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New Mortgage Rules Aimed at Cooling the Condo Market

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced changes to the way mortgages are given out in this country today that are said to help prevent a housing bubble from forming. The keyword being prevent, meaning the government is very clear that they do not believe a housing bubble exists. I would have to agree with the sentiment in this city, however, I would add as I have been saying on this blog for months, the current pace we are at is not sustainable.

Personally I am not a fan of government intervention in the markets in this way, however, I don’t think these new rules will dramatically affect the market in any significant way. It seems more than anything, the moves today are meant to send a message to Toronto condo buyers in particular that condo flipping is not cool and real estate investing is not the same thing as speculation. Flaherty even mentioned “multiple-condo markets” in his statements to the press. Hmmm…I wonder what cities he is referring to?

My thoughts on the 3 key points in the release:

  • Require that all borrowers meet the standards for a five-year fixed rate mortgage even if they choose a mortgage with a lower interest rate and shorter term. This initiative will help Canadians prepare for higher interest rates in the future.

Many lenders already do this by my understanding, so no big change here – if you want a 35 year amortization variable rate mortgage, you can get it, you just have to qualify for the mortgage funds at a 25 year fixed rate mortgage.

  • Lower the maximum amount Canadians can withdraw in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent from 95 per cent of the value of their homes. This will help ensure home ownership is a more effective way to save.

This change is so marginal that I don’t know why they did it other than to send a message that borrowing money against your home is just about always a really bad idea financially.

  • Require a minimum down payment of 20 per cent for government-backed mortgage insurance on non-owner-occupied properties purchased for speculation.

This one is aimed at all those looking to buy with 5% down and flip in a year for a profit. Flaherty is looking right at you crazy capitalists and saying don’t even think about it.

For the full statement by the government of Canada after the jump. Questions or thoughts on this? I’d love to hear them – leave a comment or email me.

Government of Canada Takes Action to Strengthen Housing Financing

The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, today announced a number of measured steps to support the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market and continue to encourage home ownership for Canadians.

“Canada’s housing market is healthy, stable and supported by our country’s solid economic fundamentals,” said Minister Flaherty. “However, a key lesson of the global financial crisis is that early policy action can help prevent negative trends from developing.”

The Government will therefore adjust the rules for government-backed insured mortgages as follows:

  • Require that all borrowers meet the standards for a five-year fixed rate mortgage even if they choose a mortgage with a lower interest rate and shorter term. This initiative will help Canadians prepare for higher interest rates in the future.
  • Lower the maximum amount Canadians can withdraw in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent from 95 per cent of the value of their homes. This will help ensure home ownership is a more effective way to save.
  • Require a minimum down payment of 20 per cent for government-backed mortgage insurance on non-owner-occupied properties purchased for speculation.

“There’s no clear evidence of a housing bubble, but we’re taking proactive, prudent and cautious steps today to help prevent one. Our Government is acting to help prevent Canadian households from getting overextended, and acting to help prevent some lenders from facilitating it,” said Minister Flaherty. “If some lenders aren’t willing to act themselves, we will act. These measures demonstrate the Government is committed to taking action when necessary to support the long-term stability of a sector that is so vital to our economy and the financial well-being of Canadian families.”

These adjustments to the mortgage insurance guarantee framework are intended to come into force on April 19, 2010.

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