CMHC Tightens Mortgage Rules

Back to posts

In the last decade, we have seen policymakers in the mortgage and banking world stack mortgage rule changes one above the other in an attempt to slow down the increase of home prices. As well, to curb the debt appetite of Canadians. In the last week, CMHC’s President & CEO, Evan Siddall, has done this yet again. Effective as of July 1st 2020, CMHC is revamping its guidelines forcing users of CMHC backed mortgages to respect new rules for down payments, demanding higher credit scores, reducing the debt service ratio that allows a Canadian to borrow, as well as disallowing borrowed funds to be used for down payments.

In a recent press release that CMHC put out, they claimed to be making these changes due to the COVID 19 pandemic.  The claim was that they are anticipating a 9-18% decrease in house prices over the next 12 months, and that their goal was to protect future homebuyers and reduce risk.

In my humble opinion, in typical CMHC fashion, I find that this lumbering giant is driving looking in the rearview mirror. CMHC is so slow to react to change that they only take action after a crisis is coming to an end. We have seen this occur time and time again with policy changes. Although I do agree with a couple of changes that they have made, this revamping that they are making is nothing short of governmental irresponsibility. It actually makes me wonder if maybe they have been using a little too much hand sanitizer. All jokes aside, let’s look in-depth at each change:

 

Establish a minimum credit score of 680 for at least one borrower;

This is an important point and it is one I actually agree with.  Most banks do have internal policies set up already with similar guidelines. I do feel that in a mortgage transaction, we should have a higher standard for credit scores. Setting a minimum score of 680 for at least one borrower is a good idea.

 

Non-traditional sources of down payment that increase indebtedness will no longer be treated as equity for insurance purposes;

This basically means that you can no longer borrow funds to use for a down payment. I’m on the fence on this one. I personally don’t believe that it should be a policy, but rather it should be common sense and every file should be treated on a case by case basis.

Example: A first-time homebuyer takes money from a credit card for a down payment for the purchase of a home.  Although in the past this was allowed provided the client’s debt ratios were inline, this is not good practice and I have always dissuaded my clients from doing this.

Let’s look at another example. A client owns a condo and they want to keep it and rent it out.  They would like to refinance the condo, liberate equity, and use the funds as a down payment on a house. This is a strategy that is used by many Canadians.  Under the new rules, will this be disallowed? I personally feel that nothing is wrong with this strategy as long as the ratios, in the end, make sense.

 

Limiting the Gross/Total Debt Servicing (GDS/TDS) ratios to our standard requirements of 35/42;

This is the big one and the one that I frankly do NOT agree with, especially considering the government put in place the stress test a couple of years ago that already limited Canadians’ buying ability. When you apply for a mortgage, the financial institution and CMHC use debt service ratios to determine your borrowing ability. Historically it has always been 35/42 for anyone with a credit score under 680 and 39/44 for anyone with a score above 680.  When the stress test came into effect a couple of years ago, CMHC removed the 35/42 rule and used 39/44 for everyone. Now, rather than creating a tiered system as they once had, they are looking to reduce it across the board. This is absurd! This means that yet again, responsible Canadians are going to get penalized.

Let’s see how this change will impact the average Canadian borrowing capacity. I will use the GDS (gross debt service ratio) as a guide in our calculations. We will use a 5 year fixed rate of 2.5% for illustration purposes and an annual income of $65,000

In 2015 If you wanted to apply for a 5-year fixed-rate mortgage, the calculation that was used then would allow for a Maximum Mortgage Amount of $369,000

$65,000 X 39%= $25,350 (disposable income for housing) from which we subtract heating costs of  $1,500, property taxes of $4,000 and if applicable, condo fees. Once we have removed expenses from the $25,350, we are left with $19,850. If we divide this number by 12, it gives us the maximum amount that we can spend on a mortgage per month. In this case, $1,654.17.  Running it through our trusty calculator, this translates to a maximum mortgage of $369,000. The interest rate that was used to determine your borrowing capacity was the 5-year contract rate that you received when you signed your mortgage.

Stress test comes into effect In 2018.  If you wanted to apply for a 5-year fixed-rate mortgage, the calculation that was used was similar to the above but the rate used to qualify you was higher (Bank of Canada Qualifying Rate) which would allow for a Maximum Mortgage Amount of $275,185

$65,000 X 39%= $25,350 (disposable income for housing) from which we subtract heating costs of $1,500, property taxes of $4,000 and if applicable, condo fees. Once we have removed expenses from the $25,350, we are left with $19,850. If we divide this number by 12, it gives us the maximum amount that we can spend on a mortgage per month. In this case, $1,654.17.  Running it through our trusty calculator, this translates to a maximum mortgage of $275,185. The interest rate that was used to determine your borrowing capacity was the 5-Year Bank of Canada Rate of 5.34% or a premium of 2% above your contract rate, whichever was higher.

With the changes that CMHC is proposing, we will be only using 35% of the income and still apply the stress test which would allow for a Maximum Mortgage Amount of $239,140

$65,000 X 35%= $22,750 (disposable income for housing) from which we subtract heating costs of $1,500, property taxes of $4,000 and if applicable, condo fees. Once we have removed expenses from the $22,750, we are left with $17,250.  If we divide this number by 12, it gives us the maximum amount that we can spend on a mortgage per month. In this case, $1,437.50.  Running it through our trusty calculator this translates to a maximum mortgage of $239,140.86. The interest rate that was used to determine your borrowing capacity was the 5-Year Bank of Canada Rate of 5.34% or a premium of 2% above your contract rate, whichever was higher.

 

This is crazy! Is it just me or is the government actually trying to kill home values in Canada? By doing this, we are effectively reducing Canadians’ borrowing capacity by over 27%. Luckily, we have a silver lining on this dark cloud.  The two other insurers in Canada, Genworth, and  Canada Guaranty have made public statements condemning this change and have both said that they will not be following along with CMHC. This caused Siddell to Tweet a fairly abrupt response, in my opinion, making the following statement:  “Before everyone celebrates, “no change” may mean in part that ⁦@GenworthCanada could have had tighter policies already. We don’t know. ⁦@CMHC_ca welcomes competition but will not compete by encouraging over-borrowing.”  Genworth’s policies are always made public and the truth is that they have not followed suit with these policy changes and do not plan on doing so in the near future.

You can see the full thread here https://twitter.com/ewsiddall/status/1270030223980015619

 

 

 

  • 386
  • 0