Securing financing from A institutions for micro condos—categorized as anything below about 500 sq ft—has always been thorny, and with the COVID-19 pandemic taking a bite out of many downtown condo markets, it’s certain to remain so. However, it can still be done.
The big banks are chary about financing these units because they’re rarely end user-occupied, and nearly always purchased as income properties.
“They’re typically investor units or short-term rentals, essentially serving as hotel substitutes, and there are issues around financing,” said Toronto-based Simeon Papailias, co-founder and managing partner of REC Canada. “The bank always mitigates risk on a default scenario, and it’s not a very marketable property. They look at the heavier risk they take by lending on a micro-unit as opposed to a regular unit.
“There are special programs the five major banks rotate between themselves, depending on what the banks’ goals are for the year. CIBC can do it one year, then TD could the next. There are special programs made for this, and it’s something a prudent investor should know.”
Alternatively, the B channel is a much less knotty way to secure micro condo financing, although the rate will be higher.
“I had private financing with Home Trust, at the time, on a 380 sq ft micro-unit investment property in Yorkville back in 2011, when those units just started becoming more common in the marketplace,” continued Papailias. “Today, around 30% of most condo buildings are under 500 square feet, and the reason has everything to do with affordability.”
Locale is another variable, says Dustan Woodhouse, president of Mortgage Architects. A micro-unit in a building near a university or college, for example, is far more likely to receive funding than a similar-sized condo situated around fewer amenities.
Securing financing for a resale micro-unit is a little easier, he added.
“Pull title on the property,” said Woodhouse. “Pull title on that unit and pull title on four more units in the building and see who the lender is on the title. Then you’ll know who to call.”
The pandemic has left downtown condo markets reeling, but as any savvy investor knows, that’s when opportunity comes knocking.
“Prices on micro condos are dropping the furthest and the fastest over any other type of properties. On the one end of the spectrum, detached houses are rocketing upward, and at the other end of the spectrum you have micro condos dropping in price.”
Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage.
Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth – Neil Sharma 16 Dec 2020
National home sales and listings continued to climb in housing markets across the country this August, as some of the pressure from pent-up demand was released this summer when pandemic restrictions eased. Buyers returning to the market did so with refocused housing priorities; a growing number began looking to suburban and rural markets in search of greater square footage relative to what’s available in denser urban centres.
Despite the surge in demand, the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) recently reiterated their forecast that home prices are likely to dip in the coming months; citing pandemic-induced unemployment and slower in-bound migration weighing on demand, particularly in metropolitan cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
To understand how current home prices compare to the past, Zoocasa used data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) to highlight trends in benchmark home prices for apartments and single-family houses in 15 Canadian regions over the past 5 years. We highlight the extent to which benchmark home prices grew or contracted in each region, offering a glimpse at regions where housing is more or less affordable today than it was 5 years ago.
Overall, the Canadian benchmark apartment price rose a staggering 52% in 5 years, from $315,600 in August 2015 to $478,700 in August 2020. The benchmark price for single-family houses across Canada rose 40% from $486,800 to $683,400. That being said, a closer look at each area included in our analysis reveals that certain housing markets faced a much higher pace of price growth than others, with others noting benchmark price declines that resulted in housing becoming more affordable today than it was 5 years ago.
Prairie Markets Including Calgary and Edmonton More Affordable Today Than 5 Years Ago
Overall, Prairie cities offer first-time home buyers some of the best affordability in the country, with benchmark prices under $250,000 for apartments and under $500,000 for single-family houses this August. In fact, the Prairies are one of the few regions where a benchmark apartment and single-family house is more affordable today than it was 5 years ago.
In Calgary, Canada’s third most populous city, the benchmark apartment price was $248,500 in August 2020, dropping 14% or $41,900 since 2015. The benchmark single-family house in Calgary is now $466,000, which is 6% or $30,800 cheaper than the price 5 years ago. Similarly, in Edmonton, the benchmark apartment is 17%, or $37,300, cheaper than it was 5 years ago at $183,900 and the benchmark single-family house cost $377,300 in August this year, vs. $396,800 in August 2015, a drop of 5% or $19,500.
Given their proximity to the Canadian Rockies, both Calgary and Edmonton offer good opportunities for buyers with remote-working flexibility seeking greater square footage and green space. Comparatively, the benchmark apartment price in Toronto is nearly double the price of the benchmark apartment in Calgary, and the benchmark single-family house in Toronto is more than double Calgary. Additionally, both Calgary and Edmonton have a much lower population density at approx. 1,900 people per square kilometer in Calgary and 1,400 people per square kilometer in Edmonton versus 4,700 people per square kilometer in Toronto.
Elsewhere in the Prairies, compared to 5 years ago, the benchmark apartment price is 21% lower in Regina ($174,800), 13% lower in Saskatoon ($180,200), and 3% lower in Winnipeg ($196,800). Compared to 5 years ago, single-family house prices are 3% lower in Regina ($286,900) and Saskatoon ($319,400), but up 17% in Winnipeg to $300,500.
Benchmark Apartment Prices Rose Over 50% in 7 Markets Over the Past 5 Years
Of the 15 markets included in our analysis, the benchmark price for apartments rose by more than 50% in 7 markets. Fraser Valley, BC, where the benchmark price increased 104% to $437,300, led the country in terms of the increase in benchmark prices for apartments over the past 5 years.
Fraser Valley was followed by a number of markets in Southern Ontario. Niagara Region led price growth in the area, with the benchmark price growing 87% to $354,400. This was followed by Greater Toronto where the benchmark price rose 78% to $592,900, Hamilton-Burlington where the price rose 74% to $471,100 and Guelph where there was a 73% increase in the benchmark apartment price to $379,000.
This was followed by Victoria, where the benchmark apartment price grew 65% to $504,900 and Greater Vancouver where it rose 63% to $685,800. Although Greater Vancouver didn’t see the highest percentage growth in benchmark apartment price, it experienced the largest increase in dollar amount at +$265,100.
Ottawa and Montreal also saw gains in the benchmark apartment price since five years ago, but at 46% and 35%, respectively.
Benchmark Prices for Single-Family Houses Grew 50% or more in 7 Regions Over the Past 5 Years
7 out of 15 markets included in our analysis also noted a 50% or higher increase in the benchmark price for single-family houses.
Niagara Region experienced the highest growth, with the benchmark price for single-family houses almost doubling, with a staggering 95% increase in 5 years to $490,500. This was followed by Hamilton-Burligton (71%), Guelph (63%), Fraser Valley (62%), Ottawa (53%), Greater Toronto (51%), and Victoria (50%).
Montreal, Greater Vancouver and Winnipeg single-family benchmark prices also rose, but at 46%, 28% and 17% respectively.
Our infographic below maps and compares benchmark prices for apartments and single-family houses for each region included in our analysis in August 2020 and August 2015, noting the extent to which prices changed in each region. Further below, find a list of the top regions where it is cheaper to buy an apartment and a single-family house today than it was 5 years ago, and a list of the regions where benchmark prices for apartments and single-family houses have risen the most since August 2015.
Top 3 Regions Where it’s Cheaper to Purchase the Benchmark Apartment Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %)
Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $174,800
5-Year % Difference: -21%
5-Year $ Difference: -$46,900
Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $183,900
5-Year % Difference: -17%
5-Year $ Difference: -$37,300
3. St. John’s
Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $236,200
5-Year % Difference: -16%
5-Year $ Difference: -$43,700
Top 3 Regions Where it’s Cheaper to Purchase the Benchmark Single-Family House Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %)
Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $466,000
5-Year % Difference: -6%
5-Year $ Difference: -$30,800
2. St John’s
Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $271,600
5-Year % Difference: -6%
5-Year $ Difference: -$17,600
Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $377,300
5-Year % Difference: -5%
5-Year $ Difference: -$19,500
Top 3 Regions Where it’s More Expensive to Purchase the Benchmark Apartment Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %)
1. Fraser Valley
Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $437,300
5-Year % Difference: +104%
5-Year $ Difference: +$223,400
2. Niagara Region
Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $354,400
5-Year % Difference: +87%
5-Year $ Difference: +$165,100
3. Greater Toronto
Benchmark Apartment Price, August 2020: $592,900
5-Year % Difference: +78%
5-Year $ Difference: +$259,800
Top 3 Regions Where it’s More Expensive to Purchase the Benchmark Single-Family House Today vs. 5 Years Ago (Based on %)
1. Niagara Region
Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $490,500
5-Year % Difference: +95%
5-Year $ Difference: +$239,300
Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $751,300
5-Year % Difference: +71%
5-Year $ Difference: +$311,300
Benchmark Single-Family House Price, August 2020: $651,600
5-Year % Difference: +63%
5-Year $ Difference: +$251,000
Benchmark apartment and benchmark single-family house prices were sourced from the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Data use to calculate population density was sourced from Calgary Economic Development, City of Edmonton and City of Toronto.
The head of Canada’s national housing agency is asking banks and mortgage companies to stop offering higher-risk mortgages to over-leveraged first-time buyers, because they represent a threat to the economy.
In a letter to officials in the federal government and representatives of Canada’s banking and credit union industry, Evan Siddall, the CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, asked lenders to be more strict about how much money they are willing to lend to fund home purchases, and more diligent about who they are lending to.
The letter was first reported on by financial news channel BNNBloomberg before Siddall released the letter publicly on social media.
“I am asking you to continue to support CMHC’s mortgage insurance activity in preserving a healthy mortgage sector in Canada,” Siddall wrote to the banks, credit unions and other mortgage lenders that make up his customer base.
While the CMHC does not directly loan out money to buy homes, it has a massive influence on Canada’s housing market because it insures a big chunk of the loans that lenders give out.
By law, borrowers with down payments of less than 20 per cent must purchase mortgage insurance to cover potential losses if they default on their loans. Premiums that borrowers must pay for that insurance can add thousands of dollars to the cost of the loan.
The goal was to make it harder to get an insured loan, in the hopes that borrowers already stretched thin would not be able to get one and thus not be able to get in even further over their heads by buying a house they may not be able to afford. But things didn’t quite work out that way.
CMHC is the dominant mortgage insurer, but they do compete with private companies Genworth and Canada Guaranty for business. It’s impossible to downplay CMHC’s outsized impact on the market, however — as of the end of 2019, the crown corporation was on the hook for $429 billion worth of Canadian real estate, by insuring the mortgages on it.
The insurers often move in unison, so in the past any change at CMHC was quickly matched by the other two. But that didn’t happen this time, which means the CMHC’s moves had little impact beyond moving borrowers from CMHC to a competitor. Anyone who was locked out by the CMHC’s higher standards simply got insurance elsewhere where the standards were lower.
In his letter, Siddall pleaded with lenders to work with CMHC to make sure lending standards don’t become even more lax.
“There is no doubt that we have willingly chosen to forego some profitable business that our competitors would find appealing,” Siddall said.
“While we would prefer that our competitors followed our lead for the good of our economy, they nevertheless remain free to offer insurance to those for whom we would not.”
By not tightening lending standards, Siddall warned that the entire economy could be put at risk.
The Switzerland-based Bank of International Settlements, an industry group for central banks around the world, warns that as a rule of thumb, when households have debt loads above 80 per cent of their gross income, it’s bad for the economy.
Canada’s ratio on that front has blown past 100 per cent and is approaching 115 per cent, Siddall warns.
“Too much debt not only increases risk, it therefore slows economic growth.”
CMHC expects house prices to fall
COVID-19 has walloped every facet of the Canadian economy, but broadly speaking, house prices have yet to fall in any meaningful way. Compared to last year, average prices were flat in March and April, before ticking higher, in May and into June.https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/6GnwF/1/
But that is unlikely to continue forever, Siddall warns.
He suggests a big reason that prices are staying high is because massive government spending programs like CERB and CEWS have allowed people to keep their heads above water for now.
But those are set to expire in the coming months, as will the hundreds of thousands of mortgage interest deferrals that banks have doled out.
Once those programs end, bankruptcies and defaults may follow, and that is when prices may decline as new buyers are unable or unwilling to pay ever-higher prices, and sellers behind on their mortgages could become desperate to sell.
“The economic cost of COVID-19 has been postponed by effective government intervention,” he said. “It has not been avoided.”
House prices could fall by about 18 per cent and the impact of COVID-19 will be felt into 2022, the CMHC said recently.
Siddall said that under the current rules, there are loopholes that could allow people to buy houses with negative equity.
Although rare, mortgages for 95 per cent of the home’s value are allowed, and that loan would come with a four per cent capitalized insurance fee. Even a tiny fall in the housing market for someone with that loan would be onerous to withstand, as the homeowner would owe far more on their home than it is worth in reality.
‘Dark economic underbelly’
“In the midst of an economic calamity,” Siddall said, “we risk exposing too many people to foreclosure. These are individual tragedies that also create conditions for exacerbating feedback loops and house price crashes.”
Without naming names, Siddall accuses some in the industry of handing out too many risky loans while ignoring the long-term cost of doing so.
“Please put our country’s long-term outlook ahead of short-term profitablility,” he said.
“There is a dark economic underbelly to this business that I want to expose.
Raymond C. McMillan, BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – June 27, 2020
I read somewhere many years ago that “where there is a crisis, there is always opportunity”. You may be wondering where to find this opportunity. Covid 19, completely obliterated the spring housing market and will probably do the same for the summer market. These are possibly the two busiest period for homebuyers and sellers. With the recent physical and social distancing guidelines introduced and enforced by all levels of government, it has certainly crippled the real estate sector and change the way sellers and buyers engage each other. However, all is not lost as we discover new ways to house hunt and view homes.
Savvy realtors have quickly figured out how to market homes online and are doing virtual tours that allow potential home buyers to get a real life feeling of homes they are interested in viewing or purchasing. New home builders have also quickly adapted and have also made the virtual home buying experience very user friendly and interactive. Many of the floor plans can be configured by you to show the placement of furniture and appliances to get a sense of the available space. With resale homes, you can use the placement of furniture and appliances by the current owner and occupant as a guide. In the event the home is empty, it could be a bit more challenging to get a good sense of the space as a first-time home buyer, but a good realtor should be able to help you with this.
In areas where home showings are still permitted, and if you are comfortable doing them, you mayt want to exercise extreme caution when visiting homes for sale to avoid being exposed or infected by Covid 19. A few of my recommendations to keep yourself safe and reduce exposure are:
Always wear a mask and gloves.
If you have a pre-existing health condition, I would recommend avoid doing in-house viewings
Only visit homes where the current owners or occupants have vacated the homes to allow for the viewing.
Avoid touching personal items and appliances as much as possible.
Do not under any circumstances view a home at the same time with another individual or family not connected to you
Ensure your realtor is also wearing personal protective equipment and maintaining physical and social distancing guidelines.
Practice the necessary hygiene once you have completed your viewing and returned home to eradicate any potential exposure.
If you are uncomfortable with doing in-house viewings stick to virtual viewings. There are many homes being offered that way, and you are sure to find one in your preferred neighborhood, at your desired price that you absolutely love. So be patient and enjoy the home buying journey.
The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com
Raymond C. McMillan, BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – May 17, 2020
In our previous blog we briefly touched on the importance of your credit profile and debt, and how it affects you in the mortgage application process. Your credit profile or credit report gives the lender a snapshot at the way you manage your finances, so they can determine if you are a good or bad credit risk when it comes to lending you money. So how is your credit profile or credit score determined? There are five categories that impact the calculation of your credit score. They are:
Types of Credit
Length of Credit History
Each category has a weight that is used in your credit score calculation and impacts your credit rating.
TYPES OF CREDIT used by you will have an impact on your credit rating. What do we mean by type of credit? Here we are referring to the types of lenders that currently hold any loan you have outstanding. Someone who has finance company credit products and department store credit cards will usually have a lower credit score than someone who uses the financial products of major banks, credit unions and trust companies. Similarly, financing your automobile through the manufacturers finance division or your financial institution will also more positively impact your credit score than using a secondary automotive finance company.
NEW CREDIT also has an impact on your credit score calculation. A high amount of new credit accounts will usually have a lender asking questions. You may wonder why? Usually it is because it is usually an indication of two things, the person has had credit issues in the past and are currently rebuilding their credit rating or they are a credit seeker trying to get access to as much credit as they can in a short space of time. The former is not a major issue for most lenders, providing there is a reasonable explanation, but the latter could be a red flag for some lenders.
LENGTH OF CREDIT HISTORY has a relatively significant impact on your credit score. The longer you have had credit products, the more comfortable the lender will be with you as it displays financial maturity and responsibility. So, it is important to keep that first credit card you ever got with a five hundred dollar credit limit when you sixteen or seventeen years old. While most lenders will want to see a credit profile that is one to two years old, a recent credit profile with a 800 credit score may not be as impressive as a 680 credit score that has reported for more than ten years. Mortagge lenders want to see more than just a high credit score, they want to see how you have managed your debt and credit repayment over an extended period.
AMOUNTS OWED on your credit cards has the second highest impact on calculating your credit score. When applying for a mortgage, lenders are more reluctant to loan money to potential homebuyers who have high amounts of consumer debt – either revolving or instalment. If the amounts owing on your credit cards are at or near the limit for most of the credit reporting cycles, this will significantly lower your credit score. However, of all the variables that impact your credit score, this is perhaps the easiest to remedy. If you have an established credit profile with no payment delinquencies but have credit cards that are all at the limits, paying them off or down to less than half of the credit limit can see your credit score increase by several points in a month to two months.
PAYMENT HISTORY is our final and perhaps most important variable in computing your credit score. The approach here is quite simple – pay your bills on time to maintain a decent credit rating. I always say, “bad things sometimes happen to good people” and these bad things could be anything from job loss to illness to divorce, could significantly affect your ability to pay your bills on time. If you find yourself in any of these situations my advice is to contact your credit grantor and let them know your circumstances so they can work with you and protect your credit rating. It is important to make your payments on time both on your credit cards and instalment loans and avoid late payments and delinquencies. Most mortgage lenders will look at your payment history over the last year or two when reviewing your application to make a lending decision.
Keep in mind a poor credit score is not a life sentence and can be fixed with a few steps. In the case of delinquent debt that has been transferred to a collection company, settling that debt and repairing your credit is a quite simple process.
As a consumer, it is important to check your credit profile periodically to ensure there are no inaccuracies. To check your credit score, you can contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax Phone: 800-685-1111, Experian Phone: 888- 397-3742 and TransUnion Phone: 800-909-8872.
The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant and principal of The McMillan Group who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com
Raymond C. McMillan BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – May 4, 2020
A few years ago, I was listening to a program on a local television station and they were discussing the benefits of investing in the stock market and renting over buying your own home. The guest on the program believed it made more sense to pay rent and invest in the stock market, than purchase a home. Then the TV host asked him if he owned his own home, and he responded “yes”. At that point, I turned the television off.
Many will say that in some cases homeownership is overrated. I strongly disagree. Owning a home is one of the fastest ways to grow your net worth and start the journey to creating generational wealth. Not only is growing your net worth important but it is a proven fact that children who grow up in homes, display better overall social character traits.
Buying your first home is much easier than you think, if you have a plan. There are four basic steps in the journey of homeownership. These are: understanding your credit and debt, your down payment, your employment and sources of income, and finding the right home
Understanding Your Credit and Debt: Your credit plays an important role in purchasing your home. Your credit profile or credit report gives the lender a snapshot of the way you manage your finances which determines if you are a good or bad credit risk when it comes to lending you money. This is done by reviewing your credit report. Your credit report is made up of information collected by three agencies and is shared with lenders. The agencies are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. The agencies use a scoring system to determine your credit worthiness. The score ranges from 360 to 850, with 360 being the worse score and 850 being the best. Ideally your score should be within the range of 620 to 750*. The credit score is determined by how well you pay your bills and how much is owed on credit cards and instalment loans. If your bills are not paid in a timely manner, and you carry high credit card balances, your credit score will be lower. If your bills are paid on time and you have low outstanding balances on your credit cards, you will have a higher credit score. To check your credit score, you can contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax Phone: 800-685-1111, Experian Phone: 888- 397-3742 and TransUnion Phone: 800-909-8872.
Down Payment: The next step in the home purchasing journey is having your down payment. Your down payment is the required funds the lender needs you to have to qualify for the home you are purchasing. This can range from 3% – 20% of the home purchase price. The minimum amount of down payment required is 3% of the purchase price of the home. Therefore, if you are purchasing a home for $300,000.00, your minimum required down payment will be a minimum of $9,000.00. Where do you get these funds? It could be a gift from family, money you saved over time or a loan. If it is a loan, you will have to ensure that you are still able to qualify for the mortgage with this additional debt. Once you decide to go house hunting you will be required to have this money readily available. Remember, you will also need money for your closing costs. These closing costs include but are not limited to your lender fees and title fees.
Employment and Sources of Income: The lender will look at are your income sources. This will allow them to understand your ability to pay for the home you intend to purchase. Prior to beginning your search for a home, you should examine your budget to determine how much you can comfortably afford to pay monthly for your mortgage. Remember, home ownership should be enjoyable, not a stressful experience. So, what are the main income sources? These include salary and hourly wages, commission income, self employed income, alimony and child support, investment income, pension income and income from a trust. Note any sources of income that are used for the mortgage application, will be validated by the lender.
Your Home: This is without a doubt the most exciting part of the home buying process, and the one that needs careful analysis. Now that you have knowledge of our credit rating, have your down payment and have been pre-approved based on your income, it is time to determine what home works best for you. My recommendation is to assess your needs. If you are single a condo may work best. If you have a young family, then it many be important to have a backyard for the children. If you work in the city, it may be important to be close to transit. There is much to be considered when determining where to buy your first home. You want to ensure the neighbourhood works for you, because you may be there for a while. Some things to consider are: is it close to transit? What are the schools like if you have school age children? How close or far it is from your family and friends? What is the crime statistics like? Is it a declining or improving neighbourhood? Are there parks and cycling and running trails close by? I am sure you have some of your own things to add to this list.
Now that the four steps have been outlined, it is now time to put your home buying team together.
The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com
When it comes to real estate, the more you spend, the more money everyone makes. And it happens on every level of your home purchase.
The costs start adding up once you find the perfect place. According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents get paid by taking a percentage of the purchase price of your home. In other words, the more you spend, the bigger the payday. And the bigger the loan, the higher the closing costs and borrowing fees tend to be – a benefit that goes directly from your pocket to your lender’s.
In case you were wondering, this is why your real estate professional may pay little attention when you tell them you only want to spend X number of dollars on a new home. It’s not that they aren’t professional, or that they don’t care about your financial situation; it’s just that they only stand to benefit if your budget creeps up a few dollars here or there.
And what’s a few thousand dollars between friends?
Budgeting for Your Priorities
I know – I’ve been there. When my husband and I moved to a new town last year, our income qualified us to spend 300% more than we planned. And even though we told our Realtor what our intentions were, it didn’t stop her from suggesting houses outside our comfort zone. In fact, I remember having plenty of conversations about it, and getting advice like this:
“You know, for every $1,000 you spend, your payment will only go up $16.”
“Your kids are getting older – you need a house you can grow into.”
“Interest rates are so low. You can get a lot more house for your money in today’s market.”
In the end, we bought exactly what we wanted, and actually spent less than we planned. And it didn’t end up that way just because we’re cheap; we based our decision on our shared beliefs and goals.
Still, the principles that steered us toward a less expensive home don’t just apply to us; they could apply to your situation, too. There are some really good arguments against borrowing as much as you possibly can. Here are some of them:
What Goes Up Might Come Down
Decades ago, most people believed housing prices would keep climbing for eternity. I remember my mom telling me years ago that, when she and my dad bought their first home, their Realtor pushed them to borrow as much as possible.
“The more you buy, the more appreciation you will see over time,” they were told.
And that notion made sense at the time. After all, land is a limited commodity, and a growing population will always need somewhere to live. Housing prices should go up forever, in theory. The problem? Just because they should doesn’t mean they will stay that way.
In fact, the housing crisis of 2007-08 proved that market corrections are somewhat inevitable. Although some regions remained relatively unscathed, housing prices dropped an average of 30% nationwide. According to Forbes, some of the most overvalued housing markets, such as Las Vegas, saw housing values drop as much as 60% from 2006 to 2011. And other big markets followed suit. For example, the Chicago area witnessed a 40% drop in real estate prices, Detroit endured a 50% correction, and Phoenix saw housing prices plummet as much as 56%.
If you plan on living in your home forever, you may not care how much your new house will be worth. But what if you need to move?
Need an example? Picture this: Two families are shopping for a house in the same neighborhood. Family A drops $400,000 on their dream home, while Family B spends only $200,000. If housing prices drop 20% over the next two years, which family will be better off? (Hint: Family A would lose twice as much equity as Family B — a difference of $80,000!)
Bigger House? Expect Everything to Cost More
But even if housing prices go up, some costs are inevitable. No matter how much house you buy, the sticker price is only one piece of the puzzle. And when you buy a bigger or more expensive home, almost everything costs more.
For example, more space generally means more square footage to heat and cool — in other words, higher utility bills. And nicer, more expensive properties almost always mean higher property taxes and pricier homeowners insurance premiums.
But that’s not all. A bigger house means everything is bigger and more expensive to repair. A bigger roof will cost more than a small one, and the more windows you have, the more expensive it will be to upgrade or replace them. Flooring is typically priced by the square foot, so more carpet and tile will always lead to higher costs. A bigger yard means more landscaping and a longer driveway means more concrete to pour. The list goes on, and all of those additional costs can add up quick.
Kids Need More Than Room: They Need Money
It’s true that kids may benefit from some extra space in the house. They’ll need a place to bring friends when they come over to visit, and it’s always nice when teenagers are able to have their own room.
But you know what’s better? Having money to help your kids through college. Being able to afford a really nice family vacation each year. Having the extra money to pay for the important things your kids will inevitably start asking for as they grow older – fees for school trips, sports, and activities, spending money for weekends, and even their first car.
Buying a house you can easily afford can mean the difference between having extra money for your kid’s changing needs and being house-poor and unable to afford much of anything. That bonus room above the garage might be nice, but not so much when you consider what you had to give up.
Don’t Forget to Save for Everything Else
Speaking of giving things up, the extra money for a bigger house payment has to come from somewhere. By and large, Americans have large houses but tiny bank accounts. According to a recent survey, the average middle-class worker has a median savings of around $20,000 for retirement. Further, a full third of working middle-class adults aren’t contributing anything to retirement at all – not in a 401(k), Roth IRA, or any other retirement savings vehicle.
The poll in question, which was conducted by Harris Poll and included 1,001 middle-class adults ages 25 to 75, also proved we aren’t great at planning ahead. According to results shared in USA Today, around 55% of participants planned to save more for retirement when they’re older to make up for any shortfalls.
If a bad idea ever existed, that would surely be it. Why? Because compound interest needs time to work its magic – and the later you start saving, the less power it will have.
Simply put, if you want to retire one day, you need to start saving today — or maybe yesterday. Not doing so will only cause you grief down the line or delay your retirement altogether. Simply put, when you buy a house that is unaffordable, you will have fewer dollars to sock away for your future self.
Your Mortgage Doesn’t Have to Be Forever
Most people get a 30-year mortgage and pay that monthly payment until the cows come home. Unfortunately, that usually means they never really own a home until the bitter end.
But wait – do people really stay in their homes for 30 years anymore? According to the National Association of Home Builders, the answer is no. In fact, recent data show the average family only stays in their home for around 12 years.
So if you opt for a 30-year-mortgage each time you move, it could easily mean you’ll be making that monthly payment your entire life. Frugal friends, is there anything more depressing than that?
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way, which leads me to the next reason it makes sense to borrow less than you can afford. Obviously, the less you borrow, the faster you may be able to pay it off. And if you buy a house that is on the lower end of your budget, you may even be able to afford the monthly payment on a home loan with a shorter term.
Imagine paying your house off within 15 years and all of the financial freedom that would afford you. Big, expensive houses may have their own set of benefits, but being debt-free will be priceless.
When Life Happens, You’ll Be Prepared
Good health, youth, and job security are often fleeting. In other words, the amazing standard of living you’re experiencing now isn’t guaranteed to last. Further, a study from 2014 showed that as many as 25 million middle-class families are living paycheck to paycheck, meaning they might only be one illness – or one job loss – away from losing it all.
Look at the monthly financial obligations you have and ask yourself how you would meet them if you or your spouse lost your job, got in a debilitating accident, or experienced any other hardship that resulted in a loss of pay. Would you be okay? Could you easily afford your bills? If the answer is no, then you should try to buy even less house than you have now, and certainly not more!
The bottom line: Tragedies happen every day, but if you leave some breathing room in your monthly budget, you will be much more equipped to take them in stride. And if something unfortunate happens to one of you, having a small, manageable payment might mean the difference between keeping your home – and losing everything.
Deciding on a Price Range You Can Live With
Most mortgage companies believe your total debts should make up no more than 36% of your total gross income in any given year. So when they decide how much you qualify to borrow, they use that figure as a guideline. While other liabilities such as car payments, child support, taxes, and insurance can eat into that amount, 36% is still a pretty generous place to start.
The thing is, even the best mortgage lenders don’t know what kind of lifestyle you live. It doesn’t know if you want to help your kids with college, or if you prefer to take two family vacations every year. They’ve never listened to you talk about your dream to retire early and spend your golden years as you wish. To them, you’re just a number on a page. And they’ll be long gone by the time you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
That’s why it’s up to each of us to decide what we can truly afford to borrow. It’s up to each of us to set a price range we can live with, and not just one we can live with today, but tomorrow, too.
It all boils down to choices; when you spend less than you can afford, you have them, and when you overspend, you don’t. Just remember to look beyond this year, and even this decade, when you make that choice. You might be giving up more than you think.
Housing affordability is becoming a top priority for voters in the upcoming federal election, says Penelope Graham, managing editor at Zoocasa.
“However, given the vast geographical size of Canada and its many market nuances, buyers’ ability to purchase a home varies widely depending on local prices and incomes,” says Graham. “The Canadian Real Estate Association has noted a growing gap between price growth in Eastern and Western Canada, with improved affordability concentrated in the Prairie markets, as well as parts of the Maritimes.”
Zoocasa conducted a study to find out how feasible it would be for households on a median income to purchase real estate in Canada, finding median-income households would be able to afford the local benchmark-priced home in eight markets of the 15 markets studied.
“In the remaining seven, a median-income earner wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage large enough to fund their home purchase and would need to supplement it with a hefty downpayment, which, in some urban centres, would require a savings timeline that spans decades, assuming they set aside 20 percent of their total income each year,” says Graham.
In determining the extent of affordability for median-income households, Zoocasa calculated the maximum mortgage they’d qualify for in each region, assuming a three-percent interest rate, 25-year amortization and that the equivalent of one percent of the total home purchase price would be put toward annual property taxes. An additional $100 per month for heating costs was also factored into the calculation.
“Similar to CREA’s observations, Zoocasa’s calculations reveal housing affordability is most prevalent in the Prairies, accounting for five of the most affordable markets,” says Graham. “In these cities, home buyers with a median income would qualify for a large enough mortgage to purchase the average or benchmark priced home, so long as they have the required minimum downpayment of five percent.”
A median income wouldn’t get far in the British Columbia and Ontario real estate markets, says Graham..
“In Greater Vancouver, where the benchmark home price is $993,300, a median-income household earning $72,662 would qualify for a mortgage of only $241,994, leaving a shortfall of $751,306, 76 percent of the total purchase price. That would take a household setting aside 20 percent of their income annually a total of 52 years to save the required funds,” she says. “Fraser Valley and the Greater Toronto real estate markets round out the steepest three, requiring median-income households to come up with 70 percent and 63 percent of purchase prices of $823,300 and $802,400, respectively, requiring prospective buyers to save for 42 and 32 years, respectively.”
Top 5 Most Affordable Cities for Median Income Households
The use of Canada’s benchmark rate in administering the mortgage stress test is currently under review, according to an official with the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI).
In a speech to the C.D. Howe Institute, Ben Gully Assistant Superintendent, Regulation Sector, said the use of the benchmark qualifying rate as the floor of Guideline B-20 stress testing for uninsured mortgages is “not playing the role that we intended.”
Uninsured mortgages (those with more than 20% down payment) are currently stress-tested on the higher of the borrower’s contract rate plus 200 bps, or the benchmark rate, which is currently 5.19%.
“For many years, our data showed the difference between the benchmark rate and the average contract rate was about 2%. This provided a healthy buffer,” Gully said. “However, the difference between the average contract rate and the benchmark has been widening more recently, suggesting that the benchmark is less responsive to market changes than when it was first proposed.”
Indeed, fixed mortgage rates have been on a downward trajectory since the beginning of 2019.
What likely won’t be changing is OSFI’s use of the contract rate plus 200 basis points for stress testing uninsured mortgages. “This helps borrowers and lenders manage a sudden change in circumstances such as an income loss, increased interest rates, and/or additional expenses,” Gully said. “This will therefore remain a key part of OSFI’s guideline B-20.”
Gully added that “while we are aware of contrary opinions, “institutions, markets and borrowers have all come to see the value of a qualifying rate even if there remains debate about the appropriate level of responsiveness.”
“It’s an interesting acknowledgement [by OSFI] that the BoC posted rate is now possibly too stringent a test given our market rates,” Paul Taylor, President and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada told CMT. “This is very encouraging for the marketplace and own lobby efforts.”
In his speech, Gully also provided OSFI’s take on other aspects of the mortgage industry.
For mortgage renewals, existing lenders don’t typically re-underwrite the loan if the borrower is current with their payments. “OSFI sees this as a reasonable practice…” Gully said. “However, we do expect lenders to update their risk analysis throughout the life of the loan.”
“We will continue to look at this issue closely through regular reporting on rates for new originations and renewals,” he added. “If we see outliers, then we will follow up directly with lenders to understand why this is happening and what they are doing about it.”
OSFI recognizes that combined loan products, such as HELOCs, “can make adding more risk easy for borrowers,” Gully said, adding that, “OSFI is concerned that some lenders may be taking on more risk than they bargained for with these open-ended commitments.”
The problem, he noted, is that loan products such as HELOCs can conceal increasing debt loads while payments remain the same.
“This can make assessing credit quality more difficult for lenders,” he said. “We are working with the Bank of Canada to collect data to assess the potential vulnerabilities of these products as well as the larger market and economic issues.”