It PAYS to shop around.
Many Canadian homeowners pay too much for their homes because they are not getting the best mortgage financing available in the market.
The mortgage process can be intimidating for homeowners, and some financial institutions don't make the process any easier.
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Keep it Simple
Keep it simple when buying a houseSpring is here, which means increased activity in the real estate market. If you are thinking of buying a house, keep these simple tips in mind.Decide whether the time is right for you to buy – “If you currently own a house, you should buy and sell at the same time, which will help ensure you don’t sell low and buy high,” explains Chartered Professional Accountant Eli Palachi, a partner with Crowe Soberman LLP in Toronto. “If you are a first-time purchaser, try to buy when you can secure low mortgage rates so that your monthly cash outflow is lower.”Determine what you can afford – “Establish a budget that includes the cost of the new house and then try living with that budget for a while to make sure you won’t become financially strapped and end up house rich and cash poor,” advises Chartered Professional Accountant Albert Yu, a sales representative with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd. in Toronto. “Mortgage rates are at historically low levels these days. But keep in mind that every one-per-cent increase in interest rates means you can buy 10-per-cent less house.” Yu says your budget should also include other costs, including a rainy day fund that covers three to six months’ worth of expenses, retirement savings and a children’s education fund. Your Chartered Accountant can help you set up a realistic budget and help with decisions on how to finance a house purchase.Don’t forget to factor in the hidden costs – “In addition to the price of the house itself, your other costs include legal fees associated with closing the sale, adjustments for property tax and utilities, the land transfer tax, mortgage fees, house appraisal fees and moving,” says Palachi. “If you are buying a bigger house, you may also have higher insurance costs.”Shop around for the best mortgage rate – “Speak to several banks to see what their rates are,” says Palachi. “It doesn’t hurt to get an idea of what competitive rates are, and banks don’t charge a fee or commission for securing financing. Your CA can also introduce you to mortgage officials at the bank.” If you are going to shop around for rates, Yu cautions against signing several applications that would result in a credit check. “Your credit score will decrease if too many checks are done at once,” he explains.Make the biggest down payment you can afford – “You must pay at least 20 per cent of the purchase price down to avoid a high-ratio mortgage and paying one-time Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation premiums,” explains Yu. A larger down payment will also lower your monthly payments.
Similar Housing Demand Conditions in Canada and US
Housing markets in Canada and the US are sizzling. Recent headlines have used superlatives to describe housing market conditions in both countries and the data do back this up. Still, a closer look reveals some interesting distinctions as well. Home price and sales metrics show that while the US market is hot, Canadas is hotter. For example, existing home sales, which make up the majority of overall sales in both countries, is well above historical averages, but Canadian home sales have outperformed. As of March 2021, home sales in Canada were 75% higher than the average over 2018 and 2019, while it was 13% above in the US. Likewise, home prices also spiked. In Canada, the average home sold was 32% more expensive than what it was a year ago, and it was 17% higher stateside.
From a high level, the list of commonalties across markets during the pandemic is longer than the areas of difference, particularly on the demand side. Perhaps the most influential demand-side driver has been historically low mortgage rates. Responding to the impacts of the pandemic, the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve slashed rates and enacted large quantitative easing programs early last year, resulting in a sharp drop in borrowing costs. Given that the US conventional mortgage rate is a 30-year rate compared to Canadas 5-year benchmark, borrowing costs fell faster in America as flight to safety flows lowered longer term yields at the onset of the pandemic.
CANADA HOUSING MARKET and new stress test
Canadian home sales took a turn in April 2021, declining by 12.5% (sa m/m) from the highest level on record in March 2021. Listings followed suit, falling by 5.4% (sa m/m). While both sales and listings decreased in April, the smaller decline in listings further eased the national-level sales-to-new listings to 75.2% from record high readings earlier this year (the highest being 91% in January). While this is a move in the right direction towards a better supply-demand balance, the ratio is still significantly higher than its long-term average of 54.5%. As a result of this persistent tightness in the housing market, the composite MLS Home Price Index (HPI) rose by 2.4% (sa m/m). This is a deceleration in price gains from paces observed over the last two months, owing in the most part to a slowing in prices for single-family homes and townhouses. Apartments, which had remained relatively close to pre-pandemic levels before accelerating earlier this year have maintained momentum in April.
Movements in the housing market this month continued to be broad-based rather than market-specific, as declines in sales were spread out across much of the country.
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) also announced that, effective June 1, the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages (i.e., residential mortgages with a down payment of 20 percent or more) will be the greater of the mortgage contract rate plus 2 percent or 5.25 percent.