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.
Most First-Time Homebuyers Spending All They Can Afford
Millennials have made up a significant portion of homebuyers in recent years and based on the 2018 Mortgage Consumer Survey, they continue to do so, representing just under half (49%) of first-time buyer respondents. Although this is a decrease from 60% in 2017 and 58% in 2016, Millennials continue to influence and shape the homebuying and mortgage process.
Heres more of what we learned about Millennials and first-time buyers as a whole, powered by the 2018 Mortgage Consumer Survey.
What does the typical first-time buyer profile look like? Forty percent are married, 80% are employed full-time and about one-quarter (26%) have a household income between $60,000 and $90,000. A strong percentage of them were born outside of Canada, with 22% identifying as newcomers to Canada. Mortgage professionals can help meet the unique needs of newcomers with the support of CMHCs homebuying information which is available in 8 different languages.
The top 2 reasons first-time buyers bought a home: they wanted to get a first home and they felt financially ready. Although certain urban markets continue to exhibit high house prices and other barriers to entry, the survey found that 61% of first-time buyers bought a single-detached home. In fact, single-detached home was the top housing type purchased in all regions across Canada, except in British Columbia where condominium apartment was the most popular housing type.
The vast majority (85%) of first-time buyers spent the most they could afford on their home, compared to 68% of repeat buyers. This indicates that first-time buyers, including Millennials, may be stretching themselves financially to purchase their home. When it comes to the down payment, savings from outside an RRSP was the main source for first-time buyers. This suggest there is an opportunity to further educate first-time buyers about other options to help fund their down payment, such as the Government of Canadas Home Buyers Plan (HBP).
To get assistance with the mortgage process, first-time buyers contacted, on average, 2 brokers and 3 lenders. First-time buyer satisfaction levels with mortgage brokers and lenders remains high. However, mortgage professionals could further increase satisfaction levels by conducting more post-transaction follow-up and by providing clients with more information on closing costs, house purchase fees, interest rates, and steps involved in buying a home. CMHCs Step by Step guide is a valuable tool for mortgage professionals to share with homebuyers to ensure they feel confident throughout the entire homebuying process.
Bank of Canada increases overnight rate target to 1 ¾ per cent
The Bank of Canada today increased its target for the overnight rate to 1 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 2 per cent and the deposit rate is 1 per cent.
The global economic outlook remains solid. The US economy is especially robust and is expected to moderate over the projection horizon, as forecast in the Banks July Monetary Policy Report (MPR). The new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will reduce trade policy uncertainty in North America, which has been an important curb on business confidence and investment. However, trade conflict, particularly between the United States and China, is weighing on global growth and commodity prices. Financial market volatility has resurfaced and some emerging markets are under stress but, overall, global financial conditions remain accommodative.
The Canadian economy continues to operate close to its potential and the composition of growth is more balanced. Despite some quarterly fluctuations, growth is expected to average about 2 per cent over the second half of 2018. Real GDP is projected to grow by 2.1 per cent this year and next before slowing to 1.9 per cent in 2020.
The projections for business investment and exports have been revised up, reflecting the USMCA and the recently-approved liquid natural gas project in British Columbia. Still, investment and exports will be dampened by the recent decline in commodity prices, as well as ongoing competitiveness challenges and limited transportation capacity. The Bank will be monitoring the extent to which the USMCA leads to more confidence and business investment in Canada.
Household spending is expected to continue growing at a healthy pace, underpinned by solid employment income growth. Households are adjusting their spending as expected in response to higher interest rates and housing market policies. In this context, household credit growth continues to moderate and housing activity across Canada is stabilizing. As a result, household vulnerabilities are edging lower in a number of respects, although they remain elevated.
CPI inflation dropped to 2.2 per cent in September, in large part because the summer spike in airfares was reversed. Other temporary factors pushing up inflation, such as past increases in gasoline prices and minimum wages, should fade in early 2019. Inflation is then expected to remain close to the 2 per cent target through the end of 2020. The Banks core measures of inflation all remain around 2 per cent, consistent with an economy that is operating at capacity. Wage growth remains moderate, although it is projected to pick up in the coming quarters, consistent with the Banks latest Business Outlook Survey.
Given all of these factors, Governing Council agrees that the policy interest rate will need to rise to a neutral stance to achieve the inflation target. In determining the appropriate pace of rate increases, Governing Council will continue to take into account how the economy is adjusting to higher interest rates, given the elevated level of household debt. In addition, we will pay close attention to global trade policy developments and their implications for the inflation outlook.