Saturday, March 17, 2018

Mortgage renewals in 2018: Prepare for nasty rate surprises

The era of pleasant surprises for people renewing their mortgage is done.
Years of falling interest rates in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis taught a generation of home buyers that renewing a mortgage is a chance to reduce your payments. Now, we're heading into the first wave of postcrisis renewals at higher mortgage rates.
If you bought your house five years ago and chose a mortgage with the ever-popular five-year term, rate hikes since last summer mean your payments are headed higher on renewal. Competitively discounted fixed five-year mortgage rates today run from 3.19 per cent to 3.59 per cent, depending on your particular home and mortgage details. Five years ago, a comparable rate was 2.74 per cent. The lowest five-year rate widely available in the past five years was 2.44 per cent in mid-2016, according to RateSpy.com.
David Larock of Integrated Mortgage Planners said he's starting to hear from homeowners who are taking in this shift in rates. "I get e-mails from people once in a while to say, if you can get me my old rate of 2.49 per cent, I'd be happy to renew," he said. "I have to break their hearts."
Higher rates are just half the story. New mortgage-industry rules are complicating the process of taking your mortgage elsewhere if you don't like the rate offered by your current lender. Vince Gaetano, a broker with MonsterMortgage.ca, said a lot of people seem to think the new rules applied only to first-time buyers. "Now, they're coming up to their renewals and they're saying, I had no idea this impacted me. I would have planned for this last year."
The new rules require buyers with a down payment of 20 per cent or more to undergo a stress test that ensures they could afford their mortgage payments at the greater of the Bank of Canada's five-year benchmark rate (now 5.14 per cent) or the actual rate being offered plus two percentage points. People with down payments below 20 per cent already faced a stress test, but it was set at the five-year Bank of Canada rate and thus slightly less stringent.
For existing homeowners, the stress tests are a non-factor as long as they're renewing their mortgage with their current lender. If they want to move the mortgage to a different lender, a stress test must be applied. Unless you can pass the stress test, you're likely stuck with your current lender. Mr. Gaetano expects lenders, notably the banks, to use the new rules as an opportunity to become less competitive in the renewal rates offered clients who appear to be less creditworthy. Better rates may be out there, but these clients won't be able to get them.
A resent study looked at how people refinancing their mortgages to add other debts must also pass the stress test now. Refinancing is a popular tactic used by people who are getting overwhelmed by their debts. How popular? Mr. Gaetano said about 80 per cent of his clients who are up for their first mortgage renewal have in the past refinanced as opposed to simply renewing.
The biggest rate shocks will be felt by people who thought they were being prudent borrowers by putting down 20 per cent or more and thus avoiding the cost of mortgage-default insurance. This insurance makes a mortgage more attractive to lenders because the equity built up in the house means they won't lose money if borrowers can't repay what they owe.
That competitive 3.19-per-cent, five-year fixed rate mentioned earlier is for people who started with a so-called high-ratio mortgage, where the down payment is less than 20 per cent, and/or for those who have a mortgage that is less than 65 per cent of the current value of their home. Also, the purchase price had to be below $1-million. The best rate applies here because the mortgage is insured against default.
Expect rates in the area of 3.39 to 3.59 per cent if you're renewing a mortgage of between 65 per cent and 80 per cent of the home's current value (for example, a couple that put down 20 per cent at the time of purchase several years ago) and/or had an original purchase price of $1-million and higher. The same applies to people who are refinancing when they renew.
If years of declining rates have reduced the motivation for homeowners to shop around for a mortgage deal, Mr. Larock expects that to change this spring. "If their costs are going up, a lot of people are going to be more inclined to see what else is out there."

by ROB CARRICK
The Blobe and Mail

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Bank of Canada Interest Rate Announcement - March 7, 2018

The Bank of Canada opted to maintain its target for the overnight interest rate this morning at 1.25 per cent.  In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that although growth in the Canadian economy slowed more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2017, the economy is expected to operate at capacity going forward. The bank cited recent trade policy developments, mainly the threat of a trade war with the United States, as a significant risk to its outlook for growth and inflation.

The Canadian economy is at or very close to full-employment, meaning there is little room for Canadian firms to expand output without putting undue pressure on inflation. There are signs core inflation is already firming up. Two of the Bank’s three core inflation measures are closing in on the Bank’s 2 per cent target and all three measures have increased significantly in the past six months. Absent any unforeseen challenges to the Canadian economy, monetary policy will be biased in the direction of higher interest rates.  However, the Bank will likely hold off raising its overnight rate while it assesses the impact of tighter monetary policy over the past year, the impact of newly implemented B-20 guidelines on mortgage qualification rules, and heightened risk to Canadian exports from US trade policy.

BCREA ECONOMICS NOW

Monday, March 5, 2018

GDP Growth could affect interest rates

Canada’s economy decelerated more than expected in the second half of last year, amid signs indebted households have begun slowing down spending.
The economy grew at an annualized pace of 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter, Statistics Canada reported Friday, versus economist expectations for 2 percent growth. Third-quarter gross domestic product growth was also revised down.
After leading the Group of Seven in growth last year, Friday’s numbers show a Canadian economy that has lost momentum, seemingly hampered by longstanding productivity issues and the growing potential of a hangover from the real estate boom. The U.S. economy recorded growth rates of 3.2 percent in the third quarter and 2.5 percent in the last three months of 2017. Canada hasn’t trailed the U.S. in growth to this extent since early 2015.
“While most forecasters expect the pace of growth to be slower in 2018, we still believe that there’s a growing risk of the economy stumbling badly,” said David Madani, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics, in a note to investors.
At Potential
And the data not only show the slowdown is underway, which was expected, but an economy that isn’t even growing above its so-called potential growth level.
That’s a surprise since most economists were expecting Canadian growth would continue to run slightly above its noninflationary speed limit for at least another year, leading to price pressures that would prompt the Bank of Canada to keep lifting interest rates.
“With trade uncertainties mounting and inflation still reasonably well behaved, this gives the Bank of Canada plenty of leeway to stay cautious,” Doug Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal, said in a note to investors. “We continue to expect the Bank to move to the sidelines until the second half of this year.”
The Canadian dollar is tied with the Mexican peso as the worst performing major currencies over the past month, and is one of the worst performing over the past six months. The dollar was little changed after the GDP report, after falling as low as 0.4 percent earlier in the day.
Housing
What may be worse is that fourth-quarter GDP figures were exaggerated by temporary factors in housing. Spending on residential structures surged in the last three months of 2017 to an annualized 13.4 percent, the strongest quarterly increase since 2012. The gain was led by stronger-than-expected new home construction, and as buyers rushed to get ahead of tighter mortgage qualification rules that came into effect Jan. 1.
The increase in residential spending was responsible for 1 percentage point of the 1.7 percent growth rate, Statistics Canada said. Residential investment had been a drag on growth the previous two quarters.
The second-half slowdown was driven in large part by household spending, with consumption growth in the fourth quarter at the slowest pace since 2016. That was due in part to a higher saving rate, which increased to 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter, from 4 percent in the third quarter.
Statistics Canada did revise up growth estimates for the first half of the year to 4.2 percent, from an initially reported 4 percent.
One positive was non-residential business investment accelerating in the fourth quarter, up 8.2 percent on an annualized basis. Combined with the stronger residential spending, that helped to keep domestic demand growth at a relatively strong 3.9 percent clip in the fourth quarter, unchanged from the third quarter.
While exports recovered at the end of the year after plunging in the third quarter, that still wasn’t enough to keep the trade sector from being a drag on growth as imports increased at more than twice the pace.
Other Highlights of GDP Report
Statistics Canada reported GDP for the month of December rose 0.1 percent, in line with analyst expectations Monthly GDP was also driven higher by the housing market gains, which helped offset a drop in construction and manufacturing GDP expanded by 3.0 percent last year, the fastest pace since 2011 GDP growth was revised down in the third quarter to 1.5 percent, from an initially estimated 1.7 percent Exports recovered in the fourth quarter, with an annualized 3 percent gain. Imports were up 6.3 percent Businesses continued to add inventories in the fourth quarter, but less than they did in the third quarter. The drop in inventory accumulation reduced growth by 0.7 percentage points.

Copyright Bloomberg News

Sunday, March 4, 2018

City of Vancouver now defines $3,702 rent as “affordable” housing

It’s 2018, and the City of Vancouver has changed the definition of “for-profit affordable rental housing”.
For this year, a new three-bedroom rental on the West Side of the city with a starting rate of $3,702 per month is considered affordable.
Also regarded as affordable rental rates in the same part of the city are $2,756 for a two-bedroom unit; $1,903, one bedroom; and $1,646, studio.
For 2018, a new rental in East Vancouver with three bedrooms with a starting rate of $3,365 is deemed affordable by the city.
Also for the same part of the city, the following rates will be considered affordable: $2,505 for a two-bedroom rental; $1,730, one bedroom; and $1,496, studio.
Most of the rates represent increases from previous amounts set by the City of Vancouver for new developments to qualify as “for-profit affordable rental housing”.
The city provides various incentives for “for-profit affordable rental housing”.
One incentive is an exemption from payment of development cost levies if developers meet the “affordable” rental rates set by the city. 
Developers are also allowed to construct taller buildings and additional units.
The building of for-profit affordable rental housing is a signature program of Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver caucus in council.

by Carlito Pablo on March 1st, 2018   Straight

Friday, March 2, 2018

Home buyers were less active in February

Metro Vancouver* home sales dipped below the long-term historical average in February.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in the region totalled 2,207 in February 2018, a nine per cent decrease from the 2,424 sales recorded in February 2017, and a 21.4 per cent increase compared to January 2018 when 1,818 homes sold.
Last month’s sales were 14.4 per cent below the 10-year February sales average. By property type, detached sales were down 39.4 per cent over the same period, attached sales were down 6.8 per cent, and apartment sales were 5.5 per cent above the 10-year February average.
“Rising interest rates and stricter mortgage requirements have reduced home buyers’ purchasing power, particularly for those at the entry level of our market,” Jill Oudil, REBGV president said. “Even still, the supply of apartment and townhome properties for sale today is unable to meet demand. On the other hand, our detached home market is beginning to enter buyers’ market territory.”
There were 4,223 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in February 2018. This represents a 15.2 per cent increase compared to the 3,666 homes listed in February 2017 and an 11.2 per cent increase compared to January 2018 when 3,796 homes were listed.
The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 7,822, a three per cent increase compared to February 2017 (7,594) and a 12.6 per cent increase compared to January 2018 (6,947).
“The spring is traditionally the busiest time for home buyers and sellers in our market. We’ll wait to see how they react to the taxes and other policy measures that our provincial and federal governments have introduced so far this year,” Oudil said. “To help you navigate these changes in today’s housing market, it’s important to work with your local REALTOR®.”
For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for February 2018 is 28.2 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 13 per cent for detached homes, 37.6 per cent for townhomes, and 59.7 per cent for condominiums.
Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,071,800. This represents a 16.9 per cent increase over February 2017 and a 1.4 per cent increase compared to January 2018.
Sales of detached properties in February 2018 reached 621, a 16.6 per cent decrease from the 745 detached sales recorded in February 2017. The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,602,000. This represents an 8.2 per cent increase from February 2017 and is virtually unchanged from January 2018.
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,185 in February 2018, a 7.1 per cent decrease compared to the 1,275 sales in February 2017. The benchmark price of an apartment property is $682,800. This represents a 27.2 per cent increase from February 2017 and a 2.6 per cent increase compared to January 2018.
Attached property sales in February 2018 totalled 401, a 0.7 per cent decrease compared to the 404 sales in February 2017. The benchmark price of an attached unit is $819,200. This represents an 18.1 per cent increase from February 2017 and a 1.9 per cent increase compared to January 2018.

CREA

Canadian Real GDP Growth (Q4) - March 2, 2018

The Canadian economy closed 2017 on somewhat of a disappointing note, growing just 1.7 per cent in the fourth quarter. The consensus forecast of economists was for growth north of 2 per cent.  The slowdown in growth was primarily due to slower household spending, which posted its lowest rate of growth in almost two years. Due to a very strong first half of the year win which the economy expanded at a more than 4 per cent rate, for the year as a whole Canadian real GDP grew at a rate of 3 per cent, the strongest growth since 2011. 
Most estimates now put the Canadian economy at or very close to full-employment, meaning that there is little room for Canadian firms to expand output without putting undue pressure on inflation. Given that, we are forecasting that the Bank of Canada will follow up its January rate increase with at least one more rate increase in 2018. However, a larger than expected slowdown in growth over the second half of 2017 means the Bank will likely hold off until it can properly assess the impact not only of its own tightening over the past year, but also the impact of newly implemented B20 guidelines on mortgage qualification rules.

BCREA ECONOMICS NOW