Homeowners are “happy with the decision to buy their home,” feel confident they can weather a downturn in the housing market and they consider mortgage debt to be “good debt.” Their attitudes are the same whether they live in Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver where prices continue to rise, or in areas where home prices are stabilizing, says a new consumer survey report by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP).
“From the consumer perspective we have a picture of a very confident, healthy mortgage market,” says Jim Murphy, president and CEO of CAAMP. “Key to the current stability in the mortgage market is the fact that Canadians continue to pay down their mortgage debt faster than they are required and they continue to take out five-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Canadians who renew their mortgages are seeing their interest costs reduced, which is boosting their personal financial circumstances and this will continue to be a positive force during the coming year.”
The survey says:
* 55 per cent of homes purchased in 2013 were bought by first-time buyers.
* Most Canadians say they have no regrets taking on the size of mortgage they did and that real estate is a good long-term investment.
* 66 per cent agree in some degree that mortgages are a form of “good debt”.
* House prices in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver have increased by a year-over-year rate of 8.2 per cent, compared to just 2.9 per cent in the rest of Canada.
* More than 80 per cent of homeowners in Canada have 25 per cent or more equity in their homes.
* The average mortgage interest rate is 3.24 per cent, a drop from the average of 3.5 per cent found in the fall 2013 survey.
Canadians are reducing their mortgages by negotiating lower interest rates, making lump sum pre-payments and repaying their mortgages at, on average, two-thirds of their contracted amortization periods, says the report.
“Across Canada the housing market is slowing and has been on a downward swing since the mortgage policy change in 2012,” says Will Dunning, CAAMP’s chief economist. “While the national market may look healthy, activity in the Greater Toronto Area (including Hamilton), the Greater Vancouver Regional District and the Calgary area is skewing the numbers high. In the rest of Canada sales activity has weakened and house prices are flat and even falling in some communities. Housing has played a key role in driving economic growth and job creation in Canada. But looking ahead, decreased starts and slower price growth will throw off the balance between the housing market and the overall economy.”
The report urges policy makers not to confuse rising home prices in the Toronto area and Vancouver, where urban land shortages are driving prices, and the Calgary area, which currently benefits from strong job creation, with the slowdown that is evident in other communities across the country.