21 Jun

CANADIAN HOME SALES AND NEW LISTINGS RECOVER ONE-THIRD OF PANDEMIC LOSS IN MAY

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

There was good news today on the housing front. Home sales surged by a record 56.9% in May from April’s unprecedented collapse. Data released this morning from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) showed national home sales recovered roughly one-third of the COVID-induced loss between February and April (see chart below). On a year-over-year (y-o-y) basis, sales activity was still down almost 40%, but the jump in sales and an even larger surge in new listings shows pent-up demand remains for housing as buyers wish to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates.

Transactions were up on a month-over-month (m-o-m) basis across the country. Among Canada’s largest markets, sales rose by 53% in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 92.3% in Montreal, 31.5% in Greater Vancouver, 20.5% in the Fraser Valley, 68.7% in Calgary, 46.5% in Edmonton, 45.6% in Winnipeg, 69.4% in Hamilton-Burlington and 30.5% in Ottawa. Not surprisingly, the cities with the smallest gains posted the smallest declines in prior months.

More importantly, anecdotal data suggest that housing activity has been steadily rising from the middle of April until the first week in June.

NEW LISTINGS

The number of newly listed homes shot up by a record 69% in May compared to the prior month with gains recorded across the country.

With new listings having recovered by more than sales in May, the national sales-to-new listings ratio fell to 58.8% compared to 63.3% posted in April. While this statistic has moved lower, the bigger picture is that this measure of market balance has been remarkably stable considering the extent to which current economic and social conditions are impacting both buyers and sellers.

There were 5.6 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of May 2020, down from 9 months in April. The temporary jump in this measure recorded in April reflected the fact that sales were expected to fall right away amid lockdowns; whereas, other variables like active listings would be expected to fall at a much slower pace. The CREA report suggests many sellers who already had homes on the market before mid-March may have left the listings up for now but drastically curtailed the extent to which they were showing their homes during the lockdown. With many of those now coming off the market, overall active listings have fallen by about a quarter as of the end of May, bringing them down among the lowest levels on record for that time of the year.

HOME PRICES

Home prices were little changed in May compared to April across Canada. Of the 19 markets tracked by the MLS Home Price Index (HPI), 18 recorded either m-o-m increases or smaller decreases than in April. Five markets posted price gains in May following a decline in April (see the table below for local details).

In general, since the pandemic crisis began small declines in prices have been posted in British Columbia while declining trends already in place in Alberta have accelerated. With the recent surge in oil prices, however, sales activity has actually improved across the Prairies, and price trends have been stabilizing.

Despite the pandemic, home prices in the Greater Golden Horsehoe area around and including Toronto have fallen very little and remain well above year-ago levels. In Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton, prices have continued to climb, albeit at a slower pace than before.

BOTTOM LINE

CMHC has recently forecast that national average sales prices will fall 9%-to-18% in 2020 and not return to yearend-2019 levels until as late as 2022. I continue to believe that this forecast is overly pessimistic. Firstly, average sales prices are highly misleading, especially on a national basis because they vary so much depending on the location of the activity, as well as the types of property sold.

There is no national housing market. All housing markets are local. A glance at Table 1 above shows a wide variation in regional sales price action, but if anything, trends appear to be converging on moderate positive pressure on prices. Today’s economic recession is like no other. The record stimulus introduced by the Bank of Canada and the federal government will assure that the housing markets will continue to function, even with social-distancing measures in place, and those who enjoy steady employment will proceed in due course with regular housing decisions.

Those who permanently lose their jobs are the real concern. Many of those people will be in the hardest hit and slowest-to-recover sectors of our economy, such as hospitality (accommodation and food), non-essential retail trade, and the leisure industry (arts, entertainment, and recreation). Statistics Canada census data for 2016 in the table below, shows that the homeownership rate in these sectors is relatively low. Unfortunately, most of those who will be hardest hit by the pandemic can least afford it. This is an issue that fiscal policy must address, investing in retraining programs and universal income guarantees.

15 May

CANADIAN HOME SALES AND NEW LISTINGS PLUNGE IN APRIL

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

The pandemic shutdown has put every sector of the economy into a medically induced coma, so, of course, the housing sector is no exception. Data released this morning from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) showed national home sales fell a record 56.8% in April, compared to an already depressed March, in the first full month of COVID-19 lockdown (see chart below). Transactions were down across the country.

Among Canada’s largest markets, sales fell by 66.2% in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 64.4% in Montreal, 57.9% in Greater Vancouver, 54.8% in the Fraser Valley, 53.1% in Calgary, 46.6% in Edmonton, 42% in Winnipeg, 59.8% in Hamilton-Burlington and 51.5% in Ottawa.

The residential real estate industry is not standing still, however. Technological innovation is creating new ways of buying and selling homes. According to Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Chief Economist, “Preliminary data for May suggests things may have already started to pick up a bit for both sales and new listings, in line with evidence that realtors and their clients have adopted new and existing virtual technology tools. These tools have allowed quite a bit of essential business to safely continue, and will likely remain key for some time.”

I have heard agents discussing software that virtually “stages” properties, allowing potential buyers to see the possibilities of existing and renovated floor plans and options in decor and design. The software replaces the need for expensive “physical” staging and can be far more creative. Where there is a challenge, there is an opportunity, and the people that create and adopt these innovative virtual solutions could be big winners.

Keeping the lid on price pressures, the number of newly listed homes across Canada declined by 55.7% m-o-m in April. The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index declined by only 0.6% last month, the first decline since last May. While some downward pressure on prices is not surprising, the comparatively small change underscores the extent to which the bigger picture is that both buying and selling is currently on pause.

Mortgage Qualifying Rate Set To DropThe mortgage qualifying rate, the so-called Big Bank posted rate, has been above 5% since the OSFI stress test began on January 1, 2018. Despite dramatic declines in the government of Canada bond yield, which currently hovers at a mere 0.388%, and a huge fall in contract mortgage rates, the banks have kept their posted rates elevated. The minimum stress test rate began in 2018 at 5.34%, then finally fell to 5.19% and more recently to 5.04%–all still at a historically wide margin above market-determined rates.

In the past week, RBC and BMO have cut their 5-year posted rates slightly further to 4.94%. If no other banks follow, the Bank of Canada’s OSFI stress test rate will fall to 4.99%. If at least one other bank goes to 4.94%, the qualifying rate will drop to 4.94%. Every little bit helps.

Highlights of the Bank of Canada ‘Financial System Review’ (FSR)
With the first news of the COVID-19 pandemic threat, the BoC report said that “uncertainty about just how bad things could get created shock waves in financial markets, leading to a widespread flight to cash and difficulty selling assets. Policy actions are working to:

  • restore market functioning
  • ensure that financial institutions have adequate liquidity
  • give Canadian households and businesses access to the credit they need”

The Bank of Canada’s actions have put a floor under the economy. These along with the federal government spending initiatives and the mortgage deferral program have cushioned the blow to households and businesses. Governor Poloz said, “our goal in the short-term is to help Canadian households and businesses bridge the crisis period. Our longer-term goal is to provide a strong foundation for a recovery in jobs and growth.”

With the economic outlook remaining highly uncertain, the BoC erred on the side of caution in projecting mortgage arrears and non-performing business loans based on the more severe economic scenario it laid out in the April Monetary Policy Report. The pessimistic reading would be that even with policymakers’ extraordinary actions, that scenario would see mortgage and business loan delinquencies eclipse previous peaks. A more optimistic reading would be that policy support has prevented a significantly worse outcome, and a resilient financial system will be able to absorb losses and leave the foundation in place for an eventual economic recovery. And, as Governor Poloz mentioned, a better economic scenario is still within reach as many provinces are beginning to gradually re-open their economies.

The projections in today’s FSR are based on a scenario in which Canadian GDP is 30% lower in Q2 and recovers slowly thereafter. In that scenario, mortgage arrears are projected to increase to 0.8% by mid-2021 from 0.25% at the end of 2019–nearly double the peak in arrears seen in 2009. Meanwhile, non-performing business loans are forecast to rise to 6.4% at the end of this year from 1% at the end of last year, significantly higher than past peaks of less than 5% in 2003 and 2010.

The upshot is that while we might see a significant increase in mortgage arrears and troubled loans over the next two years in this pessimistic economic scenario, these outcomes would have been much worse without the extraordinary programs that have been put in place to support businesses and households. That has important implications for the banking sector. The BoC’s analysis suggests that, with these policy measures, large bank’s existing capital buffers should be sufficient to absorb losses. Without those interventions, “banks would be faring much worse, with important negative effects on the availability of credit to households and businesses.”

Households:

  • 1 in 5 households don’t have enough cash or liquid assets to cover two months of mortgage payments
  • Government support programs (CERB payments and CEWS wage subsidies) will cover a large share of households’ “core” spending (food, shelter, and telecoms)
  • Loan payment deferrals (banks have allowed more than 700,000 households to delay mortgage payments) and new borrowing can help offset remaining income losses
  • Still, some households are likely to fall behind on their debt payments (first credit cards and auto loans, then mortgages)—something we’re already seeing in Alberta and Saskatchewan

Businesses:

  • There have been some signs of reduced funding stress in April: The Bank of Canada’s bankers’ acceptance program is shrinking, the drawdowns of credit lines have slowed as some borrowers are repaying, and corporate debt issuance picked up significantly in April after ceasing in March.
  • Surveys show higher-than-normal rejection rates for small- and medium-sized businesses requesting additional funding from financial institutions
  • Upcoming corporate debt refinancing needs are in line with historical levels, but many borrowers will face in increased costs of funds owing to elevated corporate risk spreads
  • Nearly three-quarters of investment-grade corporate bonds are rated BBB (the lowest investment grade rating)—downgrades would double the stock of high-yield debt and significantly increase funding costs for those borrowers
  • Firms in the industries most affected by COVID-19 tend to have smaller cash buffers, and a sharp drop in revenues will make it difficult to meet fixed costs including debt payments. What started as a cash flow problem could develop into a solvency issue for some businesses
  • The energy sector is facing particular challenges: it has had to rely more on credit lines, has the highest refinancing needs over the next six months and faces the most potential downgrades

Banks:

  • BoC’s term repos have provided ample liquidity to the banking system and reduced funding costs, hence the drop in some banks’ posted and contract mortgage rates
  • Take-up of term repos has slowed in recent weeks—an indication of improved market functioning
  • Regulators have eased capital and liquidity requirements

Governments:

  • The BoC’s asset purchases have helped improve liquidity in the key Government of Canada securities market (the baseline for many other bond markets)
  • The FSR made little mention of government debt sustainability, but in his press conference Governor Poloz noted that overall government debt levels are similar to 20 years ago, and federal debt is significantly lower, giving the federal government plenty of room to maneuver

Bottom Line:
Of course, the pandemic shutdown has strained the financial wherewithal of many households and businesses. That was deemed the price we must pay to mitigate the severe health threat and contain its spread. The BoC report acknowledges the economic fallout of the necessary measures and promises to take additional actions to assure the economy returns to its full potential growth path as soon as feasibly possible. Cushioning the blow for those most in need.

Nevertheless, there are businesses that will close permanently and others that will scoop up declining competitors. Some will benefit from the new opportunities created by social distancing, enhanced sanitation, remote activity, new forms of entertainment and advances in healthcare. Others will no doubt die, although many of these companies were at death’s door before the pandemic emerged. Creative destruction is always painful for the losers, but it opens the way for many new winners and those existing businesses and individuals that are creative enough to adapt quickly to the changing environment.

15 Apr

THE PANDEMIC IS A GAME CHANGER! IT’S TIME TO CHANGE YOUR THINKING AND YOUR GAME PLAN

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

At this very important, crucial and confusing time for us humans in the modern post-industrial world, now a digital/information global economy which is in BIG trouble, our duty as spouses, parents, and friends is to make sure that our financial health is protected.

None of us know where COVID – 19 will leave us. Just know this. This is the time to do everything we can to survive financially, to keep our lives and well being intact, to recognize that this once in a lifetime calamity/threat represents a time in which we can, should, must, keep positively thinking that we will survive/get through.

And so, whatever happens, I want to encourage all of you to believe that our lives will go on and we will prosper once again.

What it will look like after, will be a transformation to a new better, kinder world where individuals come together as a global people for the good of man/womankind.

The magnitude of this adversity has a flip side, which is an opportunity not only to survive and recover but to help others.

Tracy and I are ‘all-in’ to help anyone we can, to restructure debt, to give you strategies to eliminate bad debt, and to assist you in finding your best financial footing you can, going forward.

Please understand. It is crucial to act now, as lending parameters continue to tighten, perhaps to the point where too many people no longer qualify, whether it be to refinance, or move and be stuck.

Do not end up on the ‘slippery slope’ or finding your financial health going down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Many of you are in peril whether you realize it or not. We all are really, aren’t we?

Do not look to your bank for helpful advice anymore. With all the reasons in the world not to trust anything or anyone, please recognize that our insatiable big banks are out for themselves period.

Those days are gone, believe me, or should be gone because the banks do not care to earn our trust and loyalty, nor do they deserve it.

They do not care about me or you. Their business ‘culture’ is now the opposite of helpful and caring.

Rather it is to maximize profit, at all costs, however, they can without integrity, ethics…both long gone.

Capitalism has stopped working and is now structured and manipulated to make the one percent richer.

One bank who shall not be named, even has to audacity to the moniker ‘YOU ARE RICHER THAN YOU THINK’. REALLY. What a crock right of b-s.

Understand that there is another, much better option, which is to find an expert, independent mortgage professional to guide and help.

Life has gotten very complex as has mortgage financing and my message to you is to do absolutely everything you can to create a solid financial plan, and cash flow/budget which includes emergency funding, etc., for once with a more open, positive mindset to try the alternative.

More and more each day, I read and hear it said ‘The status quo will be over’ and the new will take over.

Many people will get very desperate. Don’t allow yourself to be one of them if you can help it. Because financial stress leads to nothing positive, only despair and break up.

We are here for you. Check us out. Look at our reputation and years in the business.

So talk to your spouse, partner, others to make the call.

We won’t disappoint you.

God Bless.

 

Ron Price – Founder, HomeBuyDFY.ca

Tracy (Luciani) Price – Co-Owner, Price Team Mortgages/DLC

 

 

30 Mar

Why Are Mortgage Rates Rising?

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

Over the past month, the Bank of Canada has lowered its overnight rate by a whopping 1.5 percentage points to a mere 0.25%. Many people expected mortgage rates to fall equivalently. The banks have reduced prime rates by the full 150 basis points (bps). But, since the second Bank of Canada rate cut on March 13, banks and other lenders have hiked mortgage rates for fixed- and variable-rate loans. That’s not what happens typically when the Bank cuts its overnight rate. But these are extraordinary times.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted everything, shutting down the entire global economy and damaging business and consumer confidence. No one knows when it will end. This degree of uncertainty and the risk to our health is profoundly unnerving.

Most businesses have ground to a halt, so unemployment has surged. Hourly workers and many of the self-employed have found themselves with no income for an indeterminate period. All but essential workers are staying at home, including vast numbers of students and pre-school children. Nothing like this has happened in the past century. The societal and emotional toll is enormous, and governments at all levels are introducing income support programs for individuals and businesses, but so far, no cheques are in the mail.

In consequence, the economy hasn’t just slowed; it has frozen in place and is rapidly contracting. Travel has stopped. Trade and transport have stopped. Manufacturing and commerce have stopped. And this is happening all over the world.

What’s more, the Saudis and Russians took advantage of the disruption to escalate oil production and drive down prices in a thinly veiled attempt to drive marginal producers in the US and Canada out of business. This has compounded the negative impact on our economy and dramatically intensified the plunge in our stock market.

Many Canadians are now forced to live off their savings or go into debt until employment insurance and other government assistance kicks in, and even when it does, it will not cover 100% of the income loss. The majority of the population has very little savings, so people are resort to drawing on their home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), other credit lines or adding to credit card debt. Businesses are doing the same.

The good news is that people and businesses that already have loans tied to the prime rate are enjoying a significant reduction in their monthly payments. All of the major banks have reduced their prime rates from 3.95% to 2.45%. So people or businesses with floating-rate loans, be they mortgages or HELOCs or commercial lines of credit, have seen their monthly borrowing costs fall by 1.5 percentage points. That helps to reduce the burden of dipping into this source of funds to replace income.

So Why Are Mortgage Rates For New Loans Rising?

These disruptive forces of Covid-19 have markedly reduced the earnings of banks and other lenders and dramatically increased their risk. That is why the stock prices of banks and other publically-traded lenders have fallen very sharply, causing their dividend yields to rise to levels well above government bond yields. As an example, Royal Bank’s stock price has fallen 22% year-to-date (ytd), increasing its annual dividend yield to 5.31%. For CIBC, it has been even worse. Its stock price has fallen 30%, driving its dividend yield to 7.66%. To put this into perspective, the 10-year Government of Canada bond yield is only 0.64%. The gap is a reflection of the investor perception of the risk confronting Canadian banks.

Thus, the cost of funds for banks and other lenders has risen sharply despite the cut in the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. The cheapest source of funding is short-term deposits–especially savings and chequing accounts. Still, unemployed consumers and shut-down businesses are withdrawing these deposits to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Longer-term deposits called GICs, which stands for Guaranteed Investment Certificates, are a more expensive source of funds. Still, owing to their hefty penalties for early withdrawal, they become a more reliable funding source at a time like this. As noted by Rob Carrick, consumer finance reporter for the Globe and Mail, “GIC rates should be in the toilet right now because that’s what rates broadly do in times of economic stress. But GIC rates follow a similar path to mortgage rates, which have risen lately as lenders price rising default risk into borrowing costs.”

To attract funds, some of the smaller banks have increased their savings and GIC rates. For example, EQ Bank is paying 2.45% on its High-Interest Savings Account and 2.55% on its 5-year GIC. Other small banks are also hiking GIC rates, raising their cost of funds. Rob McLister noted that “The likes of Home Capital, Equitable Bank and Canadian Western Bank have lifted their 1-year GIC rates over 65 bps in the last few weeks, according to data from noted housing analyst Ben Rabidoux.”

The banks are having to set aside funds to cover rising loan loss reserves, which exacerbates their earnings decline. An unusually large component of Canadian bank loan losses is coming from the oil sector. Still, default risk is rising sharply for almost every business, small and large–think airlines, shipping companies, manufacturers, auto dealers, department stores, etc.

Lenders have also been swamped by thousands of applications to defer mortgage payments.

Hence, confronted with rising costs and falling revenues, the banks are tightening their belts. They slashed their prime rates but eliminated the discounts to prime for new variable-rate mortgage loans. Some lenders will no doubt start charging prime plus a premium for such mortgage loans. Banks have also raised fixed-rate mortgage rates as these myriad pressures reducing bank earnings are causing investors to insist banks pay more for the funds they need to remain liquid.

An additional concern is that financial markets have become less and less liquid–sellers cannot find buyers at reasonable prices. The ‘bid-ask’ spreads are widening. That’s why the central bank and CMHC are buying mortgage-backed securities in enormous volumes. That is also why the Bank of Canada has started large-scale weekly buying of government securities and commercial paper. These government entities have become the buyer of last resort, providing liquidity to the mortgage and bond markets.

These markets are crucial to the financial stability of Canada. Large-scale purchases of securities are called “quantitative easing” and have never been used before by the Bank of Canada. It was used extensively by the Fed and other central banks during the 2008-10 financial crisis. When business and consumer confidence is so low that nothing the central bank can do will spur investment and spending, they resort to quantitative easing to keep financial markets functioning. In today’s world, businesses and consumers are locked down, and no one knows when it will end. With so much uncertainty, confidence about the future diminishes. The natural tendency is for people to cancel major expenditures and hunker down.

We are living through an unprecedented period. When the health emergency has passed, we will celebrate a return to a new normal. In the meantime, seemingly odd things will continue to happen in financial markets.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca
27 Mar

Bank of Canada Moves to Restore “Financial Market Functionality”

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

The Bank of Canada today lowered its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to ¼ percent. This unscheduled rate decision brings the policy rate to its effective lower bound and is intended to provide support to the Canadian financial system and the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic (see chart below).

Strains in the commercial paper and government securities markets triggered today’s action to engage in quantitative easing. The Governing Council has been meeting every day during the pandemic crisis. Market illiquidity is a significant problem and one the Bank considers foundational. These large-scale purchases of financial assets are intended to improve the functioning of financial markets.

Credit risk spreads have widened sharply in recent days. People are moving to cash. Liquidity has dried up in all financial markets, even government-guaranteed markets such as Canadian Mortgage-Backed securities (CMBs) and GoC bills and bonds. The commercial paper market–used by businesses for short-term financing–has become nonfunctional. The Bank is making large-scale purchases of financial assets in illiquid markets to improve market functioning across the yield curve. They are not attempting to change the shape of the curve for now but might do so in the future.

These large-scale purchases will create the liquidity that the financial system is demanding so that financial intermediation can function. Risk has risen, which creates the need for more significant cash injections.

At the press conference today, Senior Deputy Governor Wilkins refrained from speculating what other measures the Bank might take in the future. When asked, “Where is the bottom?” She responded, “That depends on the resolution of the Covid-19 health issues.”

The Bank will discuss the economic outlook in its Monetary Policy Report at their regularly scheduled meeting on April 15. In response to questions, Governor Poloz said it is challenging to assess what the impact of the shutdown of the economy will be. A negative cycle of pessimism is clearly in place. The Bank’s rate cuts help to reduce monthly payments on floating rate debt. He is hoping to maintain consumer confidence and expectations of a return to normalcy.

The oil price cut alone would have been sufficient reason for the Bank of Canada to lower interest rates. The Covid-19 medical emergency and the shutdown dramatically exacerbates the situation. All that monetary policy can do is to cushion the blow and avoid structural problems to the economy. The overnight rate of 0.25% is consistent with market rates along the yield curve.

High household debt levels have historically been a concern. Monetary policy easing helps to bridge the gap until the health concerns are resolved. The housing market, according to Wilkins, is no longer a concern for excessive borrowing by cash-strapped households.

At this point, the Bank is not contemplating negative interest rates. Monetary policy has little further room to maneuver, given interest rates are already very low. With businesses closed, lower interest rates do not encourage consumers to go out and spend money.

Large-scale debt purchases by the Bank will continue for an extended period to provide liquidity. The Bank can do this in virtually unlimited quantities as needed. The policymakers are also focussing on the period after the crisis. They want the economy to have an excellent foundation for growth when the economy resumes its normal functioning.

Fiscal stimulus is crucial at this time. The newly introduced income support for people who are not covered by the Employment Insurance system is a particularly important safety net for the economy. There are many other elements of the fiscal stimulus, and the government stands ready to do more as needed.

The Canadian dollar has moved down on the Bank’s latest emergency action. The loonie has also been battered by the dramatic decline in oil prices. Canada is getting a double whammy from the pandemic and the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The loonie’s decline feeds through to rising prices of imports. However, the pandemic has disrupted trade and imports have fallen.

The Bank of Canada suggested as well that they are meeting twice a week with the leadership of the Big-Six Banks. The cost of funds for the banks has risen sharply. CMHC is buying large volumes of mortgages from the banks, which, along with CMB purchases by the central bank, will shore up liquidity. The banks are well-capitalized and robust. The level of collaboration between the Bank of Canada and the Big Six is very high.

The Stock Market Has Had Three Good Days

As the chart below shows, the Toronto Stock Exchange has retraced some of its losses in the past three days as the US and Canada have announced very aggressive fiscal stimulus. As well, the Bank of Canada has now lowered interest rates three times this month, with a cumulative easing of 1.5 percentage points. The Federal Reserve has also cut by 150 basis points over the same period. In addition to lowering borrowing costs, the central bank has also announced in recent days a slew of new liquidity measures to inject cash into the banking system and money markets and to ensure it can handle any market-wide stresses in the financial system.

The economic pain is just getting started in Canada with the spike in joblessness and the shutdown of all but essential services. Similarly, the US posted its highest level of initial unemployment insurance claims in history–3.83 million, which compares to a previous high of 685,000 during the financial crisis just over a decade ago. These are the earliest indicator of a virus-slammed economy, with much more to come. All of this is without precedent, but rest assured that policy leaders will continue to do whatever it takes to cushion the blow of the pandemic on consumers and businesses and to bridge a return to normalcy.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

10 Mar

ADDBACKS AND OFFSETS: QUALIFYING FOR RENTAL INVESTMENTS

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

It may sound like we’re talking about football formations here, but if you are considering the purchase of a rental property or already own a rental property, knowing about addbacks and offsets is an important concept to understand when qualifying for your next mortgage. Addbacks and offsets are two different methods for accounting for the rental income from an investment property.

Before I explain the differences and provide an example of how these two methods impact your mortgage qualification, note that regardless of the method, lenders use only a percentage of the rental income in the equation and for most lenders this percentage is 50% of the rental amount. This is just fine if your employment income is high enough and you have a significant down payment and a small amount of other debts. But this treatment isn’t going to make the investment opportunity work for many people. As a mortgage broker and a real estate investor myself, I feel the frustration of this 50% approach. Imagine a strategy to own a rental property for 10 years but assuming it will be vacant for 5 of those years. That’s what the 50% assumption would suggest, and that just doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, some lenders use 60% of the rental income, a few use 80%, and I know of one lender that actually uses 100% of the rental income. The difference between 50% and 100% has a significant impact on your overall qualification as 50% of the rental income can make a rental property look like it’s losing money when it’s actually cash flow positive.

Similarly, there is also a big difference between the addback and offset methods. Many lenders use the addback method to account for the rental income on investment properties. What this means is that they will add the rental income to the rest of your income in order to calculate your ability to make payments on the mortgage and other debts, hence the term addback. Now if rent is $1,600 a month ($19,200 per year), this is not going to add a lot to the mortgage amount you qualify for. On the other hand, an offset approach does far more for you to qualify and is the more favorable of the two approaches. An offset applies the monthly rental income against the monthly housing costs, and only the difference must be covered by your other income. The monthly rental income used in the calculation is based on the percentage of income used by that particular lender, and the housing costs refer to the mortgage payments, property tax, heating costs, and half of the maintenance fees if the investment property is a condo or townhome.

An example is the best way to understand the real impact of these two methods: Assume a couple earn $100,000 a year in household income, the rental property they wish to purchase is a condo for $380,000 with expected rental income of $1,600, and they are requesting a mortgage of $300,000. Factoring in some reasonable estimates for their existing property, a car loan, and the property tax, heat, and maintenance fees on the rental property, the addback approach using 50% of the rental income would result in their mortgage application being declined. In fact, it would suggest they need to earn $110,000 per year to qualify. Yet the offset approach using 50% of the rental income would indeed allow them to qualify. In fact, it would allow them to qualify if they earned $96,000 per year. Touchdown! The offset method versus the addback method can be the make or break of whether an investment opportunity becomes a reality for this couple trying to get ahead in building their wealth through real estate. Their employment income would need to be $14,000 or 15% higher under the addback method – when was the last time you got a 15% raise?

Mortgage brokers like myself know the policies of each lender we work with and can balance the likelihood of qualification under different rental income treatments while finding a mortgage that prioritizes the four mortgage strategies that every mortgage should consider: lowest cost, lowest payment, maximum flexibility, and lowest risk.

Give myself (Todd Skene) or your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker a call to assess how to finance your rental investments!

 

TODD SKENE

Dominion Lending Centres – Mortgage Professional
Todd Skene is the founder of DLC Home SMART Mortgage with DLC Pilot Mortgage Group based in Vancouver, BC.

9 Mar

Global Markets in Turmoil as Oil Plunges, Propelling Yields to Record Lows

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

https://dominionlending.ca/news/global-markets-in-turmoil-as-oil-plunges-propelling-yields-to-record-lows/

Global Markets in Turmoil, Oil Prices Plunge Along With Yields
Markets shuddered in the face of a price war for oil and the economic fallout from the growing outbreak of coronavirus. Frightened investors poured into haven assets sending yields to unprecedented lows. Oil prices tumbled 30% after Saudi Arabia said it would cut most of its oil prices and boost output when Russia refused to join OPEC in propping up prices (see chart below). Foreign exchange markets convulsed, as the steep drops in oil and share prices overnight sparked a flight from commodity-linked currencies into the perceived safety of the Japanese yen and the US dollar. The Canadian dollar fell to 0.7362 as of this writing. The Government of Canada 5-year bond yield was as low as 0.284% overnight but has since recovered roughly 0.535%, still well below Friday’s closing level of approximately 0.65% (second chart below).

Stock prices have fallen very sharply in the first hour of North American trading. Panic selling sent the Dow down 2,000 points, and the S&P500 sank 7% after triggering a circuit breaker that halted trade for 15 minutes. The TSX took a dizzying nosedive on the open, down more than 1400 points or nearly 9.0% led down by oil stocks and financials.

The spread of coronavirus outside of China tripled over the past week. The US State Department announced yesterday that older people should avoid travel on cruises, particularly if they have compromised immune systems. All of this amplifies recession fears as the outbreak spreads.

There is concern in the US that the government is not handling the outbreak appropriately. Mixed messaging and an inadequate supply of testing kits came as the number of coronavirus cases in the US topped 500 over the weekend. President Trump retweeted a meme of himself fiddling on Sunday, drawing a comparison to the Roman emperor Nero who fiddled as Rome burned around him. This is a time when leadership is of paramount importance.

Borrowing costs are falling sharply–a silver lining for first-time homebuyers. The best advice for investors is not to panic. This, too, shall pass, although no one knows when.

 

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
drcooper@dominionlending.ca

30 Jan

INTEREST RATES PLUNGE ON CORONAVIRUS NEWS; BOC BUYS 10-YEAR CMBS; FTHBI PLAN FLOPS

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price


Canadian 5-year Yield Fell To Lowest Level Since October
Global investors are selling stocks and piling into the safety of bonds in response to fears that the Wuhan coronavirus could disrupt global economic activity. Gold prices, another haven, have also risen. The Government of Canada 5-year bond yield traded this morning at roughly 1.35%, well below its nearly 1.70% level one month ago. The 5-year yield leads fixed mortgage rates, so if this trend persists, we might see widely available fixed-5-year rates in the 2.50% range once again in February.

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Bank of Canada Now Buying 10-year CMBs
The Bank of Canada announced yesterday that effective immediately, the Bank will expand the Canada Mortgage-Backed securities (CMBs, which are government-guaranteed) it can purchase in the primary market to include 10-year fixed-rate bond issues. In 2018, The Bank expanded the assets it acquires to 5-year fixed and floating CMBs. The Bank held $517 million of these 5-year CMBs as of November 30, 2019.

This move by the BoC should improve liquidity, reducing yields on 10-year CMBs, possibly lowering 10-year fixed rates for mortgage borrowers. Governor Poloz supports efforts to extend the duration of mortgages.

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First-Time Homebuyers Incentive Plan Flops

Only about 3,000 applicants were approved for the Liberals’ First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) in 2019. That’s just $55 million in funding, a less-than-stellar start given its $1.25-billion three-year target. (This information is according to attendees at the TD Securities’ Financial Services Conference where CMHC made comments.)

 

DR. SHERRY COOPER

Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

21 Jan

NEED AN APPRAISAL – 7½ TIPS FOR SUCCESS

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

Do you need to get a current value of your property? Then you are going to need an appraisal.

Banks and other lending institutions want to know the “current” market value of your home before they consider loaning money on the property. An appraiser checks the general condition of your home and compares your home to other similar homes which have recently sold in order to define a comparable market value for your home.

Here are 7½ tips that can help you get top current market value.

Short version – Prepare your home as if it was going to be sold!!

Long version… If a picture is worth a thousand words, think what kind of story the pictures from your home are telling?

In the world of mortgages, lenders seldom set foot on the property before making a loan decision.

Instead, they rely on their trusted list of approved appraisers. All a lender usually gets is the appraiser’s pictures of your property and their comments about how your home was appraised.

Tip #1 – Clean up. The appraiser is basing the value of your property on how good it looks. Before the appraisal, prepare your home as if you’re selling it. Clean and declutter every room, vacuum, and scrub. Do whatever you can to make your home as presentable as possible.
Tip #2 – Pay attention to curb appeal. An appraisal is all about first impressions. And the very first one the appraiser gets is when they walk up to your property. Spend an hour or two making sure the outside of your house, townhouse or condo is warm and welcoming.

Tip #3 – The appraiser must be able to see every room of the home, no exceptions. Refusal to allow an appraiser to see any room will be noted in the appraisal can be a game stopper. There are times when it is not appropriate for the appraiser to take pictures of certain things and appraisers and lenders understand this, but refusal to grant access could kill your deal.

Tip #4 – Make a list of upgrades and features. It’s important that the appraiser is made aware of any updates you’ve made, especially those which are hidden, like new plumbing and electrical. If possible, give the appraiser this list. That way they have a reference as to what has been updated and how recent or professional that work was done.

Tip #5 – If you need to spend to update, be prudent. Many people think “bathrooms and kitchens” are the answer for getting high prices on home value. They aren’t. First, consider that kitchen and bathroom remodels can be some of the priciest reno costs. For that reason, it may be more prudent to spend a bit of money, for just a bit of updating. Paint, new flooring, new light or plumbing fixtures don’t break the bank, but can provide a dramatic impact and improve your home’s value.

Tip #6 – You know your neighborhood better than your appraiser does. Find out what similar homes in your neighborhood have sold for. Your property might look like one down the street, but if you believe the value of your property is worth more, let them know why.

Tip #7 – Lock up your pets. I’m sure most appraisers like pets, but some may be put off by your cat rubbing against their leg or the dog barking or following them around.

Tip #7½ – One last tip – don’t annoy the appraiser with questions and comments and follow them around. Instead, simply be prepared to answer any of their questions and, if you do have concerns or queries, wait until they’ve completed their viewing of the property, then ask.

Mortgages are complicated, but they don’t have to be… Engage a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage expert!

 

Kelly Hudson – DLC

3 Jan

5 MISTAKES FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS MAKE

General

Posted by: Tracy Luciani Price

Buying a home might just be the biggest purchase of your life—it’s important to do your homework before jumping in! We have outlined the 5 mistakes First Time Home Buyers commonly make, and how you can avoid them and look like a Home Buying Champ.

1. Shopping Outside Your Budget
It’s always an excellent idea to get pre-approved prior to starting your house hunting. This can give you a clear idea of exactly what your finances are and what you can comfortably afford. Your Mortgage Broker will give you the maximum amount that you can spend on a house but that does not mean that you should spend that full amount. There are additional costs that you need to consider (Property Transfer Tax, Strata Fees, Legal Fees, Moving Costs) and leave room for in your budget. Stretching yourself too thin can lead to you being “House Rich and Cash Poor” something you will want to avoid. Instead, buying a home within your home-buying limit will allow you to be ready for any potential curve balls and to keep your savings on track.

 

2. Forgetting to Budget for Closing Costs
Most first-time buyers know about the down payment, but fail to realize that there are a number of costs associated with closing on a home. These can be substantial and should not be overlooked. They include:

  • Legal and Notary Fees
  • Property Transfer Tax (though, as a First Time Home Buyer, you might be exempt from this cost).
  • Home Inspection fees

There can also be other costs included depending on the type of mortgage and lender you work with (ex. Insurance premiums, broker/lender fees). Check with your broker and get an estimate of what the cost will be once you have your pre-approval completed.

3. Buying a Home on Looks Alone
It can be easy to fall in love with a home the minute you walk into it. Updated kitchen + bathrooms, beautifully redone flooring, new appliances…what’s not to like? But before putting in an offer on the home, be sure to look past the cosmetic upgrades. Ask questions such as:

  1. When was the roof last done?
  2. How old is the furnace?
  3. How old is the water heater?
  4. How old is the house itself? And what upgrades have been done to electrical, plumbing, etc.
  5. When were the windows last updated?

All of these things are necessary pieces to a home and are quite expensive to finance, especially as a first- time buyer. Look for a home that has solid, good bones. Cosmetic upgrades can be made later and are far less of a headache than these bigger upgrades.

4. Skipping the Home Inspection
In a red-hot housing market a new trend is for homebuyers to skip the home inspection. This is one thing we recommend you do not skip! A home inspection can turn up so many unforeseen problems such as water damage, foundational cracks and other potential problems that would be expensive to have to repair down the road. The inspection report will provide you a handy checklist of all the things you should do to make sure your home is in great shape.

5. Not Using a Broker
We compare prices for everything: Cars, TV’s, Clothing… even groceries. So, it makes sense to shop around for your mortgage too! If you are relying solely on your bank to provide you with the best rate you may be missing out on great opportunities that a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker can offer you. They can work with you to and multiple lenders to find the sharpest rate and the best product for your lifestyle.