Flaherty raises some specific actions he could take to cool Canadian housing

For the first time since he initially acknowledged concern over a potential bubble in Canadian housing markets, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has openly indicated in an interview for CTV’s Question Period that higher down payments and shorter amortization periods are both on the table “if” there is further evidence of a bubble.

“If we see further evidence that there’s excessive demand in the housing market, or that there’s an indication that people are taking on obligations that they will not be able to handle in the future when interest rates do rise, then we’ll take some action,” Flaherty told the CTV.

Historically low interest rates intended to spur economic activity have pushed demand for homes higher resulting in sharp price increases in many Canadian markets. Near record level activity in our largest and priciest markets, Vancouver and Toronto has helped push the average selling price of a Canadian home to $368,665 (according to the Canadian Real Estate Association) , roughly twenty-percent higher than it was at this time last year.

“The likely action we would take is to increase the size of the down payment from five percent to a higher amount and probably, once again, reduce the amortization period. So, bring it down from a maximum of thirty-five years to something less than that,” Flaherty said.

I’m going to guess that December’s sale numbers will continue to fuel concern and bring us closer to seeing at least one of these changes implemented. Also uncertain is whether these changes would take effect immediately or if they would be effective at some future date.

Thanks to @JenCT for the heads up.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

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Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Canadian sub-prime lenders seek billion-dollar government bailout

An estimated 30,000 mortgages granted to Canadians with poor credit or insufficient incomes at the height of the Canadian housing boom will not be renewed when they mature over the next three years, according to a story on globeinvestor.com. The sub-prime lenders who granted the loans say that the investors who financed buyers at above market interest rates, and in many cases charging add-on fees that many might consider unconscionable, are no longer interested in these investments so they’re calling for full payment at the mortgage maturity date.

Knowing full well that calling these loans will lead to losses, these sub-prime lenders are hard at work using lobbyists to try to convince your government that you ought to be on the hook. Apparently, these are “healthy mortgages” given to individuals with “impeccable payment histories.”  The lenders will be “forced to foreclose on them” if the government doesn’t establish a one billion dollar fund to bail them out.

The effort is cleverly disguised as a bailout of unfortunate homeowners, but hopefully the Canadian people can read between the lines. Apparently, most of these mortgagors would not qualify for financing through a mainstream lender, or for mortgage insurance. As the Canadian Mortgage Trends blog points out, “Makes you wonder how healthy they are if the borrowers can’t re-qualify.”

Ivan Wahl, CEO for Xceed, a sub-prime lender who will call loans on 1,100 Canadians when they come due reportedly said in an interview with the Globe, “The government certainly should step up to the plate to provide some facilities for people who got caught in the crunch.”

It’s clear what a win this proposal would be for these investors who would land on their feet with every penny due after milking this risky scheme for all it was worth. As sad as it would be for those homeowners who took these loans and lived up to their agreement, the taxpayer should not be on the hook for these mortgages. The mortgages should be dealt with in the manner prescribed within the agreement. Some people will lose their homes. That’s a harsh reality of these types of risky ventures. For those that have sufficient equity, the months ahead should provide some strong selling opportunities. For those who are in for more than the home is worth, let’s send that loss back where it belongs, to those who cooked up the hair brained scheme in the first place.

Homeowners that have been notified that their mortgage will not be renewed should immediately explore their options. Can you re-finance with another lender? Is there enough equity in the home that you may be able to sell the property? See a lawyer who understands foreclosure to find out what rights you have under the law.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Saskatoon city council extends River Landing deadline for the last time

Saskatoon city council, in a special emergency meeting today, granted a final extension to Lake Placid Developments to cough up the $4.55 million for land the developer purchased at River Landing by October 30 2009. The extension is conditional upon the developer paying interest to the City of Saskatoon in the amount of $214,197 by August 31. An “embarrassed and humbled” Michael Lobsinger left a post-dated cheque to settle the bill along with his continued assurances that financing for the residential condo development and hotel, the proposed centrepiece of the River Landing development, is “imminent.”

In a story just published on the Star Phoenix website, Mayor Don Atchison is quoted as saying, “It’s all about certainty, and in the financial markets today it’s all about certainty, not guesswork. This is absolute certainty now. You heard me at the end there tell (Lake Placid CEO Michael) Lobsinger if he doesn’t come up with the $214,197.14, the deal is finished, or if it doesn’t come up with the money for the land, it’s terminated as well. There’s no more chances.”

Read the Star Phoenix story here.
CBC’s report is here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @Norm_Fisher.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Affordable housing assistance from city may be on its way

According to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, “Saskatoon city council’s executive committee approved a new mortgage support program on Tuesday to help low- and moderate-income people get into the housing market.

“Under the program, which will replace the home start affordable housing initiative, people with a household income of $52,000 or less will be given a five per cent downpayment toward a mortgage on a new affordable housing development, if they’re approved.”

The story is here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @Norm_Fisher.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Just how big a problem are subprime mortgages in Canada?

A story titled, “Canada’s dirty subprime secret,” appears in today’s Globe and Mail and claims that Canadian leaders are simply wrong about the extent to which the subprime mortgage mess will affect Canadians. According to the Globe’s report, it’s a bigger problem than we might have expected and its effects are already being felt in British Columbia and Alberta where “lenders are foreclosing on the homes of overextended borrowers at an alarming pace.”

Since the subprime mortgage meltdown in the United States, Canadian leaders have assured the public that a similar tidal wave of foreclosures can’t hit here. They have cited the prudence and market dominance of Canada’s five most prominent banks, the conservatism of Canadian consumers and the tiny, 7-per-cent market share of subprime lenders, which is much lower than their 22-per-cent market share in the United States. Just four days ago in a speech, Prime Minister Harper said: “We have avoided the extreme of the unregulated, or barely regulated, financial and mortgage industries that has caused such grief around the world.”

However, The Globe’s investigation shows that while Canada’s real estate sector hasn’t suffered as much as its counterpart in the United States, the Prime Minister and others have grossly underestimated the impact of that small portion of subprime lenders. Until recently, companies who touted their low standards with slogans such as “We Say Yes When The Banks Say No!” and “No Income Verification” proliferated here.

Read the Globe and Mail story here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate