Home Buying Rules Tightened
Home Buying Rules are Tightened
The federal government recently announced new rules that are targeted at reducing risks in the housing market by limiting foreign money into real estate and ensuring that borrowers take on mortgages they can afford. Years of low interest rates and shifting attitudes towards debt and indebtedness have had an impact upon the housing market with house prices rising significantly in some markets. The measures outlined below are designed to reinforce the Canadian housing finance system, to protect the long term financial security of borrowers and to improve tax fairness for Canadian homeowners.
1. New qualifying terms for Insured Mortgages.
As of October 17, 2016 ALL insured mortgages will be required to undergo stringent stress testing by lenders. Lenders require a mortgage to be insured when the borrowers down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price or the appraised value of the home. Under the new rules, insured mortgages with a fixed term of 5 years or longer will be required to qualify at the 5 year benchmark rate of 4.64% even though their contract rate is significantly lower. This measure is aimed at ensuring that homeowners can meet their debt obligations should interest rates begin to rise. Up to now, only mortgages with variable interest rates or fixed interest rates with terms less than 5 years were required to meet this rule.
Homeowners with an existing insured mortgage or those renewing existing insured mortgages will not affected by this measure and individuals who have already applied for mortgage insurance are also exempt from the new rules.
This will have a significant impact on buyers. For example, a hypothetical borrower with an $80,000 annual income and a 5% down payment could qualify today for a house worth $500,000 at a 5 year fixed rate of 2.49%. But under the new rules, the same buyer could only qualify to buy a home worth $385,000. The lender will still be willing to offer the lower rate but they are tested as though the mortgage rate is twice as high as it really is.
2. New Qualifying Rules for Low Ratio Mortgages or Mortgages Backed by Portfolio Insurance
On November 30, 2016, new rules will also come into effect for mortgages with 20% or MORE down which are backed by government insurance and sold as Mortgage Backed Securities or through the Canadian Mortgage Bond. Mortgages that lenders now insure (at their cost) using portfolio insurance and other discretionary low loan-to-value ratio mortgage insurance, must meet the same criteria applicable to high-ratio insured mortgages. These measures which include refinances, renewals, amortizations over 25 years, rental or investment properties and mortgages over $1 million that can no longer be insured and securitized will severely affect our non-bank lenders and reduce and possibly remove any competiveness in the market as the big banks are not required to adopt these changes at this point. This will quite possibly drive up rates for consumers and cut competition in the lending sector. An existing mortgage holder who qualified in the past and is now facing mortgage renewal will be forced to renew with existing lender at the rate offered or move to a bank where competitiveness may no longer exist.
3. Improving Tax Fairness and Closing Loopholes
Proposed changes to the tax rules would ensure that the principal residence capital gains exemption is not abused. The federal government will be tightening the loop holes in the tax laws that allow non-residents to buy a home in Canada, and then get a tax exemption to avoid paying capital gains when they sell the home by claiming it as their principal residence. An individual who was not a resident in Canada in the year the individual acquired a residence will not be able to claim the exemption for that year.
Housing Market Digest by Will Dunning, Economist for Mortgage Professionals Canada
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) now requires that all residential mortgages by federally-regulated lenders must be stress-tested, at two percentage points above the contract interest rate (or the 5- year posted rate, if that is higher). In combination with the requirements for mortgage insurance, about 90% of all new mortgages will be tested.
This can be expected to reduce housing activity by 10-15%. It is on top of the impact from recent rises for mortgage interest rates (another 5-10% drop in activity). The combined 15-25% drop in housing activity will affect the broader economy.
In two years, employment could be 150,000-250,000 lower than it would otherwise be. There is a risk that house prices will fall. In a modern economy, a sustained drop in house prices is one of the most dangerous things that can happen: as happened in the US a decade ago, falling house prices can turn into widespread economic decline.
Resale activity recovered a bit more in September, to 492,900, due to partial rebounds in BC and Ontario. Activity is flat in most other areas.
CREAs House Price Index was flat in September. The year-over-year change is now 10.7% (down from the peak of 19.7% that was seen in April).
The sales-to-new-listings ratio (SNLR) was 55.7% in September, slightly above the balanced market threshold of 51%. This indicator points to an outlook for stable prices (at worst). But, as noted, OSFIs stress test policy creates a risk of falling prices.
We should, in general, expect that resale activity will trend upwards over time, because the population is growing and the housing inventory is expanding. Therefore, it is useful to look at sales on a per capita basis. Recent activity is below the long-term average.
Employment increased by 35,000 in October
In October, employment rose for youth aged 15 to 24, while it was little changed for the core-aged population of 25- to- 54 year-olds, and for people 55 and older. The largest employment increase was in Quebec, followed by Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick. At the same time, there was a decline in Saskatchewan.
Employment rose in several industries, led by other services; construction; information, culture and recreation; and agriculture. Employment declined in wholesale and retail trade.
The number of private sector employees increased in October, while public sector employment and self-employment were little changed.