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Archive for March, 2020

OREA: End open houses during COVID-19 outbreak

Realtors in Ontario should immediately stop holding open houses during the province’s state of emergency over COVID-19.

That’s the call from the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), which issued a statement on Saturday urging real estate professionals to use technology for home showings instead.

“I am calling on all Realtors to cease holding open houses during this crisis and advise their clients to cancel any that are planned,” said Sean Morrison, OREA President. “If a client has an urgent need to sell or buy a home during the COVID-19 crisis, there are other real estate tools that Realtors can use for showing a property including virtual tours. Let’s put our clients and communities first and focus on protecting the health and safety of all Ontarians.”

Follow the advice
OREA’s statement added that, while open houses are a common practice in the real estate industry that helps sellers get good value for their homes, this is secondary to public health.

It has called for real estate agents to follow the clear advice of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO): “If you decide to offer services involving open houses and showings, it is your duty to support your clients in making an informed choice about hosting or attending open houses and showings.”

OREA’s Morrison gave some advice for real estate agents that are asked by home sellers to hold an open house.

“My message to my fellow Ontario Realtors is clear: you are trusted advisors and professionals. Encourage your clients to use technology that facilitates remote interactions and especially avoids large groups that can happen during open houses. Every Realtor has access to modern tools such as virtual showings, video conference calls and digital signing. Now is the time to use them or, if you can, wait until the State of Emergency is lifted,” he said.

by Steve Randall

23 Mar 2020


Industry adapts to “the new normal” created by the virus

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is an outsized test of the resilience of the mortgage and real estate industry.

While most organizations have emergency plans in place for market disruption, but the scale and speed of the virus’ hold on Canadian life is unprecedented in modern times, but the industry continues to show its adaptiveness with most lenders and associated businesses offering both safe-working practices for their staff and support for their customers.

CIBC, for example, says that all of its locations will stay open but with modified hours from March 18, except for those centres that do not offer over-the-counter cash and banking services, which will close completely.

As well as remote working options for all staff who are not in customer-facing roles, the bank has also donated $100,000 to the World Health Organization, and $650,000 to local Canadian charities.

Central 1 Credit Union is encouraging customers to use digital channels and says that it is confident that its systems are ready to handle increased traffic. It carried out an “extensive and successful” disaster recovery exercise for all key Central 1 systems in November 2019 but says that resources are in place to quickly mitigate any unforeseen issues.

Customer support
Mortgage insurer Canada Guaranty says that it is working hard with partners to find solutions for those customers that may experience financial hardship as a result of the virus outbreak. Its Homeownership Solutions Program normally enables lenders to capitalize up to four monthly mortgage payments but it says this can be extended to a maximum of six monthly payments, subject to certain conditions.

Land transfers
The Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) says that, due to social distancing, it will accept an Affidavit of Execution sworn under section 49 of the Land Title Act.

It also says that documents that are signed by the transferor on one page and witnessed by an officer on a separate page. This means that both can maintain a safe distance.

However, it clarified that the requirements of the Land Title Act mean that the transferor must be in the presence of an officer and that videoconferencing is not an acceptable alternative.


by Steve Randall

17 Mar 2020

Is coronavirus about to prompt a house price crash?

The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is being felt across the world, but what will it do to Canada’s housing market?"The short answer, of course, is that no one really knows, but the latest assessment of the housing market by RBC Economics suggests that things are about to get rocky.

Senior economist Robert Hogue said that the “light was on” in the housing market in February but that it is “about to be turned off.”

“The world has changed in March,” he wrote in the RBC Monthly Housing Market Update. “And so has the outlook for the Canadian housing market.”

Hogue said that fears of the spread and social distancing are set to decimate house viewings and buyers are likely to take a wait-and-see approach.

Then there’s the impact that Canadians’ investments have suffered from falling asset values. Hogue notes that some homebuyers would be relying on these investments to fund their down payment.Despite mortgage rates remaining low, especially following recent interest rate cuts and the potential for more, consumer confidence is likely to outrank them.

Sales plunge but what about prices?
Hogue’s outlook is that home sales will plunge in the coming weeks before a rebound at some (undeterminable) point. But he expects home values nationally to be resilient with tight supply in many markets, providing a cushion against correction.

For Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal, recent price escalations are predicted to cool but there could be tougher conditions for the Prairies where market conditions are softer and the oil price fall will be a further blow.

by Steve Randall

17 Mar 2020


COVID-19: Government announces new mortgage buying program

The Canadian government has announced a further measure to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and to help maintain stability in the financial system.

It will launch a revised Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (IMPP) which will see up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools purchased through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

It means that banks and mortgage lenders will have stable funding to continue to lend to consumers and businesses.

The government highlights that this does not pose additional risk to taxpayers as the insured mortgages being purchased are already backed by the government.

"These events remind us all how crucial it is to have a safe and affordable place to live. CMHC exists in part to buffer the effects of events such as the COVID-19 virus pandemic, which affect the health and stability of Canada's financial system. This is what we do. We are part of a federal team that is working hard together to ease the impacts on Canadians,” said Evan Siddall, president and CEO of CMHC.

Earlier this week, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced measures to shore up finances of the institutions it regulates and the suspension of the planned changes to the mortgage stress test.’

by Steve Randall

March 17, 2020


What potential millennial clients in Ontario want in a home

Around four in five millennial homebuyers in Ontario are looking for detached and semi-detached homes, something the market has a limited supply of, according to the latest study by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).

The study said that this group of homebuyers is more interested in detached, semi-detached, and townhomes instead of the more affordable option, condominiums.

However, OREA President Sean Morrison said the province needs to address its supply issues to help boost the accessibility of the housing market for first-home buyers.

Morrison said the lack of available properties in the market is not helping the impact of high demand on home prices.

"Ontario needs to address the missing middle of housing supply by exploring innovative solutions like laneway housing and multi-unit homes, such as townhouses, stacked flats or mid-rise buildings, especially in downtown and urban areas," Morrison said.

According to the study, millennials are more likely than baby boomers to consider living in urban and suburban areas. They typically watch out for these factors when looking for a home: affordability, safe and quality neighbourhood, and proximity to work.

Their baby-boomer counterparts, on the other hand, prefer properties in small towns and rural areas.

by Gerv Tacadena

11 Mar 2020

TRREB welcomes passing of TRESA and benefit for Realtors

The news that Ontario has passed the Trust in Real Estate Service Act (TRESA) has been welcomed by one of the province’s largest industry bodies.

Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) says that it will help enhance professional standards, create a more fair and efficient business environment, and better protect consumers dealing with those who trade in real estate in Ontario, including Realtors.

“The real estate sector continues to be one of the most important parts of Ontario’s economy, and real estate transactions represent the single biggest economic transactions that most people make in their life. It’s important that we make sure the real estate sector is regulated in an efficient and modern way that allows Realtors and their clients; and the general public, namely home buyers and sellers, renters and business clients, to continue contributing to the growth of our economy and communities,” said Michael Collins, TRREB President.

The board has been calling for reforms for many years and has been consulting with the current and previous governments.

The proposed act includes:

  • regulatory changes to enhance consumer choice in the real estate transaction process
  • enhancements to ethical requirements for real estate professionals
  • updates to the Real Estate Council of Ontario’s regulatory and enforcement powers and changes to factors for eligibility for registration
  • changes to treat real estate professionals fairly and allow them to operate more efficiently by incorporating

“We always made sure that preserving consumer choice and consent, along with enhanced industry professionalism, remained central when proposing and discussing legislative improvements with the government. Furthermore, we are pleased to see business fairness being addressed by allowing all Realtors to run their businesses more efficiently by forming personal real estate corporations, if they so choose—a tool that’s available to Realtors in six other provinces and many industries in Ontario,” said John DiMichele, TRREB Chief Executive Officer.  

by Steve Randall

02 Mar 2020

What you need to know about the new stress test

The sky-high prices of major housing markets in Canada have moved the needle for the government and regulators to change the stress test.

The federal government announced recently that the new benchmark rate for insured mortgages will be the weekly median five-year fixed insurance mortgage rate from mortgage insurance application plus 2%.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the change will allow the stress test to rise and fall depending on the median interest rates of lenders. At the same time, this new benchmark will ensure that Canadians are only borrowing what they can afford.

"We think these are positive moves to ensure that the approach remains effective for Canadians and that it also deals with changing market conditions," Morneau said.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) is considering the same stress test for uninsured mortgages. Currently, the minimum qualifying rate for this segment is the higher of the contractual mortgage rate plus 2% or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.

OSFI will be open to comments and input stakeholders about the proposal until March 17. Following the review, it will announce the new guidelines for uninsured mortgages by April 1 and will implement the changes by April 6.

Ben Gully, assistant superintendent for regulation at OSFI, said the potential changes to the stress test for uninsured mortgages would address the limitations of the current benchmark rate while maintaining the integrity of the mortgage underwriting guideline (B-20).

"Sound mortgage underwriting and B-20 contribute to financial stability throughout the economic cycle. Continually reviewing our prudential measures is part of an effective regulatory framework," he said.

In a think piece, Better Dwelling co-founder Stephen Punwasi said the changes could increase the purchasing power of borrowers by around 3%, which is almost the same size as the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI).

"Even though it doesn't seem like much, it's likely to have a material impact. The FTHBI has only delivered $53m of assistance across the country. However, it did send a shiver of fear-of-missing-out through buyers. The incentive lifted expectations of more buyer competition. That helped many millennials fearful of being locked out of the market accelerate their purchase," Punwasi said.


by Gerv Tacadena

26 Feb 2020