The Greater Fool

Oct 31: Best from the blogosphere

October 30, 2017

If you buy a house or re-finance your existing home beginning in 2018, you may need a higher income to qualify for a mortgage.  Borrowers who are renewing mortgages will not have to meet the new stress-test standard as long as they stay with the same bank. However, renewals done with another lender will have to qualify under the revised standards because they require new underwriting.

As Sean Cooper explains in What OSFI’s (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) Tightened Rules on Uninsured Mortgages Means for Homebuyers on, under these new rules, buyers with a 20% down payment or more will have to undergo a more rigorous stress test, and qualify based on the highest posted five-year fixed rate – 4.64%, roughly 200 basis points higher than actual mortgage rates.

“Last year, in an effort to cool down hot real estate markets in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, Ottawa introduced new mortgage rules on only insured mortgages – meaning those who put less than 20% down.” Cooper notes. “But since then, the uninsured mortgage market has grown. So, to help reign in this segment of the market, OSFI is now proposing extending the stress test to uninsured mortgages.” blogger Alexandra Bosanac further clarifies in This is how OSFI’s new mortgage rules will affect Canadian homebuyers that the new OSFI rules will apply to buyers who apply for uninsured mortgages including those with a 20% down payment or more and those buying homes worth $1 million or more. “They will be stress tested to show they can afford a mortgage, either at the five-year average posted rate, or two percentage points higher than the rate their bank or broker offers them (whichever one is higher),” she says.

Bosanac offers an interesting example of how the new rule changes will impact homebuyers. A couple buying a home for $500,000 with a $125,000 down payment would be paying $1,743 a month at the the current lowest variable five-year mortgage rate in mid-October available in Ontario of 1.99%. However, under the new rules, that same couple will be stress tested prior to qualifying to ensure they can pay the mortgage at two percentage points higher — 3.99%. That means they will have to be able to show they can afford to pay a mortgage of $2,165 a month. That’s a difference of $422 a month, or $5,064 a year.

Globe and Mail mortgage columnist Robert McLister offers 10 ways the new mortgage rules will shake up the lending market. He suggests  that unless provincial regulators follow OSFI’s lead (which if history is a guide they won’t), it will be a bonanza for some credit unions because many credit unions will still let you get a mortgage based on your actual (contract) rate, instead of the much higher stress-test rate. He expects to see a rush of buying before the end of the year from people who fear they won’t qualify after January 1.

Furthermore, critics say new mortgage rules will push borrowers to unregulated lenders according to Globe and Mail reporters Janet McFarland and James Bradshaw. They spoke with OSFI superintendent Jeremy Rudin who acknowledged that OSFI is offloading risk to the unregulated lending sector, which doesn’t come under federal control, “That would not be an intended consequence, nor would it be a completely unanticipated consequence,” he told reporters.

Former MP Garth Turner blogging at The Greater Fool anticipates that real estate values will decline across the country as a result of the changes, which means home purchases could be a potential wealth trap, particularly for first time buyers who cannot afford losses.

In After Mom, he notes that in order to avoid paying mortgage insurance, many young buyers borrowed from parents to get over the 20% line so they would not have to pay mortgage insurance. As a result CMHC-insured loans plunged more than 40% at the same time real estate activity rose, the number of borrowers increased and overall mortgage debt swelled.

He concludes, “The average down payment gift from parents to kids in households making $100,000 or more is now over $40,000. Let’s hope Mom has a bunch more money to bail junior out when prices fall, rates rise and that first loan renewal comes round. Stress, baby.”

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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.