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Canadian Mortgage Picture Far Brighter than the US

The U.S. subprime crisis developed over several years as borrowers with little or no income, little or no equity, and a history of not paying their bills were approved for subprime mortgages. To attract even more of these borrowers, Option ARMs (specialized Adjustable Rate Mortgages) were offered. These mortgages started with a very low “teaser” rate for the first few months or years, then the rate automatically “reset” to a much higher level for the rest of the term.

The popularity of these mortgages helped drive the U.S. housing market to very high levels. House prices rose rapidly and homeowners, thinking they could rely on this forever, started extracting equity from their homes to increase their disposable income.

A "perfect storm" in the U.S.

What happened in 2007 was a “perfect storm”. U.S. mortgage rates had been creeping up and were reaching levels that slowed demand for houses. House prices stopped rising as quickly and eventually began to fall. The teaser rate on Option ARMs began to reset in large numbers leaving many borrowers unable to afford the new payments. With house values on the decline, many borrowers discovered they owed more than their house was now worth. Their only option was to default, which happened on a massive scale.

The effect on the U.S. economy has been dramatic. The housing market is already in recession and the news will get even worse over the next few months. According to CIBC World Markets, by mid-2008 the likelihood is for home sales to decline by 40%, housing starts to drop by 55%, and house prices to fall by 12-13%, from their peak. Forecasters still expect the U.S. economy to avoid recession, but it will come very close in the next few months.

In Canada, the story is different.

In Canada, our Bank Act requires lenders to be more conservative than in the U.S. The percentage of subprime mortgages in Canada is substantially less. And, according to CIBC World Markets, the percentage of Canadian mortgages in arrears is still near record lows–in stark contrast to the U.S. where delinquency and foreclosure rates have risen notably in recent months.

The bottom line is, unlike the U.S., the Canadian housing market has not been artificially driven by poor lending practices. Our long-term fundamentals are solid. We have a growing population, energy and commodities are in high demand, personal incomes are increasing, job creation is strong, and consumer confidence remains high.

Of course, if the U.S. does go into recession, Canada will feel the pain too. This concern has kept the Bank of Canada from raising interest rates, which creates yet another benefit for Canadian homeowners. Not only do we still enjoy access to readily available mortgage funds with no major default problems—but due to the U.S. subprime crisis, our mortgage rates should remain low for the foreseeable future.

Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 02:53PM by Registered CommenterElaine | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

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February 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlbuquerque real estate

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