Mortgages and Condo Conversions
One of my favourite adages in the real estate business is they arent building land anymore. This is a great metaphor to explain the huge home price increases we have seen the past few years. Its also why I tell my clients in Toronto that buying a house with a backyard is a great investment! I point to this adage when explaining the boom in condo construction. Simply, there isnt enough land and not enough houses. People need a place to live close to work that has some transit options. If they cant find a house, than a condo may be a good viable option.
We Have seen lots ofactivity in Toronto over the years revolving around the conversion of rental apartments to condominiums. Its an investment strategy for those building owners to liquidate an assets at often times at a bigger profit multiplier than simply selling the building. This post starts to explore what does it mean when a building is converted and more importantly are there mortgage issues relating to these conversions?
A building is converted when the ownership is transferred to a condominium corporation. To do this in Ontario, the owner of the building must meet many requirements before the condominium structure is approved by the province. Im not going to go into the legal details, but one important step is the establishment of a reserve fund.
A reserve fund is a pool of money established for the future maintenance needs of the building. Mostly it deals the the costly capital expenditures required to keep the building in good repair. Think new roofs, re-surfacing of parking lots, upgrading of fire sprinklers, etc. Things that cost a lot of money - millions of dollars for big buildings! The reserve fund is established using calculations set forth by the regulators, and then part of your condo fees go towards the strengthening of the fund. Your condo fees arent just to pay for the security guard at the front door, and new plants outside!
Looking at how much the buildings condo fees is an excellent indication of the health of the reserve fund. These fees that are established/increased by the condo board are not only for day to day costs, but also future major capital fixes, like a new roof. High fees mean extra services, or more likely in older building a higher allocation to the reserve fund.
Condo boards on a semi regular basis hire engineers and contractors to look at the building and estimate the economic life of major systems and the cost to replace them. Using the roof example again, the condo board knows how much more life the roof has before it needs to be replaced, and how much its going to cost to replace it. They then will start budgeting for the repair many years before it needs to be done. Reviewing the condo board minutes (which tell you expected future repairs), and the value of the reserve fund indicates if there is enough money to cover these expected repairs. A healthy fund has enough money.. A fund that is in trouble is considered to be under capitalized, meaning not enough money has been set aside for expected repairs. Your lawyer will review these documents and let you know what kind of shape the condo board and its reserve fund are in.
When a fund is under capitalize this is a serious issue. What does it mean for an expected buyer? Expect higher condo fees in the future, or a one time assessment where all owners need to come up with an extra chunk of money. If a new roof is going to cost $500,000 and there is only $200,000 available in the fund, its you and your fellow owners that need to come up with shortfall. If there are 100 units, that and extra $3,000 cheque you will be writing! You can imagine how High these assessments can become when multiple things need to be fixed/replaced in a short time frame.
What does it mean for your mortgage lender? Remember they are lending on the security of the building, as well how easy it would be for them to sell the unit it they have to. A building with a bad roof isnt as valuable. A building with high fees wont sell as quickly. All in all, an under capitalized reserve fund is probably the riskiest thing for them. Expect to have some serious issues getting a mortgage.
So why is this so important with condo conversions? Simply put, older buildings need more repairs. More repairs mean higher fees, and a higher chance of extra one time assessments. They are simply less desirable and pose a higher financial risk. So why do people buy conversions? Price! Always remember that sometimes a deal that seems too good to be true probably isnt. Yes you can still buy a condo conversion in Toronto for $125,000! You can imagine the state of repair of the building, and the the health of the condo reserve fund. One recent example saw condo fees for a one bedroom unit being $820 a month. Pretty high for a $120,000 unit.
Im going to leave the question of is this building a good deal to the real estate and legal experts on your home buying team. However, as your mortgage advsior, I need you to know what to expect. As a general rule of thumb, I tell my clients two things when looking at a condo in Toronto. One, if the pice is under $250,000, this may mean there are issues with the overall value of the building and its fund. Second, any condo fee over $0.75 per square foot is going to give you problems. For conversions, the number in my experience is closer to $0.50. You get what you pay for.. Extra services like a concierge, guest suite, pool, gym, etc. will obviously mean higher fees. But if you see higher fees and no extra services, thats your indication reserve fund issues!
Lenders will really start to question high condo fees. Expect that they will want to review condo documents before an approval.
Here is a well know secret.. Our mortgage insurers in Canada (CMHC, Genworth, Canada Guarantee) review condo building on a regular basis, and keep detailed lists on buildings that have reserve fund issues. Banks have access to these lists and then come up with there own do not lend on lists of buildings.
When you are looking at a condo conversion to buy, the first thing I do is contact the insurers to see if they will insure that building. I will then speak to some banks to see if they will lend on that building. If we are good, I will tell you that. You still have to decide if the condo fees are worth what you are getting, and your lawyer still needs to review and approve the condo documents. If one of the insures says no we have concerns with that building, then options become limited. Expect that not all banks and lenders will lend on that building; meaning you may not qualify for the lowest rates out there. Also expect that you may need to come up with a higher downpayment.
Regardless of the building, you will get approved... But at what price?
Im one recent case, only one Big Bank was lending in a particular building. My client ended up paying a higher rate (extra 20 bps) because that bank knew there was no competition. In another case, no big bank was lending in a building. This meant my client had to go with a private mortgage with 35% down payment and a 9% rate. Was it still a good deal for them? Yes, because the mortgage payment and condo fees were still lower than there current rent.
The vast majority of condos in Toronto are perfectly fine. Just beware when you see high condo fees combined with a low selling price. Ask your realtor about the condo reserve fund. Speak to your mortgage professional about that particular building. Its always best to know if there will be any issues, and options to over come; before you put in that offer.
This is an exciting time looking for your home. Lets work together to make it a smooth process.
Is a home equity line of credit right for you?
(NC) Buying a new home is an exciting but often stressful experience. The variety of financing options now offered by lenders is overwhelming.
One of the most popular options is a home equity line of credit. With interest rates typically lower than other forms of credit, this line of credit can help you reach your financial goals. However, there are several factors to consider when deciding if this product is right for you.
Banks market home equity lines of credit under different names, which might make it challenging to recognize when you are being offered one. They are commonly combined with a regular term mortgage in the form of a readvanceable mortgage.
When combined this way, the credit limit on your home equity line of credit will often increase automatically as you pay down the principal on your mortgage. A readvanceable mortgage may also tie together other credit and banking products such as personal loans, credit cards and car loans under a single credit limit.
Benefits of bundling these products together include convenience and lower interest rates. But the downsides include fees and restrictions if you want to switch to another lender, and variable interest rates that could increase on short notice. Your financial institution also has the right to demand that you pay the full amount owing at any time.
When deciding if this lending product is right for you, remember that your home is likely your biggest investment. You should beware of overborrowing against its equity, especially if youre counting on it to fund your retirement.
Most lenders allow you to make interest-only payments on your home equity line of credit, making it easier to delay repaying the principal balance, explains Lucie Tedesco, commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Continually borrowing against your homes equity without repaying the principal can jeopardize your long-term financial security. For instance, in the event of a housing market correction you might owe more than what your home is worth.
Ask yourself if a low interest rate and easy access to credit may encourage you to spend more than you can afford to pay back. You could find yourself in a debt spiral, using additional home equity just to stay current on your mortgage. This could make you more vulnerable to unforeseeable events, like job loss, illness or an interest rate hike.
Consider creating your own plan to pay down the principal amount borrowed over a fixed period. Aim to pay more than the minimum payment or interest every month. With a home equity line of credit, there is usually no penalty to pay back as much as you can at any time.
Find more information online at canada.ca/money.
Bank of Canada increases overnight rate target to 3/4 per cent
The Bank of Canada is raising its target for the overnight rate to 3/4 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 per cent and the deposit rate is 1/2 per cent. Recent data have bolstered the Banks confidence in its outlook for above-potential growth and the absorption of excess capacity in the economy. The Bank acknowledges recent softness in inflation but judges this to be temporary. Recognizing the lag between monetary policy actions and future inflation, Governing Council considers it appropriate to raise its overnight rate target at this time.
The global economy continues to strengthen and growth is broadening across countries and regions. The US economy was tepid in the first quarter of 2017 but is now growing at a solid pace, underpinned by a robust labour market and stronger investment. Above-potential growth is becoming more widespread in the euro area. However, elevated geopolitical uncertainty still clouds the global outlook, particularly for trade and investment. Meanwhile, world oil prices have softened as markets work toward a new supply/demand balance.
Canadas economy has been robust, fuelled by household spending. As a result, a significant amount of economic slack has been absorbed. The very strong growth of the first quarter is expected to moderate over the balance of the year, but remain above potential. Growth is broadening across industries and regions and therefore becoming more sustainable. As the adjustment to lower oil prices is largely complete, both the goods and services sectors are expanding. Household spending will likely remain solid in the months ahead, supported by rising employment and wages, but its pace is expected to slow over the projection horizon. At the same time, exports should make an increasing contribution to GDP growth. Business investment should also add to growth, a view supported by the most recent Business Outlook Survey.
The Bank estimates real GDP growth will moderate further over the projection horizon, from 2.8 per cent in 2017 to 2.0 per cent in 2018 and 1.6 per cent in 2019. The output gap is now projected to close around the end of 2017, earlier than the Bank anticipated in its April Monetary Policy Report (MPR).
CPI inflation has eased in recent months and the Banks three measures of core inflation all remain below 2 per cent. The factors behind soft inflation appear to be mostly temporary, including heightened food price competition, electricity rebates in Ontario, and changes in automobile pricing. As the effects of these relative price movements fade and excess capacity is absorbed, the Bank expects inflation to return to close to 2 per cent by the middle of 2018. The Bank will continue to analyze short-term inflation fluctuations to determine the extent to which it remains appropriate to look through them.
Governing Council judges that the current outlook warrants todays withdrawal of some of the monetary policy stimulus in the economy. Future adjustments to the target for the overnight rate will be guided by incoming data as they inform the Banks inflation outlook, keeping in mind continued uncertainty and financial system vulnerabilities.
The next scheduled date for announcing the overnight rate target is September 6, 2017. The next full update of the Banks outlook for the economy and inflation, including risks to the projection, will be published in the MPR on October 25, 2017.