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CMHC announced that it is raising its rates on mortgage insurance effective May 1, 2014, by an average of 15 per cent. Although this is not good news for homebuyers, it does not mean that the sky is falling either. Here’s why:
If you are buying a home and have less than 20 per cent for the down payment, you need to obtain mortgage insurance, either through CMHC or a private insurance company such as Genworth Canada or Central Guaranty. The costs of the insurance are typically added to your mortgage and paid out over the 25 year amortized term.
The reason for mortgage insurance is that banks would likely not lend money to people who for example, only had saved 5 per cent for the down payment, unless the mortgage was insured. CMHC essentially guarantees the loan to the bank so that if the borrower defaults and the property is sold at a loss, CMHC pays the difference. CMHC claims that they need to raise the premiums so that they have more capital reserves in case more consumers default on their mortgages in the future.
For example, if you have a 5% down payment today and you wish to borrow $300,000, the cost for the mortgage insurance is 2.75% or $8,250. You do not pay for this up front. Instead, it gets added to your mortgage debt so you would borrow a total of $308,250 to net $300,000. Under the new rules, the rate would increase to 3.15%, or $9,410, so you would borrow a total of $309,410 to net the same $300,000.
If you took a 5 year mortgage at 3.49% interest today, your monthly payment would rise from $1,537 per month, to $1,543. This is an increase of $6 per month.
Some say that this could now make a home unaffordable for many first time buyers. I disagree. While no one likes any increase in costs, we are still in a historic period of extremely low interest rates. Compare this to 1990, when interest rates were 12 per cent. The same mortgage would cost you $3,193 per month. In 2008, when the interest rate was 7 per cent, the payment would have been $2,167 per month.
It seems that every day someone else comes out with a prediction on the future direction of house prices in Canada. For every bank economist who says that we will still see stable growth over the next few years, there are others who predict a soft landing, with perhaps a price correction of 2 to 3 per cent. And then others predict that we are headed for a major price crash of 20 per cent over the next 5 years. All I know is that we have seen a period of steady growth in the Canadian real estate market for the past 14 years, despite many earlier predictions of crashes. Canada remains one of the most stable places in the world to live and raise a family.
Buyers, the main message is that you do not have to rush out and buy a home to beat the May 1, 2014 date when the mortgage insurance rates go up. It is more important to just make sure you can afford the home you are interested in and that you properly inspect any home before you buy it.
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