|Canadian Real Estate - Bubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble|
It is almost four years after the global financial meltdown of 2008 and many parts of world are still trying to recover. Given the impact of the crisis, which rocked financial markets across the globe, it is shocking to many that Canada seems to be following many of the same lending trends as we saw in the United States in 2006. These trends were at the core of the subprime mortgage crisis, which led to the global recession of 2008.
In the year and a half leading up to the crash housing prices rapidly increased in the United States, with a corresponding increase in subprime lending. We are now seeing the same trends in Canada. When analyzing the Canadian housing market, housing prices increased almost 100% since 2000, with the average home in Canada costing roughly $348,000. This is almost double our U.S. counterparts.
Big banks have become stricter with lending policies, and have upped the stakes for those looking for mortgage financing. This has created a huge market for sub-prime lenders in the marketplace that didn’t exist before because more and more people who would have been approved five years ago are now being turned away. There is now a huge shift in the lending marketplace. Once small, Canada`s subprime mortgage industry is now booming. More and more Canadians with highly questionable credit are highly benefiting from the available financing.
The Canadian Government has been moving quite aggressively in attempts to cool down the Canadian housing market. As home prices are soaring there are fears that there is a bubble in the making. This is evident through the recent actions of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who is now acting for a fourth time, reducing the maximum amortization period for government issued mortgages from 30 to 25 years. On top of this he is also lowering the amount of equity that can be borrowed against a property to 80% down from 85%.
More than $500B of Canada's estimated $1.1T housing market are considered to be high-risk mortgages. Recently Ottawa began increasing its scrutiny of the CMHC for allowing this level of high-risk mortgages to rise to the level that it’s at now.
The Conservative Government has started putting stops to banks using mortgages insured by the CHMC as collateral on covered bonds. In addition new legislation will be implemented to ensure that corporations will have to give more consideration to the broader implications of their decisions. Essentially the CHMC is being told that, for every mortgage they insure, they will have to put consideration into the potential risk that mortgage put on the full Canadian economy.
The CMHC has dramatically expanded use of insurance by banks for covered bonds. These securities are made up of a package of mortgages, which is partly due to the steep rise in CMHC`s mortgage portfolio according to Jim Flaherty, Canada's Finance Minister. CMHC has a legal limit of 600B for mortgage insurance which it is fast approaching. The $600B limit has already been raised twice since the end of 2007.
Another significant type of lending in Canada is Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs). HELOCs are loans which are secured by the equity of a borrower’s home. These types of loans in Canada have increased almost 170% since 2001 (which is double the rate of increase on Canadian mortgages). In 2011 they accounted for approximately half of total Canadian consumer credit.
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