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.
Forecast Update: Economies Shutting Down
Rapidly evolving developments necessitate an update to the forecasts we published just last Friday. Additional quarantine or shut-down measures have been put in place in a number of countries in the last few days. As a result, we now anticipate global GDP growth to be 0% in 2020, followed by a sizeable rebound in activity in 2021 given our view that economic activity will rebound quickly once the virus is no longer a serious threat to public health. At present, we believe activity will begin to return to normal in the third quarter, except in countries where containment measures were aggressively deployed in the first quarter (essentially the Asian economies), where activity resumes in the second quarter. In Canada, the closure of non-essential business in Quebec and Ontario announced earlier this week will have large economic consequences. At present, we believe Canadian economic activity will fall by 28% in Q2 as these measures are felt. If other provinces follow, the fall in Q2 economic activity would be in the 35% range. We now assume that economic activity resumes by the start of the third quarter and that growth rebounds sharply at that time. However, the 20% drop in US economic activity in the second quarter will restrain the rebound in Canadian activity in the third quarter owing to the usual lags between US and Canadian economic outcomes. Under these assumptions, Canadian GDP would fall by slightly more than 4% in 2020 and rebound by 5.1% in 2021. Though we have not included any additional measures in this update beyond those already announced, we believe a substantial ramping up of fiscal support measures in Canada is forthcoming. There is a chance that aggressive virus management measures are required beyond Q2 to ensure the virus is truly well-contained. Evidence in Asia this week suggests that even in countries where aggressive management measures have been put in place, COVID-19 can come back quite quickly. If measures in Canada are not lifted by the end of Q2, growth would fall again in Q3, and GDP would fall by 6.3% in 2020 instead of the 4.1% we currently expect. A key question for forecasters is the length of the virus-related restrictions on firms and households. As noted above, a shift of one quarter in the resumption of normal operating conditions can have a large impact on growth outcomes. Since we do not have a good handle on the ultimate length of the interruptions, we consider it more informative to assign probabilities to the time at which virus containment measures end. At this time, we believe there is a 75% chance that activity resumes by Q3 and a 25% chance that activity returns to more normal levels by Q4. How officials manage virus containment internationally, as well as the evolution of the virus, will inform our assessment of probabilities going forward.
Source: Scotiabank Economics
Home resale market was gaining momentum prior to Covid-19
At the national level, resale home prices were gaining momentum in February. The 0.4% monthly gain in the Composite index was double the average of the previous ten years for a month of February. In particular, after 12 consecutive monthly declines, Vancouver HPI rose in each of the last five months, reflecting the fact that Vancouver resale market recently returned to balance. Sure, we still saw weakness in other regions, such as the Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) where markets were still favorable to buyers. But CREA just reported a rather generalized increase in home sales in February, including for Calgary and Edmonton. Unfortunately, then came the outbreak of Covid-19 and its impact on oil prices and disruptions in the supply chain. The unprecedented sanitary measures imposed by the authorities to tackle the pandemic will severely impact business activity and jobs over the coming months. In that situation, the home resale market should be heavily curtailed for the coming months.
Source: Teranet Inc., and National Bank of Canada