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DECODING THE MORTGAGE MARKET Mortgage rates today are way below normal. Or are they?
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty called Canada’s low interest rates an “anomaly” last week, echoing warnings that other government officials have been making since 2009. But one of the country’s best-known economists believes today’s rates are closer to normal than many think.Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC, caught viewers off guard in a recent webcast with a mortgage company TMG The Mortgage Group. Whereas most economists have been calling for the Bank of Canada to lift its 1 per cent key lending rate back to a more normal 3 per cent, Mr. Tal thinks that these days, “normal” is significantly less.“The speed limit of the economy has been permanently reduced,” Tal said. Inflation, the key rate threat, is extraordinarily low at 1.1 per cent. And the pace of economic growth is in a long-run downtrend, with few signs of bucking that trend.Consequently, “The new normal is much lower interest rates than there used to be…The new normal would be maybe another 100-125 basis points (above today), not more than that.”If true, this would suggest that prime rate - the basis for variable mortgage rates – will average just 4 to 4.25 per cent over the long term, a big departure from the roughly 5 per cent prime rate that most economists forecast as “normal.”Saving ¾ of a percentage point, over the long-term, would have enormous impact on the finances of regular Canadians. Over five years alone, it would put $11,000 of interest back in people’s pockets on the average home purchase, with 20 per cent down. If you’re financially secure, that makes shorter-term and variable-rate mortgages worth a close look.In an email with Mr. Tal about his call, he was careful to point out that “the new normal is a theoretical rate.”“There is a big difference between the actual and theoretical rate,” he said. “In practice, rates tend to overshoot or undershoot. So it is possible that rates will rise by more than that, possibly to 3 per cent.”Presumably, if his model is correct, rates would then revert back down to the mean and cycle around that 4.25 per cent prime rate number.Regardless of how accurate Mr. Tal’s forecast proves to be, the odds are decent that the prime rate will remain almost two percentage points below its 6.89 per cent 30-year average. That’s in keeping with the Bay Street consensus. But more importantly, it’s reflective of Canada’s new realities: contained inflation and modest economic growth.“Variable will probably do better in this environment...if you have a five-year time horizon.” But long-term interest rates will be “permanently higher” five years from now, Tal predicts.If Mr. Tal’s estimate of a 4 to 4.25 per cent prime rate does pan out, variable rates could save people more than fixed rates over the long-run, as they have for decades. And even if “normal” turns out to be a 5 per cent prime rate (which is closer to most economic forecasts), variables should still come out on top over the long term.The question is, what happens between now and the time that rates “normalize.”Today you can find variable rates at prime – 0.5 per cent (i.e., 2.5 per cent) and five-year fixed rates at 3.49 per cent. Let’s assume that rates shoot up in 2015 as economists expect (an expectation that changes with the wind) and that they increase two percentage points over the two years that follow.In the hypothetical scenario laid out above, those of you shopping for a mortgage may find extra value in two particular terms:A three-year fixed mortgage: If you can find one in the 2.75 per cent range or better, it’s a compelling option. It gives you meaningful savings for three years (when compared to terms of four years or more). It also provides insulation from rate increases for three years. Compared to a five-year fixed mortgage, rates would have to be 2.25 percentage points higher at renewal for you to lose on this strategy. That assumes you make equal payments in all cases and renew into a two-year fixed (which adds up to five years total). Betting against a 225 basis point hike in three years is a wager that most strong borrowers should make.A hybrid (50/50) mortgage: Despite our personal beliefs, rates are impossible to foretell with accuracy. A hybrid mortgage removes the guesswork, cuts your risk of rising rates in half and lets you participate in today’s low variable rates. This strategy involves putting 50 per cent of your mortgage in a five-year variable and 50 per cent in a five-year fixed, netting you a starting rate under 3 per cent. It also gives you more flexibility than a five-year fixed by letting you refinance early with a lower potential penalty, and letting you lock in the variable rate at any time.Keep in mind, these strategies are primarily based on hypothetical interest cost. They’re also suited mainly to well-qualified borrowers with sound finances, stable employment and a five-year time horizon. Your situation may be different so as always, make sure to do your own research on what works best for you.Robert McLister is the editor of CanadianMortgageTrends.com and a mortgage planner at VERICO intelliMortgage, a mortgage brokerage. You can also follow him on twitter at @CdnMortgageNews.Source:ROBERT MCLISTERSpecial to The Globe and MailPublished Sunday, Nov. 10 2013, 10:47 PM ESTLast updated Monday, Nov. 11 2013, 10:32 AM EST
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.