30 Apr

What You Need to Know Before you Buy

General

Posted by: Alisa Aragon

Spring is one of the busiest seasons for retail activity as the good weather gives people lots of time for decluttering, showing the home, garage sales, packing and moving into your new space! Buying a home is an extremely exciting and fulfilling adventure, but before you get started let’s go through some of the most important things you need to know before you buy a home.

First things first, are you ready to own a home? This is likely the largest financial decision you will ever make and there are a few questions you can ask yourself to ensure you are ready:

  • Are you financially stable?
  • Do you have the financial management skills and discipline to handle this large of a purchase?
  • Are you ready to devote the time to regular home maintenance?
  • Are you aware of all the costs and responsibilities that come with being a homeowner?

If you answered ‘yes’ to the above questions, congrats! You’re on the right track. Let’s look at some of the most important things to know:

Securing Your Down Payment
A down payment is the largest, upfront cost that comes with purchasing a home. The minimum on any mortgage in Canada is 5 percent but putting down more whenever possible will lower the amount being borrowed. Note: If you are putting down less than 20 percent, default insurance will be mandatory to protect the investment.

If you have a nest egg of savings that you can apply towards the down payment, then you are ready to move on! If not, RRSPs can be a great resource towards a down payment for a first-time home buyer (up to $35,000). Another option is a gift from a family member, which requires a Gift Letter stating that the money does not have to be repaid and a snapshot showing that the gifted funds have been transferred.

If these are not options for you, then you can still work on ensuring you have a good credit score and determining your budget while saving for a down payment in the meantime.  

Getting Your Credit in Order
Ensuring your finances and credit is in order will make it easier to qualify for a mortgage and can be done while you’re saving for your down payment. Ensuring good credit simply involves paying your bills on time (rent, utilities, car payments) and ensuring your credit cards are paid monthly as well as keeping the balance below 75 per cent of the available limit. If you’re new to the world of credit, consider the 2-2-2 rule. Lenders want to see two forms of resolving credit (ie: credit cards) with limits no less than $2,000 and a clean payment history for two years. Another important note is to avoid making any credit mistakes or other major purchases (such as a new car) until after you have mortgage approval and have closed the deal on your new home.

Don’t Use Your Maximum Budget
Temptation will always be to start looking at the very top of your budget, but it is important to remember that there will be fees, such as mandatory closing costs, which can range from 1 to 4% of the purchase price. Factoring these into your maximum budget can help you narrow down a home that is entirely affordable and ensure future financial stability and security.

Get Pre-Approved
A mortgage pre-approval determines the actual home price you can afford and is different from the pre-qualification in that it requires submission and verification of your financial history. A pre-approval can determine the maximum you can afford to spend, the monthly mortgage payment associated with your purchase price range and the mortgage rate for your first term. Getting pre-approved also guarantees the rate offered to you will be locked in from 90 to 120 days which helps if interest rates rise while you are still shopping.

 

Ron Maranda
Dominion Lending Centres

24 Apr

Home Sales and Listings Plunge in March as the Bank of Canada Steps Up Economic Support

General

Posted by: Alisa Aragon

Housing Market Another Victim of the Virus  

Data released this morning from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) showed national home sales fell 14.3% on a month-over-month (m-o-m) basis in March, the first national indication of the early impact of social isolation. The economic disruption and massive layoffs caused both buyers and sellers to increasingly retreat to the sidelines over the second half of the month.

Transactions were down on a m-o-m basis in the vast majority of local markets last month. Among Canada’s largest markets, sales declined in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) (-20.8%), Montreal (-13.3%), Greater Vancouver (-2.9%), the Fraser Valley (-13.6%), Calgary (-26.3%), Edmonton (-13.2%), Winnipeg (-7.3%), Hamilton-Burlington (-24.9%) and Ottawa (-7.9%).

Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity was still running 7.8% above a quiet March in 2019, although that was a considerable slowdown compared to the y-o-y gain of close to 30% recorded in February.

“March 2020 will be remembered around the planet for a long time. Canadian home sales and listings were increasing heading into what was expected to be a busy spring for Canadian REALTORS®,” said Jason Stephen, president of CREA. “After Friday the 13th, everything went sideways. REALTORS® are complying with government directives and advice, all the while adopting virtual technologies allowing them to continue showing properties to clients already in the market, and completing all necessary documents.”

“Numbers for March 2020 are a reflection of two very different realities, with most of the stronger sales and price growth recorded during the pre-COVID-19 reality which we are no longer in,” said Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Senior Economist. “The numbers that matter most for understanding what follows are those from mid-March on, and things didn’t really start to ratchet down until week four. Preliminary data from the first week of April suggest both sales and new listings were only about half of what would be normal for that time of year.”

New Listings
The number of newly listed homes declined by 12.5% in March compared to the prior month. As with sales, the declines were recorded across the country.

With sales and new listings each falling by similar magnitudes in March, the national sales-to-new listings ratio edged back to 64% compared to 65.4% in February. While this is down slightly, the bigger picture is that this measure of market balance was remarkably little changed considering the extent to which current economic and social conditions are impacting both buyers and sellers.

Based on a comparison of the sales-to-new listings ratio with the long-term average, two-thirds of all local markets were in balanced market territory in March 2020. Virtually all of the remainder continued to favour sellers.

There were 4.3 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of March 2020. While this is up from the almost 15-year low of 3.8 months recorded in February, it remains almost a full month below the long-term average of 5.2 months. With the overall number of listings on the market continuing to fall in March, the m-o-m decline in the months of inventory measure was entirely the result of the outsized drop in sales activity.

The number of months of inventory is well above long-term averages in the Prairie provinces and Newfoundland & Labrador. By contrast, the measure is running well below long-term averages in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces. The measure remains in balanced territory in British Columbia.

Home Prices

With measures of market balance at this point, little changed from recent history, and most of the impact on sales and listings from the COVID-19 situation only showing up towards the end of March, the impact on housing prices will likely take a little longer to become apparent. Price measures for March 2020 were strongly influenced by very tight markets and a very strong start to the spring market in many parts of Canada before physical distancing measures were implemented.

The Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) rose 0.8% in March 2020 compared to February, marking its 10th consecutive monthly gain.

The MLS® HPI was up in March 2020 compared to the previous month in 16 of the 19 markets tracked by the index. (See the Table below)

Looking at the major Prairie markets, home price trends have ticked downwards in Calgary and Edmonton to start 2020 but have generally been stable since the beginning of last year. Prices in Saskatoon have also been stable over the last year, while those in Regina have continued to trend lower. Prices in Winnipeg have been on a slow upward trend since the beginning of 2019.

Meanwhile, the recovery in home prices has been in full swing throughout British Columbia and in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region. Further east, price growth in Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton continues as it has for some time now, with Ottawa and Montreal prices accelerating to start 2020.

Bottom Line: Clearly this is only the beginning, but the plunge in sales and new listings in the second half of March is indicative of the stall out in housing market activity likely until social distancing is removed and people feel safe enough to resume normal activities. No doubt, at that point, there will be buying opportunities, but right now, housing is just another contributor to the collapse in the economy.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

16 Apr

Bank of Canada Puts The Economy on Life Support

General

Posted by: Alisa Aragon

On the heels of a devastating decline in the Canadian economy, the Bank of Canada is taking unprecedented actions. With record job losses, plunging confidence and a shutdown of most businesses, this month’s newly released Monetary Policy Report (MPR) is a portrait of extreme financial stress and a sharp and sudden contraction across the globe. COVID-19 and the collapse in oil prices are having a never-before-seen economic impact and policy response.

The Bank’s MPR says, “Until the outbreak is contained, a substantial proportion of economic activity will be affected. The suddenness of these effects has created shockwaves in financial markets, leading to a general flight to safety, a sharp repricing of risky assets and a breakdown in the functioning of many markets.” It goes on to state, “While the global and Canadian economies are expected to rebound once the medical emergency ends, the timing and strength of the recovery will depend heavily on how the pandemic unfolds and what measures are required to contain it. The recovery will also depend on how households and businesses behave in response. None of these can be forecast with any degree of confidence.”

“The Canadian economy was in a solid position ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak but has since been hit by widespread shutdowns and lower oil prices. One early measure of the extent of the damage was an unprecedented drop in employment in March, with more than one million jobs lost across Canada. Many more workers reported shorter hours, and by early April, some six million Canadians had applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.”

“The sudden halt in global activity will be followed by regional recoveries at different times, depending on the duration and severity of the outbreak in each region. This means that the global economic recovery, when it comes, could be protracted and uneven.”

Today’s MPR breaks with tradition. It does not provide a detailed economic forecast. Such forecasts are useless given the degree of uncertainty and the lack of former relevant precedents. However, Bank analysis of alternative scenarios suggests the level of real activity was down 1%-to-3% in the first quarter of this year and will be 15%-to-30% lower in the second quarter than in Q4 of 2019. Inflation is forecast at 0%, mainly owing to the fall in gasoline prices.

“Fiscal programs, designed to expand according to the magnitude of the shock, will help individuals and businesses weather this shutdown phase of the pandemic, and support incomes and confidence leading into the recovery. These programs have been complemented by actions taken by other federal agencies and provincial governments.”

The Bank of Canada, along with all other central banks, have taken measures to support the functioning of core financial markets and provide liquidity to financial institutions, including making large-scale asset purchases and sharply lowering interest rates. The Bank reduced overnight interest rates in three steps last month by 150 basis points to 0.25%, which the Bank considers its “effective lower bound”. It did not cut this policy rate again today, as promised, believing that negative interest rates are not the appropriate policy response. The Bank has also conducted lending operations to financial institutions and asset purchases in core funding markets, amounting to around $200 billion.

“These actions have served to ease market dysfunction and help keep credit channels open, although they remain strained. The next challenge for markets will be managing increased demand for near-term financing by federal and provincial governments, and businesses and households. The situation calls for special actions by the central bank.”

The Bank of Canada, in its efforts to provide liquidity to all strained financial markets, has, in essence, become the buyer of last resort. Under its previously-announced program, the Bank will continue to purchase at least $5 billion in Government of Canada securities per week in the secondary market. It will increase the level of purchases as required to maintain the proper functioning of the government bond market. Also, the Bank is temporarily increasing the amount of Treasury Bills it acquires at auctions to up to 40%, effective immediately.

The Bank announced new measures to provide additional support for Canada’s financial system. It will commence a new Provincial Bond Purchase Program of up to $50 billion, to supplement its Provincial Money Market Purchase Program. Further, the Bank is announcing a new Corporate Bond Purchase Program, in which the Bank will acquire up to a total of $10 billion in investment-grade corporate bonds in the secondary market. Both of these programs will be put in place in the coming weeks. Finally, the Bank is further enhancing its term repo facility to permit funding for up to 24 months.

The Bank will support all Canadian financial markets, with the exception of the stock market, and it “stands ready to adjust the scale or duration of its programs if necessary. All the Bank’s actions are aimed at helping to bridge the current period of containment and create the conditions for a sustainable recovery and achievement of the inflation target over time.”

This is exactly what the central bank needs to do to instill confidence that Canadian financial markets will remain viable. These measures are a warranted offset to panic selling. Too many investors are prone to panic in times like these, which has a snowball effect that must be avoided. As long as people are confident that the Bank of Canada is a backstop, panic can be mitigated. The Bank of Canada deserves high marks for responding effectively to this crisis and remaining on guard. Governor Poloz and the Governing Council saw it early for what it is, a Black Swan of enormous proportions.

As a result, Canada will not only weather the pandemic storm better than many other countries, but we will come out of this economic and financial tsunami in better condition.

Dr. Sherry Cooper
Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres

 

10 Apr

To defer or not to defer

General

Posted by: Alisa Aragon

With Canada’s major Mortgage Finance Companies (MFC’s) and all six big banks offering mortgage deferrals of up to 6 months, as well as case-by-case options from credit unions, one of the major questions currently facing Canadians amid COVID-19 is do you defer your mortgage? To help you with this decision, we have gathered some important information on what it means to defer and the benefits (or side-effects) from doing so.

For anyone who is unsure, a mortgage payment deferral means that customers are not required to make regular payments (principal, interest and property tax, if applicable) on their mortgage. In the case of COVID-19, this deferral period can be up to six months.

As much as you may be keen on taking advantage of deferring your mortgage, it is essential to remember that this is not “free money”. During the time mortgage payments are deferred, it is important to understand that interest will continue to accrue and will be added to the mortgage account balance at the end of the deferral period. That said, depending on your financial situation, this may be a great option for those individuals who are facing lower monthly income due to COVID-19.

When deciding whether to defer, I recommend you have an honest conversation with yourself about your financial situation.

  1. Have you lost monthly income due to COVID-19?
  2. Are you struggling to pay your monthly bills as a direct result of COVID-19?
  3. Are you finding yourself extra stressed about your finances?

Remember, deferring payments is as much an emotional and mental decision as it is a financial one. In most cases, if you are really stressed and struggling then deferral is the way to go as it will help free up some income right away for families with reduced or no monthly income due to COVID-19.

To give you a rough idea of the true cost of deferral, RBC Bank has put out a great ‘ Skip a Payment ’ tool to help you understand how deferring your payment will work. This calculator will show you the amount owing after any deferred payment(s) to give you an idea of how affordable it may be for you. For example, if you have a mortgage rate of 2.80% and 20 years remaining, a single skipped payment of $2,000 will cost you an extra $1,403 over the long-term. Depending on your financial situation and regular monthly income, deferring your mortgage for six months might be a no-brainer for you – especially if it opens up your current finances for other bills.

If you are leaning towards deferring, please give me a call or email me to book your virtual appointment so we can go over your unique situation and I can help explain the costs to you and determine if it is the right option! If deferring is right for you, contacting your lender to apply and take advantage of this offer will be the next step. Ensuring you have approval for deferral will prevent any impact on your future credit rating.