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  • Federal government changes mortgage insurance rules

    2016-10-05 10:13:42 Posted By Jila Rezai

    The federal government announced regulation changes for new government-backed insured mortgages. Effective October 17, 2016, insured homebuyers will have to qualify at the posted five-year qualifying rate. Previously, only variable rate mortgages and mortgages with terms less than five years were subject to a higher qualifying rate.

    The qualifying rate is updated weekly and available on the Bank of Canada website. The current rate is 4.64 per cent, about 200 basis points higher than the best bank offered rates. 

    To qualify for mortgage insurance, a homebuyer's debt servicing ratio must be no higher than: 

    • Gross Debt Service – 39 per cent of household income, including mortgage payment, taxes, and heating costs.
    • Total Debt Service – 44 per cent of household income, including mortgage payment, taxes, heating costs, and all other debt payments. 

    These changes will apply to new mortgage insurance applications received on October 17, 2016 or later. Mortgage insurance applications received after October 2, 2016 and before October 17, 2016 are also not affected by the rule change, provided that the mortgage is funded by March 1, 2017. Homeowners with an existing insured mortgage or those renewing existing insured mortgages aren’t affected by this measure.

    These changes also won’t apply to mortgage loans where: 

    • the lender made a legally binding commitment to make the loan; and
    • the borrower entered into a legally binding agreement for the property against which the loan is secured. 

    The federal government is also instituting new eligibility rules for low-ratio (higher than 20 per cent down payment) mortgages backed by government insurance. As of November 30, 2016, to be eligible for government insurance, new mortgages must meet the following requirements: 

    1. A loan whose purpose  includes the purchase of a property or subsequent renewal of such a loan; 
    2. A maximum amortization length of 25 years;
    3. A maximum purchase price below $1,000,000 when the loan is approved;
    4. For variable-rate loans that allow fluctuations in the amortization period, loan payments that are recalculated at least once every five years to conform to the original amortization schedule; 
    5. A minimum credit score of 600 at the time the loan is approved;
    6. A maximum Gross Debt Service  ratio of 39 per cent and a maximum Total Debt Service ratio of 44 per cent at the time the loan is approved, calculated by applying the greater of  the mortgage contract rate or the Bank of Canada conventional five-year  fixed posted rate; and,
    7. A property that will be  owner-occupied.

    These new criteria, in particular requiring a maximum purchase price below $1 million, will essentially make the majority of single family homes in Metro Vancouver ineligible for government issued insurance for low-ratio mortgages. 

    The government also announced measures to ensure that the exemption from capital gains tax on the sale of a principal residence is available only in appropriate cases.

    (Thanks to the BC Real Estate Association’s Economics department for this analysis.)