Most people in the real estate industry will agree – even if grudgingly – that the new mortgage stress-test regulations rolled out by the Federal Government a year+ ago we’re entirely necessary to normalize the market and prevent hundreds of thousands of Canadians from becoming ‘house poor’, as the expression goes. This of course has had the effect of their being fewer qualified first-time home buyers, and the direct correlation between that and less business to be had for real estate agents is easy to understand.
It would seem now that the Federal Government is considering a reactionary move to improve the housing market, and we can safely assume that it’s in large part a response to the pinch felt by industries that are directly tied to the home construction and renovation industry, and to a lesser extent to stimulate the housing market as a whole.
These are trying times indeed, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see the the limited numbers of qualified buyers increasing anytime soon. As is always the case, when the going gets tough the tough get going and realtors now must work harder to secure new clients. Here at Real Estate Leads, our online real estate lead generation system is an excellent means of putting the power of the Internet to work for that aim. It’s highly recommended, but let’s get back on the topic here and discuss why this move by the Feds may have some rather unintended consequences.
Longer Amortizations, Lower Payments, More Interest
That’s the long and short of what this possible move is going to entail. The Government’s Ministry of Finance may not be intending to increase household debt with this move, but that’s what it will almost certainly do in the long run. In the short term, however it promised to be beneficial. Economists and those most familiar with the housing market are saying that – most relevantly – it’s likely to drive prices even higher when the next housing cycle begins.
What we would see is lower payments relative to 25-year amortizations, in exchange for paying more interest, and a proliferation of 30-year mortgages for first-time homebuyers.
What’s in Amortization?
As mentioned, the Feds are considering extending the maximum amortization schedule on mortgages. Amortization is the length of time determined for a borrower to be paying off their loan before it. Currently, insured mortgages are limited to a 25-year term, meaning that buyers can plan on paying off the home in 25 years. That’s not short period of time, but the reason we’ve become fairly accustomed to that in Canada is – plain and simple – that it allows Canadians of lesser financial means to buy a home.
What we’ve recently become aware of is that Canada is considering allowing first-time buyers the ability to amortize for 30 years. The aim is to increase affordability, but is that what we can expect it to do.
Let’s look at a typical scenario here; at typical Toronto home costing $761,800 (average median price for a detached single-family home at this time). Let’s assume next the the borrower has 10% down and is then borrowing at a rate of 3.59% on a 5-year fixed rate throughout the whole mortgage, which underestimates the cost.
What we see is that the minimum monthly payments drop roughly 12.5%, and that’s what makes it appealing to the would-be buyer. This is a result of lengthening the amortization, and while it might seem appealing it increases the amount of interest these buyers will be paying if they take they full time to pay off the mortgage (which nearly all buyer do nowadays).
It’s not going to increase it a bit, it’s going to increase it quite a lot, and that of course means increased household debt. Many people would agree that with this you’d be making people less house poor, but more indebted long term, and that the two sort of cancel each other out to really offer little to no tangible savings or affordability benefits for prospective homebuyers.
So going back to that average Toronto home – running those payments on the 25-year amortization models works out to a hefty $351,103 in interest payments over the term. Bump that up to a 30-year amortization and it climbs to $431,511.
Not as appealing as it might have seemed, is it?
More Expensive Housing in the Long-Term
We tend to agree that extending amortizations only makes housing more affordable temporarily, since credit inflates prices. Lowering the cost of borrowing is often thought of as a way to increase affordability. It may, but not in the long run and if you’re in a 25 or 3-year amortization mortgage the ‘long run’ is definitely part of your reality
Disposable Income to Service Debt Ratio
Over the past 5 years real home prices across Canada have increased 42.65%. The amount of disposable income to service this debt increased only 12.65%. Affordability today actually improved across Canada by 7.29% since 2007. Real home prices have gone up 86.54% over that same period.
Real estate agents are always inclined to wonder whether home prices will go higher, but perhaps now more so than ever. remember that’s long-term. Real estate works in a cycle, and right now prices need to correct for new buyers to enter. The most important consideration here is that borrowers with a 30-year amortization will pay less towards principal. In the long term that costs borrowers more, and it inflates home prices – which of course will be viewed very negatively in the not-too-distant future.
Sign up with Real Estate Leads here and receive a monthly quota of qualified, online-generated buyer and / or seller leads delivered to you exclusively and for your very own, protected region of any city or town in Canada. It’s a proven-effective way to get more out of your client prospecting efforts, and we’re nearly certainly you’ll quickly come to see it as a very worthwhile monthly expense when it comes to promoting your Real Estate business.