Mortgages Are Improving, But Are Canadian Borrowers?

Written by Posted On Monday, 07 March 2005 16:00

Canadian residential mortgage credit should surpass C$600 billion in 2005, after a solid single-digit increase in growth this year, according to our national housing agency, Canada Mortage and Housing Corporation [ Canada Mortage and Housing Corporation ] (CMHC). Continued economic growth, job creation, positive demographic factors, and low mortgage rates should sustain ownership demand in both new and resale housing markets.

To help Canadians with their financing efforts, CMHC enhanced its 2005 mortgage loan insurance products and policies:

  • Streamlined income verification for self-employed Canadians, should improve access to the full spectrum of CMHC's homeowner mortgage insurance products for entrepreneurs. With this new process, CMHC provides fast and consistent decisions on all mortgage insurance requests with no increase to mortgage insurance premiums, surcharges, or borrower qualifications.

  • Homeowner mortgage loan insurance for a second, year-round home without additional premiums, surcharges, or borrower qualifications. This enhancement recognizes the evolving lifestyle needs of Canadians who purchase a second home as a result of career or family decisions. Qualified borrowers may use any of CMHC's existing homeowner products, including Flex Down, Line of Credit (LOC), Refinance, and the 95% Financing product when they purchase or refinance a second home.

  • More affordable, fully automated Progress Advance for home improvements and new home construction. CMHC has eliminated the 0.5% premium surcharge on Progress Advance applications and offers lenders, a fully-automated application process. With this new approach, CMHC validates the work in place for mortgage loan insurance purposes and provides electronic advance approval. This streamlines the advancing process and ensures fast and efficient cash flow, which is particularly important for the small builders and contractors.

CMHC's mandate -- "to help Canadians gain access to quality, affordable housing" -- extends to helping property owners whose real estate is considered too risky by mortgage lenders. A few months ago, CMHC announced that it would offer mortgage loan insurance in the Keeprite area of Brantford, Ontario. In February 2002, CMHC became aware of a potential environmental issue in the Elgin Street area of Brantford, located near the former Keeprite plant, that may have impacted homes in this area. Properties with unresolved environmental problems are not considered eligible for mortgage loan insurance and, therefore, mortgage financing. CMHC has since received confirmation that the environmental issues are being addressed, that there are no health concerns, and that the homeowners are not responsible for the identified contamination. With mortgage insurance available, those moving into the area will be able to arrange financing.

While the government moves to do more for consumers and to make it easier for potential borrowers to get the best terms and rate possible, Canadians may not be taking full advantage of these opportunities to save themselves thousands in mortgage interest and other borrowing costs.

Internet usage is up when it concerns looking for a mortgage, but overall usage is still low. The number using the Internet for mortgage research may have doubled to almost 30 percent in 2004, but actual usage of the Internet for mortgage-related transactions remains low. In 2004, only about one-in-ten mortgage consumers used the Internet to pay their mortgage on-line.

The greatest concern, and even disappointment, lies in the strategies borrowers are adopting. Disturbingly, last year, only 40 percent of purchasers and 30 percent of renewers actively shopped around for mortgage proposals from different lenders. This is the lowest level reported since CMHC began the survey in 1999.

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