details: https://www.hamilton.ca/social-services/housing/homeownership-down-payment-assistance-program

Kitchener (Region of Waterloo)

Program: Affordable Home Ownership program
Details: This program provides individuals and families with a loan of up to five percent of the purchase price of a home (up to a value of $386,000). Applicants must currently renting in the Region of Waterloo, be able to qualify for a mortgage, and have a maximum household income of $90,500.
More details: https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/living-here/funding-to-help-buy-a-home.aspx

 

Prince Edward Island

Program: Down Payment Assistance Program
Provider: Government of Prince Edward Island
Details: This program assists Prince Edward Islander’s with modest incomes by providing a repayable loan of up to five percent of the purchase price of a new or existing home to a maximum price of $11,250. The loan amount must go towards the down payment and not towards financing or other closing costs. The loan bears a fixed interest rate of 5% per annum. The purchase price of the home must be no more than $225,000.
How to apply: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/finance-pei/down-payment-assistance-program

 

Quebec

Program: Accès Condos
Provider:
 Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal (SHDM)
Details: Launched in 2005 by the SHDM, Accès Condos has provided more than 3,600 affordable units that promote home ownership throughout Montreal. Qualifying buyers must make a minimum $1,000 deposit and receive a 10% purchase credit, which is used for the down payment on the house in an approved development.
How to apply: https://accescondos.org/en/

 

financial support

National Non-Loan Programs

First-Time Home Buyers’ (FTHB) Tax Credit

Provider: Government of Canada
Details: The FTHB Tax Credit offers a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit amount on a qualifying home acquired after January 27, 2009. For an eligible individual, the credit will provide up to $750 in federal tax relief.
Link: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/bdgt/2009/fqhbtc-eng.html

 

Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP)

Provider: Government of Canada
Details: The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) is a program that allows you to withdraw up to $25,000 in a calendar year from your registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability.
Link: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/hbp/

 

GST/HST New Housing Rebate

Provider: Government of Canada
Details: You may qualify for a rebate of part of the GST or HST that you paid on the purchase price or cost of building your new house, on the cost of substantially renovating or building a major addition onto your existing house, or on converting a non-residential property into a house.
Link: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/gp/rc4028/rc4028-e.html

Source: RateSpy.com – By  on November 26, 2018

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The 4 Key Trends Home Buyers and Sellers Should Watch in 2019

 | Nov 28, 2018

We’re entering the home stretch of 2018, when you can actually say, “See you next year!” to someone you’ll see in just a few weeks. It’s a time to look ahead, to make new plans, to achieve new dreams.

And if those dreams include buying your own home, you should keep an eye on the ever-changing tides of the housing market. Now, markets are like the weather: You can’t entirely predict how they will act, but you canget a sense of the forces that will push things in one direction or another.

The realtor.com® economic research team analyzed a wealth of housing data to come up with a forecast of what 2019 might hold for home buyers and sellers—and it looks like both groups are going to be facing some challenges.

Here are the top four takeaways. For more information, see the full realtor.com® 2019 forecast.

1. We’ll have more homes for sale, especially luxury ones

We’ve been chronicling the super-tight inventory of homes for sale for several years now. Yes, homes have been hitting the market, but not enough to keep up with the demand. Nationwide, inventory actually hit its lowest level in recorded history last winter, but this year it finally started to recover. We’re expecting to see that inventory growth continue into next year, but not at a blockbuster rate—less than 7%.

While this is welcome news for buyers who’ve been sidelined, sellers must confront a new reality.

“More inventory for sellers means it’s not going to be as easy as it has been in past years—it means they will have to think about the competition,” says Danielle Halerealtor.com‘s chief economist.

“It’s still going to be a very good market for sellers,” she adds, “but if they’ve had their expectations set by listening to stories of how quickly their neighbor’s home sold in 2017 or in 2018, they may have to adjust their expectations.”

Although next year’s inventory growth is expected to be modest nationwide, pricier markets will tell a different story. In these markets—which typically have strong economies (read: high-paying jobs)—most of the expected inventory growth will come from listings of luxury homes.

We’re expecting to see the biggest increases in high-end inventory in the metro areas of San Jose, CASeattle, WAWorcester, MABoston, MA; and Nashville, TN. All of those metro markets, which may include neighboring towns, could see double-digit gains in inventory in 2019.

2. Affording a home will remain tough

It’s no secret that home sellers have been sitting pretty for the past several years. But is the tide about to change in buyers’ favor?

“In some ways, life is going to be easier for home buyers; they’ll have more options,” Hale says. “But life is also going to be more difficult for home buyers, because we expect mortgage rates to continue to increase, we expect home prices to continue to increase, so the pinch that they’re feeling from affordability is going to continue to be a pain point moving into 2019.”

Hale predicts that mortgage rates, now hovering around 5%, will reach around 5.5% by the end of 2019. That means the monthly mortgage payment on a typical home listing will be about 8% higher next year, she notes. Meanwhile, incomes are only growing about 3% on average. That double whammy is toughest on first-time home buyers, who tend to borrow the most heavily and who don’t have any equity in a current home to draw on.

3. Millennials will still dominate home buying

Just a few years ago, millennials were the new kids on the block, just barely old enough to buy their own homes. Now they’re the biggest generational group of home buyers, accounting for 45% of mortgages (compared with 17% for baby boomers and 37% for Gen Xers). Some of them are even moving on up from their starter homes.

As we mentioned above, things will be tough for those first-time buyers. But the slightly older move-up buyers will reap the benefits of both their home equity and the increased choices in the market.

And regardless of whether they’re part of that younger set starting a career or the older set that’s starting a family, “they’re going to be more price-conscious than any other generation,” says Ali Wolf, director of economic research at Meyers Research.

That’s because they typically are still carrying student debt and want to be able to spend on experiences, like travel. That takes away from the funds they can put aside for a down payment, or a monthly mortgage payment.

“They want to maintain a certain lifestyle, but they still see the value in owning a home,” Wolf says.

So they might compromise on distance from an urban center, or certain amenities, or space—70% of millennial homeowners own a residence that’s less than 2,000 square feet, Wolf notes.

There’s plenty of time to expand those portfolios, though, as millennials’ housing reign is just beginning: This group is likely to make up the largest share of home buyers for the next decade. The year 2020 is projected to be the peak for millennial home buying—the bulk of them will be age 30.

4. The new tax law is still a wild card

At the time of last year’s forecast, the GOP’s proposed revision of the tax code was still being batted around Congress. While there was talk that it might discourage people from buying a home, no one really knew how it might affect the real-estate market.

This year … well, we still don’t really know. That’s because most taxpayers won’t be filing taxes under the new law until April 2019. And while some people might have a savvy tax adviser giving them a better idea of what’s in store, for many, the reality check will come in the form of a bigger tax bill—or a bigger refund.

Renters are likely to have lower tax bills, but might not be tempted to buy while affordability remains a challenge, and with the new, increased standard deduction reducing the appeal of the homeowner’s mortgage-interest deduction.

“I think the new tax plan will affect mostly homeowners and home buyers in the upper parts of the distribution,” says Andrew Hanson, associate professor of economics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. “Those who either own or are buying higher-priced homes are going to pay a lot more.”

Sellers of those pricier homes will also take a hit, as buyers anticipating bigger tax bills won’t be as willing to pony up for a high list price.

The biggest change resulting from the new tax law, Hanson predicts, will be in mortgages, since people will be less inclined to take out large mortgages.

“If anyone is going to be upset about the tax plan, it’ll be mortgage bankers,” he says.

Source: Realtor.com  –  and Allison Underhill | Nov 28, 2018

Cicely Wedgeworth is the managing editor of realtor.com. She has worked as a writer and editor at Yahoo, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday.
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In 2018, these homes will sell the fastest

With reduced buying power next year, expect house hunters to scoop up everything under $500,000.

Paul D’Abruzzo, an investment advisor with Rockstar Real Estate, says that while most people will qualify for less money on their mortgages, they won’t be completely shut out of the market. They will simply adjust their demands.

“If somebody was preapproved for $500,000, their new approval will be $400-450,000, so they will lose 10-20% of their preapproval amount,” he told CREW. “It won’t shut people out, it will just move them lower. If some were on the brink of getting approved, you’ll lose some there, but lower-priced properties will do very, very well.”

In Toronto, that will put single-family detached homes even further out of the reach than they are now, but the popularity of condos will keep soaring.

“In Toronto, with everybody’s sightline coming down, condos will be the most popular,” said D’Abruzzo. “In the GTA, like Mississauga or Vaughan, it will be condos and maybe townhouses.”

Single-family detached homes will become difficult, but not impossible, to afford. The Greater Toronto Area’s fringes still have moderately priced detached houses for sale, and even with the new mortgage rules, that won’t change.

“In Hamilton, Kitchener and St. Catharines, $400,000 gets you a detached home,” he said, “so you’ll see a continued trend of population spreading out into the horseshoe.”

According to D’Abruzzo, 2018 will not be kind to sellers—at least not through the first few months—but he recommends being patient.

“Right now, people are trying to get their places sold before the mortgage rules kick in,” he said. “Next year, inventory will be crap in January and February. If anyone is scared or fearful and waiting to sell their house, patience is the solution right now. Just wait and see, because nobody knows for sure what it will be like.”

Akshay Dev, a sales agent with REMAX Realty One, echoed that wait-and-see approach. While nobody will miss out because of too much time on the sidelines, Dev says Toronto’s chronic housing shortage will continue working in sellers’ favour next year.

“Whatever correction was needed is done, and in the spring we should see the market picking up and being strong,” he said. “In the Toronto area, there’s a huge shortage of housing, so it’s still going to be a seller’s market, but I don’t expect crazy bidding wars. Sellers will still get the prices they’re expecting.”

Contrary to popular belief, first-time buyers won’t have trouble purchasing starter homes, especially because cheaper abodes will be in high demand. However, they might live in those homes longer than the historical average.

“Historically, we’ve seen that when people graduate from their first buying experience, it takes anywhere from three to five years to move into the next level of housing, but it may become five to seven years with new rules,” said Dev.

Source: Canada Real Estate Magazine – by Neil Sharma 8 Dec 2017
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Is it cheaper to buy a house than a condo in the GTA? This expert thinks so

While many first-time buyers look to condos as a relatively affordable option, one Toronto housing market expert says that it is actually less expensive to buy a low-rise home in the GTA.

According to Realosophy Brokerage co-founder John Pasalis, when you control for the size difference between low-rise and condos in the GTA, condos are more expensive per-square-foot.

In the Maple neighbourhood of Vaughan a 1,385 square-foot rowhouse costs $685,000, while a condo of a similar size in the area would likely cost $684 per-square-foot, or $947,000. It’s just one example of a price difference that can be seen across markets in the GTA.

Pasalis believes that this discrepancy in prices can be chalked up, in part, to investor demand.

“The majority of new condominium construction is driven by investor demand — not demand from families,” he writes in a recent blog post. “Investors are willing to pay much more (on a per-square-foot basis) than end users are.”

Pasalis says that investors prefer smaller units, which typically have a better return on investment, which means that developers are creating units that are too small for families, at prices they cannot afford.

“When developers are pricing a unit, they’re thinking to themselves, why would I charge this much when I can get this much?” Pasalis tells BuzzBuzzNews. “And those prices don’t make sense for a two- to three-bedroom unit, which is likely why we’re not seeing as many of those units being built [in the GTA.]”

In order for a condo to be good-value-for-money for a young GTA family, Pasalis says that low-rise prices would have to increase at a much faster rate than they currently are.

“The rate of appreciation for low-rise homes in the 905 region isn’t going to be very high in 2018,” says Pasalis. “So I don’t see this trend changing in the next year or so.”

While Pasalis admits that for families with a budget of $400,000 or less, a condo may be the only option for homeownership, he says that those with one of $700,000 or more should consider their options.

“They can choose to buy a two-bedroom 1,000 square-foot condo in Maple for that price, or a three bedroom 1,385 square-foot row house with a finished basement and backyard. For most, it’s a pretty simple choice,” he says.

Source: BuzzBuzzHome.com –  

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No listing? No problem

For Sale By Owner

Source: MoneySense.ca by  

 

 

No listing? No problem

Here’s what buyers need to know before signing on the dotted line in a private home sale

What if, while cruising around the neighbourhood on your bike, you spied a Private Sale sign on the lawn of your perfect home? What if, when you called the number, it turned out the sellers were in their 80s, had wildly overpriced their home and had been struggling to find a buyer for the past six years? Notice any red flags?

Buying a For Sale By Owner house

Stephanie Barker did, but the senior vice president at Arm Energy also recognized a big opportunity to own the house of her dreams—a four-bedroom, custom-built, one-owner with a large backyard and a converted attic office space. An Internet search, a generic sales contract and a lengthy phone call later, Barker and her boyfriend, Rob Maykut, became the proud new owners of a beautiful Canmore, Alta. family home, located just north of 8th Street. Were they mad?

For some, the idea of buying a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) home conjures up the image of a penny-pinching, emotionally charged seller flogging a defect-laden house. But if you’re in the market for a new home, choosing to avoid FSBOs may mean eliminating up to 25% of the homes currently listed for sale. Not a smart strategy. Instead, would-be FSBO buyers can learn a thing or two from Barker—and realize that, just like all real estate transactions, buyers of FSBOs simply need to do their own homework.

 

First: Know your market

Barker didn’t bat an eye when she heard how much the sellers wanted for their home. She already knew it was too high. “I’d watched the sales activity in the neighbourhood for at least six months. I knew what homes in that area were worth.” So Barker went in with an initial offer that was 50% less than what they were asking. “They didn’t even counter our offer,” recalls Barker. That didn’t stop her. “We had wiggle room, so I called the sellers.” For 45 minutes Barker discussed price, timing and conditions. “That conversation helped me appreciate where they were coming from and helped them appreciate where I was coming from,” she says. Once off the phone, Barker drafted a second and final offer. This time the sellers accepted. “I paid just a little over half of what the seller’s originally wanted and I’m sure we would never have reached a deal had we not been able to talk.”

Next: Get the right papers

Since the sellers were in their 80s, Barker took it upon herself to find a home sales contract online. “I didn’t want them to feel the added stress of trying to find a contract,” says Barker. She got lucky, says Jeff Kahane, a Calgary real estate lawyer. “At the end of the day a spit and a handshake is sufficient to close the deal, as long as nothing goes wrong,” Kahane says, But when things do go drastically wrong, it can be devastating. For instance, the bank can refuse to give you a mortgage if the home has a lien against it, if there’s a health advisory, the owners owe back taxes or the house is deemed overvalued by the appraiser. Quite often, even the seller is unaware of these potential pitfalls. “The sad fact is, it costs as little as $400 to get a sales contract from a lawyer, but you can pay $40,000 or more in fees to get out of a signed deal.”

Then: Do some digging

Getting an iron-clad contract is just the start. There are other pitfalls that can occur within a real estate transaction, explains Monika Furtado, a Calgary Re/Max real estate agent. For example, Ontario buyers can take legal possession of a property without a survey, but in Alberta a buyer must have a Real Property Report—a legal document that shows the location of visible improvements relative to property boundaries. “Neglect to ask for one and the buyer will have to pay $1,000 for the report to close the deal.”

Then there’s the measurements of a home. “Most sellers don’t realize that we have standards when recording home measurements,” says Furtado. “Like, the bottom level of a side-split shouldn’t be included in the total square footage because it’s below-grade living space.”

And what about a title search? While anyone can go to the land records office and pay for this document, not everyone understand what to look for and why it’s important. Furtado will often pull this document during the early stages of an offer. “I want to verify ownership, check setbacks and confirm there’s enough equity in the home to sell it,” explains Furtado. She’s known cases where sellers, caught with little or no equity, stay put in a sold house, refusing to vacate the home because they have no money to move.

Finally: Buy some advice

The big reason why a seller chooses FSBO is to save money on realtor commissions. “Nothing wrong with that,” says Furtado, “but because the house listing hasn’t been vetted by another realtor it often means a lot more work for me or the buyer.”

The key, says Kahane, is to get professional, knowledgeable advice. At the best of times sellers tend to inflate the value of their home, because of all they’ve put into it, while buyers struggle between emotion and logic. “You may go into Sears or Ikea 20 times before picking out a bed, but spend only 40 minutes before signing a contract to buy a home.” It’s one reason why Kahane is a strong advocate for representation—a real estate lawyer, a real estate agent and a home inspector. “These professionals have obligations and responsibilities to help and protect you.”

That’s exactly how Barker handled her last purchase: “I took my signed contract to my attorney. He looked it over and, once satisfied, we finalized the deal.” That’s how most transactions go, says Kahane.

But on those occasions when things don’t go so smoothly you have a choice: Pay a little bit of money for some good advice in advance, or pay a lot to fix a problem that could have been avoided in the first place.

For Sale By Owner

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The ballyhooed ‘war on homebuyers’ isn’t real

 

Source: Macleans.ca – September 22, 2017

Regulators have finally realized that Canada is addicted to debt, and are trying to limit the fallout. This is not a bad thing.

Canada’s real estate market has seen a lot of changes over the past year or so. Interest rates have gone up twice. Governments in B.C. and Ontario implemented foreign buyer taxes and other measures to cool housing markets, and the Greater Toronto Area is experiencing a dramatic slowdown in sales. More stringent mortgage stress-tests were introduced for borrowers last year, too, reducing demand. Now yet another change is on the horizon that the real estate industry warns will hit the housing market hard, with spill-over effects to the broader economy. Industry pushback and fear-mongering is predictable when regulations are proposed, but in this case, the housing industry isn’t exactly wrong. A proposed policy change from the country’s banking regulator threatens to reduce home sales, knock some first-buyers out of the market and push others to buy less expensive homes. That is the whole point, in fact—and it may be just what Canada needs.

In July, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) proposed stricter lending criteria for uninsured mortgages. In order to get a loan from a federally regulated financial institution, these borrowers would have to pass a more rigorous stress test and qualify at a mortgage rate two full percentage points higher than the posted rate (OSFI implemented a similar change for insured mortgages, where borrowers have a down payment below 20 per cent, last October). A comment period ended in August, and OSFI is expected to issue finalized guidelines this fall.

With a decision approaching, the housing industry has amped up warnings that the changes spell trouble for the housing market, first-time buyers and the economy at large. Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association, said the plans amount to a “war on first-time homebuyers” and that the cumulative impact of tightening measures “risks capsizing the housing market altogether.” The Canadian Home Builders’ Association says housing starts could drop by up to 30,000 units annually, and wipe out anywhere from 42,500 to 91,500 jobs. Mortgage Professionals Canada (MPC), the industry group for lenders, brokers and insurers, warned national home sales could fall between 10 per cent and 15 per cent and reduce property values across the country, when combined with other recent changes and interest rate hikes. MPC supports a much
 milder stress test that it says will provide a buffer “without disqualifying too many middle class Canadians from their dream of attaining home ownership,” according to its submission to the regulator.

Far from mounting an attack on homebuyers, however, regulators are trying to prevent a disaster from befalling those same homebuyers and threatening the economy. I
n what will come as news to no one, Canadians are heavily indebted. The household debt-to-income ratio hit another record high of 167.8 per cent in the second quarter of the year. The debt service ratio, a measure of disposable income put toward loan payments, is set to increase to 16.3 per cent by 2021, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, a level Canada has never seen. The number of households with a home equity line of credit and a mortgage against their properties has increased nearly 40 per cent since 2011. Non-mortgage debt is rising, too, including i
nstallment loans—high-interest, short-term products. Our profligate spending habits are regularly bemoaned by the likes of the International Monetary Fund, the OECDand the Bank for International Settlements.

RELATED: Drowning in debt is the new normal in Canada

The primary driver of the debt surge has been falling interest rates. The benchmark rate set by the Bank of Canada has been dropping for decades, making it cheaper and cheaper for Canadians to borrow money—especially to buy houses. Canada’s housing boom tracks falling rates closely, particularly since the recession. The Teranet and National Bank House Price Index, for example, increased 72 per cent since January 2008. The gains are more pronounced in Toronto, which saw a 123 per cent surge over the same time period. Not long after the central bank’s two rate cuts in 2015, the housing market in Toronto fell into complete insanity.

Now with the recession behind us and the country recovering from the oil crash, the Bank of Canada believes we can withstand higher interest rates. Governor Stephen Poloz has signalled the central bank is on a tightening path, albeit a very cautious and gradual one.

Still, that marks a dramatic shift after years of excessively loose monetary policy. Previously, Canadians could renew their mortgages and obtain more favourable rates. Now the odds are they’ll have to pay more come renewal time. Those who opt for variable-rate mortgages can expect the same. Because this scenario is new to an entire generation of homebuyers, OSFI wants lenders to ensure borrowers have the means to service their mortgages at higher rates. To some degree, that protects the homeowner from the shock of steeper payments. It also discourages lenders from issuing mortgages that could turn sour and put the financial system at risk. When it comes to uninsured mortgages, after all, the lender bears the risk.

“When you’ve been in such a low interest rate cycle that’s out of sync with what we’ve seen historically, and we see housing markets really go to stratospheric levels, the logic of why these changes come in makes sense,” says Beata Caranci, chief economist at TD. She estimates the proposed OSFI measures will impact about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of sales. That’s not insignificant, but not cataclysmic either. “The vast majority of buyers would still qualify,” she says. OSFI isn’t likely to change direction after the Bank of Canada’s rate hike this month. Should stress-testing hit the market hard, contributing to a bigger-than-expected slowdown in consumer spending, the central bank would likely pause before hiking rates again, Caranci says.

Some of the industry’s concerns are valid, according to Adrienne Warren, a senior economist at Scotiabank. “There’s a bit of a risk of cooling off the market a little too abruptly,” she says. “But saying that, it’s still reasonable to build in some interest-rate buffer on new mortgages, just to limit financial vulnerabilities.” Warren adds there are benefits to eliminating the “distorting incentives” between insured and uninsured mortgages.

When OSFI implemented similar stress-testing measures on insured mortgages last year, some buyers may have attempted to skirt the rules. The Bank of Canada flagged such concerns in its financial system review in June. If buyers have a down payment 20 per cent or more, they’re not required to obtain mortgage insurance or undergo the stress-testing OSFI put in place last year. So
me buyers might be borrowing money from friends and family or taking out loans to reach the 20 per cent down payment threshold, thereby taking on more financial risk. The central bank also noted that borrowers are stretching amortization periods past 25 years. While that allows households to pay off debt more slowly, it also limits their ability to extend the amortization period further to deal with an income shock. OSFI’s proposals could help reduce these risks.

MPC has also argued that these stress-tests will push some buyers to use unregulated lenders that do not fall under OSFI’s purview. That, too, is a valid concern. But it’s not a reason for OSFI to backtrack. Rather, it’s a reason to apply more scrutiny to the unregulated space. Further, Hudak has pointed out that mortgage delinquencies in Canada have dropped and that most households make wise financial decisions, a statement that inadvertently makes a case for OSFI’s stress-testing proposals. Delinquencies are low
because interest rates are low. Higher rates will result in more delinquencies if today’s borrowers don’t have the resources to deal with that reality.

Instead of a “war on homebuyers,” governments and regulators are finally waking up to the fact that Canada has become addicted to debt and real estate, and are trying to limit the potential fallout. There will be turmoil as interest rate hikes and regulations work through the market, but the alternative could be far worse.

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Growing Trend: Buying Real Estate with Family and Friends

 

Source: Canadian Mortgage Trends – Alan Harder 

While it’s fairly common for those in tight rental markets to have a roommate to help split the rent, an emerging trend is buying real estate with a family member or friend.

Faced with high home prices in big cities and tougher mortgage rules, including a new stress test on uninsured mortgages, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for first-time homebuyers to get their foot in the door of the real estate market. As such, prospective buyers are finding more creative ways to be able to enter the real estate market, and buying with a family member or friend is one of them.

When considering co-ownership, it doesn’t have to be with a spouse or romantic partner. It can be your brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend or even co-worker. When you’re buying with a partner, make sure it’s someone you can trust. You’ll both be on the title and responsible for paying the mortgage on time and in full. If either you or your partner run into financial difficulties and are unable to pay your respective share of the mortgage, it could adversely affect your credit score if the other party is unable to come up with the extra money.

For that reason, I recommend treating co-ownership like a business arrangement by having a lawyer draft up an agreement. Also, this living arrangement likely isn’t permanent. You’ll want this agreement in place when you or your partner wants to sell. The last thing you’d want is for the sale of your property to hurt your relationship.

Qualifying for a Mortgage is Easier with a Partner

Buying with a partner helps you in several ways. The first is mortgage qualification. Two of the factors that lenders consider when qualifying you for a mortgage is your down payment and income.

Saving a sizable down payment is tough, especially for those living in cities like Toronto or Vancouver with sky-high rents and home prices.

Not to mention it’s also more challenging to qualify for a mortgage on a single income. Even being able to afford to a starter home, such as a condo in Vancouver, on a single income can be tough. That’s where buying with a partner comes in handy.

When buying with a partner, both of your down payments and incomes are taken into account. This makes qualifying for a mortgage a lot easier. In many cases it means qualifying for a home you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford on your own.

For example, instead of only being able to afford a cramped condo, you might be able to afford a more spacious townhouse or semi-detached house. In essence, buying with a partner helps you move up the property ladder faster.

If you don’t know anyone who’s in the financial position to purchase a property with you, you’re not necessarily out of luck. The sharing economy is throwing homebuyers a lifeline. There are real estate matchmaking services like C-Harmony that will pair you with fellow homebuyers.

Some lenders like Meridian Credit Union are making buying with family and friends easier than ever by offering mortgages specifically for this living arrangement. With the Family and Friends Mortgage, up to four people can obtain a mortgage at a low rate.

Ready to Buy with a Partner?

The first step is to find a reliable partner who would be willing to purchase a property with you. After that, you’ll want to get pre-approved for a mortgage. With your housing budget in mind, you can buy a property together that will be a good long-term investment for both of you.

Once you purchase a property, don’t forget to have an agreement drafted up by a lawyer so there aren’t any surprises when one partner eventually wants out of the deal.

This will make for a happy, and hopefully long-term, real estate partnership.

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